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Life in the fast lane

I'm beginning to really like my new Province. It's probably a romantic view but there seems to be a symbiosis between the land and the people who live on it. I'm sure that, in reality, everyone writes computer games software and sells insurance but it doesn't seem like that as we drive around more or less deserted roads passing by grazing sheep, cattle and pigs and stopping off in sleepy villages where old women sit on their doorsteps crocheting.

Today we went to a Natural Park, El Parque Natural Arribes del Duero, that runs on both the Spanish and Portuguese sides of the River Duero. We started in an interpretation centre in the village of Sobradilla. We were the only customers in the hour or so that we were there so the guide had plenty of time to tell us about the unique microclimate in the steep valleys that surround the river. She told us how they grow oranges, a crop that's not tough enough to take the winters in our Alicante home just 50 miles from the Mediterranean coast. The centre was well laid out; housed in a 15th Century watchtower that for years guarded the Spanish border from Portuguese incursions and smugglers. As we climbed the tower the diplays mirrored the climb from the depths of the valley onto the more open hillsides.

Across the road the village restaurant was setting up for a special meal based on local wild mushrooms and toadstools. Collecting funghi is big in Salamanca. We zig zagged back and forth from Spain to Portugal across hydroelectric dams and old bridges. We passed men on mules that seemed to be earning their keep working the hillsides. We saw lots and lots of big birds - kites apparently. In Vilvestre we watched a boat set out on a trip along the Duero in a landscape reminiscent of the English Lake District and in Aldeadávila de Ribera if we'd had a pig and 12€ we could have got it slaughtered.

Splendid day, splendid place.

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