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Published: August 16th 2019
Today we will be taking a short train trip to our next destination, the town of Avila, which is about 150 kilometres east of Salamanca.
We’ve got some time to kill at the station so I do a clean out of used train tickets and other miscellaneous redundant paraphernalia. I ask Issy whether she still needs her mobile phone contract for Jordan. She says she doesn’t remember buying a mobile phone contract in Jordan, so I take this to mean ‘no’ as the answer to the original question. The contract has a copy of the front page of her passport in it so I tear this up into small pieces and head off to put it in the nearest waste bin. Issy stops me. She asks me if I realise that people prowl train stations looking for opportunities to steal other people’s passport details by reconstructing them from small torn up pieces of paper, and that I am now playing right into their hands. I think she might have been watching a few too many movies, but to keep the peace I distribute the small torn up pieces amongst six different waste bins spread around the station. I assume she’ll
be proud of me for trying so hard to ward off potential identity thieves, but when I get back she tells me that I looked extremely suspicious wandering from one bin to the next making small deposits. She says that there are security cameras all over the station, and she’s sure that we‘ll now both be under close surveillance. She says we should also talk quietly because she thinks the cameras also have microphones attached to them. I’m now starting to wonder whether the hot chocolate she’s just drunk might have been laced with something. I usher her quickly onto the train where I can keep an eye on her if she starts believing I’m part of the plot.
Our hotel in Avila is right next to one section of the ancient walls for which the town is apparently famous. We wander along some of the wall and then on up into Plaza Mercado Chico where we stop for some lunch. The plaza is beautiful and looks like a mini version of Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor, with arched walkways all around it and a small tower with flags hanging from the facade at one end.
The plaza might be
nice but our waitress is distinctly scary. She throws the menus and cutlery on the table, and barks at us in Spanish. We’ve got no idea what she’s saying and we’re way too frightened to ask her if she speaks English, so we respond by quickly pointing to what we want on the menu. She folds her arms and smiles, and we feel relieved that we seem to have finally managed to do something to please her. This is short lived. It seems that she’s only smiling because one of the dishes we ordered is not available. We point quickly to something else without really knowing what it is, and she storms off to terrorise some other unsuspecting customers.
We go back to the hotel for a siesta, but this is soon interrupted by what sounds to us like very loud cannon fire coming from nearby. We briefly consider heading for the basement to take cover, but we don’t remember having read anything recently about The Donald having any gripes with Spain. That said, it’s probably not beyond him to have developed a gripe quite suddenly. A few minutes later we hear more cannon fire, and then more again.
We Google “cannon fire in Avila” for signs of any breaking news on the world stage, but it seems that we are relatively safe for now; apparently it’s a public holiday in Spain for Assumption Day and this is Avila’s way of celebrating.
We decide to walk around the outside of the spectacular walls. We read that they were built between the 11th and 14th centuries and are the most complete surviving town walls in Spain. They have 88 towers and nine gates along more than 2.5 kilometres, and are an average of three metres thick and 12 metres high. The area next to them is a hive of activity, with a market, and restaurants with excellent views over the surrounding countryside. We‘re both thinking already that Avila has a really nice feel to it. It’s small and lively, but not too busy, and it has a nice combination of cute ancient buildings and rural views. Salamanca’s buildings and its Plaza Mayor were spectacular, but the city just didn’t quite do it for either of us somehow.
We settle in to a restaurant next to the outside of the walls. It looks like someone’s been relying just a
little too much on the Google translator in developing the English version of the menu. We’re sure that “old cow steak” and “old beef sirloin” are supposed to sound appetising, and they probably did before they’d been translated. The “beans with slaughter” and “mussels to the mystery” both sound interesting, but we’re not feeling quite adventurous enough to try them. The food we do order is however excellent, as is the ambience.
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