Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sunday Snippets

After mass in the hotel and a rushed breakfast (because Sunday liturgy runs longer than weekday), we boarded the bus for six hours of driving.

We left behind Galicia with its rainy mornings and nights for the more arid, inland province of Castillo y Leon, and the university city of Salamanca.

I took a calculated risk leaving my raincoat in my suitcase, not expecting rain after leaving the coast. That risk paid off, but I should have kept my sweater handy.

The landscape changed from hilly and mountainous to level farmlands. The highway - supposedly only a few years old and paid for by the EU - is fabulous.

Our guide talked about healthcare at the request of a pilgrim. With the US presidential election coming up on Tuesday, everyone is curious about first-hand experience of universal health coverage. Our female guide is quite in favor of socialized healthcare and she's happy to pay the expenses of the 23% of Spaniards who are out of work right now. But she complained about the new right-wing government who has made children and seniors responsible for some of their own medications, raised the tax rate on arts and culture to 21% and tripled the cost of public college. It seems to her like a direct attack on education and culture. I'd call it fascist.

Yet, after hearing all this first-hand testimony, I overheard people later in the day remarking, "How can anyone with a brain vote for Obama?!" Our tour guide didn't call anyone names; she just described their policy and let you decide. It's so typical of the sides: one presents the reality and the other calls names.

Palm Sunday - Salamanca

She talked history as well. She explained where the name Castillo came from and I knew it was the royal family. She started with Isabella and Ferdinand and named daughters and sons and spouses. When she mentioned Aragon, I thought of Catherine and she mentioned Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, the Virgin Queen.

Once we got through the hills, even several tunnels through mountains and across a long, single-lane bridge, the agricultural fields were so vast that I couldn't imagine how anyone could actually farm them. But it seems they belong to corporations. And as proof of the significantly less rainfall the region receives, we saw rolling irrigation lines like we have in the states in many, many fields.

We arrived in Salamanca at 3pm without stopping anywhere along the road for lunch. We checked into our hotel, got our keys, went to our rooms, and then met in the lobby for a walking tour of the old city. It's close to our hotel. There's virtually nothing open on a Sunday. Some clothing shops, the occasional ice cream place, the rare pharmacy. Several women in our group are very interested in shopping for clothing. I remember Father Williams saying at our first meeting, "This is a pilgrimage, not a shopping spree." Then at dinner he told our guide he wanted to leave later tomorrow to allow time for shopping.

All the buildings of the university look the same because they are all made with the same light colored limestone. It's really a very pretty stone. It was cold and windy and the tall buildings in close quarters made the wind whip even more.

I had on only two layers and would have appreciated something around my sore throat. I guess it's the elevation because I thought the center of the country - we have come south - would be warmer. I found an open pharmacy and got some good cough drops.

In returning to the hotel, I noted the hours on a number of banks because I need to exchange more dollars for euros. Dinner could not come soon enough! Twelve hours without food.

No morning mass tomorrow. Instead, a late start, 9:15 or 9:30, for Avila where we will have mass.

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