My daughter and I continue to be enchanted by Extremadura. Tonight we’re in the Parador in Guadalupe, an even more appealing watering hole than its charming sister in Mérida. Cheek by jowl with the enormous basilica and monastery, it boasts a lovely patio-cum-orangery-cum-quadrangle and a delightful garden, alongside a large pool. And thanks to my daughter being youthful enough (at 32!) to get the young persons’ discount, none of it's as expensive as you might think. But that’s a secret I’d ask you to keep to yourself. We don’t want the riff-raff in. As it is, there was a couple on a Harley-Davidson at the place in Mérida this morning . . .
One odd thing about Extremedura is the absence of roadside brothels. Or ‘clubs’ as they’re usually signposted - in garish pink neon. I haven’t been looking for one, of course. If I had, I doubt it would’ve taken me three days to realise there aren’t any. Or none visible, anyway. I assume they do exist and that they’re just more discreet down here.
One thing the Extremeños certainly are is pleasant and helpful. Or is that two things? Anyway, I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. The hotel in Trujillo even found the card from my camera I’d left there two nights ago. And the brochures we’ve just been given in Guadalupe – in excellent English – are quite amazing. Plus, if you want them in Spanish, that’s what you get. Not Catalán, Basque or Gallego. If things continue like this, I’ll be writing testimonials for the Junta! Something must surely go awry before we head back towards Castile tomorrow. I’ve never been so positive for so long.
Which reminds me . . . If you see a sign outside a bakery in Salamanca that says “We have bread today" (Hoy hay pan), walk quickly away. It must be the worst stuff in the world, even in a decent restaurant. Happily, this is another area where Extremadura scores. I think I'm finally beginning to see why Galician bread is much prized.
Talking about Salamanca . . . There were a number of interestingly-named side chapels in the ‘new’ cathedral there. Our Lady of the Head (Cabeza) being one. And Our Lady of Desagravios being another. I think I’ve only ever seen this word on a tax form before, meaning something like non-taxable allowance. The dictionary has ‘reparation’, ‘satisfaction’, ‘compensation’ and ‘vengeance’. So, I like to look upon her as Our Lady of Just Desserts.
There are two Cathedrals side-by-side in Salamanca. If anything, the old one is even more impressive than the new one. It’s well worth the 4.50 entrance fee. As I kept telling myself after I’d realised I’d already seen it during a weekend trip a couple of months ago.
Finally . . . I can’t help noticing that none of Spain’s numerous Virgins are ugly and fat. This is in sharp contrast to the even more numerous male saints, who are invariably old and unappealing. I appreciate that only a small minority of the statues and pictures of the Virgin Mary show Jesus suckling at her bare breast but, even so, is it too far fetched to see these flattering portrayals as a form of (very) soft porn? Probably not the first time someone’s had this thought. At least not without being burned at the stake shortly after confessing it.