Saturday, May 03, 2008

A short working week, Grandpa’s birthday and the May bank holiday

Oli and Phoebe on Grandpa's birthday
Hi again

This week has been short; only 3 days because Thursday and Friday were a bank holiday, at least in Madrid. It was short but quite intense for me. I did, however, get in a moment to have lunch with my favourite nephew, Miguel and we went, once again, to the Restaurante Pelotari where we ate like splendidly. It is after all a Basque restaurant and in my opinion, and I know quite a bit about Spanish gastronomy now, the Basque country is where you eat the best in Spain.

It was Grandpa’s 89th birthday on 1st May but we celebrated it the day before as we were all going off to various places for the Bank holiday weekend. I think the title to the photo here should be “Grandpa likes to have his cake and eat it” to judge by the enormous smile on his face when we brought in the cake and the candles.

On Thursday, Suzy set off with her boyfriend Gaby to Jerez where his family is from. They are dividing their time between the beach and the April fair and apparently Suzy has been lent a Flamenco dress for the occasion!

On the same day Oli went to our apartment in Santa Pola with friends Miad and Ana. I think they are enjoying the beach and the sun but still haven’t worked out how the new gas heater works and so are having cold showers.

And we went off to stay the night in Zamora with our travelling friends, Roberto and Mari Carmen. We were very unlucky with the traffic as it took about 5 hours to drive 50km to the tunnel in Guadarrama. In the end we had to have lunch on the road but were lucky to find a nice place in Arévalo called Restaurante El Figón de Arévalo. Finding it was thanks to the Campsa Road Guide which is an essential element when we travel. Arévalo is in Avila and next to Segovia so the suckling pig and lamb were guaranteed to be good.

After lunch we hit the road, now without traffic, to Zamora. However there was one obligatory stop on the way at Rueda to buy our favourite Colagón white wine from the winery called Palacio de Bornos. If you ever get the chance, do stop there as they have what I consider to be the best white wine in the world. Yes, in the world.

Finally we got to Zamora at past 6 in the evening but as it doesn’t get dark at this time of year till nearly 10 at night, we were not worried. We booked into our hotel, the Hotel Palacio del Duero. It was a good hotel but a bit soulless and disappointingly minimalist when we had expected something more in line with the local architecture. On the upside the mattresses were very comfortable and the breakfast was excellent.

After so much time in the car and a big lunch, we desperately needed a walk and were well rewarded with the riverside path near our hotel. We walked along the banks of the beautiful river Duero and took many photos of its 12th century Romanic bridge.

The 4 of us on the banks of the Duero

Some emblematic water mills on the Duero
From there we walked up to the historical centre of the town through arches in the city wall. Zamora has more than 20 churches and most of them are also from the 12th century. Its cathedral is very unusual because of its Byzantine type dome. We were lucky with the weather and I think we saw Zamora at its best with Spring in full bloom.

Eladio posing by the Cathedral in Zamora
All the church towers were inhabited by storks and many a photo did I take of them. I also took photos of the many statues which caught my eye; the one of Viriato who fought the Romans and the one of the 2 penitents were the most attractive really.

Storks nesting on the church towers

Statue of the penitents in the Plaza Mayor. Zamora is very famous for its Easter processions.

Me at the top of one of the very steep and charming old streets of Zamora.
In the evening, although we were not very hungry, we had dinner at the Restaurante Rincón de Antonio, the only one in the area with a Michelin star. In the end we found the place far too fancy. The dishes were miniscule and the prices sky high.

The next day we did a bit of shopping and even visited the local market to buy the famous Ariste meat. I bought a whole fillet steak which we started today and I must admit it is of excellent quality. We also bought chick peas from Fuentesauco which are supposed to be the best in Spain.

Mari Carmen and I outside the market with our shopping
Our next and last stop before going home was to Toro, just 30km away and on our route home. Toro is a small medieval town now famous for its wine which, of course we bought. It has very rich red wines which we are not familiar with. However we had tried a couple of them in Zamora and finally decided on Sobreño and Liberalia. Here, while we were having lunch in the main street, we bumped into a colleague from work, Mikael and his wife who were also enjoying the bank holiday in the area. That was quite a coincidence but not that surprising, as Mikael, who is only in Spain for 2 years, has spent most of his weekends discovering this country which I know he has come to love.

Mari Carmen and I caught unawares by Eladio's camara, walking down the main street of Toro.

Eladio with a big smile on his face coming out of the shop where we bought the wine in Toro
After a quick visit to the Church, the Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, another gem in the local architecture, we headed off back home to enjoy the rest of the bank holiday at home and in peace.

Today has been very quiet without the girls but we have enjoyed the good weather, reading the papers and having breakfast and lunch outside. And of course, we have had a kilometric siesta.

Next week I shall be off to the UK for my school reunion to which I am looking forward immensely.

Cheers till then,


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