We leave Cáceres at midday, having climbed up the cathedral’s bell tower and down into an old aljibe, or water cistern, left here by the Arabs and drive over some hard, hard country, Extremadura explaining its name to us as we pass through it. One wonders whether anything here is ever green – at any time of year – but certainly not now in high summer.
They say Ireland is like a wet sponge clinging to a rock. I say they – it was probably me. Well, this is like a baked crust. The ground is strewn with sizeable boulders and partitioned by dry stone walls. The kind of skies you only see in big country – multiple categories of cloud wisp into the distances.
I can’t resist – I put some flamenco on, reminded here of my earliest notion of Spain, born not of my first visit but long before that, of a painting my father owned that depicted a señorita standing next to a table in some makeshift tavern, her stance that of a bailaora, the hem of her dress caked in mud and dust. The impression I had was of a people who lived without finery but not without style, and for all the talk of Spain’s homogenization, for all the “we’re all Europeans now” chatter – as if being the same was a good thing – I think I can still see it. More