Jennifer likes to say that middle-aged men become obsessed with the Napoleonic Wars; and, while I don’t admit to full-on obsession, I am pretty interested. That interest was largely what led me to travel 100km towards the Portuguese border today to visit Ciudad Rodrigo.
While Ciudad Rodrigo has a long history as a pivotal border town it was the events of 1810 and 1812 that made it famous beyond Spain. The French took the town in 1810, and the British took it again in 1812 in a fabulously dramatic rushing of the walls. It was fascinating to see the actual spot where the walls were taken and, yes, that might be the sign of a bit of obsession.
That said, Ciudad Rodrigo is a lovely town. These days the fortifications that still surround the town seem to hold back a tide of ugly, modern buildings that lap against the ancient walls. Inside the walls the town is a maze of twisting streets and plazas lined by old, sand-coloured buildings. The Cathedral still bears the scars of cannonballs but inside shelters a beautiful, calm cloister with whimsical gothic carvings.
You can walk round the entire old town on the walls and, if you ignore the reef of modern buildings, there are views into Portugal and over to the surrounding hills. It was all quite lovely.
Probably my only mistake with Ciudad Rodrigo was that I didn’t realize how small it was. I really had too much time and so walked the walls and every street several times and had a very leisure lunch in the Plaza Mayor before my coach home.