- Thursday 30 April 2015
Try something different in Spain with a holiday to Castilla Y Leon in the North West of the country. The region has a great mix of culture and history along with beautiful locally produced food and wines at very affordable prices. Salamanca About a 2 hour drive West of Madrid, passing through beautiful countryside, is the historic city of Salamanca. Approaching the city, the first thing you notice is the beautiful cathedral and the unique golden colour of the cityâ€™s buildings. Salamanca is one of the most historically significant cities in Spain and the University of Salamanca was one of the first established universities in Europe. University life is very much part of the city and gives Salamanca a vibrant, youthful feel to it as you walk the cobbled streets of the old city. A city tour of Salamanca is highly recommended, especially a visit to the university as well as Salamancaâ€™s two cathedrals. If you just feel like doing your own thing then wandering around the beautiful cobbled streets, dropping in to one of the many beautiful delis or sitting outside one of the local cafes and bars are all great ways to enjoy the atmosphere of Salamanca. No trip to Salamanca would be complete without a visit to Plaza Mayor, the cityâ€™s town square. The square is the heartbeat of Salamanca and the apartments surrounding the square are owned by the countries rich and famous, including an apartment that once belonged to General Franco and used as his base during the Spanish civil war. One noticeable feature on the golden walls and buildings of Salamanca is the 500 year old graffiti that can be seen around the city. These political and religious slogans were painted on to walls using a mix of oil and the blood from a bull that had been killed in one of the cityâ€™s bullfights. Salamanca is well worth a visit, whether to experience the religious or historical sites or just enjoy the beautiful old city along with itsâ€™ many bars and restaurants. The Asador Maoro, in Plaza Mayor, is the perfect spot to sample the local food and wine before wandering back into the Golden Streets. The Abba Fonseca Hotel, in the heart of the old city, is the perfect place to stay to enjoy your stay in Salamanca. Alba de Tormes/Medina Del Campo/Rueda About twenty minutes South of Salamanca is the religiously significant town of Alba de Tormes. This beautiful old town, located on the River Tormes, is the burial place of Saint Teresa of Ãvila and is one of the most important pilgrimage towns in Spain. The tomb of Santa Teresa, in the Carmelite convent of the AnunciaciÃ³n, attracts thousands of pilgrims each year and a visit to the adjoining Santa Teresa Museum is well worth a visit. On display in the museum are the left arm and heart of Santa Teresa along with relics belonging to Saint John of the Cross. A guided tour of Alba de Tormes is the best way to see the the town and fully understand itsâ€™ religious significance. Overlooking Alba De Tormes is the Hotel Don Fadrique where you can stop and enjoy a beautiful lunch while looking down on this historic old town. About an hour and a half North of Alba de Tormes, is Medina del Campo, another important pilgrim attraction where Saint Teresa founded the Monastery of San Jose and where she later met St John of the Cross. Medina Del Campo is also significant as the place where Queen Isabella died and a visit to the Castle of La Mota would be well worth your while. A visit to Alba de Tormes and Medina del Campo is highly recommended for a religious holiday or pilgrimage, even if only to spend a couple of hours in each place before heading North to the wine regions and Valladolid. Just North of Medina del Campo is the wine region of Rueda. The El Hilo De Ariadna winery, is a great place to stop for lunch or dinner, where you can also enjoy a guided tour of the winery and sample the beautiful Spanish wine. The winery tour isÂ very enjoyable and would be a great way to spend an afternoonÂ on your trip to Castilla Y Leon. Valladolid/Avila After a great nightâ€™s sleep in Hotel El Colloquio De Los Ferros, the morning was spent on a city tour of Valladolid. Valladolid is the capital and largest city of Castilla Y Leon, and while not as impressive as Salamanca, it had some beautiful old squares and monuments as well as a rich cultural and religious history to explore. Santa Cruz College, San Pablo Church and Valladolid Cathedral are all worth a visit, and there are no shortage of markets and shops to explore or cafes, bars and restaurants to enjoy. Again a guided tour of Valladolid is recommended to fully appreciate the rich history and culture of the city. Valladolid would be a great place to stopover for anyone enjoying a religious holiday in Spain and heading north for the Camino walks. About an hour and a half journey south from Valladolid is the walled city of Avila. Avila was a great experience and you could spend hours alone just walking the walls of the old city. Avila is also the birth place of Santa Teresa, which makes the town another very important religious travel destination. The Parador De Turismo De Avila, is a great place to stop for lunch before spending the afternoon wandering the streets of Avila and visiting some of itsâ€™ most important religious sites, including the Convent of Santa Teresa and the Centro de Interpretacion de la Misitica. The Plaza de Santa Teresa is a great place to spend an hour at the end of a long afternoon. The Plaza has a great range of bars and cafes where you could sit outside in the sun with an impressive view of the city walls. Dinner and wine tasting at the Restaurante La Bruja in Hotel Las Leyendas was really enjoyable, before returning to stay at the Hotel Palacio de Los Velada at the end a very enjoyable day in Avila. Summary Castilla Y Leon was a very enjoyable experience. While the area is very popular for religious tourism, it certainly has lots to offer if you just want to get away for a few days. I would definitely like to go back and visit Salamanca and Avila again someday and maybe even combine it with a night or two in Madrid. The food and wine over the few days was of a very high standard and the cost of food and drink in Castilla Y Leon is very reasonable. If you get the chance Castilla Y Leon is well worth a visit.