After leaving our winter bolt-hole of El Puerto de Santa Maria we headed to the Extremadura region and camped in Merida. This is, of course, where I fell off my bicicleta and broke my ankle. We really wanted to return to the region as the Roman ruins and historic towns are unbeatable.
Merida itself has a 5km medieval aqueduct, 12th – 14th century Alcazabar, a 700 metre Roman bridge, the most intact Roman theatre in Europe, Roman amphitheatre and temple. Of course we saw none of this last time.
|Incredible Roman Theatre in Merida|
Again, we hired a small car and drove to Elvas in Portugal. You may remember (although I doubt it) that we had coffee here last year. It was such an interesting town that we booked a hotel for night so we could see the area. The hotel was a 17th century convent, beautifully restored and within the city walls. 60 euros for one night including breakfast (bacon butties, what a treat!!), WIFI and parking!!
Elvas is protected by star shaped fortifications, the double walls cleverly designed to allow the inhabitants to take pot shots at would-be intruders. The walls are completely intact and further protection is provided by outlying forts.
|Elvas Aqueduct - note ominous grey sky!|
Driving back to Spain the weather was terrible. It was the kind of heavy rain where you wonder if you did something really bad in a past life and this was payback time. We managed a decent lunch in the pretty hill town of Monsaraz. With only 2 streets and only a couple of alleys, we managed to see the whole town without getting wet.
We arrived back in Span with a bounty of wine and olive oil. Not that there is a shortage here, but we love the Portuguese stuff and it is so cheap and the quality is brilliant.
We also spent a day in Trujillo, another town we saw briefly when I was on crutches. It’s one of those classic Extremadura towns. Beautiful plaza, mediæval palaces, churches, alleyways and a wonderful Castle at the top of the hill.
Rick Stein recently said of this region “it’s like Provence pre Mayle”. Now, I didn’t see Provence before Peter Mayle wrote his best-seller, and there’s no lavender to be seen, but it does have an untouched, ‘untouristy’ feel to it. At times you need to ignore the urban sprawl, but there are very few places where this is not the case.
We are now in Caceres, which seems to be the epitome of Extremadura towns. The small city centre is jam packed with palaces, churches, towers, plazas all in a charmingly haphazard layout, complete with nesting storks.
A real highlight has been the food (Maggie, you need to stop reading now). We found a wonderful restaurant in the main square that serves really innovative Spanish food. We generally like mainstream Spanish food, but it can become a bit dull, a bit ‘same same’. This place serves a tapa with every drink, of great variety. The first visit was great fun - ordering wine by the glass (2 euros) and wondering what little treat would arrive. We only needed to order one thing off the menu. However, day 2 we decided to be more serious. Pork cheek cooked in Pedro Jimenez, Patatas Brava and Pimiento stuffed with black pudding, accompanied by local white wine made from grapes we’ve never heard of. We were in Foodie Heaven, we hadn’t had food this good since San Sebastian.
Happily we’ve had 2 days of sun to enjoy all this, but the forecast isn’t good. The plan was to head to Monfragüe National Park for Easter but that doesn’t appeal in the rain so we may just stay here and eat ourselves to death.