Plasencia on the banks of the Jerte River is yet another stop on our route through Extremadura where we plan to visits the bustling Plaza Mayor, the Bishop’s Palace, the Palace of the Marquesses of Mirabel, Carvajal-Girón, Las Torres, and the convent of San Vicente Ferrer.
We reached the Parador which was the former Convent of Santo Domingo, founded in the middle of the 15th Century, and built into the town walls. Getting there meant having to follow the signs carefully along the ancient commercial and pilgrim route known as the Ruta de la Plata that led us through the town to the very heart of the historical quarter. The hotel is the ideal spot from which to explore the city and the inside is luxurious with its thick stone walls, vaulted ceilings and beautiful décor.
The name “Plasencia” was given to the town by King Alfonso VIII and it means “pleasant for God and man” and it certainly is. Today it still boasts fortified watchtowers, medieval defense walls and gates including Puerta del Sol and the smaller Postigo de Santa María that were opened and closed according to the struggles between Moors and Christians.
The town also boasts one of the most historic group of buildings in the area, the Old and New Cathedral. The Old was built between the 13th and 14th centuries and includes work by such renowned figures as Diego de Siloé. The New Cathedral attracted the most sought-after architects of the time and remains more or less faithful to the original design. It was Juan de Álava who put the finishing touches to the main chapel and the architecture is stunning – I knew I wouldn’t remember it adequately with all the other images of buildings fogging up my brain, but it is a masterpiece.
We headed to the Monasterio de Yuste, where King Carlos V spent his dying days. It is a humble monastery/palace and Carlos’ bedroom was next to the church altar so that he could be as close to God as possible during his final days.
Following our tour of the monastery, we went to the shaded Plaza Mayor, which is hedged by cafés, restaurants, and where the sweet aroma of freshly brewed coffee tempted us to stay a while and do a spot of people watching. While there, some youngsters gather around a collection of neatly stacked birdcages, a priest followed by white gowned altar boys, holding a cross parade by and a shaggy white terrier barked persistently.
We returned to the Parador for our evening meal and noticed the streets were all spattered with cherry stones. Cherry picking trucks dominated the narrow streets, and fruit shop proudly displayed freshly picked cherries. The region is known for its amazing cherries it is called “La Vera” and many towns are named something “de la Vera.” The region is beautiful at any time but in Spring, it is spectacular when the cherry trees are in bloom.
As with all Parador restaurants this was no different and local dishes of the region take priority. We did forego the frogs’ legs and the sweet patatera, a type of blood sausage prepared in an unusual and mysterious manner. Instead we opted for a starter of the famous Ibérico ham and an exquisite torta del Casar cheese followed by local beef in breadcrumbs, prepared with flaked salt. A gift of truly delicious flavours for those last hours in the city.
Plasencia is an excellent starting point for exploring, so the next day we headed via the Sierra de Gata Mountains, a magical land of waterfalls and historic towns that snuggles to the north of Caceres, and close to Salamanca and Portugal.
There are so many impressive sight in this hidden region of Spain, it is really worth a visit.