If You Go to Extremadura
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 faded grandeur of the former 16th-century palace, which housed Kings Philip II and III of Spain, plus Charles V, Holy Roman emperor. Next time, I want to see to other historic Extremaduran towns, especially Caceres and Badajoz.
In Trujillo: The handsome Parador de Trujillo (fax: 927/32 13 66) was full, so I stayed above the Cafeteria Nuria on the Plaza Mayor. As was true everywhere in southern Spain, my room was immaculate and gleaming.
The price? $24.
Where to Eat: Dinner at the Meson Aljibe was one of the very best I had anywhere in Spain. The long, narrow restaurant is located on the Plaza Mayor. …