“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s Zamora! When the World seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine that’s Zamora!” Warren & Brooks (with a revisionist contribution from the author)
The journey from León to Zamora was a hundred and twenty kilometres and took just about an hour and to be honest that was long enough because it seemed to me to be just miles and miles of endless bugger all.
We drove through several towns and villages that all seemed to be abandoned and we began to worry about the lack of supplies. It was so boring in fact that Kim fell asleep and didn’t wake until I poked her to wake her up because I was in need of navigation assistance as we approached our destination.
We weren’t staying in Zamora but a few kilometres outside in the town of Coreses at the Hotel Conventa Spa I. The most urgent task now was to find a shop for some beer and wine but the town was completely closed. Eventually we came across a little shop but the assistants were busy locking the doors and closing the shutters and when we asked about the possibility of reopening later they looked at us as though we were completely mad and said (I think they said) that they were going to a village fiesta and each of them raised a couple of sticks, that they all seemed to be carrying and then clicked them together as if to confirm this.
And so we carried on to the Hotel Conventa Spa which seemed absurdly huge for such a tiny town and as we drove into the car park I began to question my hotel booking judgement. It was like a giant motel and in the gardens was a replica Greek temple, Doric columns and huge statues which we assumed were used for wedding parties. There were no more than ten cars in the car park and I was minded to abandon it and move on but Kim was a lot calmer than me and persuaded me to go inside.
Well, what a shock! Once inside the hotel reception we were transported into a fantasy world of a Royal Palace and I might have been temporarily convinced that I was at San Ildifonsa o la Granja and that King Juan Carlos might come striding through the opulent furnishings of the drawing-room to greet me. The place was a real surprise – someone had gone to a lot of trouble to create a Royal Palace in the middle of the dusty high plain of Castille and I was almost in a state of shock. What a wonderful place, a Disney World like experience where everything was of the highest quality and I felt like an honoured guest of the Spanish nobility.
There was however still the problem of no wine so once we had familiarised ourselves with the place and rejected the mini bar selection on the basis of price we decided to go straight away into the city of Zamora.
Zamora is only a small city for a provincial capital, close to the border with Portugal and situated on the river Duero (Duoro in Portugal) and most famous for having the greatest number of Romanesque churches of any city in Europe.
We parked the car in an underground car park (Spain seems to really like underground car parks) and then we walked along a main shopping street where every shop was closed (phew!) until we reached the Plaza Mayor where all of Zamora seemed to be out tonight enjoying the early evening sunshine. We selected a pavement table at a busy bar and watched as the single waitress on duty struggled to cope with the sheer number of customers until we were finally able to attract her attention and order some drinks.
“By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls There’s a hidden door she leads you to These days, she says, I feel my life just like a river running through” Al Stewart – ‘The Year of the Cat’
The Plaza was vibrant and busy with families enjoying the weather (it had rained the day before, the receptionist told us), young boys playing football and girls pat–a-cake and skipping. In the centre was a church with a statue dedicated to‘Holy Week’ and it was surrounded by arcades, shopping streets leaking away into the intriguing shadows of the alleys and tall colourful buildings decorated with palms and exotic plants.
What was noticeable was how well-behaved the children were, how well dressed everyone was and how this seemed like one giant drawing-room where an extended family was meeting up at the end of the day and having a sociable hour or two together.
As the sun began to dip and the shadows lengthened and our table fell into shade we settled our bill and walked to the Castle and the house where El Cid is said to have lived after his marriage to Ximena and then to the Cathedral but we were reluctant to go inside because there was a service taking place so we peeked through the door and having satisfied ourselves that it wasn’t particularly exceptional (much to Kim’s obvious relief) we walked back the way we had come to the car and returned to the car via the bank of the River Duero and then to the hotel Conventa Spa – where there was some excitement!
In the car park was a swanky coach which displayed livery that said that this was the team bus of Spanish La Liga football team Deportivo de La Coruña who were probably enjoying the spa facilities ahead of a team briefing. I couldn’t help imagining that this might be like the film ‘Mike Bassett, England Manager’ and that the coach was inside somewhere explaining that tomorrow they would be playing “Quatro, Quarto, Jodienda Dos!”
We liked the Conventa Spa and were pleased that we would be staying there for two nights as we made our journey of discovery through Castilla y León and we were even more pleased after we had an unexpectedly excellent meal (a chuleton of beef) in the restaurant for evening meal and then a wonderful breakfast in the morning before setting off for the city of Salamanca.