I know I say almost every trip I go on in Spain is to one of my favourite places, but I’m going to say it again about Cáceres. I can only hope to do it justice, as I know one of my favourite readers (she will know who she is, ¡hola!) will be carefully perusing this entry to see what I am saying about her neck of the woods!
Cáceres is part of Extremadura (Extremely hard could be a loose translation). The sparsely populated comunidad autónoma is located southwest of Madrid and Toledo on the way to the Portugal and Sevilla. It’s nearly forgotten about by the Spanish who aren’t extremeños, which is a crying shame. Both the capital city and the province are beautiful.
In March 2012 (three years already *cries*), I finally made my visit to Cáceres (and Mérida on the same trip). I caught an evening train from Madrid to Cáceres, and I regret learning after it was too late that the trip would have been completely free as it arrived to Cáceres about an hour late.
It was dark, and most everything was shut down by the time I got there. I think I had found a kebab open (Doner Kebab’s are Europe’s Taco Bells) for dinner. I was exhausted and went to bed early. The morning was spent in Mérida, but the afternoon was all about Cáceres. I fell in love with the city. It’s a less touristy, bigger Toledo. The food is good, the people are friendly, and it has that laid back vibe I miss about southern Spain. (I guess it can be found in the Basque Country. “Lasai, mañana lloverá también.” (Relax, it’ll rain again tomorrow). I digress.) I took a tour of the walls for a well-paid 2€ and walked around the old part. I was only there one night, and being there alone and shy, I didn’t take advantage in going out at night. I know they had one gay bar, but I was going through my shy stage and didn’t go.
Sunday morning I had to catch the bus back to Madrid. I saw Trujillo from the bus, and I regretted not having time to stop there. Another trip. Another Meravella to discover.
From my personal journal: I rested a bit, then went exploring in Cáceres, which is an old medieval city much like Toledo. The Plaza Mayor is breathtaking. I paid 2 Euros to go up on the walled part of the city for views of the entire city and the desert mountains surrounding it.
Every time I see a photo (or one of my friend’s breathtaking sunset photos of Alange), I want to go back to spend more time here as soon as possible.
The capital city of 96,000 habitants is definitely a wonder of this province! The walled portion of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the city itself is the largest geographic city in Spain. The city goes back to prehistoric time, and its medieval, Roman, Moorish and Jewish past can all be seen today while strolling through Cáceres. It also has many churches and a few palaces (including a Parador) and museums. For me, my walk along the wall were my favourite part of a weekend getaway that included all of Cáceres and Mérida in Badajoz with its Roman treasures.
For fans of relaxing cafés con leche, the Plaza Mayor of Cáceres is more spectacular than the ones in Madrid, Salamanca and Valladolid, even if those three steal all the thunder and receive all the fame. The plaza goes back to the 14th Century, and the town hall (ayuntamiento) is found here, along with the Ermita de la Paz (Hermitage (Small church) of the Peace) and many houses, shops and cafés. I sat and people watched my night here for a good while. It’s the heart of the city.
Trujillo (to be discovered)
I saw this city town of around 9000 people from the bus, and I’ve seen many photos. I have to return to Cáceres just so I can go back to Trujillo. Trujillo has a castle/fortress (Alcazaba), churches, a plaza Mayor for sipping relaxing cafés con leche and many palaces. It even has a museum of cheese and wine. It was under Muslim rule for five centuries before being recaptured by the Christians in 1232. King Juan II of Castilla made the town a city in 1430. After some trujillanos went to the Americas, they returned to build the many palaces around the city.
Monfragüe (to be discovered)
Monfragüe is one of Spain’s 15 national parks (natural park since 1979 and national park since 2007) and has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2003. Located north of Trujillo, it’s located along the valley of the Tajo River (that is named Tagus in Portugal). The River Tietar joins the Tajo here. It also has a castle, and it is home to just one village of 28 habitants, Villareal de San Carlos. There are many types of plants, deer, boar, birds and beautiful landscape.
Valle de Jerte (to be discovered)
The Valley of Jerte has been a Bien de Interés Cultural since 1973. There are 11 municipalities in the valley, which is located between two mountain chains in the Gredos mountains (in the Sistema Central). It has a lot of wildlife and nature, but it’s fame comes from the flowers that bloom there every spring. It’s also known for cherry and agriculture. I regret never taking advantage of the several hiking excursions offered from Madrid to the Valle de Jerte as it has to be absolutely amazing.
Plasencia (to be discovered)
Plasenscia, located close to the Valle de Jerte, is home to 41,000 habitants and is another walled city (I like walled citie, eh?) It is located along the Jerte River on the famed Ruta de la Plata. It’s the home of Extremadura’s first university. Although the city is “young” by Spanish standards, being founded in 1186 (older than Bilbao!), it still manages to be rich in history. It was Muslim for less than a day, being captured and then recaptured within 24 hours. The area was inhabitated long before there was a city, and today there is a Roman aqueduct. There are also two cathedrals, a museum, many churches and the walls.
Monasterio de Santa María de Guadalupe (to be discovered)
In Guadalupe, there may only be 2000 habitants, but there is an important monastery, the Monasterio de Santa María de Guadalupe. Located in the Sierra de la Villuercas, Guadalupe is also home to a river with the same name. The monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage site and dates back to the 13th century when a shepherd from Cáceres stumbled upon a statue of the Virgin Mary hidden away from the Muslim rulers. He built a chapel and named it Our Lady of Guadalupe. When King Alfonso XI won the Battle of the Río Salado after invoking Santa María de Guadalupe, he declared the chapel a royal sanctuary and had it rebuilt. Christopher Columbus made his first pilgrimage after his first voyage (not even using the word “discovery”) to the Americas, and King Enrique (Henry) IV of Castille is entombed here. Pope Pius XII made it a “Minor Papal Basilica” in 1955.
A special shoutout goes to Alange, which could easily go on here too, I’m sure.