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Our Thanksgiving Castle in Spain
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My wife Gerry and I had a pleasant Thanksgiving, and hope you did, too. But ours couldn't possibly match the Thanksgiving we spent a long time ago in - yes! - a castle in Spain. I mean an actual castle in Spain, not the kind that pops up in dreams of faraway places with strange sounding names, but a real castle.

The year was 1961. The place was the magnificent, impeccably maintained 14th century castle of Spanish King Enrique II in the Castilian province of Salamanca in northern Spain. It was - and still is -- operated by the Spanish Tourist Authority as one of a string of tourist lodgings known as paradors - a very special parador.

The castle's ivy-covered stone walls, still in seemingly perfect condition, formed part of the defensive battlements of Ciudad Rodrigo, a small, quiet village, but in Enrique's time a major walled city fit for a king.

We might as well have been courtiers of Enrique, considering the special attention we got. We were the only visitors in the 33-room castle on that Thanksgiving Day. Waiters and waitresses in full medieval finery served us dinner that evening - delicious roasted boar, it was, with side dishes that rivaled or bettered anything we'd ever had at Thanksgiving feasts, and superb Spanish wine.

Like the castle's other rooms, the dining room had a dark-stained beamed ceiling, stone arcades, stained glass windows, walls hung with beautiful tapestries hundreds of years old and a commanding view of the castle's beautiful restored medieval garden in the courtyard, and Ciudad Rodrigo below.

Immediately below, we could see villagers washing clothes in the River Agueda as it flowed just outside the castle, and the clothes spread out on rooftops and hanging on bushes to dry. Beyond them stood low stone fences marking the boundaries of the farms cultivated by the villagers. It's unlikely that any of them had running water or many other modern conveniences in their small cottages. But though we were in a medieval castle, it had all the conveniences, tucked in discreetly with the medieval furnishings.

It was hard to sleep in the curtained canopy bed that undoubtedly had been used by who knows how many Spanish nobles over the centuries. The bed was comfortable enough, but it was like trying to sleep in a museum, forcing yourself to close your eyes and take them off the unique beauty around you that you had but a limited time to experience..

We managed to get some sleep and reluctantly left in the morning to head off to nearby Portugal, where we were expected, But first, an excellent breakfast - and, of course, the bill, a matter of great concern to a couple of twenty-somethings wandering around Europe on the tightest of budgets. You probably won't believe it now, and we didn't believe it then, but it came to $4.40 for the two of us, dinner, bed and breakfast. That's right, $4.40!

As the song says, "I pray for the day I can get underway and look for those castles in Spain." Well, we found one.



Copyright (c) Dick Meister