It’s been over seven weeks since my last post. Seven more weeks of living in Burgos, getting to know our way around, becoming familiar with the nooks and crannies of the town and, as we walk around — which we do much of every day — recognising more and more faces: the man from the frutería, the woman from the tourist office, the neighbours from upstairs.
We’ve decided to stay in Burgos for a while for various reasons, but largely because we really like the city and are enjoying it more the longer we’re here, plus we needed to refill the coffers, and to that end we’ve begun teaching English privately to people who are keen to improve their conversational skills, prepare for an interview, hone their dissertation writing, and so on.
As cities go Burgos is relatively small with a population of 180, 000 and because most people live in six- or ten-storey apartment blocks the city is a compact one with quite distinct boundaries. The urban sprawl simply doesn’t exist here. After being here for a couple of weeks or so we went on one of our exploratory walks and were surprised at how quickly we reached the other side of the city. We’re on the edge of the northern boundary, where a large hill rises steeply behind and, as the shape of the city is wider from west to east than from north to south, it takes less than half an hour to reach the southern edge of town. You can can get a good sense of this from the above photograph, which was taken looking south from the castle ruins just above the cathedral, which itself is very central. The countryside is very close; the mountains only a short distance further.
But back to the city where life centres around the Plaza Mayor, the congregation point for people of all ages — the elderly señors and señoras with their walking sticks and memories of Franco, the yummy mummies and daddies parading their identically clothed offspring, the teenagers and young people who cluster together over mobile phones, the strutting chicos in their snappy attire, and the high-heeled chicas with their teacup terriers.
When people aren’t seeing and being seen in the Plaza, they can generally be found eating tapas and drinking San Miguel, or the very fine local Ribera del Duero red wine, at one of the many bars and restaurants that surround the Plaza. Stroll down Calle San Lorenzo and there are a dozen or so bars and pizzerias to choose from, all of which are full of people after 8.00 or 9.00 pm. Our favourite is Pancho, which was highly recommended by a local who we met at Pecaditos (a tapas bar just around the corner) while we were attempting to to decipher the menu. He listened to us for a while before leaning over and offering to explain some of the options. He then went on to write, on a napkin, three places we must visit, each for specific tapas. Pancho’s specialities, he said, are their cojonudo (fried quail egg with chorizo) and cojonuda (fried quail egg with morcilla). There we’ve also enjoyed the best spicy patatas bravas and soldadito de bacalao (aka cod and chips!), washed down with a glass of the local Cillar de Silos (joven, which is less expensive than the crianza, the more aged wine).
If you stay out late enough, enjoying a Spanish-style stroll after your tapas and wine, or as we’ve been doing, photographing everything from the grand to the small, you’ll see the street cleaners out in full force, hosing down the pavements and clearing the Plaza of the debris that’s accumulated over the course of the day, particularly late at night leading into the small hours of the next morning when people seem to be more cavalier about dropping litter.
Aside from teaching, grocery shopping and the regular stuff of life, we tend to spend much of our daytime hours in town, taking Instagram photographs and uploading them via the free wifi network that covers large areas of the city — something we very much appreciate since we still have UK SIM cards and therefore avoid using data; plus, we don’t have an internet connection where we’re staying.
Occasionally we do take ourselves to a café that has free WiFi, but as we can’t make it a daily habit we have to really focus whenever we do get online. As a result I’ve dropped behind on those blogs I follow as I simply can’t keep up in the short time I’ve got to be online … so, if you’re one of my fellow bloggers and wondering why I haven’t stopped by in while, hopefully this will explain things.