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Day 5: Bilbao to Salamanca

Tuesday night was our last night in Bilbao, because on Wednesday morning we were due to travel south to Salamanca. We had chosen Salamanca as a destination based on photos we'd seen of its old town and, when we booked the accommodation back in February, we had been under the impression that the journey from Bilbao would be a straightforward one via a direct train. When it got to within a few months of our holiday though and the summer timetables came online, we started to panic because the Salamanca train had mysteriously disappeared. The Renfe website is extremely difficult to use (won't show timetables for a journey which involves a change, won't let you edit a journey once you've submitted it) which made us slightly sceptical about the validity of its information, but when I realised that the route was absent from the Deutsche Bahn website I knew it was time to start researching alternative options. After a lot of fruitless searching of Spanish transport websites we eventually discovered a company called Alsa which operates a bus route between the two cities. Phew!

The only down side of the bus route was that it left Bilbao at 08.15, giving us an earlier start than we might have liked on holiday. We successfully navigated ourselves across Bilbao using the metro and arrived at the bus station in plenty of time for our departure, only to almost fail at the final hurdle of working out which bus was actually ours. The timetable boards in the bus station display only the final destination of each bus, which means you need a far better knowledge of Spanish geography than we possess to work out whether a given bus is the correct one or not if you are not going as far as the terminus. Added to this was the complication that there were six different buses departing from Bilbao at 08.15. I held onto the cases while Tim did a jog around the bus station platforms in the hope of recognising our bus from the sign on the front. Luckily he did and soon we were off on our six hour journey to Salamanca.

After about two hours the bus came to a halt in a place called Burgos, the driver said something incomprehensibly fast in Spanish and - somewhat unnervingly - everyone else got off the bus. We got out too as it seemed to be the done thing, but weren't entirely clear whether it was supposed to be a rest stop or an impromptu change of bus.  Luckily it turned out to be the former, and with 20 minutes to kill we decided to have a quick stretch of our legs and see what there was to see in Burgos.


It looked like an interesting place actually, although we only got a fleeting glimpse of its old town and cathedral before we had to head back to the bus. There was a slightly sticky moment where we took a wrong turning and I had visions of our suitcases being transported to Salamanca without us, but fortunately we did make it back on time.

As we drove further away from Bilbao we left the mountains behind and soon the countryside was almost completely flat. We stopped in a few other towns after Burgos, but none long enough to get out for a stroll. Valladolid, which had been one of our potential day trip destinations, looked so dominated by high-rise concrete tower blocks that we decided to strike it from the list.

Finally around 2pm we arrived in Salamanca. First impressions were good as we caught a glimpse of the old town almost as soon as we stepped off the bus. Guided by the spire of the cathedral we managed to exit the bus station in the correct direction and in less than 15 minutes were standing on the doorstep of our apartment. 

I knew this apartment was going to be on the small side when I booked it, but considered that more than compensated for by its proximity to the old town. What I didn't realise (or had forgotten!) was that it was so small that it had a folding bed.

Believe it or not, this shelving unit is actually a double bed....


The shelving rotates so that it faces the wall, revealing a bed fixed in position on the other side....


The bed then pulls down and looks surprisingly normal!


It is quite easy to fold up and down, but it is going to require some coordination about what time we are going to bed/getting up, not least because the shelving unit is virtually the only place in the apartment where it is possible to store things, but you obviously can't access anything stored there once the bed is folded down.

It's a nice apartment though and the most impressive bit is the view we have of the cathedral from our window :)


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