American in Spain

Extremadura - 2006

August 20, 2006

We've returned from our week in Extremadura. This year was shorter (we usually go for a fortnight) and more inactive due to inclement weather. There were three days in a row of temperatures in the 60s and low 70s when normal temperatures don't drop below about 85. Plus, we went the week after the town's festival this year, so everyone else was either gone already or tired of partying. On a quick sidenote, I discovered this trip that, when it comes to bug bites, I am, without a doubt, my father's son. My Rasmussen bloodline is some kind of arthropod delicacy. Bugs suck.1

The night of our arrival, we went out into the countryside to rob "higos chumbos". According to its Wikipedia page, there are many names for it, including "prickly pear". It's a fruit that grows on a cactus.

Luckily for my parents, we brought some back for them to try during their visit next week. They are unlike any other fruit I've ever eaten. They're very sweet, but they have lots of hard seeds that you have to resist biting and swallow. CIMG2115.JPG

Ramón and Marce show the proper way to grab them very carefully with barbecue tongs.


Gorka, Marga's sister's boyfriend gives it a shot.


This plant was pretty prolific.


Marga grabs one.


On the way back to the house, we dumped them on the grass, and brushed off all the spikes.


Juan knows all the countryside tricks and made a brush out of, well, brush.

On Sunday, we went out for our usual pre-lunch drinks, "Los Cortos". This routine is the best part, and the main reason, really, of going down to Extremadura. They aren't really pre-lunch, because I never ate lunch this trip. Straight from cortos to siesta every time.


Belén barely comes up to the shoulders of her boyfriend, Gorka.


I admit that my knees are a little bent here.


Erik steals Grandpa's hat.


Can you see Belén in my sunglasses?


Like my 3€ necklace?

To cool off, we went to a local bathing reservoir called the "Piscina Natural" (Natural Swimming Pool).

Piscina Natural Panorama

Here's a panorama of the location.


Where the water enters the reservoir, it comes in really cold, and some people are brave enough to go there and stand in that water.


Two people can block the entry point of the water, let it build up, and then release a big deluge.


Like so...


Marce sits in the waterfall.

revver(50454) A video of the release. CIMG2132.JPG

The water is only a few inches deep as it flows over the rocks, but it is coooold!!!


A brave move.


Take the picture already!!!


Gorka and Belén sit in the flow, squinting into the sun.


The dam the protects us from getting really wet.


That's where the water comes in.


Just before I could take this picture, there was a lone boy with a fishing rod that gave a special Huck Finn/Norman Rockwell flavor to the whole scene. But then he ran off before I could shoot him. It's still a nice shot.


This walkway over the rocks wasn't here the first time I came here several years ago.

Later that night, we went out to dinner at a nice restaurant with Marga's aunt and uncle (Inés and Ramón), and their son, Rubén, and his girlfriend, Patricia.


Rubén and Patri shared the infamous "pajama" dessert.


Looking good with my brandy and my girl.


The shadow of this cable fascinated me. The near-vertical sun rays magnified the twists in the cable as it ran along the wall.


There's nothing wrong with being easily fascinated.


Marga and I were dressed in our checkerboard outfits.

One afternoon we took a walk and found a farmer working with his sheep and baby lambs. Grandpa Ramón knew him, so we got to tour his little farm.


Baaaaaad camera man!


Marga, from her many years as a vet in a slaughterhouse, is perfectly at home around farm animals. Especially tasty ones.


These sheep were separate and were marked "DV". I think they were set aside for milking.


The farmer told us that the "burro blanco" was as old as he is. It later came out that the donkey was about 45 years old. Even if it is a 30-year exaggeration, that's still one old white ass!


Belén took some pictures too.


Hey there, lambchop!


Don't you hate it when you're lying in bed counting sheep and you lose track of what number you're on? Problem solved!

Good Neighbors

What I love about the Spanish countryside is that you can find scenes like this. This wall could be anywhere from 2 to 300 years old. You just can't tell!

Winding Spanish Road

This freshly painted road gave a nice effect when viewed from a distance.


Gorka and Belén play on a see-saw.


Children playing in the setting sun.


Somehow we all fit our 20-something butts into this merry-go-round.

revver(50455) A dizzying video. CIMG2176.JPG

An octogenarian playing on a swing set.


The group sits on the steps of the not-yet-open albergue (lodge). This would be a truly awesome place to have a wedding, but I'm afraid it has a pretty full "con" column, so I think it's a no-go.


Grandpa tells some stories.


The sky's on fire!


Another day of cortos, with our cortos compañera, Antonia.


Is there no end to my photographic genius?


For the festivals, they string flags across the streets, often from many nations. After the flags had been taken down and the festivities over, these two historical foes remained locked in battle.


At one bar, instead of giving us the normal small snacks, we were given this entire "morcilla" sausage to eat. I love me some morcilla.

One night we went to a performance of a play called "El Alcalde de Zalamea" ("The Mayor of Zalamea") in the nearby town of Zalamea. It is a famous comedy written in the 17th century by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. It is performed several nights each year in an outdoor theater with two stages, and a big mound of dirt in the middle, complete with horses and sheep. To me, an ignorant literature layman, it seemed very similar to Shakespearian comedies.


None of the actors are professionals, they are all just people of the town that put on the play once a year. There were about 400 actors in total, about half of them children, and they did a great job of replicating a bustling 17th century marketplace in one scene, complete with a vendor chasing after a thief.


The following day, we went back to Zalamea and I got a picture of these two Roman columns, which are in their original position, that have become the symbol of Zalamea. Those are storks' nests on top of each of them.


You can see one of the stages below the columns, which were obviously here during the time the play was written.


In the ruins of an old castle, and in some of the older city streets, there was a medieval market going on.


There are a lot of storks around here.


I spotted this television antenna peaking out of a medieval castle window.


Some children were replicating medieval marketplace scenes. These cute dough girls attracted the attention of a passing young lad.


Fortunately for this kid, the phrase "cut the cheese" has no prepubescent humor value in Spanish.


This braided girl was adorable.


The town carpenter was doing what carpenters do: drill holes and stick stuff in them.

Colored Headbands

A true photographic masterpiece. Colored plastic hairbands.


The bell tower. Whaddya know, a stork's nest!

revver(50452) A woman shows how lace is made. Ever wondered? CIMG2220.JPG

The last night we went out with Marga's friends, Emi and Jose Ramón.


Something went wrong here, and my facial expression accidentally crossed the line between "cool dude with two chicks" and "creepy groper guy".

Well, that's all for this year! I hope you've enjoyed your vicarious trip to the heart of Iberia.

1Interestingly, in a mix of entomology and etymology, the term "bug" offically refers specifically to insects that suck. (thanks QI!)