Home

No Way, Jose!

Hasta luego, Madrid! You'll always be in our fondest memories and we wish we could stay a little longer — especially since, after another week or so, we might have finally figured out how to adjust the lights in our hotel rooms (long story).

Today we were off to Merida — founded by Augustus, the first Roman emperor. Merida is the home to various remains of the Empire, including a temple to the goddess Diana, a forum, a gladiatorial arena and an amphitheater, just to name a few. If Merida sounds slightly familiar to you, it may be because it's mentioned as the home of Maximus in the film "Gladiator," starring Russell Crowe. Once home to 60,000 Romans, Merida was the ninth most important city of the Empire in terms of population. The arena and theatre we visited today were buried/lost under rubble until 1910 — and, to prove how great the acoustics still are in the amphitheater, one lucky traveler sang Notre Dame College's Alma Mater from center stage inside!

What's that flapping noise? And what are those giant nests for? Ah — the storks of Merida are flying overhead and nesting above. 

Our local guide, Jose, provided some rather colorful commentary on ancient Roman life in Merida — since this is a "family-rated-and-approved" sort of blog, take our word for it: Jose doesn't mince words, he adds helpful gestures and you'll never think of high heels or a public restroom in quite the same way again. (Did he REALLY just say THAT?! No way!)

Our walking tour saw us bathed in sunshine — the first day of sun for Merida in months, we were told. We then enjoyed a rather posh dinner at our hotel — a parador. The paradors of Spain are, in fact, former convents and monasteries preserved by the state and converted into boutique hotels. (We REALLY get to stay HERE?! No way!) They are a virtual labyrinth of corridors, seating salons and courtyards. We felt very VIP, and not a single vow of silence was observed — and that includes the two storks nested on the parador's roof!

Tomorrow our journey continues, and we will leave beautiful Spain for lovely Portugal. Buenas noches...