Extremadura – a string of ancient pearls

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Galisteo, Spain

Before we came to Spain, I decided that I wanted to see the Extremadura region. I read several articles about the area, specifically an article about one of the oldest, medieval pubs on the continent, which I wanted to see. Ironically, once we got here I could no longer find any information about the pub or its location…

Extremadura was described, in many travel articles, as a long-isolated region, a bit backward, not very popular with tourists. I was curious about its towns and history.

Extremadura turned out to be different from what I pictured: not a deep, green valley but a dry region of rolling hills. We found lovely towns with a rich history, and we enjoyed the lack of hordes of tourists. In fact, we often commented that we had entire roads to ourselves.

img_2148We started in Plasencia, driving south to Cáceres. We soon discovered that we were here during a local holiday and ended up having to book several nights in one place to ensure we had a place to stay. We stayed just outside the village of Casar de Cáceres, in a lovely B & B called La Encarnacion, our room was in a remodeled barn.

(http://www.hotelquintalaencarnacion.com). We were served a traditional Extremadura breakfast of warm bread, thick, soft cheese, paté and bread with tomato/pork salsa inside.

Many of the towns in this region boast medieval buildings: castles on a hillside, often a whole village still surrounded by thick stone city walls. Galisteo, just west of Plasencia, is an old village that is still completely surrounded by these walls, with only a few gates that offer entrance to the town. We had to park our car outside the city walls and walked to the town square with its ancient clock on city hall, chimig the hours as it had for centuries.

img_2157We spent one day in Trujillo, high on a hill side, the town is still partially surrounded by walls with a castle and ancient church guarding the corners. It is easy to stroll along the battlements and imagine enemy armies approaching across the plains… We walked up and down streets from the middle ages that weren’t much wider than 1.5 meter in some places, with purple and red bougainvilleas cascading down white stone walls.

Our final couple of days in the region were spent in Mérida, where the remains of some buildings were much older than the Middle Ages. Mérida boasts numerous Roman sites.

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Templo De Diana

We found a lovely AirBnB in the old downtown core, enabling us to walk to the different sites. We started at Puento Romano, the longest (in length) surviving Roman bridge. From there, we walked to the Templo de Diana, a facade and pillars left standing among stores, coffeeshops and narrow alleys. We then hiked across town to two large Roman aquaducts, the most imposing one of which is the Acueducto de Milagros: 25 meter tall arches spanning an area of about 800 meters, displaying impressive stone work that has lasted almost 2,000 years!

If this history is what makes Extremadura unique, combined with first class pastries, ham, cheese and chocolate, than the area deserves a lot more visitors!img_2200

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