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Travel between Madrid and Caceres

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Early next year I'm planning to head to Extremadura to visit my son who's teaching English in a very small town called Oreallana La Vieja. Before getting there I want to go to Caceres for about 3 days and use it as a base to visit Merida and Trujillo. I will not be renting a car so will need to use public transport to do this. Although I've been to Spain many times, I've never been to Extremadura and would appreciate any insights from Fodorites.
Do they get extreme weather in winter? My trip will probably be in February, at the latest in March.
What's the best way to travel from Madrid to Caceres, train or bus?
In Caceres I'm looking to stay in the Parador. Is that a good choice or are there better ones?
Is it worth stopping for one night in Plasencia and stay at the Parador? Is the town itself worth visiting?

Thank you in advance for any answers. Any other suggestions for places to visit in the region would be appreciated (as long as I can get to them via public transport). I'm flexible in terms of time available, I havent bought my plane tickets yet.

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