Extremadura

Mérida •
Trujillo •
Cáceres • Zafra •
Plasencia

 

The autonomous community of
Extremadura is located in the western part of the Iberian Peninsula on
the border with Portugal.  When it comes to travel Extremadura is still
a fairly unknown region and I have to admit it might be one of the best
kept travel secrets.  This area has something for everyone starting with
its mix of mountain ranges, the National Park of Monfragüe with some of
Spain’s most spectacular bird life, historical towns such as: Mérida, Trujillo, Zafra, the old center of
Cáceres, a
succulent gastronomy which includes favorite local
wines,
cheeses and
how can I forget some of Spain’s finest
ham products. Extremadura is
sure to enchant any discerning traveler looking for an adventure off the
beaten path.


I became a fan of region due to my cousin Juan, who for many years has
been travelling there for his hobby of bird watching, or so he says, I
think it is mostly for the outstanding food.  So when I started to write
about the area he jumped at the chance of telling me about his
experiences and the little place he became so fond of…Garrovillas de
Alconétar, so let’s see what Juan had to say about his journey…

I have spent many years traveling in
Extremadura.  It is no secret that it is an attractive destination for
those seeking quick access to natural areas of great interest and
enjoyment of popular cuisine.   The improvement of the Spanish Autovias
(Highways) has made it possible and convenient to get from Madrid to the
province of Cáceres in less than three hours depending on your final
destination.  The good news is that soon you will have the possibility
of taking the Ave train from Madrid
to Lisbon stopping in Cáceres and Mérida, once
there you can rent a car to travel
around the towns and cities of the area.

As a novice my first adventures
through the province of Cáceres were mostly related to the cities and
villages that have a National Parador,
not very original I know.  These are good starting points to get
acquainted with the artistic treasures, gastronomy, nature and history
that Extremadura has to offer.  I particularly recommend the paradores
of

Jarandilla de la Vera
,
Plasencia and
Trujillo.

Already a veteran traveler in the
province of Cáceres bird watching became a passion of mine, which is a
great coincidence because Extremadura is one of the best European
destinations for lovers of this activity.  Following the flight of
cranes in winter, or of black storks in summer, and in both cases also
following the claim of the delights of the gastronomy of Extremadura
(notably the Iberian ham, the sheep’s milk cheese and wines of the
region) I ventured into areas previously unknown to me.  To be closer to
the best birding spots I began to try my luck searching for lodging in
the growing supply of casas rurales (rural homes) in the villages and
towns of Cáceres
.


 


A year ago I stumbled upon a village called Garovillas de Alconétar, I
had never heard of it before.  I was looking for a casa rural (rural
home) close to the Damn of Talaván, an excellent vantage point of cranes
in winter, and not far from the National Park of

Monfragüe
Browsing in one of the major search engines of rural houses in Spain, I
came across a property that seemed quite attractive. A quaint house with
a fireplace and an orchard, located in Garrovillas.  After some
research I learned that the town had a very interesting Plaza Mayor
(Main Square) and I discovered that the village is located at a
crossroads that leads in a short time to the city of
Cáceres the
Portuguese border and other places of interest.

 

My first impression was magnificent,
my wife Marta and I liked the casa rural so much that we ended up buying
it.  Now I not only enjoy my sessions of bird watching but also other
attractions.  The Plaza Mayor is exceptional mostly surrounded by
archways (Plaza Porticada), in one of its sides you will find the

Hospederia de Extremadura
, an Extremaduran version of the National Paradores, a medieval palace
very well restored where you can eat and sleep at a good price.  In a
corner of the same square you will discover one of the oldest taverns in
the town called Bar de Luis.  It has no sign outside and the gloomy
interior will make you doubt whether to enter or not but once inside you
will see mostly local man drinking wine de pitarra (local wine).  I must
warn you if you are looking for glitz and glamour this is not the place,
but if you want an ice cold bottle of Mahou (Spanish beer) to quench
your thirst in the heat of summer, come in, say hello to the locals and
sit at the marble counter.  Once you’ve had a couple of beers you will
have won the sympathy of the owner, a garovillano very fond of two
things:  bullfighting and fishing tenca, a fish caught in ponds in the
area.

Plaza Mayor de Garrovillas

In fact any place of interest in
Garovillas is within walking distance of the Plaza Mayor, like the small


Extremadurea Home Made Bread
Jewish quarter with its narrow streets
of white washed houses where you will find the Churreria de Mary. 

There is no doubt Mary makes the best
churros in Extremadura, she makes them thin or thick at your request.  I
definitely recommend the bigger ones! They are a blessing and the best
way to start the day in

Garrovillas.  Very close to the plaza
you will find the Convent of Our Lady of Health (Nuestra Señora de la
Salud) where a small community of nuns hand make extraordinary sweets of
various kinds.  You have to buy them in the traditional style through a
winch that opens up only when a client rings the bell.  In the square
itself, is a typical extremenian food store where you can buy another
one of Garrovillas delights, the famous patatera.  The patatera is a
sausage made with potatoes, bacon and paprika and if it is not too cured
you can spread it on a slice of bread.  Served with white bread that is
baked in the village and accompanied with the local wine it will become
a vice not easy to escape.

Garrovilla has two churches that you
must visit both very close to the Plaza Mayor, la Iglesia de San
Pedro (St. Peter) and Our Lady of
Consolation or Nieves (Nuestra Señora de La Consolacion o de las
Nieves).  The architecture and altarpieces of both churches are
spectacular.


The best place to eat in
Garrovillas is the restaurant of the

Hospederia
, the dining room is an old winery, quiet and pleasant,
where you can savor some good traditional dishes from Extremadura. 
Other than that your best alternatives are in the city of
Cáceres (half
an hour by car), El Figón de Eustaquio does not disappoint, offering
good migas, good lamb stew and traditional roasted suckling pig.  I
highly recommend taking a drive to the town of Coria, to visit the
castle, the cathedral and taking a walk into the old town where the Casa
Campana restaurant awaits you. It’s somewhat ramshackle appearance is
deceiving inside you will enjoy a wide variety of seasonal plates
specializing in game dishes and mushrooms.  It also offers some of
the

best ham
found in Extremadura and a superb selection of wines from
the region.  Another option is to visit the town of Alcantara and
its magnificent Roman bridge and head to the Hospederia (a converted
convent) to eat some of the best stewed partridge in Extremadura.


As you can see of the
treasures hidden in Extremadura, Garrovillas is one of the best and
least known options that should surely be enjoyed…

 


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