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Trip Report Exploring Extraordinary Extremadura

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Anyone following our recent Trip Reports will know by now that this was not supposed to be a trip to Spain. But as with any addiction, once we had made the first ‘exception’ by going to Sevilla during our extended Portugal trip…. It was a down a slippery slope.

Every time I looked at my (Portugal) Michelin map all these utterly enticing places would just pop up from just across frontier line: Cáceres, Plasencia, Trujillo….

‘Why have we never gone to Extremadura?’ I pondered. This is a valid question as over the years we have spent most of our vacations in Spain: We did the ‘First Trip’ with Madrid and all the Andalucian ‘biggies’ almost 15 years ago, then we went on ‘North of Spain and the Camino’, the next one was ‘Barcelona to Valencia’. Then we spent 3 weeks in Valencia. This was followed by 3 months again in Valencia with a brief detour to Salamanca.

I only provide this information to make a point: It took us close to a year of spending actual vacation time in Spain before we even paid attention to this sadly neglected region of the country. But now my interest was piqued.

Fodor’s, the Michelin Green Guide, and the Rough Guide dedicated all of about 10 pages to the entire region. Hummm. Was there really not much to see in the area? It was time to pull out ‘The Big Gun’.

One of my trusted sources for ‘adventuring’ in Spain has been the DK Eyewitness Travel’s ‘Backroads of Spain’ guide. This book has never failed us during our extensive road trips and taken us through spectacularly scenic drives into picture-perfect towns which other guides have barely hinted at; if mentioned at all. I was curious as to what it would say about Extremadura.

(In case anyone is interested: http://www.dk.com/uk/9781409387787-back-roads-spain/ )

From then on I was in a downward spiral: we would ‘steal’ yet another week from our Portugal trip and it Exploring Extremadura.

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A few notes about our traveling style

We love roadtrips. DH does not mind driving long hours if the scenery is worthwhile and I love going through small mountain roads. I never learned how to drive stick shift so DH is stuck with all the driving. I’m rather good at navigating so it works out.

For this, I still use the tried and true old fashioned method: paper maps. (Gasp!) Nothing beats a Michelin Regional Map. I was utterly shocked to hear from a bookstore owner that Michelin will stop printing maps this year. So I’m loading up on any I can find for places that I’m interested.

In this trip we did use, for the first time, a little ‘digital help’ to find hotels. But since I don’t get internet for my Iphone (I relay on WiFi) in Europe, we were mostly on our (my) own and following road signs. I had to pre-program our destination when I had wifi in the morning and then follow the ‘blue dot’ once we were close to our final destination (without the benefit of spoken guidance, lol).

BTW, AT&T’s new Wifi calls are absolutely awesome and have made me decide to stay with the company. Your phone works exactly as it would back at home. You can make to and receive voice calls from the US with no charge as long as you have an internet connection. If you really need to you can get a cheap ‘European’ pre-paid phone for any local call. Or use a Skype-like thing.

We love to eat but do not seek out multi-Michelin-starred restaurants. We have found that there are more than enough moderately priced restaurants in which one can have outstanding food experiences. DH also loves hole-in-the-wall joints and has a knack for finding great ones in unexpected places.

Nor do we fell the need or desire to stay in luxury accommodations. Nice, clean, with wifi, and reasonably convenient will do it for us. Oh….and Parking. A precious commodity in these parts. We will talk extensively and often about parking in this report.

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Here is the link our Sevilla TR in case anyone wants to follow the previous parts of the story:

http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/splashing-through-sevilla-a-week-of-wandering-and-wading.cfm

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    Ah marigross - I always look forward to your posts and trip reports...I'm hoping by means of submersion I can have some of your creative writing style rub off. We have 3 weeks in Portugal coming up soon, and your collection of reports has been inspiring and intriguing. Looking forward to the next installment!

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    Saturday, May 14th: Into the Unknown

    We had departed Seville early on Friday morning, picked up Rental Car #2 in Faro and driven to the town of Beja. I’m sorry to report that even though Beja is located in a spectacular setting, the town itself had seemed a little dejected with lots of boarded up store fronts, deserted hotels, and not much ambiance on a Friday night. It was obvious that the town has suffered in Portugal’s recent economy. However, this must be taken in context as we were coming from Party Central, the incomparable and quintessential Spanish Grand Dame: Sevilla. Almost anything would have been disappointing.

    Still, we worried that the same gloomy feeling would carry over the border, Extremadura being one of the poorest areas of Spain and the economic crisis has hit Spain just as bad as Portugal. But we were committed, nothing to do but carry on and hope for the best.

    This Saturday morning we left Beja behind and set out to check out the town of Mourão, one of the old (OLD) towns that were settled to guard the frontier. Did you know that the current border between Portugal and Spain is the oldest in Europe? It has not changed in centuries.

    I don’t know if it was that we finally had blue(ish) skies or that we were able to wear short sleeves for the first time in weeks, but it turned out to be absolutely lovely. The castle is a ruin, a nice ruin but still a ruin. Now, do not misunderstand me; this is not necessarily a bad thing! I will take a great ruin above an overly-restored fake any day.

    The town was not bad either! There were lots of Spanish day trippers and a large group doing a bicycle tour. Nice place to spend a few hours on a Saturday morning. But we had places to go….

    I had planned to Wing-It this night but in the morning I had chickened out and made a reservation for our overnight in Zafra.

    BTW, I used Booking for all of our hotel reservations. Happy to report that we had no problems whatsoever. Except for a no-show fee…. But that is waaaaayyy into the future from this timepoint.

    We crossed the (non-existing) frontier back into Spain (YAYAYAYAY!!!) on N256/EX107 and headed (sort of…in a general kind of way) to Jerez de los Caballeros. Except there was a road closure with a detour. Ok. We can roll with that. We kept going, until it was obvious that we were just not heading anywhere near the ‘right’ direction.

    I have to say before I continue, that I did not have an adequate map. I’m not to blame for the navigational hiccups of the day. But then I had thought I would buy the Michelin Extremadura Map in Sevilla and then completely forgotten about it. At the time I only had a puny little guide book map.

    I will only add that it was a (very) long drive (with –ahem- significant backtracking) but we did get to see the castle in Albacete, lots of farms with the happy mud-rolling pigs from which that dreamy jamón ibérico de bellota comes from, and herds of pretty little lambs that would eventually turn into deliciously tender roasts.

    Oh, thinking about it, this might not be a very vegetarian-friendly TR. Though we did have a few very good vegetable dishes along the way.

    By the time we reached Jerez de los Caballeros we had been in the car for hours and still had some ways to go. When we did not find any easy parking on the main street we just opted to keep driving. This was a shame as it looked quite interesting (I’m also a bigtime s@cker for Templar towns and fortresses). We only saw the fabled towers from afar. Should have stuck to my winging-it strategy and stayed the night here. But then…. Maybe not.

    Along the way we also saw a huge gathering of people outside the town of Zafra which we later found out to be a Romería for the feast of the local patron saint. Entire hills were covered with tents, trailers, and tailgating cars. Happy revelers dressed in full traditional costumes looked to be settling in for the entire weekend. Looked awesome but we were just beat for more ‘adventuring’.

    We reached the town of Zafra without (further) navigational problems. The area looks fairly prosperous and has lots of agricultural, mining and manufacturing facilities around. This town is known as ‘Sevilla la Chica’ (Little Seville) because of the abundant Moorish architectural details and buildings that still survive.

    Hotel Las Eras is located in the outskirts of town, easy enough to find and park but not too far for an easy walk to the center. For €50 it was immaculately clean, though a little lonely and looking like it came straight out of the early 1990’s; somehow made me think of a miniature Embassy Suites. They advertise it like a ‘business hotel’ and it looks the part. So we parked, checked in, and walked into town in all of 15 minutes. It was 6:00 pm on a Friday afternoon.

    Now, let’s talk about what happens every week night around this time in almost every hamlet, village, town or city in Spain. When children come out of school they are picked up by mom, dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents or neighbors. This may be limited to meeting them at the bus dropoff when the kids go to school further out. Each ‘responsible’ adult usually gets 4 or 5 kids and takes them to the neighborhood park or to the plaza to run around until the rest of the parents show up after work.

    However, the kids are not immediately whisked back home to finish up homework or go to organized activities. Instead the parents gather in the bar terrace or esplanade and have coffees or beers while the kids kick soccer balls, climb, skate, chase, and ride bikes without parental intervention. This will last until the other spouse shows up; and has his/her beer with the group. The family groups begin to break away around 8:00pm when it is time to start thinking about dinner. Unless it is Friday, then Family Happy Hour might last until 10:30 (maybe).

    So we walked into the very pretty main town square Plaza Grande while every citizen was out to play, cruise, and/or relax with a drink in hand. It was madness and mayhem of the happy-go-lucky kind. There were many restaurants in the two interconnected squares but there was not a single table to be had! And we had worried about how lively these Spanish towns would be…

    After (finding a table and) having a restorative glass of wine we set out to walk around town and scout out for places to eat. Trip Advisor is even more useless than usual in small towns like this one! Reviews are old and most likely coming from the extended family.

    I will come straight out and say it: I could have easily and happily spent a full day and a second night in Zafra. It was full of nooks and crannies to explore, churches were plenty for visiting, the shopping street was as lively and busy as they come, and it had enough restaurants to keep one occupied for a few evenings. So, two thumbs up of little and basically unmentioned Zafra.

    Dinner was at Sevilla la Chica where a misunderstanding between DH and I had us ordering a ración of lagrimitas de pollo (tiny chicken nuggets which were barely edible; which was only to be expected, of course!) but we also had a rather good cazón en vinagre (chunks of fried white fish in a vinaigrette) and a pork dish which was good but I can’t exactly remember.

    I was still hankering for some callos (tripe) which I had seen in a menu so we went into the deserted restaurant which I neglected to write down its name, and ordered them. It was a huge portion and served with eggs on top. It was delicious but we were the only customers on a Friday night and they seemed to be overcompensating. Too bad, because it was really good.

    A few more drinks in the beautiful Plaza Chica and we were more than ready to crash for the night.

    Yes, we were happy to have stolen the week for Spain!

    Next: The Lights of Trujillo

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    so the chicken, fish and pork were your appetisers, and the tripe and eggs the main course?

    i like your style, marigross.

    Keep the fun [and the food] coming. I've never been to Extremadura but you are giving me ideas.

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    Terrific TR -- Thinking about a Spain trip next year. I've only been to Spain once and was wondering whether it will be old familiar or a new area so this will be helpful.

    >> Michelin will stop printing maps this year. So I’m loading up on any I can find for places that I’m interested. <<

    Wow -- thanks for the heads up -- I'll stock up too.

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    I have really enjoyed reading this. We spent some time in Extremadura a few years ago--Zafra, Merida, and Caceres on a different trip.

    I always use Rick Steves maps. I don't think I've used Michelin maps, so I don't know how they compare.

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    Peg, if I remember correctly you use public transportation so it would not make a difference. The Michelin maps they are great for drivers / road trippers as they mark scenic roads and have a very practical level of detail.


    Thanks to all, I will post more soon. I cannot rave enough about Extremadura.

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    Sunday, May 15th: Circling Mérida and Discovering Trujillo

    We found that the breakfast options in most of our hotels in Spain (and Portugal) were not really a great deal since we are not big morning eaters and DH would rather just have a coffee and keep going. Hotel Las Eras was no exception; the €5pp breakfast was ludicrous. Easily solved by walking 30 seconds to the nearest bar where two cafés con leche and a pan con tomate to share set us back €4.50.

    Our goal for the morning was to visit some of the Roman Ruins of Mérida, a short 40-min highway drive from Zafra. The getting to Mérida part was a breeze, even the views –though far from scenic- were not bad as we went through the ample plains highlighted by the mountains dramatically raising in the distance.

    Now, the getting to the actual ruins…. Ahhhh…. Not so easy. I was counting on signage but a few things did not happen as expected: (1) I think we did not approach the city from the main ‘entrance’ so we missed a few signs, (2) Mérida is, in fact, a CITY, and not a small town where everything is easily found, and (3) there is WAY more than 1 site to visit so you cannot follow the first ‘Ruins’ sign that you see. Bottomline, I was totally unprepared for Mérida.

    Travel Expert Points Balance: -10 But, as I might have mentioned in another report, go ahead and plan a 3-month, 28-stop trip and then we talk about site-specific readiness, lol. Of course, embarking in such a complicated trip might merit another deduction by itself! But we will also talk about that later.

    We –finally- parked in the street close the right site and found the entrance. But of course, tickets cannot be purchased there, you have to go across the big plaza to the side where they have the central ticket office offering about 100 different types of ticket combinations for purchase. We eventually conveyed (and I speak the language!) that we only wanted tickets to the forum and theater.

    Now, we have seen lots Roman (and Greek) ruins. DH was skeptical about this visit. Very skeptical. And the circling around had not helped improve the overall mood. I will only say that by the end of the visit he gave the Theater one of the highest accolades he can offer: ‘Well, at least that was DIFFERENT’.

    The main site is not exactly small but it is compact and quite manageable; though I’m not sure if it is really wheelchair accessible. The recommended visit route is marked but explicatory signage is scarce. I did not feel like we really needed a guide but we are not ruin novices. We spent about 2 hours in the visit.

    The circuit starts in the Forum, continues to the Amphitheater, circles the garden with its peristyle, and finishes inside the spectacular and destination-worthy Theater. What makes this building so unique is that it has kept (albeit restored) the stage with its amazing Portico as a backdrop. It takes you straight back in time and one can clearly imagine the actors performing.

    Our navigational problems were even worse on the way out, first to get out of the city and then to find a small road leading to the scenic route we wanted to follow to our next destination, Guadalupe. I was missing a good Michelin map, or any good map at all. We stopped at a gas station and they did not have any decent road map of the area… further proof that this way of life and travel is on its way out! I still refuse to go fully digital.

    Though we did not find the exact route that we wanted and had to turn around and retry a few times over, we did go through beautiful fields of wildflowers and grazing sheep. When I was about to give up and aim for the main street outside the hamlet of Casteloblanco, we spotted a small sign for the traditional pilgrimage route to Guadalupe (CC151/BA49) in direction Alía.

    This small road is 1.5 lanes wide and has 1m deep ditches on both sides. It is also as rural as you can get while still on a paved surface and as pretty as they come. We drove on the valley floor past vineyards, grazing fields, saw deer and a fox. No idea what we would have done if a truck had come in the opposite direction. We did manage to let a taxi go by past us when we found an entrance to a farm where we could move enough to the side. Absolutely worth all the navigational failures of the day!

    The road to the town of Guadalupe after Alía was curvy, steep in a few stretches, and gorgeous. It was about 4:00pm when we parked and headed into town. It was so lively in this Sunday afternoon! Many local Spanish families and cycling groups were enjoying their weekend almuerzo. Since lots of French and Spanish tour groups (without being overwhelming) visit it is full of nice restaurants, terrace bars, and (not so nice) souvenir shops. Might have made a great overnight stop but we had a reservation further on.

    Guadalupe also has one of the best Tourist Offices we found in this trip. They loaded us up with tons of maps and brochures of Extremadura as they are promoting the ‘Isabel la Católica’ route across the region. There is an overall introductory pamphlet and then little supplementary books for each major town/city. The material is comprehensively presented to showcase the many things to see and do in the region. Kudos to the Extremadura tourist bureau. I will say, and not for the last time, we could have easily spent another week in the area, and certainly a night in quaint Guadalupe.

    Big sigh of relief from the Navigator!

    The Monasterio de Guadalupe is one of the most revered and beloved Marian pilgrimage sites in Spain. It houses a 14th C image of the Virgin with one of those complicated stories in which the statue was uncovered by someone after its location was revealed in a dream and many miracles ensued. The monastery can only be visited as part of a guided tour. (BBBOOOOO!!!!)

    I absolutely hated this tour for one reason: I could have spent HOURS in the textile museum instead of being herded mercilessly in and out in 5 minutes. OMG! The embroidered altar front pieces were mindblowing, the variety of clerical ensembles…WOW. (Ok… only exciting if you are into weaving and embroidery stuff; as I am). I do not even know if this is possible but I would have shelled out money for a leisurely private visit had we had the time.

    The tour was actually pretty good and interesting, and the guide was not bad at presenting the many, many highlights. The ‘no pictures’ policy is strictly enforced. There are some spectacular baroque rooms in the building.

    It lasted about an hour and half and finishes with the ‘chance’ to go into the Camerín de la Virgen where the image is located. The image is mounted on a swivel and it is turned towards the Camerín for the visit and then rotated back so that it faces the church altar. Guests are allowed to touch the mantle and kiss the medal.

    I was born and raised Catholic, though I do not practice, it is hard not to be moved by such familiar imagery particularly when one finds what I call ‘a place of Faith’. If you have ever felt this somewhere, you know what I mean. For me, Guadalupe was such a place. I kissed the medal with an open heart and without a shred of hypocrisy. DH opted out of the Camerín visit.

    Why is Guadalupe only a casual sidenote in guide books!?!?!

    But it was getting late and we still had plenty of kilometers to go before reaching our final destination for the day, Trujillo. We had been emphatically cautioned by the TI lady not to go through the Los Ibores ‘mountain’ road as it seems to be a shortcut but she said it would take hours. Sound advice because the ‘not-so-mountainous’ road was still curvy and steep! Having had another day I would have loved to go through the remote route at a leisurely pace.

    We would have found our hotel without major problems had there not been many roads closed for some kind of weekend activity. More circling and backtracking followed but we found it at last, and Hostal San Miguel did (indeed!) have the private parking it advertised though we found a parking in front by sheer dumb luck. Rate was €45, breakfast and parking not included. It was immaculately clean, very comfortable, great wifi and perfect location. The only drawback was that it had no elevator and but we only had to schlep the luggage up one floor.

    Bone tired and ravenously hungry, in a leap of faith we just opted for the best rated restaurant that came up in the ‘Near You’ filter in Trip Advisor. Well… sometimes you just get lucky.

    It was just past 9:00pm when we plunked down at the 7 de Sillerías Restaurant. The perfect time for an ‘early’ dinner in Spain. The front room was crowded and noisy with TVs showing a bullfight (no comment on that) but we were shown to the elegant and quiet back room.

    We started out great with a grilled vegetable platter good enough to be a vegetarian entrée. But then the bar was raised tenfold when the main dishes arrived. DH had landrillas de cordeo , Lamb Sweetbreads: slightly crisped outside on the grill and luxuriously soft inside. It was served with a salad, somewhat unexciting but also suitable as sweetbreads are very rich.

    But I indubitably had the winning dish of the night: a Solomillo de Retinto, Steak served with Potatoes Au Gratin and Asparagus. The meat comes from the local breed of cattle and if you are ever presented with the opportunity to try it, don’t hesitate to shell out the (comparatively) big bucks. This is beef as it was meant to be eaten in the Garden of Eden. It was perfect! Served on the rare side of medium rare (as requested) it was full of flavor and amazingly tender yet still having a deliciously pleasant textural bite to it.

    A meal of this quality in the US would have set us back way more than a hundred dollars, but with a superb bottle of (local and organic) red wine, ½ bottle of mineral water, bread and service charge it was around €72.

    Still delighted from our wonderful meal we decided to go for a walk into the old town for a nightcap. And that was where the magic happened.

    (Keep in mind that it might not have been as magical if we had still been tired and hungry instead of so sumptuously fed just before and not 100% sober).

    At 10:30pm, the sun had just set but the sky still had that luminous shade of sapphire blue with tinges of the promise of summer. The main square of Trujillo and the surrounding buildings were fully illuminated, bathing the gray granite walls with soft shades of warm gold. It took our breath away.

    Maybe it was because we had not seen a clear night in a long time, or perhaps because it was (barely) warm enough to sit outside (under the heaters) for one last glass of wine but it was just perfect. I also think that since these Exremadura towns are barely described in the guidebooks, we had no big expectations to be met, leaving all the space open for beautiful surprises such as Trujillo. We both just fell in love with the town and it remained one of our favorites of the trip.

    (Oh, and BTW, we live in a town also called Trujillo so that made it extra special, lol)

    Next: Trujillo in the Daylight and on to Cáceres

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    Monday, May 16th: Will it still be Love in the Daylight?

    We tried to get an early start as we actually had to visit Trujillo (we never made it past the main square the night before. We checked out, packed our bags into the car still parked in the street and the nice hotel lady told us to move it into their lot (no charge) just to make sure that nothing happened to the luggage. She said it was highly unlikely, but why not take the extra precaution when it is offered. Still loving Trujillo.

    The Main Square was so different in the daylight. Traffic was allowed, a couple of tour groups had arrived (mostly Spanish senior citizens) and there were not so many restaurants with tables out… but it was still lovely! After a couple of coffees and toast we set out to explore the town.

    We opted out of the ‘combined’ ticket in the Torre del Alfiler because we thought we would not go into many churches in town but the sky was blue, the temperature in the upper 60ºF’s and visibility extending for many kilometers. Even DH felt the urge to climb, not one, but TWO bell towers. And the castle wall!

    (Though by then his interest was beginning to lack and he mostly went because I wanted to and I’m uneasy with heights. Ok, I’m scared of heights; though after many years of dealing with it I mostly manage without more than slight discomfort. If there is no wind. And then there is something not right about walking along crenelated walls… they make me queasy.)

    I’ll be honest here. There was not a single attraction that I would wholeheartedly say ‘you HAVE to go to Trujillo and visit ____”. However, there are a lot of little churches with interesting artwork, palaces with great architectural details, streets in which the Conquistadores walked on 500 years ago, stork nests perched in every roof, belfry and steeple, castles walls to climb and hundreds of vantage points from where to drink in the magnificent vistas of the surrounding plain. The draw of Trujillo is the synergy of all these things when put together in a beautifully preserved medieval town.


    I had estimated that a 2-hr wandering period would be enough but we wound up spending the entire morning AND early afternoon. It was past 3:00pm by the time we plunked down back in the plaza for a drink and a bit before we headed out of town.

    Maybe we should talk about this a bit more. Spaniards love, love, love their beer. I think the younger crowd might even prefer it over wine (not my case!). The options are almost endless, but draft is abundant and even in the smallest bar you will have the option of pale or dark brews. I was a bit surprised to find that usually there will be at least one type of bottled non-alcoholic beer available; this is not common at all back home.

    Also, you can have your beer mixed to reduce the alcohol content: a clara con limón for sweet lime soda like 7Up or a clara con gaseosa for club/unsweetened soda. IMO, this is the perfect drink on hot summer days when you need to relax a bit but then keep moving. In Portugal the mix is known by the French name, a Panaché, and it is just as ubiquitous as in Spain.

    I never got in the Gin & Tonic bandwagon so I’m not prepared to comment on that. Apologies to Maitai Tom for disregarding his advice.

    We found that everywhere in Extremadura we would still be served a ‘good’ tapa anytime we ordered a drink, a practice that is becoming less and less common in the more touristic and urban areas of Spain. Most bars throughout the country will still serve a small plate of potato chips, a few nuts or a trailmix type combination with at least the first drink ordered but in this region we were offered small portions of menu items like albóndigas, montaditos or cheeses.

    This may or may not have endeared Extremadura even more in our hearts. Right. Of course it did.

    We went back to the hotel, retrieved our car and made our way to Cáceres without problems but lots of backtracking due to a road closure in town. But let me clarify this, this is another city, not town. I had formed this (unjustified) mental image of Extremadura being just tiny villages and small towns, a quick internet research would have sent me straight right away.

    We found the sign for the hotel’s Parkhouse but could not figure out how to get in.

    This has become a pet peeve of mine. Many small hotels will require a parking reservation if one opts to use their private or contracted facilities. So, if I reserve a parking with the room - which becomes non-cancellable 24hs before- why the HECK do they not give out the details of how to get into the friggin’ parkhouse!!!! Particularly when the hotel is located in a pedestrian or semi-pedestrian street. We managed because we were two and DH could (illegally) park or circle while I jumped out of the car into the hotel for directions but this must be the death of solo travelers. Oy!!!!

    At the end, the person behind us got fed up (backing out was no longer an option) and opened the garage door for us.

    Should we also talk about parkhouses? Those narrow, maze-like and often dark places where one is supposed to squeeze cars into acute angled spots or next to columns with 2cm on each side of the doors?… Maybe later. Did I mention on this report that we got stuck with a medium sized station wagon (translate to: larger car than we needed or wanted). Well, let’s just say we managed and were soon dragging our luggage across the street to the hotel.

    We checked into Hotel Don Carlos Cáceres where we would stay for the next two nights (€46.80 p/n). The room faced the street but it did turn out to be well sound-insulated and overall comfortable. Oh, yeah, and we got the stupid Parkhouse entry code during checkin. I was not amused.

    We set out for a walk around the lower part of the Old Town, as DH had reached (and surpassed) his daily step climbing allowance and vetoed going up. Though it lacked the ‘romanticism’ or quaintness of Trujillo, it was incredibly photogenic. Here the medieval town was mixed in modern city amenities and even street art (the good kind).

    We happily wandered around looking at menus and snapping pictures left and right until it was time to head out for dinner. Another Trip Advisor leap-of-faith led us to El Figón de Eustaquio. We were early, even arriving shortly before their 8:30 opening time, but they did invite us to come in and have a drink while they finished setting up.

    This place has a very –very!- extensive menu. Something that I’m usually highly suspicious of, but we had both been enticed by the venison entrees. One more thing, this is an old-school restaurant. The same waiters have probably been working there for the las 35 years, the meal will be served at its own pace and they will not bend over backwards to explain the menu as they seem to serve a lot of locals that would be familiar with the dishes. This is not the place to go for avant-garde, innovative cuisine. Oh… and English was not really spoken. And the menu translation was awful….

    All this to say that we had a great time as we had (a) time, (b) adventurous palates, (c) speak Spanish, (d) knew that appetizer portions could be big/intended to be shared so we asked, and (e) do not mind at all receiving service on the stiffer/formal side. Again, we really enjoyed our dinner. But the group of American couples sitting next to us did not, for all the reasons listed before.

    We started out with ensalada de perdiz, a salad of pickled partridge served over a light coleslaw-type shredded cabbage. It was absolutely delicious and big enough to have as an entrée. DH had a venison in a wine and mushroom sauce that was served with white rice. It was good but mine was the winning dish. Solomillo de venado en salsa de frutos del bosque, venison filets with a wild berry sauce served with roasted potatoes, pickled onions, carrots and prunes. Tender, perfectly seasoned and well balanced flavors. With wine and sparkling water the bill came to €71.50.

    We considered going somewhere else for a cup of coffee but we just went back to the hotel and crashed.

    Next: To Daytrip or Not?

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    So, if I reserve a parking with the room - which becomes non-cancellable 24hs before- why the HECK do they not give out the details of how to get into the friggin’ parkhouse!!!! >>

    in order to amuse the locals of course! We had a similar experience in Bamberg a couple of years ago where the car park was underneath the hotel and first time round I missed the entrance completely, leaving us stranded on the very small hotel forecourt.

    The people watching me trying to manoeuvre the hire car so as to get it lined up to get into the very small entrance to the garage without pranging it had a good laugh at my expense.

    <<do not mind at all receiving service on the stiffer/formal side.>>

    this is the sort I like. I much prefer formality in waiters to those who want to be my new best friend. and those venison dishes sound delicious - I'm not sure I've ever had venison in Spain.

    What a good reason for going to Extremadura!

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    I've just discovered this group of reports and am loving them (the Lisbon section comes at just the right time for my own first trip to that city!) ...more, please, when you get the time!!

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