Saturday, December 17, 2016

First Day in Spain: Tapas in Salamanca

Today it was snowy in New York among other places and so flights were delayed across the board. Luckily Lydia anticipated this last night and booked an earlier flight. She's good at this.

Our Southwest flight was as delayed as it was Christmasy.

I felt real cool when the December issue of Southwest The Magazine featured a cover story with that awesome Oxbow Saison Dell'Aragosta beer brewed with lobster that we recently bought in Maine.

As a result we arrived in LaGuardia several hours early and now had to kill all of that pesky time. We had a couple of complimentary United Club day passes on hand from a credit card so we decided to burn those and spend our time in the lounge. The spread was pretty typical for a domestic lounge: soup, cheese cubes, some fruit. A couple of beers, wines, and some rail spirits were also free so that was nice.

I found a promo code for a free Uber ride up to $65 from a few select major airports like a month ago that I've been biding my time to use. It worked perfectly on the trip from LaGuardia to JFK. Coupon killing it so far! I think it's even good for two uses so I'll hit it again on the return trip.

Tell you what, one thing that Americans know how to do is efficiently load a damn plane. Maybe a half an hour before our flight left everyone lined up in a giant line that then turned into a mob. We just sat and watched. There are assigned seats people!

This video that my buddy Sus sent to me keeps coming to mind in these situations. It's about how different people/cultures experience time and how it affects their lives.

We flew to Spain with Air Europa, Spain's third largest airline. It's nice when you fly to a country on one of their own airlines. It's like an in-between world that one must pass through where the foreigners and the citizens slowly trade places. I went from New York which is like America central HQ to a little plane where often the Spanish crew didn't even bother to translate announcements into English. At one point my only warning that the pilot was expecting turbulence was the sound of everyone around me clicking their seatbelts together.

The Air Europa lady flight attendants had interesting uniforms that had a sort of apron buttoned to the back.

We're so hardcore that we landed in Madrid, Spain after an overnight flight and we immediately got a rental car and drove two hours to Salamanca.

Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport had a Botero sculpture right outside the exit. This is the part where I brag about going to the Museo Botero in Bogota, Colombia.

Our rental is a big white boxy-looking Škoda Yeti this time. We had a Škoda on Lydia and my first international trip to Iceland too. It's a Czech brand.

Much like Ireland, Spain is one of those magical countries where there are just castles everywhere. So many castles that seeing one on the side of the road is not a big deal.

When I saw this giant bull-shaped billboard in the distance I assumed it was advertising something. Nope.

Driving in Spain hasn't presented any huge problems yet. They drive on the right side of the road which is a good starting point. The stop lights do something a bit different though. A green light will turn to yellow then red like I am accustomed. Well after being red a bit it will go to a flashing yellow which is like a yield sign. After it does that for a while it will go back to green. 

Our Airbnb host insisted on meeting us on the side of a pretty busy street which necessitated a couple of passes and a few extra roundabout loops. 

Our hosts Abigail and Guillermo were super nice and insisted on giving us some tourist tips before they left. The little pink strips are little labels that they had applied by hand. "Are you vegetarians? Salamanca is a meat city." I just stood there awkwardly as Abigail did the kiss on each cheek thing as a hello and goodbye. Um, howdy to you too? That is going to take some getting used to.

Salamanca is a big college town and its presence in the city's shops was evident.

Apparently if you go to school in Spain you get to wear awesome Harry Potter looking graduation clothes.

We walked along a busy shopping street until we hit Salamanca's Plaza Mayor. It's a big public square lined with shops and restaurants.

City Hall is that raised part of the square back there.

I wanted to get involved in the tapas, small plates of food, scene as soon as possible. Tapa literally means "top" and I've read a couple amusing stories about how this name came to be. One is that both tavern owners and taverns goers were illiterate and so owners would offer people little samples of the food on offer on a pot "top". Another explanation was that the sweetness of Spanish sherry would attract fruit flies, so in between sips bargoers would cover their glass with a "top" of a piece of bread or cheese which they would then eat afterwards. "Pincho" is a name the Spanish use for essentially the same thing, except it refers to the toothpick often used to keep toppings on a slice of bread. The first stop on our tapas hunt was Mesón Cervantes. 

I liked the building a lot but it was on the main square and just so crowded that it was hard to deal with. I was glad we poked our head in but we left without ordering anything.

We found the atmosphere in Bar Restaurante Jero Meléndez a little more inviting.

This was like a fried fish triangle a la Long John Silvers but with a nice red sauce and pepper slices on top. It was really good. The whole tapas thing is fun because you can pick lots of different things and many people are standing around so you can mingle with the cool kids more easily. Tapas are a pain for the exact same reason. Rather than stumble through ordering something once I have to stumble through it 5 times to eat enough little dishes to make a meal. I guess it's good Spanish practice for me, and patience practice for the poor bartenders.

Both places we went to had a dizzying array of choices with little or no menus present.

Some Spanish ham on toast for €2? Sure why not.

The Casa de las Conchas has a cool seashell facade going on. It currently houses a public library.

Some of the buildings had this Latin graffiti looking writing all over.

The New Cathedral began construction in 1513. So new.

Our last stop was the Roman Bridge. It was very old and bridgey.

The bridge is visible on the city's coat of arms.

Monkey is "mono" in Spanish. Do you get it?

Lydia and I disagree over whether a man of my stature deserves to have a red velvet jacket.

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