Extremadura: No Era Extra-Especial – Extremadura: Was Not Extra Special

The final USC trip of the program was to Extremadura, a region in the west of Spain bordering Portugal. USC said they took us to Extremadura – specifically Mérida, the capital city, and Cáceres, a principle province – because it is a place where our own travels were less likely to take us. They wanted us to venture to a less-explored region of Spain…but after this weekend, I think there’s a reason it’s less-traveled.

The trip was Thursday to Sunday – one day longer than most of our USC-sponsored trips. But by Sunday, we were more than ready to be back in Madrid.

DSCN1476Thursday’s main event was a visit to El Museo del Pimentón in Cáceres. Yes, we had a guided tour of a paprika museum. After spending more time than one would think possible learning about paprika’s history, cultivation, value and use, we hopped back on our loyal bus.

You’ll soon learn that too much of this weekend was spent on the bus. This region of Spain is much less developed than, cities like Madrid, so places of interest are few and far between, requiring looooong drives DSCN1479from Point A to Point B.

Destination #2 was  El Monasterio de San Jerónimo de Yuste. It was a 15th-century monastery. The grounds, gardens and buildings were beautiful. To keep ourselves entertained, Emily and I pretended we were wedding planners and the monastery was our venue. We imagined where the ceremony and reception would take place, what kind of decorations we’d have, and where guests would wine and dine.

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Lunch was in a parador, then we finally headed to the hotel. Emily and I were roommates for this trip, so that was a nice change. After a little R&R, we joined friends for dinner in the main plaza.

The next day, we took our trusty bus to the site of an ancient Roman theatre and amphitheater in Mérida – a nearby city. After exploring the ruins, we spent (too much) time in El Museo de Arte Romano.

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It was then more time on the bus to get us back to free time in Cáceres. I spent my free time just laying low and resting. That evening we had a IMG_5825guided tour of Cáceres where we learned about the new and the old, the competing cultural influences, etc. You know, the “uzsh.”

Our tour guide did point out some premier tapas restaurants and a popular heladería. That’s where my friends and I went for dinner and dessert.

The next morning, we were where else? Back on the bus. This time it took us to the creepiest museum in the middle of nowhere. If we got lost out there, would anyone find us? After exploring the museum, my guess is no, and we might not be the first tour group to go missing… (I think I’m kidding.)

Museo Vostell en Malpartida de Cáceres featured exhibits of dilapidated cars, scrap metal and old motocicletas. The “artfully-crafted” exhibits reminded me of a haunted junk yard. For once, I wanted to be back on that bus to get the heck out of there!

Our next leg of the road trip
took us to Parque Natural Tajo Internacional. In the nature reserve, we boarded a tour boat tour of Río Tajo.The river is one of the natural borders between Spain and Portugal, and we were sailing right down the middle. It was overcast, but it’s always nice to be on the water. DSCN1499DSCN1497

Out of nature and back on the bus, we crossed the border into Portugal. Where we had lunch in Marvão.

After lunch we explored the city and climbed up to the castle. It began to rain and 13th-century stairs shouldn’t be trusted in the rain anymore, so we descended and returned to the bus for the drive back to Cáceres.

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We had the evening free so Emily, Sofia and I opted for a night in with  our American pop culture fix. Cuddled up in our bed, the three of us found a link to then-Bruce Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer.

The rain in Marvão the day before was nothing compared to the downpour we’d experience on our final day in Extremadura. It poured! We left the hotel and wheeled our suitcases through cobblestone streets with water rushing down the sides.

Our desire to return to Madrid was going stronger, but there was still more on our itinerary. The bus took us to a small city called Trujillo. The schedule had us visiting a church and some other sites, but Luís and Loli allowed us to opt out if we’d like. Instead of trudging through the puddles, I chose to stay in a café with some compañeros where we were warm and dry. I used the time to work on my political science research paper. It’s getting hard to believe that finals are around the rincón.

Lunch was in another parador and libations were aplenty. Not naming names, but someone in our group had too much to drink and threw up on the floor of the bus on the way home. What a way to end the weekend…

So the weekend wasn’t that bad. The hours in the bus, rain and finally vomit were not ideal, but I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I’m not. I’m thankful to the program for touring me around such a diverse country and allowing me to see places I really wouldn’t have gone otherwise. I mean how many people can say they’ve been to a paprika museum? However, when all was said and done, I was happy to be back in Madrid.

That nightI met up with Aunt Karen and Aunt Cathy. That’s when we had our dinner at Quintin and FaceTime with mis abuelos as I mentioned in my earlier post.

Time is going by so quickly. I can’t wait to see what the finals weeks of my study abroad experience will bring.

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