a wandering woman writes

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

At long last, the cone

Sunny, sunny, Sunday morning, after savoring my El Pais, a marmelade-smothered tostada and a frothy café con leche in the Plaza Mayor, I paid my 6 euros to go along on the Turismo walking tour of Salamanca. I was the only extranjera and the only Salmantina, a fun and not uncommon combination for me.

I didn't learn much I didn't already know, to be honest, or see much I hadn't already toured on my own. Not surprising, I suppose, considering I've had a 2 year head start. Conchy, our guide, had to summarize 2700 years of history in 2 hours and 5 buildings (Casa de las Conchas, the Clerecia, the old University, and both Cathedrals.) I would love to have a cup of coffee with Conchy, one of these Sundays after her tour. Something tells me she's got more stories to tell than she can spill in a two hour walk.

We joined the Sunday morning frog-hunting clamor in the Patio de las Escuelas Menores on our way into the University. Salamanca's been invaded by tourists these last few weekends, and the 40 or 50 of us squinting, waving, pointing, murmuring and sighing in heartfelt frog-missing disappointment produced a wave of noise that rumbled up the stone walls surrounding the patio, over our heads, between our feet and down Calle Libreros, in both directions. A rogue wave of oohs and ahhs and "don't you see it yet's? that I suspect went on long after I was home.

The highlight of the tour for me, you ask?

Why, I found the cone! The ice cream cone! And like so many things I go out looking for, it was right under my nose. Or to the right of my astronaut, as the case may be.

I introduced you to the astronaut a while back. Seems stonemasons have a tradition, when working on a restoration: They leave a trace, two or three small pieces, representative of the era in which they do the restoring. A little "we were here" to confuse the tourists of the distant future. And so Salamanca came to have one of my favorite landmarks, a required stop on the Wandering Woman tour, an astronaut living among the gargoyles and saints and tortured souls of the New Cathedral. I'd seen pictures of the ice cream cone, close-ups of the cone, just as I'd heard vicious rumours that it was somewhere on the Puerta de Ramos - close to the astronaut. But I'd never seen it, live, in its native habitat. Where was the cone?

Two hours with Conchy provided the answer. Right there, on the Puerta de Ramos I've admired and photographed a hundred times before, across from my friendly faux-gothic Astronaut, sits the lovely creature you see above, diabolically munching on a delicious triple scoop. Monkey, perhaps? Evil cat?

I'll say it again. You've got to love a town with an astronaut - and an evil ice cream wielding primate - on its 16th century cathedral.


When the tour ended, and Conchy tried to bid us all goodbye, she was interrupted simultaneously by 2 of my Andalucían tour compañeros - an older man from Sevilla and a young woman from Córdoba - with 3 words: ¿Y el archivo? Seems the group couldn't believe the tour had ended without a visit to Salamanca's now notorious Calle El Expolio. Conchy agreed to tell Turismo they should add it to the itinerary.

If the tour includes a visit to the Archive, I'm all for it. Might even tag along again...



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