Jamon y Queso
Trip Start Aug 23, 1996
582Trip End Ongoing
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Generally in life, if I want to go somewhere, I don't tend to bounce my ideas off of anyone because the majority of people I know and meet have not travelled as vastly as Lucy and myself. However, there are a few, like Paul, who for a Pom has been to some obscure places, then there is Mini Me for WW1 stuff, and for other places, especially Spain, there's my main man Maxi from Madrid. Many years ago, we spoke about a little place called Merida, not the one in Venezuala or Mexico even, but the one in the Extremedura region of Spain. Apparently they have some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Spain, so being the type of person who likes to tick things off of a list, I had to go. The reason it has taken so long to get there is that there really isn't an airport that is close to it, well especially at the Jew boy prices I want. There are a couple of airports around, well within a couple of hundred K's, but the times were normally pretty fucked up, but since I've become part mong down the left side, I realised that there was more to life than saving a load of cash and taking another huge overland trip, even though that's coming, I found a flight that was Jewish enough for me, and I booked it. I even decided to take a day off of work, I do live dangerously !!! I booked a car, then started planning. A few words with Maxi were said, and we were off, destination Jerez. Yes, it's not Merida, but a car was booked, now all there is to see if I can drive a car on the wrong side with my mongy hand !!!
We arrived at the airport. and normally, first thing we do is head straight to the Hertz desk, but this time there wasn't one. I had a car booked with them, and I started to freak a little. We asked another car hire place and they said outside. After walking around the carpark, we found them, they were using a Mercedes van as an office !!! After lining up, they then told us that they didn't have a car for us. Ten minutes later, a new Peugeot 207 arrived. We jumped in, then I attempted to put the ticket in the machine, my left arm doesn't work !!! Oh well, life is fun !!! As we are now in this world of the future, Lucy opened up the PDA with the dodgy satnav software that I have aquired, punched in Merida, and we were off. Never went under 160, unless the satnav told me that there was a speed camera or unless there was a hill, as the car was a shitter at the the slightest incline it died !!! Three hours later, and we were there. An hour and a half of driving around in circles as we kept missing our Hostal, and we were checked in.
Now the sights here are open Spanish times, morning and arvos, and as it was 38 in the shade, and coming up to 17:00, we purchased our group ticket. For ten Euros, it lets you into all sights over the time that you are there. The amphitheatre was quite nice. Very run down with a little bit of work on some of the seats. Not like Nimes or Arles and not overgrown like Triars, but enjoyable. There were barriers up to stop you going places, but this was Spain, so we walked around them.
After it was stopped being used as the Christians said that plays were bad, it filled up with dirt and debris until only the top six tiers were showing. In 1910, restoration took place, and in 1933, the theatre returned. Fuck the Christans I say !!! Actually, the restoration wasn't all that bad, except the seating which was now basically wood painted to look like sandstone !!! Fucking cheapscapes !!! The backdrop wasn't as good as Oranges, but that is the best preserved one in the world. I did get up on stage and was all set to belt out the Hunters and Collectors Holy Grail as usual, but a local started singing, much more intune than I could ever be through my nasally Sydney accented nose, so I let him go. We tried to get him to do an encore, but he moved on, so we followed
Next door to the two theatres is a house with quite a few mosaics in them. Having seen a few in my time, I was ready. Now this is the West and we are meant to be smart, right. In fact, I would tend to disagree with that statement. I have been to Morocco and seen how they leave their mosaics to be sunbleached and soon they will be no more, whilst in Tunisia, they care for theirs and they cover them up. Here, they are open to the elements. The colours were gone and I couldn't help but wonder who was smarter !!! Actually, it's the French as they are doing the work in Tunisia. There is also an aqueduct running through the site which is ok with a decorative lions head attached. Snap, photo taken.
Santa Eulalia Basilica Crypt
Below in the crptys of this church are the remains of all the old buildings. As each new group of people have arrived, a place of worship has been built here, and the newbies just knock down and build on top. Eventually. somebody with some brains decided to have a look around, and what was discovered were various bits of old church. There were some nice old murals, which you could only see from 5 metres away, but at least they were trying to protect it. We tried to get into the church and look down through the floor, but a christening was taking place and access was denied as we were not dressed corerectly !!!
Realistically, I only saw my first complete Circus at Leptis Magna this year and a lot of that was covered in sand. This one however, the grounds are complete but the buildings are all gone. Over 400 metres x 115 metres, it's still an impressive site, that's if you find an open ground exciting !!! We do. There was a dodgy movie to watch about some guy who was floating. The narrator was getting pretty excited in Spanish and if it had gone on any longer than four minutes, I think I would have slit my wrists !!!
The speciality of the area is Jamon Iberia Bellota. Now this can give you cancer, but fuck it, this Jew boy loves his pork and there was to be no denying. A plate was ordered, along with some calamari. We were miles from the coast, but it was oh so tender. We washed it down with Spains finest. To warm for Rioja, so the local beer was had. Fuck the drugs I say. Beer is good for you !!!
Espressos followed by toasted tomato bread the way the Spanish do it, and as I had not died of cancer, more Jamon. We washed it down with a cafe con leche
After driving around all day, we dumped the car and made our way to the Alcazaba. After the Romans had gone, the Moors arrived. This was the first Moorish building in all of Spain. All that is left are the walls and a Islamic cistern. It's underground, and there still is a pool. It did look inviting but the smell of piss kind of takes it away !!!
Around Merida are loads of Roman remains. We had a look at the old Roman bridge. There really isn't much left of the original structure as it's been rebuilt 100's of times over the years. The Arch of Trajan is ok, but not like we have seen previously. The forum is a replica, whilst the Temple of Diana was impressive. It had been abandoned over the years, and after a while, some guy decided to build a house amongst the pillars. His family stayed until 1972, before he was evicted. Oh well, he did have it good for a few years !!!
We decided to eat next door to where we were living as it was always crowded with people, Spanish ones at that, so in we went. Lucy had seen these kebabs of pork with pimientos and potatos, so she ordered, I went the pieces of suckling pig with frites, and for a racion de torta. I actually thought I was going to get a whole tortilla, but in fact was like a pie of melted cheese. It was so rich, but fuck it was good. These Spanish do know how to eat. It was still to hot to drink Rioja, so more beers were had.
Once again we had toast with tomato and jamon serrano, but we also had toast with tomato and queso. It was great as well washed down with espressos and café con leches.
Casa Mitreo and Columbarios
It was our last morning in Merida and all we had left was this house. We had left it till last, as we thought it was so far away, but that was a schoolboy error. It was only across the road from our hostal. In we went, and this time the mosaics were covered by a giant roof. They didn't let you get to close, but you could make out what there was. It was quite large and definitely worth the wait. At least these mosaics were in good condition, and as an added bonus, there were some murals still to be seen. It is no Villa Sileen from Libya, but beggars can't be choosers. Next door are the Columbarios. These are a couple of funerary structures. Dotted around are stone sarcophagus everywhere, and also a couple of mausoleums. Inside one, there were some murals of a man and a woman, who were supposedly buried there. It was covered in glass, so at least they were protected.
And with that, our time had finished in Merida. It had been great, but it was time to move on
Just before I left London, Maxi said I really must go to Cordoba. Fuck it. Now I must go to Cordoba and Toledo and Madrid and Segovia and and and and !!!