Part 1 - Gemma, Gareth, Mum and Dad
Night Location: Salamanca, Spain
Mumisode of the Day: Mum was knocked over by the closing lift doors on our way to breakfast. She fell into the lift and then had to lean against Dad to get over the shock.
This morning, we awoke in our luxurious hotel, only to look out the window and see the mist again. After a leisured breakfast we began our exploration of the town. Our hotel is a converted convent and as such stands next to the 16th century eglise and cloister. Spanish religious sites are so different to anything we have seen in France as they have not been destroyed by a major revolution and so it is not unusual to find enormous gold altar pieces still intact such as the one in this old church. The King's Cloister was double-storeyed and looked out into a Baroque garden with a central well. Mum kept on imagining people walking around the cloister saying their prayers.
From here we walked through the town up to the Plaza Mayor, probably the picture of Salamanca that is the most recognisable. This is a fantastic large square, lined with cafes and shops and just has a great feel. The town is really alive, much more than on the usual cursed Mondays.
As Salamanca is a university city, it was very fitting that we visited the oldest part of the university. We were able to peer into the old lecture halls, some so ancient that the timber of the seats is just covered in dents and nicks. You can only imagine what it must have been like to study here. Once again, the building had a large internal courtyard; this is probably something we are going to see a lot of in Spain. The wood carving on the doors and ceilings was just remarkable. So much effort has been put in to make them truly beautiful.
Salamanca has two cathedrals, old and new, that stand side by side. The new cathedral is divided up into many smaller chapels and does not seem to have the large central nave that we associate with cathedrals in parts of France. The choir here was fairly impressive though with two double-sided organs situated above it.
Leaving the new cathedral, Dad went looking for the entrance to the old cathedral. We thought that we had discovered it, but instead we paid to walk up the medieval tower. At first Mum and Dad weren't overly sure but in the end it was a great discovery. You can walk up into the back of the old cathedral, out onto a terrace overlooking the city and along a catwalk that connects the rooftop of old and new. You can then enter the new cathedral and stand on a balcony overlooking the main nave. Fantastic view from here; you get such a different perspective. We then got another taste of the tiny spiral staircases up to the roof of the new cathedral. It was so incredible to be out walking next to the towers and gargoyles. If it had been a little clearer the view would have been magnificent. Instead we were left with the mystery of the mist.
Emerging from the tower, the mist was just starting to lift and we caught our first glimpse of brilliant blue sky. By the time we had reached the ancient Roman bridge across the river, the sun was well and truly blazing making the need for layers obsolete. The Romans really have been everywhere.We are still amazed at how far reaching and how powerful their Empire really was. The bridge that crosses the river is just so old, but it is still in great condition and is actually really quite long. Now it is only used as a pedestrian bridge and it connects both sides of the river where there are walking paths and bike tracks.
Great dinner tonight after fabulous Spanish siesta. No more paella for us!
Part 2 - Amber and David
Night Location: Paris, France
Orange juice, scrambled eggs and fresh sourdough bread made up our brunch this morning. Delicious! David and I decided that today we should explore more of Saint Germain as it is renowned for its exclusive homewares and clothing boutiques. What a delightful part of Paris we are staying in! On my last visit to Paris in 2007 I was not charmed by it as I have been this time. I think because David and I have the time to just enjoy the simple things about the city has meant that I feel somewhat at home here. We walked in and out of shops at our leisure, wandered the streets somewhat aimlessly and then stumbled upon Les Deux Magots, a cafe famous for being the hangout of early 20th century writers in Paris. As such it was ridiculously over priced, but worth the visit anyway!
Some more wandering, and then it was time for the main event of the day, our spa treatment. We had booked a package deal including a 'hammam', a Moroccan style sauna and hot stone massage. Neither of us had experienced a hammam before, so we were mildly apprehensive, particularly when the staff spoke limited English! In essence, we were led down some ancient stone steps, shown where to change and shown the steam room which was a blue tiled room with steam! An interesting experience, and somewhat relaxing! The massage was also interesting. Without putting too fine a point on it, i am now a little more acquainted with my masseuse than perhaps I realised I would be, due to there being a distinct lack of towels and a more liberal approach to the massaging style!
David cooked a delicious vegetable soup with his organic vegetables that was superb. Tomorrow we are hitting the Champs-Elysées for some more shopping! :)