The Extremadura Region, Spain  

Contributed by Mary-Ann Lopez


Two years ago in January, my husband, Alex, and I visited a part of Spain which I found breathtakingly beautiful called the Extremadura Region. We shared these special 6 days with our great friends Eddy & Anne who live in Madrid and with our beautiful God Daughter Elisa who was 5 at the time. We hired a small van for us all, and travelling with a 5 year old (Alex & I don’t have children), we learnt so many new games and different ways to answer the question, “are we there yet”?

Our first destination was Salamanca, and we arrived just in time for lunch. Eddy is one of the top English Translators in Spain (he has done work for the likes of George Bush), so he travels intensively throughout and knew of the perfect restaurant situated in the most stunning Plaza Mayor called Don Mauro Asador Restaurante. The food was sensational.

Two other stunning places in Salamanca we visited is the famous Salamanca University, which has two parts new & old, the old is used as a museum now and was built between 1415 & 1529 --- well worth a tour. The other is the stunning Salamanca Cathedral, which has a ‘new’ and an ‘old’ part. The ‘new’ is 15th century and the old is 11th Century! Salamanca has a river running through the town with a beautiful old bridge crossing it. Even in the freezing cold of a winter night walking across this bridge is a must as the view at night looking back to the city with the Cathedral lit is “illuminating”. Information can be found at www.salamanca.es

After leaving Salamanca we headed towards Caceres. We passed by Guijuielo which is a town famous for ‘Jamon’ (ham) in particular ‘Pata Negra’ which is the king of all ‘jamones’; the pig is fed on black acorns and the flavour of this ham is a degustation delight not to be missed. The majority of all major providers are here in Guijuielo and this is where the ‘Jamon’ is prepared and distributed.

The town of Guijuielo is not pretty as it is quite industrial, but it was an interesting lunch spot and the aroma in the air was quite interesting. Like what so often happens in the non tourist areas, we ate in a Bar and had the “menu del dia” for 8 euros each (at the time approx $12). We had a 3 course meal, bread and a bottle of wine. Very good value!

Caceres is a dual city, meaning it has 2 parts. The interesting part is the very old (25BC) “Walled City” and is also declared a World Heritage Site. Enclosed in this City is an enclave of cobbled lanes, beautiful old buildings, churches, restaurants and the most beautiful 14th Century hotel in the middle of it, it is a Parador (which is Spain’s exclusive Hotel Chain) www.parador.es .

Our next stay was at Trujillo, via Merida. A much larger and busier city, it is famous for its Roman Ruins, which are spectacular. Trujillo is my kind of town - quaint and quiet. We also stay at a gorgeous boutique hotel Isla Del Gallo, which has been converted from an old convent. The facilities are superb with an amazing old library, sauna, a wine cellar (to dream about) with a private dining room for 10 to 12 people.

Travelling in the cold (& off season) has its advantages, we were the only ones eating in the restaurant and the food and service did not disappoint. www.isladelgallo.com

Trujillo also has an old castle (950AD) and to reach it, you must pass the tranquil ‘Plaza Mayor’ - I felt like I was in a classic movie scene, with old men and their walking sticks, sitting on benches! Just keep walking up a very steep hill and the reward at the end, which is the view, will take your breath away!

About 40 minutes drive from Trujillo is a Park area called Monfrague. This day was the clearest of winter days and the sky was blue like sapphires, it was literally picture perfect. This area was home to yet another castle which housed about 80 Vultures. The Castle was the same vintage as the one in Trujillo (950AD) and was also on top of a huge hill with about 100 steps to climb - one certainly did not feel guilty about indulging in Spain’s exquisite cuisine & wines! The view again was breathtaking, from the exquisite views of the valleys to a sky so blue that the water below reflected the colour.

Sadly, we leave this little adventure and head back to Madrid the next morning. If you ever do have the pleasure of visiting Spain, which in itself the country has so much to offer, this is one little area I can fully recommend.

Travel Tips from Mary-Ann:
Always try to spend as much time in the non tourist places as possible. Find out where the locals eat and drink. This way you can really experience the essence of a culture. We always eat in the local restaurants, so as to really sample that country’s cuisine & the specialty produce of that area.


FIRST NAME:
EMAIL :
COUNTRY:
To help prevent spam, please enter the word "chef" here: