We left Socoa in France on Saturday morning with accommodation booked in Porto, Portugal, for Monday night. It was the weekend of Rugby World Cup semi-finals so we’d elected to cross Northern Spain in two days, aiming to arrive each afternoon in time to find somewhere to watch the games. That particular aspect of our planning wasn’t highly successful – rugby is not big in Spain – but we did visit three interesting Spanish towns, one of which we’d place very high up our list of recommended destinations.
We started by taking the motorway to Santander. It’s not immediately an inspiring city and doesn’t tick many of the boxes tourists usually want to see filled, but we enjoyed meandering around the central city in the middle of the day, and opted for a menú del día lunch in a small cafe: we had a satisfying three course meal for €9.00 each. Our efforts to watch the rugby semi-final conspired against daytime photographs of the Sandenero beach where we were staying; but we did see some interesting sights, including the tightest parking we’ve so far seen anywhere.
On Sunday morning we took the motorway south to Palencia, a city which seemed to have a church around every corner. As we walked around the centre of town we thought we’d found the cathedral four or five times – each church larger than the last – before finally encountering it. Palencia seemed to have quite a thing for life-size bronze statues: we encountered several dotting the pavements.
When we left Palencia we changed our plans on a whim and set a course for Zamora. The only reason for doing so was practical: it was a larger centre than our original destination and we thought it might be more likely we could see the second Rugby World Cup semi-final. While the rugby watching didn’t eventuate as hoped, we’re very glad we revised our travel plans, because Zamora is a wonderful city.
We explored part of the historic centre of Zamora before the rugby game. It was pretty, but empty of people at three in the afternoon. We didn’t push on far enough to find the cathedral or the El Cid fortress, but we did find these when we surfaced after the rugby. We also found that the streets of the old town were packed with people. Everyone who was anyone in Zamora was out promenading; elderly couples in their Sunday best, young people, families … they were walking, stopping and talking, sitting at cafe tables and enjoying the evening. We don’t know if this happens every day, or just every Sunday, or perhaps only after Rugby World Cup games (although the latter is unlikely), but it was a delightful atmosphere which we felt privileged to be part of.
On Monday morning we left Zamora wishing we could stay longer. We had an uneventful journey to the border of Portugal and on to Porto, where a new chapter is undoubtedly waiting to unfold. While travelling across Spain our clocks gained two hours; daylight saving ended in Eastern Europe and we crossed a timezone. We’re hoping that in a day or two our body clocks will catch up with their mechanical and digital counterparts.