Favourite Places in Spain, Palencia in Castilla y Leon

This is the last (for the time being) of my favourite places in Spain…

palencia 03

“Sometimes the Spaniard will resent your attempts to use it (Spanish).  Sometimes he believes it to physically impossible for an alien to understand it.  Sometimes he cannot actually convince himself that you are speaking it…”   Jan Morris – ‘Spain’

Catedral?” I enquired and the poor man (victim) that I had selected just stared back at me with an expressionless face as though I was a visitor from the planet Mars.  So I tried again but this time, remembering that upside down question mark thing at the beginning of the sentence I tried to sound a bit more Spanish, ¿Catedral?” but his face went so blank that I thought that he had surely died from shock and premature rigor mortis had set in.


I don’t know if you agree but I have to say that Catedral sounds a bit like Cathedral to me so I don’t know why this was so difficult but his solution was to call someone else over who was an obviously educated man who spoke excellent English and with optimism I tried again ¿Catedral?”

To my horror he adopted exactly the same blank face as the first man so I tried again in various different accents and voice inflections. ¿Cat-edral?”  “¿Catedraaal?”  “¿Caaatedral?”  Nothing, Nothing, Nothing.  I really could not understand why this should be so difficult.

If a Spanish man came up to me in Lincoln and asked for directions to the Cathedral, however he might pronounce it, I am fairly sure that I could make out what he was asking for!   Eventually I gave up, added the Anglo-Saxon h sound and just asked in English for directions to the Cathedral and amazingly I immediately made myself understood and the man smiled and said “Ah, Catedral!” which, I am fairly certain is exactly what I said in the first place and then having cleared up this little confusing matter he went on to give very clear and very precise directions on how to find it.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

31 responses to “Favourite Places in Spain, Palencia in Castilla y Leon

  1. Looking at those photos of you two with those statues, you might get a shock if you tried that in the centre of Bath on a weekend in the summer. I don’t know who they are but there’s a small group of people who get painted and wear clothing, often silver or bronze colouring, and pose as statues in empty niches etc in walls where statues once stood. They are absolutely motionless until you get too close, or, put some money in a tin!


  2. They were very tolerant of you!!


  3. we say “la Catédral” not just Catedral. Spanish is an intricate language with variations even in Castile. My from Tenerife is totally different too and goes for the accent as well. That is the beauty of languages, it has to be tried locally until gotten correct.


  4. I admire your perseverance


  5. Sounds as though your problem was like my late husbands. A Spanish friend explained that as his accent was bad for the less touristy parts of Spain the native speaker was completely thrown and thereafter was puzzling out what it could possibly mean. Reverting to English the Spanish knew exactly what he wanted! Worst time was when he had learned off by heart the menu we wanted and when he ordered the meal he rattled it off as though born to el espanol. What turned up though, was a ginormous plate of chips because the one phrase that stood out was “Patatas Fritas” which everyone learns to say in Spain. The starters, the main course and the wines had all got lost in the blur of Spanglish. Moments like these make me nostalgic for our travelling days in a little Austin van.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice memory, thanks for adding it to the post.

      I am reminded of a hotel stay in Campdevànol, a small village in Catalonia. Unaccustomed to English guests a member of staff went to a lot of trouble to make us feel welcome even to the extent of translating the restaurant menu into English for us, which I thought was a very nice touch!


  6. I get a kick out of your interactions with the statues. And this is not the first time you’ve had this experience with language. I agree with you: someone struggling to speak any language should be easy to understand. Just slow down, put the person in context and viola!


    • You are right, when people slow down it is generally easy enough to understand what is being said. Most of the interactions are about travel and directions anyway. I always imagine that police officers will be able to understand some English but they rarely can!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Have so enjoyed the series..


  8. You fared better than I did when I tried it years ago. I ended up having to get out the English/Spanish dictionary and finding the correct phase for them. but then I struggle with English so…

    It’s a great site you have here, I’m looking forward to reading more.


  9. Funny story, Andrew! 🙂 🙂 And another good-looking place.


  10. In Switzerland, we tried ordering breakfast (eggs, toast) but no luck . . . blank stares looked back at us. So, I pulled out our booklet of common phrases and physically pointed at the phrase written in their native language . . . same blank stare.

    “Museli” we said . . . “Ah, Muesli; ja.”

    It was a bit frustrating having a waiter who not only didn’t know his own language but was also illiterate.

    On the other hand, we got two servings of the best muesli we ever tasted (probably because of the heavy cream and sugar they used).

    Nice photos and nice to see you being helpful . . . although it does look as if those two tried their best to ignore you.


  11. You win on perseverance, Andrew! Peggy speaks fluent Mexican Spanish but I’m not sure how well that would travel in Spain.
    We were in the Baja once and got stopped at a checkpoint with young soldiers bearing automatic weapons. Peggy gave them one of her big smiles and rattled off enough Spanish that the young fellows were smiling in return. But then they asked a question and their smiles disappeared. I speak minimal Spanish but ‘armas’ was pretty clear to me. Peggy missed it and they thought she was suddenly playing dumb. “Guns, Peggy,” I said urgently. “They want to know if we are carrying guns!” We were invited to empty out our trunk. –Curt


  12. It’s so much fun to annoy the statues! 😀 Great shots and your experiences are quite often amusing and instructive.


  13. Perhaps you were asking one f the statues. LOL! This was a great series and I enjoyed it a lot! Where are you off to next?


    • Thanks, I appreciate that. Next in Spain is Valencia and then a drive down to my sister in Rojales, we have been to Valencia before but didn’t allow enough time. In June we are going to Madrid and it is the same story again so this time we are going for five days!


  14. Thanks for your series of your favorite places in Spain, which I will be consulting for my future travels here in Spain. As to some Spanish people saying they don’t understand, I repeated to a native Spanish-speaker a brief statement I had said to a local person, and she told me what I said was perfectly understandable…don’t come across that often, but it could be due to the native Valenciano (similar to Catalan) language here or other unknown issues.


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