Last week I left Oviedo, Spain after being there for two months. That was the longest I have been in one town, and for that matter in even one bed, in over the past six months. The traveling road was calling and although I have come to love Oviedo and am calling it my European home-base, I was excited to return to visiting more of the Spanish people and land.
Early Thursday morning I slung my shoulder bag on, complete with my “office”, and wheeled out with me my luggage on wheels. A new dear friend, native from Oviedo, was waiting for me at my door to kindly accompany me on my short walk across a couple of streets to the nearby bus station. In the still-dark morning hours, we sat outside in the humid damp cold and I noticed that on the next bench down was a young woman and older gentleman. With them was a lot of gear – an extended trip mountaineering backpack, day pack, and a large duffel bag on wheels. That last piece of luggage, I recognized…it was the same exact REI duffel bag on wheels as mine, just the next size bigger! After a warm goodbye hug and “hasta luego” to my friend Hugo, I got comfortable on the bus and settled in for a long 10-hour drive.
One of the things I love about traveling is meeting people and making new friends. This latest travel excursion proved to be no exception and within the first hour on the road, I struck up a conversation with the young woman I had seen at the station in Oviedo, the one with the same luggage as me. Through the rest of our trip that day, I got to know Erin Baskin, a young woman from the San Francisco Bay area who was returning to Spain to teach English for almost a year or more. Not only does she love Spain but she is fluent in Spanish and has enjoyed several visits to Latin American countries and Spain in the years past. After parting ways when she got off at Caceres, Spain, I finished out the last couple hours of my bus ride and arrived in Zafra to the hugs of my mom and her boyfriend.
While they had a business meeting with a friend, I went on a walk through the center of the old town and enjoyed being off the bus and being able to stretch my legs. Even though the sky was grey and overcast, I enjoyed the cool feeling of fall in the air and leisurely walking among the tall palm trees and the colorful flowers that were still flourishing despite the oncoming change of seasons. This was my fourth or fifth time in the town of Zafra and on this stroll, I realized how beautiful it was and how much I enjoy the architecture that reflects the ancient history of Roman civilization that was followed by Moorish invasion and later Christian conquest. While walking on cobblestone streets among the castle, churches, and under stone arches, I marveled at how long this small town has existed in this open expanse of countryside and of all the different civilizations it has seen.
In Spain there is a great network of Castles that have been renovated and restored into present-day hotels. They are called Paradores and many of them can have what I consider to be reasonable rates, depending on what time of year you want to stay in them. For the first time in my handful of visits to Zafra, I noticed on the castle plaque that it was one such Parador…the Parador Zafra – Hotel Duque de Feria. I’ve enjoyed coffee in their cafe and walked through their beautiful center courtyard that has a beautiful stone fountain in its center.
From the castle, or Parador, I continued my relaxing walk down the pedestrian street that is lined with shops and leads into the Plaza Grande. On this particular day, it was empty and quiet due to the impending sense of rain from the darkening clouds in the sky. But I enjoyed it nonetheless and walked about admiring the brick and stone arches perfectly supported with columns that lined the buildings and created a special tunnel of sorts to look down. It was all so picturesque that I felt trying to take a picture would do it no justice. A person just had to be there.
This was a typical day of travel for me within Spain. I hope you felt like you got to come along and that perhaps, someday we will meet up on these traveling roads.