As part of our project of getting to know Spain better, my housemate and I decided to head to Mérida this weekend, in the province of Badajoz in Extremadura. This was the best weekend trip I’ve ever taken!
Even the time spent on the bus was enjoyable for me (5 hours each way) as through the windows I was able to see mountains, olive groves, grazing cows, sheep, and horses, and flowing rivers. We also brought our books and laptops, so we were able to get some homework done during the journey as well, making up for lost library time we would have had in Salamanca.
Because we took the earliest morning bus we arrived in Mérida at midday. The city was enchanting from the beginning: we walked across the beautiful Puente Lusitania to head toward our hotel, which we had reserved on a discount booking website the week before. It was beautiful and located in the historic center of the city with all the amenities we could have asked for, and we paid hostel prices for a private room with its own bathroom.
Since we only had one night in Mérida we set out right away to see the city’s famous Roman Ruins. First, we had a big lunch in a Chinese restaurant, which was a welcome respite from the Spanish dishes we’ve been eating every day for over a month now and delightfully inexpensive.
Well-nourished, we headed to the Roman Theatre & Amphitheatre to buy a ticket that would also allow us access to the Alcazaba (an Arab palace), the crypts of the Basilica de Santa Eulalia, the Roman Circus, and the Mithraeum House and Columbarios (Roman funerary grounds), all of which we managed to pack into a single afternoon.
One benefit of visiting a small city like Mérida is that it is possible to see all of its attractions in a short time due to their proximity, and another is the relatively low prices- food and drink were even cheaper in Mérida than they are in Salamanca, and less than half of what they would have cost in Madrid. We paid a single price to enter all of the monuments (our ticket was punched at each location we visited) and it was just €6 for students.
In the late afternoon when we had seen all of the monuments that had visiting hours -many others such as the Arc of Trajan, The Aqueduct of Miracles, the Temple of Diana, and the Portico of the Forum are open all the time and one simply walks up to them- we decided to stop for a coffee.
Extremadura’s proximity to Portugal meant there were pastries there we hadn’t seen in Salamanca. We decided to try a pata de venado (deer foot) and torta portuguesa con piña along with our coffees. These were delicious, and it was exciting to try foods traditional to the region, which we also did at dinner. We selected a restaurant that served homemade food at very reasonable prices- for €9 I received a glass of delicious local wine, half a baguette, a big bowl of delicious gazpacho, and a plate of chopos a la romana- breaded and fried, these are made from the flesh of a 10-tentacled sea creature- and a peach with whipped cream for dessert.
We went to sleep early so that we could get up before dawn and watch the sunrise over the aqueduct. This was my favorite part of the trip: the aqueduct has dozens of stork nests and as the morning lightened and steam rose from the river the dawn chorus began. We heard small songbirds and the loud calls of the storks, which were walking about gathering sticks to add to their nests.
We decided to squeeze in a few last visits to the Snow Wells, the Arc of Trajan, and the Roman Bridge on our way out of the city, stopping at a supermarket to buy breakfast. This is the most economical way to eat while traveling. We purchased four empanadas and a large bottle of kefir, along with some whole-wheat rolls to eat on the bus, for under 3 euros. Sitting in the sun on the banks of the river we enjoyed one last local delicacy- pisto, which is made of eggplant, peppers, and tuna- along with the obligatory empananda de jamón y queso.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I am a junior at Bowdoin College, where I am majoring in Spanish and minoring in Art History and Teaching. I'm outgoing and inquisitive, and getting to know other people is how I make sense of this mixed-up and beautiful world. My favorite hobbies are baking bread, playing ukulele, and camping. I love exploring new places and am looking forward to getting to know Salamanca as well as the fun and challenges I'll encounter in my travels around Europe.</span></p>