Tuesday 1 September 2015


Driving towards Spain there are plenty opportunities for distraction in the form of pit-stops in Alentejan vineyards to buy wine and olive oil

Herdade do Esporão winery in Reguengos do Monsaraz

We cross the border at Badajoz, and from there it's a hop to the walled medieval town of Caceres in Spain's Extremadura region.

Roman, Arabic, Jewish and Christian cultures have collided and left their traces here.

Looking through the Arco de la Estrella, where Ferdinand and Isabella passed through, to the Plaza Mayor

A World Heritage site, it's preserved so intact that you have the feeling you've stepped right back into the Middle Ages in this town.

It's also steeped in prosperity: built with Conquistador wealth, the proceeds of American exploration, it's filled with the solares (manor houses) of returned empire builders.

Caceres may be a little remote - there's no quick or easy access by plane or train - but it's on the map as a food destination: it's this year's Spanish Capital of Gastronomy. 

Dripping and wilting in 40 plus degree heat, we had a gastronomically unsophisticated lunch under umbrellas in the Plaza Mayor where rotating fans sprayed cool water on sweltering diners: tortilla, salad and cold beer.

A swim on the cool roof terrace of the Atrio hotel was the perfect solution in the heat.

I loved how Atrio, in complete contrast with the medieval surroundings, is contemporary and minimalistic inside its ancient stonewalled facade. The only decoration is in the form of an amazing modern art collection with the likes of Antonio Saura, Andy Warhol and Antoni Tapies.

Atrio's restaurant is drop-dead elegant and pared-down in style

 I was lucky enough to be taken on a tour of the wine cellar (which has been rated best in the world by Wine Spectator for several years running, so no slouch). Wine expert I am not, but I was mesmerised seeing the labels on every vintage of Chateau Mouton de Rothschild going back to 1945: each one painted on commission by Miro, Chagall, Braque, Picasso, Dali, Warhol, Freud, Bacon ... 

 Image source

Being off the beaten track is a definite advantage as far as I'm concerned; this place is a wee gem in Spain.

Caceres, Spain June 2015
Day 11 Iberian road trip

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