POSTED ON September 16, 2007 | IN Spain's Wine Country | BY Joe Becerra

We are here for two nights, staying at the Salamanca Hotel de Mercado, one block from the Plaza Mayor, the Plaza that Rick Steves says is the best Plaza in Spain. The Plaza Mayor is the center of activity in Salamanca.

Our first night in Salamanca we ate at Casa Paca Cafe. This restaurant has a wine cellar of 300 Spanish wines. We are just beginning to learn the fine points of Spanish wines. In Spain, wine appellations are called. D.O.’s. (Denominacion of Origin). Although there are some 60 D.O.’s in Spain, the Casa Paca wine list is made up of mostly two traditional D.O’s, the Ribera Del Duero and La Rioja. We had an Lopez Cristobal, Crianza 2003. Crianza means the wine must be aged for two years, between 6—12 months in barrels and the rest in the bottle. A Reserva wine must be aged for 3 years, with a least one year in the barrel. A Gran Reserva wine must be aged five years, with 24 months in the barrel.

Popular dishes in Salamanca are all types of fish, suckling pig, and lamb. Tapas favorites are Piquillo peppers stuffed in various ways, Bocadillos (sandwiches on a sour roll), and Tortilla Espanola, a dish almost like a quiche.

Saturday, we walked and walked throughout the central area. First stop was an indoor farmers’ market, where vendor stands consisted of vegetables, meats, and fish. It was remarkable. We have nothing remotely similar here in the S.F. Bay Area.

At the Cathedral Vieja, we witness a traditional Spanish wedding, including ancient Andalucian music. Later, a street fair much like our Renaissance fair. There are Tapas bars everywhere and it is hard to choose one; they all look so good and inviting. We found a spot on Rue de Mayor, a street that leads between the Plaza Mayor and the Plaza Anaya. Joe gorged himself on a cerveza and bocadillo chirozo. Janelle settled in for a hamon y queso, a grilled ham and cheese. This spot was great for people watching.
Another great eating and drinking spot is one of the many outdoor cafes at the Plaza Mayor. You can sit and order a drink and stay for hours. The Plaza is constantly a bevy of activity along with any of the side streets that lead to the Plaza. Friday and Saturday it is a fiesta in the Plaza and side streets. The Spanish party until the sun rises. We know this for a fact because our hotel room window was on one of these narrow streets. The crowds kept us awake until the wee hours of the morning.