Exploring Mérida | Part 3

Click here for A Weekend in Historical Mérida | Part 1

Click here for Culinary delights of Mérida | Part 2

The rest of our stay in Mérida was mostly seeing more of the many historic sites: the Alcazaba, the remains of a Roman villa, a creepy crypt under a church, the Roman Circus and a Roman aqueduct.  The Alcazaba is located near the Roman Bridge and was built in 835 to command the city, which had rebelled in 805. It was actually the first Muslim alcazaba to be built in Spain which is pretty cool. They re-used Roman walls and Roman-Visigothic edifices in granite. Inside was my favourite feature, the aljibe (rainwater tank), which can be accessed by walking down a very steep and dark stairway. Nowadays it is basically just a fish pond, but you don’t expect to find it when you climb down to investigate.

As the sites are all open until 9pm, we made the most of our evening by walking over to La Casa del Mitreo, the remains of a Roman Villa near the Bullring. It is included in the tickets for all the sites in Mérida and is worth the walk. It didn’t seem to be very busy because it was further away than the rest of the sites, but don’t let this factor put you off visiting.

There were some beautiful painted walls and mosaics that have been excavated and preserved, it was really impressive to look at the detail and colours.

The following day, we made our way to the Acueducto de los Milagros, where there is a nice park to sit in the sun. It is no way near a well preserved as the Aqueduct in Segovia (which is in perfect condition) – this one is falling apart and crumbing with many a stork’s nest perched on top, and it’s a shame not much is being done to preserve it:

Aquaducto de miligranos

Aquaducto de miligranos

We then made our way to visit the Crypt under the Basilica de Santa Eulalia. The crypt itself is really spooky and I would hate to be down there on my own, although all the bodies has been removed! Although there was an abundance of information of the history of the building and how it was used – dating back to a Roman villa, then being used by the Moors and finally turning into a church – it was all very confusing and it isn’t a “highlight” in Mérida.

We also visited the Roman Circus which is still very well-preserved. There isn’t much to see though but it was nice just to have a walk around in the sun.

Soon it was time to catch our night coach back to Salamanca that evening!

Mérida is indeed a small town, but there are plenty of things to see and do which make it worthwhile for a weekend trip. My favourites by far were the Amphitheater and the food though!

I’d love to go back in the summer for the Classical Theater Festival which is held every year in the Roman Amphitheater (!!!) and maybe in the future I can visit some more of Extremadura (e.g. Cáceres, Trujillo). It’s not the most popular region of Spain for travellers, and is still quite “unknown” but its a relief to go somewhere which is not swarming with tourists for a change.

Wouldn't it be cool to see a play here?1

Wouldn’t it be cool to see a play here?1

Last weekend I headed even further south to Sevilla and Granada which was am-az-ing! Although it was a lot of coach travel. It is fair to say I have had enough of uncomfortable night coaches for a long while and I need some sleep.

I am both sad yet relieved that this was my FINAL Year Abroad trip during my time in Spain. The last one!!! Sad because of obvious reasons, yet relieved because travel is so exhausting. Salamanca is far from everything which is inconvenient and it is about time I actually get cracking with all those coursework deadlines and exams coming up in the next month! It gives me the opportunity to make the most out of what I have around me in Salamanca, as there is still so much I haven’t done here.

There is a possibility of a trip to Madrid on the way to the airport to fly back to the UK in June. It would be a bit strange not to, because, well, it is the closest “big” city to Salamanca/the capital of Spain/I have never visited, and somehow I have avoided it until now. But let’s wait and see.

Hasta luego.

Untitled

Advertisements

Culinary delights of Mérida | Part 2

For Part 1, please click here!

We managed to not have one bad meal during our weekend trip to Mérida, which was wonderful. It would be a sin not to share my two favourite finds during our stay. Maybe if you are heading there sometime soon, these may make their way into your itinerary as I would recommend them for price, quality, atmosphere and service.

We enjoyed our lunchtime meal so much on Saturday in a small tapas bar nearby to our hotel called Entrecañas, we had to return the next day for more! It’s one of those gems that I discovered on my TripAdvisor app, which I doubt I would have ever found on my own. Its menu is extensive and there are plenty of options for meat-lovers, vegetarians or picky-eaters. I just wish I could pack the place all up and place it nearby on a small side street in Salamanca, so I can continue to eat its savoury delights for the rest of the semester, and then maybe take it back in my suitcase to Sheffield for next year. If I could have some Basque pintxos bars next door, that would also be amazing! I think we are on to something here…

We enjoyed tapas on the Saturday and on the Sunday we had combination lunch meals. My favourites were the chicken in breadcrumbs (the best I have ever tasted!) and the Beef Stew tapas pot (the meat melted in your mouth and it reminded me of my mum’s pot of Scouse Stew) and the chips on the side were crispy. Let the pictures just speak for themselves:

CDCTg44W4AERLzF

Sheep cheese, a potato thing, tuna bites, and chicken bites in the background

CDCTgNPWIAAaZch

The beef stew (with a half-eaten portion of chips – oops!), queso de oveja (Sheep cheese) and fried cod

Chicken in breadcrumbs, chips and salad combination meal

Chicken in breadcrumbs, chips and salad combination meal

For our Saturday night meal, we agreed we felt like an Italian meal. Again, looking up my trusty TripAdvisor app, I found a restaurant with some great reviews – Ristorante La Trattoria, but it was quite a trek from our hotel. Determined to eat only the best pizza in Mérida, we set off on a 25-minute walk for our dinner, okay it wasn’t that far. The food did indeed live up to its TripAdvisor ratings and I had a delicious pizza! The desserts were very generously portioned off as well…  What we appreciated the most about our find, was that we were the only non-locals in the restaurant. Everyone was Spanish and looked like they were from the area. Going a little bit out of the centre is good to get away from the tourist-traps.

So yes, Mérida is a small town but you should not be short on good food for a reasonable price. My meals in Mérida averaged as 10€ with a drink, so you don’t need to break the bank.

I was advised that as Mérida was small, there would not be much to do there. But by taking our time to soak up the sites, relax and enjoy the food, I had a fantastic weekend and it is definitely worth the stop.

Restaurant Details:

Entrecañas, C/Félix Valverde Lillo, 4, Mérida

Tapas bar

Ristorante La TrattoriaPlaza de Los Escritores 6, Mérida

Italian Restaurant

Untitled

A Weekend in Historical Mérida | Part 1

This weekend has been spent exploring Mérida in Extremadura, four hours south of Salamanca.

Mérida is home to some of the most impressive Roman ruins in Spain, which made it an excellent option for a weekend trip. As an ex-student of Latin and Classics, I was in the zone. Trying to remember how to translate Roman tombstones like five years had not past since my Latin GCSE paper.

It is true that Mérida is a small town (or is it a city?), and if you have the energy, you could see all the major sites in a day and be on your way. Personally, I prefer not to rush from tourist attraction to tourist attraction, it is tiring. Two days was enough to take it slowly, stop when we wanted, leave plenty of time to enjoy lunch and dinner and squeeze in a siesta in the afternoon.

After arriving exhausted at 6am on Saturday morning after a total of 0-hours sleep on the coach from Salamanca, we walked across the river to our hotel, where we would hopefully be allowed to sit in the 24-hour reception area for a little while. We knew our room would not be ready, but with no 24-hour cafés/McDonald’s open nearby, we didn’t have much choice.

Unfortunately our plan did not go smoothly. After a very rude welcome from the hotel receptionist, he bluntly told us he would not let us wait in the hotel reception and that we should ‘come back later.’ Explaining that no where was open for us to wait until ‘later,’ he still directed us to the door and locked it after him, throwing three guests (young girls!) into the street. Outside, in the cold and dark at 6am, with no where to go but a bench on the pavement, the thought of returning with our tails between our legs later in the day to such a horrible hotel was not going to be an option. I am too proud and I know it, but no way was that acceptable.

It is true that we had a rough start to our weekend escape, but I promise it gets much better.

The decision to cancel our booking at the hotel and find somewhere better was the best decision we could have made. Getting up the TripAdvisor app on my phone, I searched for hotels nearby and we were directed to one which looked affordable and with good reviews. Standing outside the hotel, we panicked a little because it was a 5* hotel that looked very fancy, the Hotel BlueCity Mérida Palace. Three girls that look like zombies due to zero sleep with rucksacks on their backs, at 6am? Yep, I am sure this hotel gets it a lot.

The app did confirm the room prices were in our budget, so we wandered in to check it out. It turned out they had a triple room available for us for only 40€ each and after handing over our passports to be scanned, the receptionist handed over our room keys as the room was ready, there and then. It was very difficult to not squeal with excitement at that moment, because all we wanted was a few hours sleep before we started to explore the city. We had a wonderful stay there, and it was such a relief after the horror of the hotel of doom.

Exploring Mérida

After three hours of much needed sleep, we dragged orselves out of the cosy 5* beds for a buffet breakfast. Definitely worth getting out of bed for! Soon, we were downstairs getting a map from the reception staff showing all the points of interest in Mérida. The attractions are spread across the city but as it is so small, are all easily reachable.

We decided to make our way to the Roman Theatre and Ampitheatre, stopping by the Temple of Diana on the way. It is incredible to walk through the small streets as the second you turn a corner you may stumble across some ancient ruins which look so out of place.

Temple of Diana

Temple of Diana

Temple of Diana

Temple of Diana

The next stop was the Roman Ampitheatre and Theatre. Entry to the sites in Mérida is 6€ for students to see six different sites, so that works out as 1€ if you visit them all. There is no time stamp on when you can visit so we were able to do the sites over two days no problem.

Anfiteatro Romano de Merida

Anfiteatro Romano de Merida

Anfiteatro Romano de Merida

Anfiteatro Romano de Merida

Anfiteatro Romano de Merida

Anfiteatro Romano de Merida

My favourite place was the Teatro romano. It’s amazing to sit in the seats and feel all the history in such a place. I have been to numerous other theatres on my trips around Greece and Rome but it’s amazing to visualise it in front of you.

I found out the most exciting (okay, exciting for me) thing about Mérida. Each summer, there is a Classical Theatre Festival and it is held in the Roman Theatre. Yes, this is actually a thing. (Click here to see the official website)

IMG_1120

Roman Theatre

IMG_1121

Roman Theatre

IMG_1124

Roman Theatre

As I will be in Lisbon until the end of July before I return to the UK, I am extremely tempted to extend my flight and get a return coach to Mérida (only 4 hours away) to see an Aristophanes play that is on in August. The fact that my housemate here has been twice and loved it is only making me want to go even more!

Check Part 2 for the rest of my trip to Mérida: exploring the Moorish Alcazaba, the amazing restaurants, the Acueducto de los Milagros, a creepy crypt under a church and more!

Click here for Part 2

Click here for Part 3

Would you be up for some Classical Theatre in a Roman Ampitheatre?

Hasta luego,

Untitled