Caceres Christmas; food and door hardware

Hi friends and family,

Christmas in Caceres; everything appeared closed. Our hotel did not know if even the churches would be open - "Perhaps." And the day was overcast, a definite drop in temperature, to about freezing. I told Don we might have to be on an enforced diet that day (which wouldn't hurt us a bit, I know), since we had eaten all available snacks the evening before.

We got in the car for sightseeing in the direction of Merida, a town with a few Roman ruins still recognizable. This area of Spain had been settled by the Romans pretty extensively. Passed a lot of bulls in acorn tree-studded pastures, which we commented upon. This is not a sight commonly seen in the US. We are used to seeing lots of cows and an occasional bull. This mystery and the lack of pig sightings was cleared up for us by Mel Ramos:

Your trip to Spain sounds very familiar. The area between Avila and Salamanca has many many oak trees that drop acorns. These ranchos raise Toros Bravos (fighting bulls) and as the tale goes the bulls eat the acorns and it gives them a bad case of gas making them fart a lot. This is what makes them so pissed off. The reason you don't see pigs grazing is because they are all raised in granjas, (indoor pens) along with chickens, and rabbits. Cows and sheep graze outdoors.

Spotted this ruin of an aqueduct on the outskirts of Merida, also a convenient stork roost.

Rather annoying, but the old Roman ampitheater and a neighboring temple were enclosed by barbed wire and a wall of hedges, which was closed on Xmas day. We snuck some photos through a gap in the hedge, but they have been deleted from this email for lack of space.

Hey, there is a parador in Merida. They have customers staying with them; they might serve food.

To the Parador, Merida.

Not fasting after all. Our Christmas dinner. We burst into the dining room as soon as it opened, which was 2:00 pm.

Trying to decipher the Spanish menu. The parador was serving a special Menu Almuerzo Navidad 2010 (Special Christmas Dinner). The martini glass holds a very creamy foie gras; you also see croquetitas de perdiz (croquettes made of quail - I think) and Lascas de Lomo Iberico (some type of Iberian ham).

Era staring down a prawn (Ensalada de Langostinos al Vinagre balsamico).

Future Doctor - some things are the same the world over; a kid doing his best to amuse himself.

Don doesn't seem to be able to direct Era's gaze towards the camera. Apparently she is fascinated with her food.

Our main course: Don had the Navidad dinner menu entree: Cochinillo Asado acompanado de patatitas salteadas. It had been described to us as pork so tender that it could be cut with a fork and would melt in your mouth. It was delicious and incredibly tender. We found out afterwards that this is because it is from a little baby suckling pig which hasn't had time to develop any muscles. We saw one later in a Segovian restaurant window, lying small and uncooked with a smile on its face, looking adorable, as if it were happily sleeping on a bed of crushed ice. Someone at this same restaurant in Segovia ordered it at a neighboring table and they brought it to them, roasted with crispy skin and quartered it with the edge of a dinner plate - with a disconcerting crunching sound - which is the traditional way it's done, to show how tender it is. Fortunately, for us, we had no idea this is what we were eating, and so totally enjoyed it.

I was already a little overdosed on pork, so asked for fish and received some lovely sea bass on a sort of tapenade of eggplant, peppers, onions.

Our waitress, showing us the Cava (Spanish champagne) we are about to have with our dessert. We also quaffed a Chardonnay de Torres - D.O. Penedes and a delicious Vino Tinto Muriel D.O. Calificada Reserva 2004. Not sure what type of red wine this was, but it was so good we looked for it in different wine stores afterwards and could not find it. The cava was Cava "Juve Camps" Reserva Cinta Purpura. Those little wrapped goodies on the plate are great little Spanish cookies and candies. We are bringing some back to the Magnolia crew. They also served us a sort of cheesecake with apricot inside and fresh fruit.

And now some hardware shots for the men. We, especially Don, became obsessed with the beautiful door hardware and studs.

Our after dinner stroll, we took in the Temple of Diana, which once stood at the crossroads of 2 major Roman roads. This was right on a small central street in Merida. It seems that they are building a museum to surround it.

More Temple of Diana.

Roman bridge, street lights have been added since. And that was our Christmas, folks. Our daughter, Marisha, says that her white Christmas is mostly white concrete and plaster dust covering all the surfaces of our house. She was able to escape for a Christmas Eve feast with her Farnsworth grandparents and some other family, and a Christmas day feast with Squeak Carnwath and Gary Knecht. Thank you, kind hosts, that relieves some of our guilt and makes us feel a little less like bad, bad parents.


Era and Don