Salamanca to Cáceres:
We left Salamanca to drive to a town we had missed last trip - Cáceres. Stress the first syllable and pronounce the second 'c' as a soft 'th'. Not easy to say!
Taking backroads instead of the motorways, we passed pretty countryside with scattered olive and cork trees. Sheep with an abundance of lambs in one paddock, cattle with a wealth of calves in another. Then small grey pigs in muddy paddocks, definitely free range. Ominously for the pigs, there were dozens of ham processing factories scattered throughout the countryside. Iberian ham from this region is a delicacy in Spain - it must be: the prices in the supermarkets and delicatessens are sky high.
We continued to climb, up again over 1000 metres, and entered the rain and the fog - or was it low cloud at this altitude? We left small villages even before we had noticed we were entering them. Just a house or two and some barns was often all there was. The steeper mountainsides were not cultivated and the native trees were still bare of leaves even this far into spring. Even when tiny new leaves were evident, it looked more like Autumn than spring with the new growth seeming more yellow and orange than green. In the undergrowth, last year's bracken was a deep orange-russet with the clear green of Summer yet to manifest itself.
In following the small roads we managed to actually get a bit lost. We were certainly not on any road marked on our map and the small villages in this province of Extremadura were similarly unknown by Michelin. We programmed the GPS to find us a grocery shop to buy some bread for lunch. It took us to a little berg called Lagunilla (not on our map alas) and promptly directed us into the narrowest of streets. In fact, to call them streets is a bit over the top. Overhanging balconies threatened to slice the top of the van several times and when we found the shop, it was, of course, closed for siesta. We extricated ourselves carefully from the labyrinth and suddenly saw a policeman coming out of a door with some fresh bread in a bag. An easy-to-miss faded sign said Panaderia nad the door was closed. I tried the handle and peered in. A counter, no bread on the shelves and an almighty racket coming from the back room. In that room I could see huge ovens and see the end of one of those long paddles with which bread is removed from ovens. I waited until I was seen and asked in my best Spanish, having looked in my phrase book only minutes earlier, for one French bread. Out from the back came a beautiful fresh loaf. Of course, I hadn't a clue what he said next but just held out a €5 note and waited for my change! At least I can also say thank you in Spanish.
So lunch was by the side of a mountain road with a view down the valley with an icy wind blowing. The bread was delicious.
Eventually, by just continuing generally south, we came onto a road we could find on our map. Not lost, just temporarily unsure of our location there for a while.
Next stop Cáceres.