Caceres, Spain

Stop #8:

Caceres was a highlight for me.  I immediately fell in love with all the old buildings in the square…well after a little mishap.

OK, I’m not always the best navigator, but this was the worst I’ve ever done.  Especially when my offline map on Google Maps switched to pedestrian maps instead of driving maps with no advance warning.  I should have known something was wrong when we were driving down the narrowest street I’ve ever seen.  I cautiously said, “Google is telling us to go left…err, go straight, no make a right…now a quick left…”.  Then Randy said, “are you sure we are supposed to be driving on this street?”  That is when we arrived at the highlight of Caceres…the Plaza Mayor…for pedestrians only.  It was so beautiful, but cars were NOT ALLOWED anywhere near here!!!  Oh god, we had to do a U-turn on a street the size of a postage stamp.  Then there were signs I didn’t see the first time we went down this little alleyway … all in Spanish telling us that cameras were monitoring our every move and that we can’t drive anywhere near here because this is for pedestrians only!!! Oh God, I swear I just followed the damned navigation software.  Can’t Google get their algorithms correct?

After getting out of that hairy situation, we arrived at the parking garage near the hotel and walked to the hotel.  I started breathing again a half hour later.

I couldn’t believe how old this place looked.  And I don’t mean 1600s old like I’m used to seeing in the American historical cities around Boston, but really old because Caceres was founded by the Romans in 25 BC!!!  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the blend of Roman, Moorish, Gothic and Italian Renaissance architecture.  The pictures speak for themselves…the town is amazingly beautiful!

We stayed in Plaza Mayor, yes the square that inaugurated our visit. Just beyond Plaza Mayor was one of the best-preserved medieval neighborhoods in Spain…the Ciudad Monumental (monumental city or old town, also called the casco antiguo or Cáceres Viejo).  When people tell you to visit in the off-season, they mean it.  You have the place to yourself.  If you are looking to meet a lot of locals, you’ll want to visit somewhere else.  But if you want to see one of the most stunning cities in Spain and not have a lot of people in loud colored clothing ruining your photos, this timing is ideal.

Finally, there is that pronunciation issue with this town’s name (Kuh-THE-Rus)…makes me a little self-conscious to say it this way, so I just say Kuh-Sa-Rus.

Highlights of Caceres:

  • The Museo de Cáceres is located in Casa de las Veletas (House of the Weather Vanes), a 12th-century Moorish mansion that is now used as the city’s museum. This was a perfect place when it started drizzling outside.  We saw archaeological ehibits from the Paleolithic through the Visigothic periods, contemporary art (which isn’t my favorite), and a famous El Greco. The museum even had a Moorish cistern— the aljibe.
  • The only palace open to the public is the Palacio de Carvajal.  There isn’t that much to see, but it is representative of other palaces with arched doorways, a tower, and the interior has been restored with 16th century furnishings.
  • Santa María de Gracia Cathedral is a Gothic church built the 16th century.  We climbed the tower for great city views.  I also stitched together a panorama of the city with multiple shots and really liked the final product.
  • San Francisco Javier Church is an 18th century Baroque church which offered us another chance to climb the tower for great views of the city (and storks!).

Anyone curious about the story of the hoods an masks in some of the photos should read about Holy Week in Caceres…  The participants disguise themselves with a penitential robe or tunic and a hood with conical tip. The robes were used in the medieval period for penitents, who could demonstrate their penance while still masking their identity.

Thanks to Fodor’s Travel Guides, Trip Advisor, and Wikipedia for the great lessons that helped me to plan and summarize this trip.

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