Throughout the entire semester, we were able to get to see a lot of the Spanish beauty near Cáceres, some within 45 minutes of the city. These day trips included two groups excursions visiting what was known as the “second Rome” in the days of the Roman rule in Spain, a college town that has been around since 1218, and a chance to experience local culture on our own.
Our first getaway was back in February when a few of us went to Trujillo (tru-hee-yo) just a quick 45 minute drive from Cáceres by bus. While only a few of us went at a time we were all able to make it up there. One of the best parts about the day was that it was gorgeous weather…in FEBRUARY! I was warm in my light jacket and jeans!
While it is a small city, one of it’s former residents has boosted it to fame. Francisco Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru, grew up in Trujillo. We even toured his house (or an exact replica of it)! Francisco Pizarro stands tall and fearless on his trusty steed in the plaza mayor to this day.
The only problem with this day trip to Trujillo is that we did not know anything about the city. We had heard from our friends who had previously been there that it was beautiful and we should check it out. So we decided to show off our history buff-ness while visiting the ancient castle and walking around the old fortified city walls. “Show off” our knowledge meaning completely making it up. We created the most outrageous history for this beautiful city! Anything from the Battle of the Oranges (fought completely with oranges and orange peels in the late 1400s) to how citizens were chosen for the football team became a part of the culture. While it didn’t make sense at all, it did provide us with lasting memories!
On a side note: we did make it back to Trujillo but this time in May (scorching hot in the fortified main plaza) for the National Wine and Cheese Festival–the most important cheese festival in Spain! Sipping on wine and nibbling on different kinds of cheeses from throughout the country was a great way to spend our last weekend of the program!
Our second trip, one with the whole group, was to Mérida, Spain about an hour from Cáceres. This city was considered the second Rome hundreds of years ago when the Romans were situated in Spain. Some of the highlights included the Roman Theater, the Amphitheater, the Diana’s Temple, and the fortified castle.
The Roman Theater in Mérida has been kept up so well, you can still get a feel of what it would have been like to be on stage with the beautiful facade behind you! The great acoustics also provided us with a feel of how it felt to sit high up (like me) and still be able to hear Adam (waayyy down there in the gray t-shirt on stage) singing (he actually was singing). No need for a microphone there!
The amphitheater, which I didn’t get a good picture of, was used like the Roman Colosseum was–for recreation as viewers enjoyed a good ol’ gladiator battle or staged naval battle (filling the pit up with water from the nearby river).
I couldn’t believe that one can just walk to school drive to work and simply pass these ancient Roman ruins everyday! (I would soon learn that it was very possible to do that everyday while touring Rome.)
Our final day trip was another group excursion to Salamanca, Spain where one of the oldest universities in Europe was founded in 1218 and is still thriving.
We got an extensive tour of the university and cathedral as well as climbed up the bell tower next to the cathedral to get a breathtaking view of the city and cathedral. We also got a while to explore the old city along the river. The Plaza Mayor in Salamanca is considered to be the most beautiful in Spain. While we did not see it lit up at night or packed to the brim for one of their summer music festivals its beauty was still quite visible.
This final day trip was during our last week in Cáceres, leaving us with bitter sweet goodbyes to the group who we had become so close with. We topped off the end of the semester with a tapas dinner in town with our program directors, professors, and of course great food. It seemed to come to an end much too quickly, even though three and a half months seemed like a long time in the beginning. Two days later I was off to Italy with Carly, Caitlin, and Phil!