Salamanca has an “old” church and a “new” one. The new one was built in the sixteenth century. This nueva catedral is the most fabulous church that I´ve seen with massive, fluted pillars rising to the heights and making one feel appropriately humble. The altars are ornamented in the most unbelievable fashion. But the old church stole my heart. It is 12th century, and its simplicity and plain song atmosphere made us linger. As much as we loved Salamanca, we left a day early to meet some friends on the north coast.
As we drove north we solved the question of the sunflower fields. Biodiesel! It seems a scene out of an sf novel. The world without oil, running on sunflowers; love it. North through the granite massives of the low mountains and into Olveido, a beautiful town with stucco houses of many colors and an extraordinary historical district complete with the frontages and decorative touches that tend to run the camera battery low. A gypsy thrust a sprig of tarragon in my hand and managed to say, before I got away, that I would fall in love… but no mention of book sales!
This town recently had a visit from Woody Allen–he came to accept a prize from the town–and the city has been in love with him ever since, even to putting up a statue of him in a plaza. One shop, however, had a sign saying “Woody Allen was Not Here.” We had a wild ride in the Mercedes of the friend of our traveling companions. He drove us north to his summer home in Luanco, traveling 120 mph and waving his hand at the sights, telling us the complete history of the area. Luanca was pure charm, with a lovely beach oriented, I assume, to the coast of France somewhere over the horizon.
The next morning we swept across northern Spain to Vigo, where we are staying in a hotel on the water, and were greeted by the arrival of the biggest cruise ship I have ever seen. Despite being warned that Vigo is “nothing special” (we stayed here for its central location to some places we wanted to see) we loved the old part of the town. I bought a darling knock off Prada bag on the street, and when we set out to sight see, the handle broke within three blocks. My friends thought this was hilarious, but I am out 30 E! We spent most of the day, however, in Santiago de Compostella. With its winding streets and wondrous church, it is the supreme sight in Galicia.
Yesterday we went into Portugal (Thank you Luis!) We saw some of the oldest towns yet, marvelous Valenca with its walls and fabulous pastoral countryside. On to Viano do Castelo and a street fair and wandering the ancient streets. Portuguese linens and tiles–we walked until our feet gave out. We finished the day in Ponte de Lima, the oldest city in Portugal, so we were told. A band of drums was circulating through the city, beating a rhythm like the Roman legions approaching.
We go back to Madrid today, and then home. I have terrific books for the airplane, and my pictures to review. . .