Our meandering route led us from Caceres to a nice pousada in Arraiolos with air-conditioning! We managed to kill the AC in our Caceres hotel room and the heat was too much for us Pacific Northwesterners. While in Portugal we visited a beautiful Roman aqueduct in Evora and ate grilled sardines! After our stint in Arraiolos we finally arrived at Casa Salto del Caballo just on the border of Spain and Portugal via the beautiful drive over the mountain pass. This quaint historic building has a dubious past of being a smuggler’s gateway between the 2 countries. Now the borders aren’t even manned by any kind of personnel. Because we are literally straddling the two countries, we have been able to murder two languages a day and confuse our own selves in the process. One of our recent Portuguese treats has been Vinho Verde made in small batches by 30,000 growers in the north. Tasty stuff! On the Spain side, today we visited a well preserved Roman Amphitheatre and Theatre in the town of Merida. We walked into the very arena that Gladiators had done so many years ago, trying to imagine their stories being played out-thumbs up or thumbs down; what was their fate. (actually the gesture for death was a swipe of the thumb across the neck) Some who survived the blade went on to be celebrated and enjoyed wine, women and song.
This area of Spain is incredibly beautiful. But very dry. There has been only 5 days of rain here in the past eighteen months. The landscape is made up of undulating hills covered with granite whalebacks and boulders reminiscent of the African Kopjie. Cork, Holm Oak and Olive trees cover the hillsides. The soil is shallow and very poor. There are few cattle but plenty of sheep and goats. Delicious!
The Portuguese use a large dog, a Raferio do Alentejo to guard their herds from foxes and wolves. And from Americans. We know, we met a few – dogs that is. They are described thusly: This is a corpulent, sober dog, a dog of peaceful demeanor. Bullshit! They lie so easily. The one’s we met weighed over 100 pounds, had long fangs and wanted very much to eat us.
We saw a vixen moving her babies on our first morning here. The birds have been great. Nice to see Azure Winged Magpie and old friends from Africa, White Storks, Vultures, European Bee-eaters and Hoopoe. The wildlife in general has been disappointing apart from a memorable night where I was woken by Christina waving my arm around shouting VIVA! VIVA LA FEISTA!! She was having really good dreams that night.
Tapas: You will be encouraged by guide books to indulge in the Spanish delight of Tapas. We were so clever and had read all the right books. Arrived hungry and thirsty. Christina ordered 4 of the only Tapas they had. I ordered the beer. The beers were bitter cold and faultless. The Tapas arrived, tired mushy french fries and pieces of organ meat swimming in a greasy red sauce. Now we like organ meat. Just not so much when it’s green. Yeah, we have more reading to do we think. Enjoy the photos…