This past weekend, I ventured to Extremadura with my friends Katya and Claire for a quiet weekend away from the city. When I told people where we were going, they all responded with quizzical looks, as if to say “Extremadura? But there’s nothing there!” And I would mentally respond with “Yes, exactly.” We stayed in Cáceres, Spain at an Air BNB apartment (which I HIGHLY recommend instead of hotels for your future travels). Cáceres is a beautiful town with a medieval center that lights up at night. Our apartment had a terrace that looked out over the gorgeous view of centuries-old structures. It’s amazing how old stuff is in Europe! We spent Friday night drinking wine and chatting on the terrace, lit by the full moon. It was surreal. We also bought cupcakes to enjoy that evening, but unfortunately they turned out to be bran muffins with seemingly sugarless blue frosting. That was a bit of a disappointment, but the view made up for the sweetness they lacked.
The plan was to take a train to a nearby town called Merida the next day. When you travel, getting between places can be tricky because you’re dependent on someone else’s schedule (in this case, Spanish trains). The timetable would have put us in this tiny town for 9 hours which is more than plenty. So on a whim we decided to rent a car. This significantly opened up our opportunities for the weekend. We not only went to Merida, which is full of Roman ruins and storks, we also travelled to a little hilltop town called Trujillo. There really is not much going on in this tiny place except for incredible architecture and a beautiful Plaza Mayor. We sat under heat lamps and watched the rain fall on the plaza while sipping coffee and eating homemade cookies we bought from cloistered nuns in a convent a few hours before. We all agreed that it was exactly the type of weekend we had been looking for.
Since we were only an hour away from the Portuguese border, we spontaneously decided to take a drive to a tiny town called Marvão on Sunday. The landscape on the sunny drive was perfect, sprinkled with olive trees as far as you could see, and quite a lot of horses, cows, and sheep grazing through fields. The actual border of Portugal seems to be a natural border because mountains spring up out of nowhere and separate it from Spain. Marvão is about 10km from the border, and as we approached you could see it on top of a huge hill in the distance. It looked so lonely up there. As we got closer we noticed there were a lot of police directing traffic, which seemed unnecessary for how small this place was. We soon realized that there was something special happening that day, which just so happened to be a wine and chestnut festival! For a very small amount of money, we paid the entrance and got handmade souvenir ceramic mugs which were filled (a few times) with incredible wine. We also ate roasted chestnuts, which aren’t my favorite thing but it was part of the experience. We spent the day wandering in and out of pottery shops and giggling with how awesome this place was. We also stumbled upon a fantastic band with a funky beat of bagpipes, guitar, and drums. It was the best day.
From the top of the town, the landscape is splattered with tiny pueblos and beautiful green hills. All the buildings are white with red roofs. Looking out over all this, I was overcome with this sense of happiness, and a little bittersweet realization that I wanted everyone who I love to be able to see what I was seeing in that moment. The takeaway is that sometimes life gifts you with surprises that you could never have imagined to find. Had we not rented the car, had we not visited Extremadura, I never would have experienced a Sunday afternoon in nowhere Portugal. So my message to you all is don’t forget to be spontaneous sometimes. You never know what you’ll find!