Yesterday, my lovely flat-mate Emmy and I caught the 7.30am bus to Mérida! Mérida is about an hour’s drive from Zafra and it’s a UNESCO world heritage site so it’s FULL of Roman monuments. The town is actually is twinned with the Rome and you can definitely see why; scattered throughout the town are the remains of a Roman Ampitheatre, a fortification (the Alcazaba), the Forum and the Puente Romano – the longest of all existing Roman bridges.
The ancient monuments coexist with a bustling high street, a modern square (the Plaza de España) and the normal variety of Tapas bars, restaurants and cafés. It’s a much bigger town than Zafra, with quite a few more shops, so it’s good to know that all this is just a bus-ride away. Unlike Britain, the buses here are reliable and on time (it’s the trains that are a bit dodgy) so I plan to make many more bus trips throughout the year; I want to visit Seville, Lisbon, Madrid and even Barcelona (if I can handle a reaaallly long journey).
We left our apartment at 6.50 am in order to catch our bus on time, leaving so early meant that it was quite chilly so I dressed accordingly in tight black skinny jeans. This turned out the be a huge mistake and by midday I was sweating in all the wrong places… I should be used to the Spanish weather by now but fear of being cold was my priority when making wardrobe decisions at 6am.
I am excited to visit more towns in Extremadura. In fact, this week we are all off to Cáceres for an overnight stay to attend training days in preparation for the teaching assistantship. It’s meant to be really beautiful there so keep an eye out for another post full of sunny pictures (I hope!).
Three o’clock is the perfect time to explore the streets. It’s siesta time and most shops are closed so it’s lovely and peaceful. Not that Zafra is ever jam-packed, I should add, but it can get busy when the occasional tour group hits the town en masse. It was sunny today, so as usual I got snap-happy with my camera and the photographic evidence is below…
El Parador (above) is an impressive 15th century castle in the centre of Zafra. It now exists as a swanky four-star hotel with an equally glamorous restaurant and bar. The castle used to be the residence of the Dukes of Feria and is still equipped with nine battlement towers, original ceilings, ironwork, handrails and many other remnants of the former palace.I mainly use the castle as a large object to aim towards when I get lost wandering through the confusing streets. However, if anyone fancies visiting me then the hotel provides a luxury alternative to the sofa-bed in my apartment.
Zafra is full of palm trees. We may be 200km from the nearest beach but at least the palm trees create a holiday vibe. There are lots of parks scattered around the place too and this pretty purple blossom makes regular appearances throughout the town.
Tonight I am off to the cinema to see El corredor del laberinto (The maze runner) with my flatmates. Let’s hope the storyline isn’t too complicated as I struggle enough with convoluted plots in English.
Another day off and another day exploring. This time I took the bus to Fréjus; a place I’d been to previously for an evening meal. It was great to see the town in the morning this time, it happened to be market day so there was a lively atmosphere and lots to see. Fréjus has Roman and Medieval heritage so there’s an aqueduct, an amphitheatre and an archaeology museum all within a few minutes walk of each other. What I liked most however were the art galleries tucked away in the quieter streets; I discovered colourfully painted bollards, knitted lamp-post warmers as well as tiny book shops and market stalls – I will definitely be returning!