Sunday, June 29, 2008

Marrekesh A Hot Destination

It is hot, hot, hot in Marrekesh. When we arrived from Casablanca it was in the mid 50s, temperatures like we had never experienced before. We found a hotel with AC and a pool.

The famous Jamaal el Fna square has 24 hour activities which range from snake charmers, acrobats, musicians, storytellers, henna artists, mystics, healers and fortune tellers. You can buy almost anything including ostrich eggs (makes a large omelet), carpets, traditional medicines, tagines, Moroccan slippers and all domestic goods. The sights, sounds and smells were incredible.

We have also visited the El Badi Palace and the Saadian tombs. The palace was as famous and beautiful as the Alhambra but today is in ruins. We explored the below ground passages by torchlight. The tombs were rediscovered by a French pilot in the 1930s. They are incredible and give us an idea of what the palace must have been like.

We have made frequent visits to the hotel pool and have yet to turn off the AC. We have a great balcony but can only use it for cooking eggs. 1 minute for fried but 4 minutes for ostrich.

Friday, June 27, 2008


At last we are in Casablanca. So far we have seen no sign of Humphrey Bogart.

We have stopped on the way to Marrakesh to organise our flight to Tunis and have decided to extend our time in Morocco by a few days. We travel down to Marrakesh tomorrow then return to Casablanca for a few days before our flight to Tunis on Friday 4 July.

Casablanca is a city of over 3 million people and we met most of them when we walked through the medina this afternoon.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Roman Ruins

Morocco is certainly the place to see Roman ruins. Today we visited the ancient Roman city of Sala Colonia at Chellah just on the outskirts of Rabat. It was a compact but very impressive Roman city. There was no restoration and you made your own way around the site.

We saw the ruins of the Jupiter temple; the triple arched entrance; the forum and pools.

Behind this was the ruined Islamic site with a minaret; medersa and tombs. There was even a special pool where infertile women fed eggs to the eels. There were also dozens of cats who were certainly not infertile.

A fascinating aspect of the visit is that the surrounding area is overrun with storks and ibis. There were storks nests everywhere. It was like the setting for an Indiana Jones movie.

We also visited the Hassan Tower built in 1195 and the mausoleum of Mohammed V. This was an impressive place to visit and there were soldiers in traditional uniform around the mausoleum. We arrived just at the changing of the horse guard.

In the afternoon we visited the Archaeological Museum and saw marble statues; bronze artefacts and jewellery and pottery from various sites including Chellah and Volubilis. There were also skulls of homo erectus and other oldies.

A wonderful day. We are off to Casablanca tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Come With Me to the Kasbah

Off again _ this time to Rabat, the national capital of Morocco. Rabat is 3 hours by train from Fez and is located on the Atlantic coast.

So far we have walked through the Medina, past the now familiar souks, only this time we ended up in a square that was formerly a slave market. We then walked up to the Kasbah and wandered through the narrow, winding streets of this walled city.

We ended up at a large terrace overlooking the Atlantic. There were lots of people swimming, mainly male but we did see a few ladies in traditional dress, paddling up to their ankles.

We went back via the Medina and even made a few small purchases, but as our bags are at a maximum, we cant buy much.

We are enjoying our time in Morocco and will spend another day tomorrow in Rabat before heading off to Casablanca.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hot Time in Fez

We have continued on to Few the old imperial city and symbolic heart of Morocco. It was less than an hour in the train from Meknes.

The weather has been very hot in Meknes and in Fez with temperatures in the mid forties. We went out for dinner the other night and remarked how beautifully cool it was.... the temperature had fallen to 39.

The old Medina in Fez was even more extensive than the one in Meknes. We spent hours walking down narrow lanes even moving aside for donkeys. We looked into many spectacular souks including henna; leatherworkers; tanners and dyers; brass and bronze; carpets; shoes and many more.

We had a stop at the Medersa Bou Inania built in the 1300s with incredibly fine work in the walls. It is very similar to parts of the Alhambra and is considered to be the perfect Medersa. A medersa is a place for studying the Koran and most were built in the 13th century. We stopped at mosques and climbed to the top of an old house to take photos.

We saw the royal palace and the old walls and buildings of the northern medina.

These were interesting places especially when the temperature finally fell below 40. We caught a petit taxi back to our hotel.

Our next stop will be Rabat the capital of Morocco.

PS. In case you have not worked it out there is no comma on this keyboard.

Exuberant Over Volubilis

From Meknes we went out to the ruins of the Roman city of Volubilis. This is the largest and best preserved Roman ruin in Morocco and the best we have seen with the exception of the Forum in Rome.

We went via shared taxi .... seven per vehicle. The first to Moulay Idriss an important religious city. It was an amazing place with whitewashed houses on a hillside with an incredible market that was in full swing when we arrived. Then we went on to Volubilis.

This is an immense place with large Roman buildings; arches; temples; columns etc still standing. You could walk amongst the fallen columns and into the houses with little restriction.

The mosaic floors were wonderful. You will have to see the photos. Great mosaics of Diana; Venus; dolphins; fish etc. They are all still in their original locations. We walked down the Decumanus Maximus the ceremonial road and through the triumphal arch. We walked round the Forum and temple buldings. We loved that the storks had built a nest on top of one of the columns.

We nearly couldnt get back but finally made it to Moulay Idriss and then to Meknes. This is a must see place.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Just Like Websters Dictionary.......

At last we are Morocco bound.

We opted for a fast ferry from Tarifa so caught a bus around the coast and then the ferry for the 35 minute trip. Even before we departed, we could see the African coast.

We arrived in Tangier that has a worst reputation than Algecires so we decided to catch a train that morning. We went for the 11 am train to Meknes and arrived with 10 minutes to spare. The ticket seller told us it left in 1 hour and 10 minutes and then we realised the time zone change.

Meknes was a 4 hour trip and by the time we arrived, we had met a Berber gent, a French Moroccan lady and a young woman from Fez who has invited us to her wedding in 1 month. We may meet up with her in Fez in a few days.

Sorry for the delay in posting. We are still in Meknes and a report on Volubilis will follow.

We catch the morning train to Fez tomorrow.

Summer Solstice in Spain

Last year, we were in Norway for the summer solstice and had 24 hours of daylight. This year we celebrated at a street parade in Algecires.

Algecires has a reputation as a place to avoid. We spent 2 nights here so we could have a trip to Gibralter and had seen nothing to counter this reputation until we happened on the parade on our last night.

We stood amongst the crowd as the floats, bands, dancers etc passed by. It lasted for over 2 hours. Among the notable items were huge floats including inflated elephants and other African animals; floats with beautifully dressed women and others with children; marching bands of every type _ salsa, traditional Muslim etc; dancing girls _ Brazilian beauties and other South American dancers, drum majorettes etc; horses and riders with beautifully groomed horses and great looking men and women in national costume and lots more.

At last we solved the mystery of why you see dozens of dentists in each neighbour hood. Every float had people throwing lollies _ lots of lollies. Most people gathered up 5 to 10 kg each. We took home to our hotel a pocketful. It is just as well we are booked in for a dental check on our return.

Going Ape in Gibralter

We caught a local bus to La Linea then walked across the border to this little bit of Britain.

How many countries have you simply walked in to? We remember a few. Laos _ had to wake up the border guard then bribe him to open the crossing, Vietnam _ caught the bus from Cambodia to their border then we walked into Vietnam.

We saw all the Gibralter sights _ up to the top to see St Michaels cave, the Siege Tunnels, lots of Barbary macacques etc. The monkeys were mostly cute and some had babies. We also saw the cathedrals, museums and town centre.

A main lasting memory is on a narrow section land only metres wide, where you could stand and see the Atlantic on one side and the Mediterranean on the other. Standing in Europe we could clearly see Africa. It was an absolutely wonderful view, complete with local monkeys.

We had lunch in a British pub, prior to our return to Spain.

Bus to Albaicin

Being in need of a bus 37 type outing, we decided on the no 31 to Albaicin.

Albaicin is directly across a valley from the Alhambra and when we walked from the bus up to the square of St Nicolas, we had a magical view. We took heaps of photos of the Alhambra and the Alcazaba and even the snow covered Sierra Nevada mountains beyond.

The ride up on the no 31 was steep. The bus had the wing mirrors removed - there simply wasnt room for them between the buildings. We were fortunate in having a driver who wasnt mad like the one down from the Alhambra.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bus to the Top

We caught Bus 32 to the Alhambra. As soon as we saw that it was a tiny bus (seating for 8 and standing for lots) we knew we were in for a Bus 37 type trip.

It climbed up and around but negotiated the tight corners only using half the footpath. The trip down was a different matter. We had a mad Spanish driver who either hated tourists or would have preferred to have been enjoying a siesta.

The cobblestones were negotiated at over 80 km ph. It was like spending time on a body vibrator. With some final abuse, we were ejected before we really wanted to get off but the few minutes walk gave our bottoms time to return to 'normal' shape.


Alhambra lived up to our expectations. We caught the bus to the top and collected our prebooked tickets by the time they opened at 8.30 am. Six hours later, we returned to our hotel for a Spanish siesta.

The highlight was the Palacios Nazaries. It is absolutely stunning with its intricate carvings, columns, beautiful rooms and courtyards. The pools, fountains and gardens were delightful. We felt it was impossible to capture the majesty of the place on film but we certainly tried. We visited lots of rooms and chambers including the Queen's bedroom, baths, halls and pavilions.

One of the most famous monuments, the Fountain of the 12 Lions, was under wraps with the lions away for restoration. Perhaps we will return.

We also loved the Alcazaba and the stunning views over the city. We spent lots of times climbing the towers and recovering on the patios. We could clearly see the snow on the Sierra Nevada mountains above us while the temperature where we were standing was in the mid thirties. This is one of those places where you can ski in the morning and swim in the afternoon.

We visited the 2 museums in the Palace of Carlos V and even managed to see a few of the famous lions. We walked through the gardens and around to the Generalife, the gardens for the architect, with its great views back to the Alhambra and of course wonderful gardens and pools.

This was a magical day and we understand why it is the most visited place in Europe.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Siesta Time in Granada

We had an easy one and a half hour bus trip to Granada from Malaga. In no time we were in our hotel in the historic part of the city.

We set out to visit some of the great buildings but were caught by the afternoon siesta. Everywhere was shut. What we should have done is join the locals but we sat in a beautiful square and drank coffee and later looked through the shops of the old bazaar.

Finally everywhere was open again. We visited the Capilla Real - the Royal Chapel. This is the resing place of Ferdinand and Isabella who restored Christianity to Spain after defeating the Moors. We also visited the Granada Cathedral, begun in 1521 but not completed till the 18th century. With this schedule, the NSW government could keep pace! it was a beautiful building with excellent light, unusual stained glass windows and pure simplicity.

Later we went out for dinner in one of the local squares. Food only fair and annoyed by people selling lottery tickets, lighters etc and buskers demanding money. Other than that, a good night.

We are looking forward to seeing more of the city and visiting the Allhambra on Wednesday.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunning on the Costa del Sol

We are enjoying our extended stay at Malaga on the Costa del Sol.

After our first day, we upgraded our accommodation to a waterfront hotel with a swimming pool. Not that we haven´t swum in the Mediterranean, but the pool was great after the last hot week.

We have managed to fit in a visit to the cathedral, episcopal palace, a Roman theatre and the alcazar. We have spent even more time relaxing, swimming, eating and drinking.

We move on to Grenada tomorrow (Monday) and will be refreshed from our break and ready to visit this fascinating city.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Message from Malaga

Have you read the Helen McInnes book Message from Malaga? Well we are in Malaga. So far we have not had any secret meetings in dark cafes frequented by flamenco dancers although we have had dinner at an outdoor restaurant and an ice cream on the beach.

We travelled by express bus from Seville this morning and are spending a few days to rest and recuperate. We will find time to go and visit some of the city highlights in the morning.

Italica, a Roman Treasure

A little disappointed at our last Roman ruin, we headed off from Seville to the Italica site.

It is a wonderful site and we basically had it to ourselves. The day before hit 36 degrees so we started early and breakfasted at a local spot in Sandiponce.

Italica was established in 206 BC by Scipio for the soldiers injured in the war with Carthage. We did not see the special ward for elephant stomps! It was the birthplace of Hadrian so when he became emperor, he expanded the town providing an efficient water supply, drainage system and public fountains. It sounds a step ahead of Sydney today!

The site retains the original magic. We wandered through areas that had been nobles' houses with intact mosaics. We loved the House of Birds and its mosaics, the Neptune mosaic that had been the bottom of a pool and the House of the Planetarium with the seven divinities that relate to the days of the week.

The other outstanding area was the Amphitheatre. This was one of the largest in the Roman Empire and considered to be one of the best in Europe. We were not only able to visit the public seating areas but the gladiators' rooms and walk the floor of the arena.

This was a truly wonderful site seen in total privacy with the exception of a few gardiners, the odd archeologist (they mostly are odd) and one school group that turned up just prior to our departure.

Oranges in Seville

Seville was hot, burning hot. We arrived from Faro to temperatures in the high thirties and walked to our hotel near the cathedral in the old city centre.

This is a beautiful city and we were lucky to be in the heart of things near the town hall, Alcazar and cathedral. All wonderful places. The cathedral, the third largest in the world was impressive and we climbed to the top of the tower with its commanding views. This was the former minaret from when the building was a mosque. Instead of steps, it is a series of ramps from when the Moors rode their horses to the top. We also visited the Plaza del Torres - Bull Ring and the Golden Tower. This is an old Moorish structure built in the 13th century as part of the defence system and is now a naval museum.

Now for the oranges. (It is half time in the story). There are orange trees everywhere in Seville. We sat in a square full of orange trees to eat dinner and even the cathedral and Alcazar have squares full of orange trees.

I tried in vain to order orange juice for lunch. We had to settle for wine and marmalade for breakfast, again offered wine or beer but settled for coffee. We finally had oranges for lunch and orange juice for afternoon tea. Well actually Jean had orange juice, we had beer and wine.

Some say the oranges they grow in the public squares are so bitter that no-one will eat them. I think they exported some to Australia for marmalade.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Our plannned train to Faro did not run due to the strike but we caught one that left ata better time even if a little slower.

The train wound around Lisbon and went over the Pont 25 April, one of the great bridges of the world where we had a wonderful view, especially over Belem. We could see all the places, all the spots that we had visited and had a great view of the monument to Vasco.

Arriving in Faro in the early afternoon, we organised our accommodation and our bus for tomorrow. We toured the historic precinct, including the cathedral built in 1251 and its museum. From the roof we had wonderful views across to the coast. We toured the other historic spots of the old town and had a cool drink by the marina before returning to our hotel. We have just been out for dinner in this beautiful little town.

Tomorrow we return to Spain and will beat the train strike by catching a bus to Seville.

Why Are the Italian Restaurants in Lisbon Run by Indians?

Looking for a change of cuisine from the Portuguese, we decided to try one of Gail's favourites - the local Italian. These were quite common but one thing amazed us. They were owned and operated by Indian families.

Finding our waiter had lived in Melbourne for 3 years and considered himself an expert on Australian football, cricket and most other things, we asked him the big question.

We received a long history of Indian migration to Mozambique, Kenya and South Africa, the rights of Indians from Goa to come to Portugal and much related detail. After 15 minutes, we thanked him and returned to our meal.... now cold.

The meal was excellent, a good bottle of prosecco, a pizza, pasta and local portuguese wine.

Come to think of it. We never did find out why Italian restauarants in Portugal are run by Indians.

Meeting Nunu

On our last afternoon in Lisbon, after returning from Sintra, we went up the street elevator just off the huge square near our hotel. it provided wonderful views to the coast and across to Castello Sao Jorges.

From the top we were able to walk across to the old Carmelite convent and to tour the ruins. It had been established by Nunu Alphonso and we saw the grave in the courtyard museum.

The Nunu that we met was Gatto nunu....., the convent cat named after the founder. She spent her day lazing in the courtyard or sitting on the ticket office window.

The convent was established in the 1500s and is one of the few buildings that predates the earthquake of 1755. it remains as a shell of a building as in the 19th century, tha fashion was for romantic ruins.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Palaces and Castles of Sintra

For our final day in Lisbon, we decided to check out nearby Sintra. We caught a train from Rossio train station not far from our hotel for the 40 minute trip.

Our first visit was the Moorish Castle. It was built in the 9th century but abandoned when the Moors retreated south. It was later removated by King Ferdinand 11 in the 19th century.

We caught a bus from the station but had a 15 min walk to the castle. We then walked up the battlements, a series of steep steps with wonderful views over the country side and to the Atlantic. This is one of the most picturesque spots we have visited.

We went on to the Pena Palace, a Royal summer holiday house built by King Ferdinand from an abandoned monastery. We went up the steep hill on a train that was really a bus.

The palace has a magnificent location not far from the Moorish castke. The views also extend to the Atlantic and we could see the most westerly point of Europe.

The furnished rooms were packed with items that the royals had acquired. These ranged from royal beds, royal baths, royal (bathroom) thrones and some interesting furniture and beautiful fittings. The castle is quite exquisite.

We finished the visit with a wander through Sintra village before catching the train home. Another great day!

We leave tomorrow for Faro. The train strike is still on and although we could not catch the train intended, we have another one booked.

In Vasco's Wake

After Christmas, reading the history of Vasco de Gama's trip to India, our trip to Belem, his starting point, was much anticipated.

It was a great day. We caught an old tram to Belem. It could even have been the one that Vasco caught. It is about 6 km around the coast west of Lisbon.

Our first stop was the Belem Tower, built by the first king of Portugal as a symbol of his power. One unusual feature is the carving of a rhinocerus. The real thing was a gift to the pope but when the boat delivering the gift, sank, the body was recovered and stuffed with straw. The stone carving is the first in Europe of a rhino. The building is fabulous and sits just off the coast. Yes there are lots of stairs to climb!

We viewed the old lighthouse and the special memorial to Vasco. It depicts Vasco and his crew boarding the boat for India.

The monastery of San Jeronimus was magnificent. The church has superb fine stone work and wonderful cloisters. Inside the church we discovered the tomb of Vasco himself. The church was built with profits from the spice trade with India.

The Maritime Museum had not only models of Vasco's ships but 2 anchors recovered from Chris' Nina that he had carelessly left somewhere in the New World. The museum had a magnificent collection of barges, seaplanes and aircraft. All this and it is located in the beautiful San Jeronimus' monastery.

Before departure we also visited the Archeological Museum and the Cultural and Modern Art Museum where we saw Dali's lobster phone, works by Picasso and also Jackson Pollack. Our final stop was the Museum of the President where we failed the technology for the English audio guide. The president lives in the ex royal palace next door where presidents have resided since the departure of the royals in 1910.

As we rode the tram back, we reflected on a wonderful day..... Vasco was quite a guy.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Why the Number 37 Bus is So Small.

We climbed onto the no. 37 bus to go up the steep hill to Castello de Sao Jorge. Why was it the only tiny bus when all the others were so big?

Soon we were in a traffic jam sandwiched between 2 equally small trams. As we rounded a corner almost collecting a load of washing hanging from a first floor window, we started to get the idea. We had at least 2mm. clearance each side up the next street and only needed the footpath and roadway to pass a parked car. We did manage to fit under the awning. After we waited for the deliveries to be unpacked from a small truck, we continued up and around corners until we finally arrived.

The castle was delightful. It was built by the Moors in the 12th century and we were able to stroll the ramparts and walk the open courtyards.

The views were superb. We looked out over the old part of Lisbon and over the Rio Tejo to the distant shores.

After lunch in the castle grounds, we caught the no. 37 back down the hill past the cathedral and church we had visited yesterday and finally arrived back in the square near our hotel.

Train Strike in Portugal - Rock in Rio

The strike started on Friday with us due to depart for Lisbon. It is the engineers that are on strike, so most of the trains were still running. We caught the train from near our hotel to the main station with no problem. We were told that they would not know if the train from Coimbra to Lisbon would run until it left Porto in the north.

Finally the train came up on the departure board - then it showed a 10 min. delay. Was this the way to tell us it would not arrive?

We finally boarded the packed train and had a slower trip than anticipated to Lisbon. There was time for 2 cups of tea! We finally arrived half an hour late.

We had decided to travel on the day of the Rock in Rio concert. We did not even know that the Rio concert was being held in Lisbon! It is promoted as the world´s largest rock concert. Fortunately when we changed to the Metro, the Rio Rockers travelled in the opposite direction to us.

We are staying in Rossio in the centre of Lisbon, near 2 of the major squares. It is a beautiful spot. We spent the afternoon looking round the area, visiting the old cathedral and St Anthony´s church and travelling on the Metro and on their wonderful little trains. St Anthony is the patron saint of Lisbon.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Roman Ruins of Conimbriga

One of our reasons for our visit to Coimbra, was to also visit the Roman ruins at Conimbriga, just 15 km away.

Considered to be the best Roman site in Portugal, the visit was greatly anticipated. The area has been settled since the 9th century BC and the Romans in the second half of the first century BC.

We saw magnificent mosaics in situ, foundations of many houses and public buildings, baths and aquaducts, the forum and a very early Christian basilica. Most of the area was absolutely wonderful but a few, had in our humble opinion, been rather spoilt by poor reconstruction.

The museum housed many of the items that had been found on the site and whilst small, it had an excellent display of all things Roman.

We caught the return bus back to Coimbra to the news that we may be stranded by a train strike starting tomorrow. At least we know how to ask 'pergunto: ha comboios amanha? Is there a train strike tomorrow?

We think all is ok but there may be many more posts from Coimbra. We hope to be in Lisbon tomorrow.

The Oxford of Portugal - Highest Seat of Learning

Arriving in Coimbra, we soon settled into our accommodation and headed off for a visit to Universidade de Coimbra. The university was founded in Portugal in 1290 and transferred to the former royal palace in Coimbra in 1537. This city is the former capital of Portugal.

To get to the university, you climb up and up and up the steep steps and streets. You certainly work your way to the top but the reward is not a higher degree but magnificent views making it all worthwhile.

The university, called the Oxford of Portugal, is an impressive place. We entered the courtyard through the Porta Ferrea - iron gate - to the magnificent facades of the buildings, the statue of king Joao 111 and the views over the valley.

We looked through the Biblioteca, a magnificent baroque library built in 1717 and considered to be the best in Europe. It has a wonderful collection of historic volumes housed in gilded rooms.

The most fascinating thing about the library, is that it houses a colony of bats. Each night they feed on the tiny insects inside the building, thus saving the books from damage. The tables and furniture are themselves protected from damage by being covered each night with leather cloths and the library is cleaned each morning. Bats in the Biblioteca!

Next we went in to the Prisco Academica - university prison, a private gaol dating from the university's privileged position of independence and authority. Amongst the 'crimes' that could land you in gaol were damaging a book or failure to show respect to a professor. perhaps we could reintroduce these for Australian schools and universities as part of a new discipline code. The mind boggles as what term would be imposed for not doing your homework, talking in class or graffiti on the toilet wall!

We also visited the wonderful graduates' hall and the chapel along with the old and new cathedrals of Coimbra - a great visit.

PS it is hard to believe but we just walked back up all the steps to post this blog from the university Internet site!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Any Port in a Storm

We changed to bus for our trip from Salamanca to Porto as the train trip is next to impossible.

With a one hour time adjustment, it became a six hour trip with just one stop for lunch plus a few short stops to drop off passengers. We passed through Man of La Mancha territory, across the Spain Portugal border and past lots of Aussie gum trees as we went over the central mountains to the coast.

Porto has many wonderful buildings with houses from the 15th century and churches from the 12th century. We visited the cathedral and lots of the famous landmarks around town.

A high point was the climb up the 1754 Torre Dos Clerigos with its 225 steps. The view was magnificent over the rooftops of Porto to the river and ocean beyond.

An unplanned sight was the Palacio de Bolsa, the former Stock Exchange, one of the great buildings of Porto. It was closed for a performing arts function but we were able to talk the guard into letting us have a little look. We saw a mermaid shed her tail and dance in a pink tutu on top of a globe of the world. Now we know what mermaids have under that tail.

Tonight we plan to have a drop of port in Porto.

Tomorrow we move on to Coimbra for two days.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Dining With Manuel

During our visit to Spain, we have had many meals when we were served by Manuel....... with a few supervised by Basil and Sybil.

One memorable meal had Manuel having about as much English as we have Spanish. he used his full vocab..... Sit!... Order!..... Eat!.... Pay!...... These were his only words during the meal.

Using our equally limited Spanish vocab, most of which relates to food, we somehow managed quite a reasonable meal.

We have also learnt a few lessons about What Not To Order In Spain.

1. Beef... the day after the bullfight
2. Anything round and rubbery served in a gravy when Manuel laughs when he serves it.
3, Anything for dinner before 10 pm.
4. Sangria after 4 am.... just joking.

Having "mastered" the art of ordering in Spanish, we move on to PĂ´rtugal tomorrow.

As I Was Saying

Our visit to the Pontifical University of Salamanca was only possible by joining a tour..... given only in Spanish. The rooms were beautiful but the talk went on and on....... it was only sllightly more interesting than some of the lectures that I sat through such as Econometrics and Mathematics for Economists.

The city is a traditional seat of learning in Spain. We saw the old lecture rooms that are famous as the venue where Fray Luis was arrested in the Inquisition for subversion of the faith. After 5 years imprisonment and torture, he was released and continued his lecture with his famous words "As I was saying yesterday".

Aah the commitment of university lecturers. Frank H, Please note.

If time permits, we may visit the Oxford of Portugal next week.

Salamanca the Most Graceful City in Spain

Salamanca certainly lived up to its claim to being the most graceful city in Spain.

The new cathedral was commenced in 1513 as "the last breath in the Gothic style". By the time it was completed, Gothic style had been replaced. The new was incorpòrated into the ornamentation and the result is magnificent.

The old cathedral is adjoining. It was commenced in about 1152 and it is most impressive. We also visited the cathedral museum holding the old and precious religious regalia.

We are staying in a pedestrian only street that is packed day and night with people strolling. Our attempts to eat lunch and dinner outdoors today were however thwarted by a few isolated showers at the wrong moment. The street links the many old buildings of the old quarter and is a magical place to stay.

We have visited a lot of the buildings including churches, convents and universities. We also walked across an old Roman bridge comprising 60 arches.

One of the best places was the Convento de San Estaban (Steven) with its wonderful cloisters, church and museum.

Tomorrow will see us catch a long distance bus to Oporto in Portugal.