Salamanca is a university town that is filled solely with senior citizens and tourists during the summer. This transient population tends to linger mostly around Rua Mayor, dining at expensive, subpar restaurants in Plaza Mayor.
The feeling I take away from this architectural gem is that it has been invaded by foreign students who’ve driven the locals (and their offerings) to succumb to jaded tourist conformity. This type of syndrome- a true love hate relationship- is found throughout the world, notably in Paris during the same months. They choose to work and be apart of the industry to reap the profits but do so with a grimace.
While waiting outside Cathedral Nueva , a man with skin like the dried riverbeds of Utah strums his guitar. His music charms nearby Spanish high school students- many of which use the chance as a smoke break which subsequently formulates an overhanging smoke cloud, creating a terrarium like effect. (Spare yourself the confusion: Cathedral Nueva is right next to Cathedral Viejo.)
A few blocks out of the tourist red zone, there is an immaculate art nouveau and art deco museum. The stained glass ceiling of the entry is as if Van Gough crafted it while dreaming of a midsummers night’s sky. Every medium of the period is presented in great detail- from porcelain figurines, bronze, dyed glass vases to crystal feminine silhouettes. The arboretum in the rear of the museum is now a chic café and bar, a time-altering place to saddle up in a velvet corner couch soak up the atmosphere over some dark red wine.
Joao, a Portuguese gourmand who insists that every restaurant in Europe is the same and therefore dines by the Michelin Guide, and I finally choose a place that looks like it could be the much treasured ‘local’ joint. Fooled by the décor, the barmaid looks like a haggard hillbilly and recommends a bottle of wine that blinks the eye. Every dish is covered in oil and I begin to wonder if anyone can actually tell the difference between the dishes or if they just could just as well be served rancid meat fried in oil instead.
One last dud for the books: The 10€ ticket to enter the classic Pontifical University building tour allows entry to see rooms with chairs, benches, and old moth-eaten velvet curtains. You can also view the old library from behind a looking glass, complete with a roped off courtyard, which is home to a sole, haggard looking pine tree in desperate need of pruning. This is the full extent of the building access.
If you go, you simply must:
Stroll around throughout the towns streets, especially the random ways, and be amazed by the architecture.
El Museo Art Nouveau y Art Déco, Calle Gibraltar, 14 - Free entrance on Thursday morning.
Eating near Rua Mayor
Don Quixote (overpriced food in an inauthentic atmosphere- they steer towards playing Bruce Springsteen)
Museum of Salamanca
Pontifical University of Salamanca