Reading Up: There are numerous books on the conquistadors, but I especially enjoyed the poetic, vivid, occasionally horrifying "Memory of Fire: I. Genesis," the first book of a trilogy by a Latin American, Eduardo Galeano. A Pantheon paperback.
Where to Stay:
Merida: There is a parador here (The Via de la Plata; fax: 924/31 92 08), one of the excellent state-run inns often housed in restored convents or castles. I stayed at the Hotel Emperatriz because it was on the main square and within easy walking distance of most of the Roman monuments (fax: 924/30 03 76).
The staff here was the only surly one I encountered in three weeks in Spain. But I enjoyed the …