Postcard from Valladolid, Spain: Thrust into the thick of things

Above, Plaza Mayor during the final week of San Pedro Regalado

Below is the spectacular view of Valladolid’s Main Plaza from our rental when we first arrived in the city. We were in the heart of the city, yet our apartment was surprisingly quiet… for several days.

Continue reading “Postcard from Valladolid, Spain: Thrust into the thick of things”

Postcard from Salamanca, Spain: Books spoiling Plaza Mayor?

Can’t believe it. Never ever thought I would do it. Complain about a book festival. Me?

The San Antonio Book Festival is my favorite event at home. But….

Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor is reputedly the must stunning plaza in Spain.

And, as such, it is overrun with tourists. People will wait in line a half-hour for ice cream.

We spent a week in Salamanca, and the entire time the plaza was filled with inartistic booths for a book festival.

During much of the daytime on weekdays, they were shuttered. Simply blocking the view. People willing to sit on the plaza were confronted with their almost trailer-court appearance.

But, when the Book Fair booths were open, things did not improve. Pre-fab booths, lacking in any customized personality, did not address the surrounding square. They faced only inward, addressing each other. Treating the Plaza Mayor as though it were a shabby backyard alley.

For people ringing the square, they faced just plain walls.

Definitely the wrong place for the Book Fair.

The one in Lisbon a year ago had personality.

The same type of cubicle setups followed us from Salamanca to Madrid, but parked in a linear park capable of accommodating the intrusion.

Hope the festival in Salamanca rethinks its plaza invasion. Or at least opens booths outward so the book vendors and browsers interact with and contribute to the liveliness of the spectacular surrounding plaza.


Postcard from Segovia, Spain: The Plaza Mayor San Antonio should emulate

This is a Plaza Mayor every city wants. It certainly is the one I would want San Antonio to attain. And San Antonio could, perhaps, with the new residential components slated for Main Plaza.

Tourists come through the plaza in Segovia in large groups, but the plaza remains Segovian despite our invasions. It refuses to be conquered.

Both the Cathedral and City Hall border the huge public space. Tolling bells still regulate the time for the city. Military bands march through. Weddings from City Hall spill into the plaza. Student concerts take place. Races begin there. Labor Day rallies take place. A farmers market occurs on Thursdays (the oliveman parked below our balcony). Cleaning crews came through immediately after the market closes in the early afternoon, and the surrounding restaurants quickly drag their tables back out into the sunshine.

This is a place for morning coffee and, a little later, to have it corrected with cognac. Locals still gather for lunch or drinks extending into the evening. They arrive on foot.

Old people (even older than us) park on benches waiting for friends to wander by. In the afternoon, baby carriages grow in number. Scampering children run freely, the bandstand serving as their stage. Parents are relaxed enough to sit at the cafes while children romp.

The age of the children in the bandstand increases hourly, until, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning the college-age crowd takes over. The cleaning crew comes through once again, leaving the sprawling plaza spotless before the newsstand opened for business. The Mister witnessed this when suffering from a bit of time-zone adjustment. It could happen nightly, but we would not know.

The apartment we rented overlooks the plaza. And the view was never static. Gazing out our windows or walking out onto our little balcony next to City Hall was much more entertaining than any television show could be.

This is a plaza that seems to never sleep, except maybe between about 7 to 8 in the morning. Then the man opens his news kiosk and spreads out the daily papers and gossip magazines. Delivery trucks have a small window to replenish the cafes as waitstaff return tables and chairs offering prime viewing of all the action.

This is no quiet place. It is the throbbing heart of a thriving urban center.

What made it possible to enjoy were double-paned windows and major louvered shutters that could be lowered over them so we could sleep peacefully at night.

The Plaza Mayor in Segovia. This is a place I would want to be parked when I am too old to move. Perch me on a balcony in a spot like this, and let me enjoy watching life.