Our first day of serious traveling, we covered about 200 miles from Evora in Portugal across the border into Spain, ultimately arriving at our gorgeous, relatively new Parador in the larger city of Córdoba. This will be our base of operations for the next few days.
The primary stop along the way was at the town of Mérida, the capital western Spain’s Extremadura region. Founded in the first century BCE, it contains a plethora of Roman ruins, the largest such discovery in Spain. This area of Spain was settled by retired "emeritus" Roman soldiers who received land along with their pensions after their years of service.
We toured the "circus" areas of amphitheaters, the larger used for the blood sports of the gladiators, and, possibly, recreations of Roman naval battles in the middle recessed section which they flooded with water. They also used several of the animals they found and brought back from their conquests including tigers, horses, and even camels. Several sections were recreated to allow for real seating, next to the barely excavated sections.
Next door, was the smaller Teatro Romano, a theater used for the artistic endeavors, plays, concerts, etc. It is still used today and was actually being set up for a show that would be there the following evening.
Lunch, on our own was eaten at a restaurant that featured two delicacies of this region -the succulent jamón ibérico de bellota, Iberian ham from black pigs fed entirely on the acorns of the oak trees found here, as well as a smooth, semi-soft cheese tasting a little like Brie, but milder. Add a glass of wine or beer, and voila, the most delicious ham and cheese sandwich ever! (Side note: the shop where we ate, Nico Jimenez, is a proud Guinness world record holder for the longest single slice of ham - around 40 feet!)
We ended our visit with a pretty fast walkthrough of the incredible Roman Museum which contained many of the unearthed artifacts found here, hardly doing it justice.
The town also had a large intact Roman bridge and ruins of an aqueduct complete with stork nests!
Onto our lovely new Parador where we had a late dinner, followed by doing some laundry and blogging activities. We had lost an hour going from Portugal to Spain which threw us off more than the 5-hour difference from the US to Portugal. Go figure!