Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Spain 2006 Part III: Touring the Millennia with Great Friends

After taking a city bus to catch the bus from Granada to Sevilla, and then another city bus to transfer to the other bus station in Sevilla, we finally reached Mérida, well, by bus. Once there, we joyfully reunited with our friend Rafa Ruiz Fuente. Rafa and Sacra Blanco had traveled all the way from Spain to join us on our wedding day in Colorado, and we were thrilled to check out their local digs West of Madrid in Navalmoral de la Mata. Before driving to their home, however, we spent the evening in Mérida stepping back in time to the height of the Roman Empire. The ruins in Mérida of the amphitheater and adjacent theater were astonishing. Magnificent. It was easy to imagine the Gladiator games in the amphitheater. The theater next door, although apparently not as popular in the day as the gory amphitheater events, looked like the Greek theater on steroids. (Also, they were preparing for opening night of the annual theater festival. What a treat!)

After a quick tour of the museum, Rafa drove us back to his home. We were thrilled to finally meet Silvia, Sacra and Rafa’s one year old daughter. Such a cutie! She melted our American hearts with her adorable imitation of a mouse, a lion, and a frog.

The next morning, Rafa showed us the school where he works as a PE teacher in Losar de la Vera and then his newly purchased land near Jarandilla (de la Vera). We were blown away with his fruit orchard: grapes, apples, oranges, kiwis, you name it! However, Rafa my friend, your new home needs some work. After marveling at Rafa’s plans for the estate, we spent a lazy afternoon in Jarandilla and in the pools by the Roman bridge past Losar.

The next day Rafa drove us to two incredible cities that saw their best days in the middle ages – Trujillo and Cáceres. Once again, we were romanced by these charming, picturesque, and ornate cities. As Rafa said, we half expected a knight in shining armor to ride around the corner and announce the Royal Court. ¡Soy un Conquistador! Both Kristin and I felt like Trujillo, with its charming streets, historic landmarks, and grand vistas, was exactly the kind of town we hoped Granada to be. Unfortunately, Trujillo is easily a three hour drive from an international airport. The first picture is from Trujillo, and the other is from Cáceres.

Finally, to close out our tour of the Extremadura region of Spain, we needed an up-close look at the Toro silhouettes! Rafa gave us an incredible picture of one as a wedding gift, and he wanted us to see it in person. These large bull-shaped billboards are left over from an ad campaign for alcohol, but people loved them so much they were painted over and left in place. After another wonderful evening with Rafa, Sacra, and Silvia, we did a little shopping in Navalmoral before bussing back to Sevilla. We couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing or scenic visit, and we owe it all to our incredible hosts. We enjoy your company wherever we are in the world! (As a parting gift, Sacra gave Kristin beautiful amber earrings, and we couldn’t resist a little University push for Silvia…)

We spent our final couple of nights back in Barrio Santa Cruz in Sevilla, eating and shopping. We visited Kristin’s old haunts including a brief return to her host family’s apartment (but Kristin couldn’t remember the number!). What did we buy? Well, you’ll just have to wait for the Christmas season to find out… Oh, by the way: Were you counting? That would be fourteen busses in twelve days. Next time we’re renting a car!


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