Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain: In the olden days when I was a television executive, we had crafted a mission statement to “Inspire the Wow.” As mission statements go, this is a timeless and uplifting one. Today, in a very different context, I got a big dose of inspired wow.
I reluctantly left the small village of Valverde del Fresno this morning. The air was cool and crisp and this thinly populated area of Spain’s Extramadura region had not yet come to life. I had my first true mountain pass in the Sierra de Gata range to tackle first thing. It was a long, steady but manageable ascent. The road cut through national forest; I was surrounded by green and quiet except for the birds. It was awesome. I stopped for coffee in the town of El Payo, near the pass. In another village I chatted with locals over my now usual staple of a ham and cheese sandwich, before leisurely descending to Ciudad Rodrigo, passing mostly cattle farmlands.
I arrived in the cathedral city of Ciudad Rodrigo in time for an early lunch by Spanish standards. I had no preconception of this town and was startled by its history and its charm. It’s a walled city on a modest rocky bluff near a minor river. The site has been occupied since the Neolithic era and the cathedral was built in the 1200’s to 1400’s and is gorgeous inside and out. What especially differentiates the cathedral is the placement of the choir and massive organ in the cathedral’s center.
Tonight I am staying in a hotel that was originally built by Henry II of Castile as a castle in 1372. Fortunately it’s been renovated with indoor plumbing since then.
I’ve often visited medieval cities in Europe and wished that I had the chance to experience the place before the tourists arrived en masse. Well, Ciudad Rodrigo is such a place. There are some tourists here, but the city still retains its charm and authenticity, and the people are oh-so-friendly. There’s not a tour bus in sight.
I’ve also acclimated to Spanish time now. It’s just not practical to try to operate out of sync with everyone else. I finished a three course lunch (lentil soup, pork steak, and tiramasu; in Spain I just have to get over my pork phobia) by 3:30pm. Even for my ginormous appetite this sumptuous meal in a fashionable restaurant satiated and cost all of 13 Euros. Since it started to drizzle after lunch I decided to take a siesta along with the rest of the town. In the early evening I played tourist. I stopped in one shop to try to buy a map of Spain, and one of the customers said he had an extra at home, and went to get it for me. There have been many random acts of kindness such as this in Spain.
The cycling yesterday and today has been superb, with effortless navigation so far in Spain. I could not expect more. This is the way European cycle touring is meant to be: inspired wow.
(PS: will try to post some photos another time. Broadband not up to speed. )
Day 5 summary: Valverde del Fresno – Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain
Day 5 distance: 72.84 km
Day 5 ascent: 815m
Weather: overcast, cool
Cume distance: 470.85 km
Cume ascent: 4,612 meters