4 September 2008
Palacio de Castellanos
It’s 10:30 on a beautiful sunny morning in Salamanca. After 10 hours of sleep and a spread that makes the best continental breakfast in the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in look like a four-year-old’s attempt to prepare a meal, I feel ready to face the day and not at all like it’s actually 4:00 in the morning.
I’m currently in the lobby of the hotel; an airy and gracious space with columns and arches of some pale-colored stone, comfortable-yet-elegant couches, and windows in the walls from the first and second stories (which is to say, the two floors above the ground floor, the “planta baja (?),” where my room is). The center of the ceiling is a giant sklylight, half of which is partially obscured by a stretch of canvas or some other fabric, which can be pulled across on ropes. I want to take pictures of this room at some point, preferably when the sun is shining on it. There was such a time an hour and a half ago, but I was hungry, and my camera was in the room where my roommates were still asleep.
I have free time right now; at 11:30 we’re going to gather to discuss and then go see some point of interest (I’ve forgotten which, but it’s in the schedule, and I’ll figure out when we get there). I might feel a little bad that I wasn’t going out and seeing things already, but we’ve been cautioned not to go anywhere alone, and I’ve hardly seen anyone all morning. I did go on a bit of a walk with Wende, who wanted to find the internet café. However, we arrived at the café at 9:57, discovered that it wouldn’t open until 10, wandered around a little bit and looked at the plaza-building (more on that later; I intend to go back with a camera) across from the internet café, and when we returned to find the café still closed, we decided that it probably wasn’t worth hanging around waiting for it to open, and anyway, Wende was hungry (I had already eaten).
I’ve decided that I’ve had enough of the charming experiment in pretending to be an Anarresti; I would like my suitcases back now, please. It would be nice to have more than one set of underwear, one pair of pants, a nice t-shirt and a blouse that’s clean enough to wear, and another set of clothing that isn’t clean enough to wear anymore. I would also appreciate having a pair of socks to my name, and some soap that isn’t the snazzy green stuff the hotel provides, and the stuff I put on my face, and a washcloth (for all its grandeur, the hotel does not provide washcloths, and I’ve had to resort to a hand towel; I have yet to figure out if this is normal in Spain, or if it’s particular to this hotel). But really, for not having any luggage, I’m doing surprisingly well (although I have determined that I will never travel without my overnight case in my carry-on, even if I do have to take out its entire contents and put them in a quart-sized baggie to take through security), and it has occurred to me that of this group, I’m probably one of the better people to not have any luggage, at least in terms of not-freaking-out-ness (although some of the other girls had decent-sized suitcases as a carry-on, rather than just a backpack; they would probably do better in terms of preparedness).
Dinner last night was pretty fantastic; despite claims that it was “muy informal,” (rather like the “muy light,” very quick, not-a-heavy, bocadilla-not-a-sandwich-like-you-are-accustomed-to lunch in Avila yesterday; more on that later), it seemed pretty formal to me (probably not in the top ten most formal meals I’ve ever eaten, but not that far behind – at least in the food and the presentation, if not the company). The servers whisked plates in and out over our shoulders, and the soup course arrived as a little pile of rice-and-stuff with a slice of fried purple something that tasted vaguely potato-ish sitting on top, and the soup was poured in around it at table. (The rice was in some sort of creamy sauce, and I think the soup was smooth-blended potato and leek.) Then the next course was round slices of beef stacked with a mushroom sauce between them, and vegetables on the side for the meat eaters, and fried egg on a little cake of red pepper on the top layer and zucchini and rice on the bottom. I practiced eating in the continental manner, with my fork upside down in my left hand, and my knife in my right, not switching to put the food in my mouth. While it felt tremendously awkward at first, I didn’t actually drop anything in my lap, and between covertly watching Rafi, the Spanish woman at our table, and much experimentation, I finally felt that I was beginning to get the hang of it, but then I ran out of things to cut, and so couldn’t be sure. A number of us found it odd to have bottles of wine added to our table and know that we were perfectly legal to drink them if we so desired. I did try a small sip of the white, and didn’t like it, which was pretty much the result I expected. Desert was a dairy dish that seemed to be a cross between plain yogurt and whipped cream mixed with lemon zest, with a walnut and a dash of raspberry sauce on top. With the desert came a special treat, a group of “tunos” musicians; six men in 15th century style garb (half of them had capes worn over one shoulder, and they all had a wide red ribbon declaring their affiliation (“Derecho Salamanca,” declaring that they belonged to the Facultad Derecho (which translates as Right College, using college more in the sense of Balliol and Shrewsbury than of Smith), whatever that means*), and they wore black dublety-sort of shirts with slashing and red fabric underneath (I think that I heard the words for slashing and dagging last night, but I forgot them immediately), and half of them had the puffy shorts whose name I really ought to remember but don’t, and the other half had just-below-the-knee breeches (whose name I should also remember). More on that later, I should go get ready to meet the group now.
Later: I’m at the cafe now, and will post this and do interactive things, rather than paying to be my usual loquacious self, which can happen just as well for free with no internet.
*This was explained at the 11:30 lecture – Law school
**The hotel mix seems to be my iTunes library combined with traditional Spanish songs (or, at least, songs in Spanish whose lyrics I can’t catch). There’s nothing quite like enjoying a luxurious continental breakfast in Spain while listing to Paul Robeson sing “That’s America to me.”