Cáceres, Extremadura. The first thing anyone said when they heard we were going was “The meat there is amazing!” But, as the thermometer in the hirecar pushed past 45 degrees, cured pork was the last thing on my mind. In fact, all I could think about was ice. Or an ice-cold glass of beer.
Wandering round the narrow cobbled streets of the old part of the town, I was surprised by just how quiet it was. Yes, it was clearly still siesta time and the temperature was still stifling, but this was the time for a paseo. Where were the well-turned out families meandering down lanes or chattering over tapas? The main square was deserted – so empty that we managed to find a terrace table at El Requete for dinner at 9pm without a fuss. And thus the meat feast began. Succulent lomo, melt-in-the-mouth bellota, oily chorizo – it just kept coming. And coming. And coming.
It’s little wonder that Cáceres was one of the locations for Season 7 of Game of Thrones. At every turn or bend in the road, another Conquistador-era building glows burnt sienna in the late afternoon sun. It’s a photographer’s dream – vistas out over the plains as narrow alleyways stretch next to battlements as flowers in window boxes pop with colour. And not a soul in sight.
The town centre is filled with palaces and churches with a number of steep towers offering sweeping views over the ochre hills. Iglesia San Francisco’s twin towers are particularly impressive, with the creaky spiral staircase home to a glut of pigeons roosting amidst the bells. Twin staircases stretch up to the entrance, dominating the tiny square underneath. On the outskirts of the old centre sits the Jewish quarter, with little lanes zigzagging through the city gates. The jewel here is the phenomenal cistern at the Casa Veletas – a cool underground oasis in the July heat.
Other interesting sights in the centre include the bizarre La Casa Museo Yusuf, a tiny little museum house decorated like an Arab home. Stepping inside, it’s like walking into Morocco, with its Arabian decor and incredibly clean watered Aljibe. Letter from diplomats from Egypt, Morocco and Iraq give a nod to its legitimacy as a place of cultural importance.
The nightlife here picks up as we edge closer to the weekend, stumbling across the lively terrace bar at Ciruela de los Ciguenos, where a mixture of patrons chatter loudly over copas in a beautiful patio, whose walls are covered in ivy.
Not only is Cáceres an interesting place to explore with its mixture of Moorish, Jewish and Christian heritage (and a lot further from the tourist trail than the likes of Granada or Toledo), it provides a perfect base from which to venture to the Monfrague National Park, an hour’s drive away. Here, a castle sits atop towering mountains encircled by vultures. Again, no-one around as we climb to the top for spectacular views.