“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.” – Ernest Hemingway
Actually as it turned out it would have been a whole lot better if the wind had continued to blow because when we woke in the morning there was a thick fog and the city was completely obscured from view from the hotel windows. It was all rather spooky but above it we could make out pale blue sky so this made us more confident than we really had a right to be about the day.
After breakfast it was still misty so we were forced to abandon our plans to return to Ciudad Rodrigo for blue-sky photographs and set off instead to visit the historical city of Salamanca. Because it was earlier than we had anticipated we decided to take a scenic route rather than the direct Autovia de Castilla. Leaving the city for the last time we took the road signposted towards Béjar in a southeasterly direction towards the Gredos mountains and in particular the Sierra de Francia, one of the ranges belonging to the Sistema Central, the mountain range that separates Spain in two.
At first the road was long and straight as it cut through a flat landscape of livestock farms and woods that were slowly beginning to emerge from the swirling mists of a November morning. As we drove through a succession of quiet towns the sun began to poke through and the sky started to turn blue. After a while we hit the edge of a national park with pine covered mountain slopes and then deciduous woods of alder, oak, pine and ash in splendid autumn finery that made it look like a treasury of gold. The road became more difficult as we entered a series of hairpin bends with glorious views over the valleys and mountain passes below.
I had miscalculated the driving distance towards our turn for Salamanca and we seemed to keep going forever but the journey and the scenery was magnificent and another valuable Spanish geography lesson. Eventually we reached the road juction we were heading for and turned northeast towards Salamanca. At first the road continued to twist and turn but after a few kilometres we dropped quickly back down to open range and the agricultural plain and started to pick up speed and make good progress.
We drove through fields of grazing avileña negra ibérica cattle, jet black and with nasty looking horns and occassional blanca cacereña, white and apparantly endangered but good meat, flocks of sheep enjoying good quality grazing grass and oak planations with Black Iberian Pigs gorging themselves on acorns in preparation for being turned into the Spanish gastro speciality Jamón ibérico. We were enjoying good weather now but after about thirty kilometres we ran into a thick bank of fog that blotted out the sun and didn’t shift all the way into Salamanca.