Ilivetolearn's Blog

October 13, 2005

weekend outings

Filed under: on the road,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 12:43 pm

We’ve done a lot of traveling in our five weeks here…mostly day trips to places close to Madrid. First we went to Toledo, where we loved walking up and down on the old city walls, had a decidedly mediocre meal at a restaurant in one of the main plazas, and then tortured the girls by making them go through the entire cathedral, which was impressive except that it had a large section walled off as a museum space, with a temporary exhibition about Queen Isabella. You couldn’t really get the idea of the grand scope of the space, which is what first impressed me about European cathedrals. So the kids are still waiting for that experience of unbelievable grandeur. What they liked most about Toledo was the opportunities for shopping; Evan wants to go back and buy a knife and the girls have their eyes on piggy banks and other touristy items. There are gorgeous tiles too.

Our next day trip was to Segovia…a beautiful old town with two main attractions: the Roman aqueduct, a massive and well-preserved marvel of engineering; and the Alcazar, reportedly used by Walt Disney as his model for the princess castle at Disneyland. They are at opposite ends of the city, so after stashing the car underground we walked back and forth. The Alcazar is amazing, especially the view from the top of the keep, though the circular stairs are not for the claustrophobic. By chance we happened on the most famous and well-regarded restaurant in town (it is right next to the aqueduct) and had the local specialty, roast suckling pig. Waiters and waitresses kept rushing by our table with huge platters containing entire pigs, and the girls kept a count…one little piggy and so on. We did not subject them to the cathedral this time; we can go back for that.

Evan was the intrepid navigator for those two trips (Bill having done all the driving while I waited for my license to come in the mail from the US), which of course involved a fair amount of the family specialty, driving aimlessly through narrower and narrower streets until by absolute dumb luck we find where we are trying to go. Our third big outing was with Elliot instead—a weekend trip to Valladolid, Tordesilla, and Salamanca. Evan was on his own separate adventure, a trip to the Burgos area sponsored by the youth council of the town of Pozuelo. It included all of his favorites..rock-climbing, spelunking, kayaking, bicycling, and hiking…and they stayed in a converted old mill. All for 37,50 Euros! We were thrilled to find out about it in a brochure that came in the mail and to discover that they still had space for him, though we literally signed him up the day before departure. He learned a lot of Spanish and met a lot of girls.

Our trip was planned around an event that never happened…I booked us into a Parador in Tordesilla using a website that promised a medieval market in the town on Saturday. Oops…not this year. I think the last one was in 2002. The Paradors are government-run hotels in old castles, monasteries, or villas that would otherwise go to rack and ruin because of cost of upkeep. Unfortunately, the one in Tordesilla, while perfectly lovely, is not one of the most historic or spectacular. In fact, it was pretty boring. But it had a pool and a hot tub and a restaurant where we could contemplate a huge old tapestry depicting Columbus’s discovery of America while we ate.

From Tordesilla we went to Valladolid and toured a house where Cervantes spent the last several years of his life, and thence to Salamanca, our favorite city so far. It is built of beautiful golden sandstone and all the new buildings are made of similar material and designed to complement the old ones. A huge part of the center of the city is closed to traffic (again, we abandoned the car to an underground garage and didn’t see it for 24 hrs) and we stayed in a very cheap hostel right on one of the main drags. Ate lots of tapas (one of the features of traveling with teenage boys..and that food is required about every two and a half hours), went to a concert of vocal music in a nice old church (we had seen a photo of the choir and were puzzled by the presence of dogs in the picture until we realized as they processed up to the stage that about half the singers, as well as the conductor, are blind), spent an afternoon at the museum of Art Deco (Margo loved the Kewpie dolls and pointed out a set of two shooting at each other with pistols), admired facades of university and religious buildings with elaborate carvings, and avoided going into the cathedral (actually we tried but there was a wedding going on). Again, we’ll go back for that.

We are now planning to stay home for two weekends in a row…except that the boys are spending this weekend in Tarifa, the most southern point in continental Spain (the Canaries and the Spanish outposts in Morroco, Ceuta and Mallila, are farther south) to go windsurfing and kite sailing. What a life.


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