Thursday, 30 June 2016

Palencia y Valladolid: Poo Plaza and the Manyana Manzana

Palencia, Spain (Palencia, España)
November 2015
Sometimes you visit a city simply to see one attraction you have in mind. It may be the Eifel Tower in Paris, Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur or the Sky Tower in Auckland. For us, it was Palencia's cathedral. 
The initial problem was that the tall lamp posts lining the cathedral's courtyard proved a challenge in taking a well-composed photograph of the landmark. (I therefore took it upon myself to give a good kicking to the nearest one, in order to set an example for the rest.) While walking about, assaulting nearby light sources, we witnessed several locals taking their dogs out for a good old leg stretch. They let them poo and wee to their furry little hearts' content as though the paved area was a lush and grassy dog park or expansive beach. One dog in particular, a fierce Jack Russel, scurried into the courtyard away from his master's leash and yip-yapped in happiness. He released his excretions and then ran around bow-wowing, sniffing enthusiastically, and scratching at the ground as though with enough effort he could dig through the stone and find a long-buried bone beneath.

Once you got up close you could see what exquisite detail went into the construction of such a building. Although it is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, it is one of Spain's lesser known. I find this a little unfortunate, as you can tell the work that went into it was no small feat and the results are quite beautiful.

For a change, we actually visited an attraction during opening hours and were able to venture inside the cathedral to partake in cultural learnings. We were able to see the crypt, which contained a Visigoth burial chamber. Interestingly enough, the germanic Visigoths were the main constituent in Spain and Portugal from the early 5th-century until the Moorish invasion of 711. #TIL
I wanted to see deeper into the dark depths of the above crypt, so I bounded forward and froze for a few vital seconds before the sound I had heard travelled from my ears to my brain - that of splashing water. You see, what I had taken for damp stone turned out to be several centimeters of pooled water in front of the pillars. That elapsed time meant that my canvas shoes were taking on moisture. Once I realised, I quickly jumped back, my pride more damaged than my footwear. Not really, though - it was more funny than embarrassing.

Looking down into the crypt well, I had perhaps expected a long tunnel trailing down into darkness. What I found, however, was a strong sense of vertigo when I saw a vast depth of lit passageway. I realised that what I was seeing was not down into some room further into the earth, but a reflection of what was above me in the collected water of the well. It certainly was a crypt full of watery illusions!

Back above ground, we took a gander at the chapels and the altar. The altarpiece was as tall as the cathedral and covered in gold and a large assortment of biblical figures.
Having scratched our Palencia cathedral itch, we drove on to Valladolid.

Valladolid, Spain (Valladolid, España)
It was getting late, so we checked into our hotel before heading into the city for dinner. The hotel was a bizarre drive-through arrangement, where you drive up and use an intercom that tells you which room you'll be in. Then you drive around, find your number and pull into the garage that the receptionist (who you never see) has opened for your arrival. It's only through the garage that you can enter your hotel room. Judging from reviews left, it's based on a certain type of American motel, and apparently it's a good type of place for illicit love affairs.
Able to park very centrally (right on the Plaza Mayor), we went hunting in search of food glorious food. Tapas were had at Bar Zamora and patatas bravas with smokey tomato sauce was enjoyed alongside croquettas and sangria. 
Once full, we went on a tour of Valladolid churches. We knew nothing about them, so neither shall you. Let's just sit together a moment and take in the inspiring architecture of the church of San Benito and the monkey brown sky. (The term "monkey brown" comes from me mentioning to Yannick that the sky was a very murky sort of brown. He misheard me and thought I was applying primate features to the hazy atmosphere. The term stuck and now it's a colour we refer to often.)

Quite impressive, no? In order to take the photos at nighttime, we crafted an ingenious tripod made out of travel sized packets of tissues. The city has such a range of beautiful historic buildings because it was the capital of the Kingdom of Castile and later the capital of unified Spain from the 13th to the 17th-century, when it was moved to Madrid.

Outside the cathedral we watched a man who was altogether far better at rollerblading than every rollerblader I've seen combined. He flew across the flagstones, looking more like a figure skater than one of the wheeled variety. I don't know how he got into that line of athletics, but I say well done sir. When the cathedral was first planned, it would have become the largest cathedral in Europe. However, as seems to frequently be the case, the project ran out of money and the finished product is only around 45% of the intended size.
Thinking ahead, we purchased fruit from a vendor for our breakfast the next morning. I used my limited knowledge of Spanish and probably pronounced everything wrong, but we got our manzanas and caquis. (Caqui is the Spanish word for persimon - so cute!)

Today's post was almost called: Dipping Our Toes Into Visigoth History