This weekend was our third straight weekend of traveling but our first actual road trip together! As soon as we jumped in the car on Friday to take off, Jason surprised me with a little gift. For those who know me well, know that I'm a little directionally challenged! (It really is a wonder that I survived six months on my own throughout Europe!) So to help me out, Jason surprised me with a beautiful silver compass!! It worked on our trip until it slid off my lap and under the seat, out of reach (I never claimed to be a great navigator!).
Miraculously we arrived in Caceres after driving almost four hours. Our hotel was slightly out of town but very nice! The hotel itself seemed a bit cave-like inside. We believe it may have been an early convent. Right off the bat, you can't help but notice the storks! Extremadura (the region that Caceres is in) has an abundance of storks!! It is really amazing to see; especially their large nests! Our hotel had wooden posts standing in the back for the storks to make nests and hang out! It was very cool to see! Our plans Saturday were to just tour the main town. We arrived just in time for a large Spanish lunch (the biggest meal of the day). Jason had researched a popular restaurant for us to go to, but we didn't think to make a reservation. In Spain, the reservation system is a bit different than in the States.
In the States, restaurants are more focused on the business and getting as many people through the restaurant as possible. So once a customer is done with their meal, the table is quickly reset for the next diner.
In Spain, the restaurants seem to be more focused on the experience. When you make a reservation you essentially own that table. The restaurant will set up the table for you and then put a sign on it to list your name and what time you will come in. Even if you haven't shown up on time, they will turn away hungry customers in order to save the empty table for you.
When Jason and I arrived (without a reservation), we were told that there was no table available for us (in the massive four room restaurant) because they were all reserved. However we got very lucky. Someone ran up and discovered that there was one table left that was not reserved and it happened to be a table for two. Yay! Our luck was based on the fact that we arrived at 1pm, right when the restaurant opened. Had we arrived later, we would not have had a table. So we happily dined on some very good food, surrounded by empty tables with reservation signs indicating that other diners wouldn't be arriving until nearly 2:30...the average lunch time in Spain!
The rest of our day was spent casually strolling about the old part of Caceres taking in all the beauty of the old city. We toured churches , museums, relaxed in plazas and shopped! In one of the churches we were lucky enough to catch the beginning of a wedding ("Boda" in Spanish. Jason and I were walking up a narrow street to a church when we were practically mowed down by speeding taxis, one right after the other. People in wedding attire kept jumping out of each of the taxis and congregating in front of the church. Waiting for weddings to begin must be a fun past-time for local Spaniards as a small group of Spanish tourists sat on the side of the outside of the church with cameras ready for the bride to arrive. Being the romantic, you know where I was standing (luckily Jason very appeasing in waiting to see the bride!).
The uniqueness of Caceres is that is an old medieval city built on Roman ruins...protected by a large flock of storks! Outside of Sevilla, this is our favorite Spanish city.
The next day, on our way back to Madrid, we stopped by the very small town of Oropesa. On our way to Caceres, we saw a castle in the distance, so on Sunday we decided to stop and visit the castle.
The castle is actually what is considered a "Parador" which is a type of hotel in Spain. Spain has a wonderful program of converting their castles into four or five star hotels so that the some of the proceeds of staying and/or dining in a Parador go toward the maintenance of that particular castle. This is Spain's way of preserving their heritage.
This castle in Oropesa was very nice, with a great view of the countryside. We arrived right in time for lunch so we went to the restuarant and were luckily seated next to a window with a fantastic view. Afterward we wanted to explore the town. At the very moment we stepped outside, it started raining. So it was a very wet and windy tour of the city, but we had fun!
We send our best to everyone!
Jason & Gina