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Spain - Day 6

10/09/10

Permalink 04:27:32 am, by joseph Email , 1621 words   English (US)
Categories: Cultural

Spain - Day 6

Today we leave Fatima, Portugal and head to Salamonca, Spain which is about a 4 hour drive.  We had to take the same toll road back and this time the toll only cost me €2.50, talk about the difference a ticket in hand can make.  Pretty smooth drive all the way to the next hotel.  We made a quick stop at the Portugal-Spain border for some photo opps. Thanks to Rick Steves, I now know that once you are in Europe, crossing the borders are now the same as crossing state lines.  The only time you are asked for your passport is when you arrive from outside one of the 27 participating nations... or when you are checking into a hotel.

Met some wonderful folks from The UK while eating dinner around 10 pm.  They convinced us to head over to Mayor Square and check out the sites.  I was pleased to discover that in Spain, things don't start up until 9 pm and last well into the morning.  We left mom at the hotel, grabbed the kids, found a taxi and headed over to Mayor Square.  The man I spoke with earlier was spot on.  This place was packed with people everywhere.  Most of them were college age as there is a university nearby.

I had two goals while in Salamonca, #1 to find the astronaut and #2 to find the frog on the skull.  With 2 guidebooks in hand and three kids trying to keep up, we went off in search of these two items.  Along the way we seen some impressive buildings but being they were so close to each other I couldn't get a good photo of a whole building.  After striking out at finding the frog and astronaut, I heard a familiar language coming down the street.  As luck would have it, we met two travel abroad students from the US.  They knew where I wanted to go and gave us a personal tour to the two items.  With out them, I highy doubt I would have ever found the astronaut or the frog, despite standing smack dab in front of the astronaut earlier in our trip. They also showed us a rabbit that supposedly gives you good luck if you rub it, so I did, but as you will find out later, it didn't work.  

Around 1 in the morning, things started to die down so we headed back to our room to get a couple hours of sleep before we headed onto Bilou, which is on Spain's northern coast.   We found a taxi, but when we got ready to go, the driver discovered that his battery was dead.  I offered to give him a push, but as luck would have it, we found to only taxi driver in Salamanca with an automatic, so we hopped out and grabbed another taxi.

The next morning, we got ready to head out, but mom wanted to see the old cathedral that we saw last night. So we packed our gear up into the van and headed over to see the sites.  As I mentioned earlier, parking is scarce, especially in the older parts of the towns, and today was no exception.  We found a couple of places to park for handicapped but they were already occupied so we settled for a parking garage.  We made it inside the garage just fine.  There was an attendant who directed us back to a spot to park our vehicle.  It was, like most parking lots, a tight fit in-between support pillars. I mention this because the parking attendant steered me smack dab into one causing damage to the right side of the van.  I'm pretty sure the words that came out of my mouth were suitable for adults only and would have made George Carlin raise up out of his grave and say "job well done".  I finally got the van parked with the help of my wife because for some reason, the aforementioned dipshit who was supposedly helping me park, had left the area. In fact everyone who was working in the garage was not to be found.  I guess siesta time  comes a bit earlier in Salamanca.

To say the rest of the day was ruined was an understatement.  Mom wanted to just go on to the next city, but I was in no mood to just get up and leave.  Heck I just wrecked the van while parking so she could go and see the churches, so the least she could do is go and see the churches.  Besides, I needed some time by myself to vent and get all those cuss words out of my mouth.  I was so pissed off that I was cussing in English, Spanish and Tagalog.  I would have cussed in French too, had I known any French cuss words.

We finally arrived at the church and went inside to do the touristy thing.  For a building that took 200 years to build, this was a pretty impressive building.  They don't allow flash photography so I had my camera on no-flash which still took decent pictures if you don't move the camera while the shutter is open.  The place was filled with rooms that were on the outside and contained pews and various statues depicting various saints.  One in particular had a small glass case which looked like it contained a piece of drift wood.  Yeah, I thought that was strange too.  Later, when mom was viewing the room she asked me what is was, so I went closer to get a better view.  Only then did I discover it was the hand and arm of some saint that was mummified.  Perhaps when I view the photos I took, I can translate the inscription on the box to find out why they decided to display the hand and and arm of some dead guy.

Since no one had really eaten, mom wanted to go and find a chinese restaurant, I suppose it was because she knew they would have rice.  We found one and headed in.  What I found funny is that while the restaurant was Chinese, the people working inside were Vietnamese who spoke Spanish.  I ordered steak with fried potatoes only to discover that in Spain fried potatoes means French Fries.... At least the boys were happy when they saw the fries.  

With tummies full of rice, French fries and Fanta, we headed back to the parking garage.  Of course when we got back there was no attendant around, I guess since they had an automated parking system, it allowed them to take an extra long siesta.  Of course, if I were a betting man, I would say they were all in the room with the monitors watching us on camera and waiting for us to leave.

With our address in to GPS, we headed off to our next stop, Bilbo, which started as a nice drive and ending up in another parking fiasco.  The drive itself was not all that memorable, with the exception of the occasional updated road that the GPS didn't recognize and my obligatory 5 hour power drink.  As we neared the Northern Coast we entered the area known as the Bask region.  This is the area that the Arzaga name has been traced back to.  From the best of my understanding, when the Philippines was occupied by Spain, Bask priests came over to the northern part of the Philippines and engaged in some unchurchified behaviors which ended up with some of the local females having babies. The babies took the names of their fathers in hopes that it would elevate them in the caste system they found themselves living in at the time.

So this part of the trip was special for me because it gave me a sense of homecoming, a place where my roots have been traced back too which probably explains why I blended in with everyone.  Of course being full Filipina, my wife kinda stuck out which illicit a lot of staring whenever we went out.  I guess folks in the area have never see a beautiful Pinay in their lives and have become accustomed to their own chain smoking pasty looking woman who lack in basic hygiene skills.

We found the hotel/apartment which required we take 2 separate elevators to get to our room which was designed by the folks at Ikea.  I guess Ikea is big in northern Spain.  For those not familiar with Ikea, It is a store that sells furniture.  Loosely translated, Ikea means "crapy furniture that even Wal-Mart won't sell".

But before we got to our room we had to park the van, which turned out to be another underground parking structure.  Sadly this time it wasn't the pillars that reached havoc in us but the ceiling or rather more specific the ventilation system they had installed with was a couple of inched shorter than the height of our van.  The reason I said havoc is that once we were parked, I discovered a 3 inch hole in the roof of the van where the ventilation gouged through it like a hot knife in butter.  It was at this point that my Aunt Dotty appeared, or rather her voice was in my head saying "this too shall pass".  I sure hope she is right.  On our rental agreement, we have Collision Damage Wavier (CDW) on there.  It says CWD1 so I'm not sure how much of the damage is covered.  Less than 24 hours earlier I was rubbing a rabbit for good luck.  Guess I didn't rub hard or long enough.  Oh, we still had to get the van out if the garage the next day which you will read about in the next journal entry. 

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