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Trip Report - Salamanca Spain

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Trip Report – Spain - ¡Por fin volvemos!

¡Por fin volvemos! Translates: At last we return! It has been 47 years since we have been in Salamanca, Spain. It was back in 1972 when two fifteen-year-old high school students did a summer session at the University of Salamanca. Since then, the two of us have traveled frequently for work and pleasure, but have never returned to the first place we traveled together.

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Transportation:


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Planes

Our trip began and ended in Richmond, VA. It has been our experience that one gets better flights and pricing using frequent flyer miles when they depart from a secondary airport vice a major hub. Granted it does add a stop and increases the chances for something to go wrong, but to date it has worked. No data on why smaller airports are better departure points when using miles just our experience for the last few years. Our connecting flight was from Philadelphia to Madrid and on the way back we entered back into the US via Charlotte. We purposely avoided PHL on the way back because their process for passport control/customs drives me nuts. CLT was a breeze!

I would be remiss for not mentioning Madrid Airport. Terminal 4, which we arrived and departed from - is HUGE! It connects with a satellite terminal which means a shuttle train is required. On our return home, we used a hotel shuttle bus, and 1 hour 35 minutes later we were at our gate. We did not have to wait in any single line more than 3 minutes. Check in and passport control were efficient and easy to navigate. The moral of this story… Make sure you leave yourself time for check in and wear good walking shoes! All in all - Madrid is a nice airport, but one must cover a lot ground to get from the front door to your gate or vice versa.

Trains

Terminal 4 is also connected to the train system. Both Renefe (Spanish Railroad) and the local metro are on the first floor. If your plans involve using the train, Renefe offers a Tarjeta Dorada (Gold Card), which can provide significant savings for those of us over 60. We got our Gold Cards and tickets to downtown at Terminal 4.

Madrid has two major train stations - Madrid Atocha and Madrid Chamartín. Atocha is downtown not far from the Prado, while Chamartín is closer to the airport. Our hotel in Madrid was 3 blocks from Atocha, but when we departed Madrid to Salamanca the train left from Chamartín. Trains are a great way of getting around Spain and we found them very reasonable.

Buses

We used a bus for a daytrip from Salamanca to Zamora. (see Day 9 of the blog) What a pleasant experience. Extremely reasonable, on time, and very clean. We got our tickets to Zamora at the window, but on our return, we purchased tickets on the bus from the driver. Highly recommend this option for daytrips.

Cars

Sometimes only a car will work, and that was the case when we did a daytrip to La Alberca. (see Day 8 of the blog) The roads we travelled on were excellent and well-marked with signage. In the small towns, it can get confusing and streets can narrow very quickly.

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When renting a car in Spain and if you are not comfortable with a standard transmission, make sure you ask for an automatic. Standard is the default and automatic cars tend to command a higher price (if available). Since we were not on a firm itinerary, we just walked to the Avis dealer from our apartment the day before and completed the paperwork. We chose Avis because it was the closest to the apartment and I have a wizard number so all the paperwork would autofill.

Lodging

Madrid Coming

Our plan was to stay in Madrid for a few days to acclimate before headed to Salamanca. Arriving early Wednesday morning in Madrid, we headed to our Hotel, Sleep’n Atocha. A short walk from the train station and the museum district, the hotel has a funky vibe with telephones and monkeys.

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The hotel has a VERY helpful front desk and we used Spanglish to check in. The room was clean and like most major city hotels the living space was small, but the space provided was more than adequate. We loved the windows that opened like a French balcony on the street. The hotel has great WIFI that was available throughout the facility. They had just opened a rooftop breakfast area that offered panoramic view of the area. In late afternoon we hung out at the rooftop and enjoyed some wine as we planned our night adventures. One afternoon the owner and chef were having a meeting in the rooftop lounge and we ended up being the Guinea Pigs for the next morning’s breakfast breads and cakes. Tough job but we did it!

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Highly recommend Sleep’n Atocha for travelers who are focused on the museum district and old town. Short walks to most places of interest, near metro station, and buses stops. We did not use either relying totally on our feet as our mode of transportation

Salamanca

We used a VRBO property for stay in Salamanca. The San Justo Plaza Apartments were located very close to the Plaza Mayor, many restaurants, and the University. The location could not have been better! Javier the property manager met us and gave a great overview of the apartment and the local area. Our transaction was once again in Spanglish, but much more Spanish than English. Salamanca has a small-town feel. We bumped into Javier a couple times during our stay. He always had a smile and was concerned if all was well with the unit.

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The units, like Sleep’n Atocha had a funky vibe, and we enjoyed the artwork. The kitchen was well stocked, the furniture comfortable, and the unit was spotless. We very pleased we chose San Justo Apartments and would return without hesitation.

Madrid Going

For our last night in Spain, we stayed at the Madrid Marriott Auditorium Hotel & Conference Center. We chose it because it was near the airport, offered a free shuttle to the airport, and being a Marriott property, it was a known commodity. Basically, we pushed the easy button. I guess the real deciding factor was we had Marriott Points and our stay was basically free. They have a wonderful restaurant, gym facility, and most important to Janet – A Lap Pool!

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This is not the place you want to stay if you want to go downtown Madrid on your last night. The airport and the hotel are a good distance from the inner city.

Communication

We totally relied on WIFI and WhatsApp. Internet access was available almost everywhere. WhatsApp allowed us to call or text anywhere in the world for free, which makes grandparents happy to check on the little ones. Those times without connectivity we also enjoyed because the little black box that has taken over our lives were switched to off. If you were concerned and needed to check something or check in with our children, a quick respite at a restaurant/bar for a tapa and a glass of wine would reconnect us to the outside world.

Lessons Learned

We did not discover until the last day that there was a large monitor in the Salamanca Tourist Office which displayed the events of the day. We missed a few musical concerts (free) that I think we would have enjoyed. Moral of story - look up when you are in a Tourist office not just the brochure rack.

Buy your train tickets online or at the station the day before you depart. The stations can get very busy and lines can be lengthy (see Day 4 of the blog). It can be a little nerve racking standing in a line only to find it is the wrong line as your departure time is imminent.

If you really want to visit a winery, reservations are a must! Wineries in this area of Spain do not appear to cater to drive by guest as they do in many parts of the States.

Salamanca is a lot cooler than one may think in May. The mornings and evenings were very cool, but in the day the temperature warmed up. A light jacket or sweater is a good idea.

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Trip Overview

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id and

What we did and experienced is probably best captured in our daily blog in pictures and words. This was not our normal vacation to a new destination, but a return to a place we experienced as teenagers. The city of Salamanca I think has grown three-fold in size since our last visit forty-seven years ago but will always remain special in our hearts and memories.

We truly enjoyed the city, the people, and oh my… was the food and wine amazing!

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Salamanca as a destination is much more than a day excursion off a river cruise.

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We did do three-day trips outside the city limits: A day to Hacienda Zorita, which was a bit pricey, but the Hacienda is beautiful with a wonderful lunch and a wine tasting that we will always remember was also enjoyed.

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Our excursion to the small village of La Alberca offered a wonderful drive in the mountains and provided a chance encounter with some residents that crossed our path 47 years ago.

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Then, there was our bus ride to Zamora. The city is just a short ride away and offers a whole different feel than Salamanca. Located on the Duero River, there is a beautiful walk along the river.

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All three of our day trips were special in their own way, and none were preplanned. Just kind of rolled with the day.

So please visit our blog to see more pictures, daily adventures, and the foods and wines we enjoyed.

¡Por fin volvemos! – The Blog
 

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