Monday, February 19, 2024

Go Around and Have Snacks

Trae Best, this one's for you.

Of course, I have been meaning to write, but I never seem to get around to it.  So, where does the time go?  I actually have some concrete answers to that.  

By the way, it is okay to ask yourself "What the hell did I do today, anyway?" but is never okay to ask anyone else what they did all day.  Especially not a mother of young children.  One day, when I was knee-deep in small children and I had forgotten to pick up Larry's shirts from the dry cleaner for the second or third day in a row, he asked me the Forbidden Question.  I answered at high volume, in length and in detail, and very nearly dumped his dinner on his head.  He only ever asked the one time.

But it's a fair question to reflect on now that my time is my own and I have next to no responsibilities.  Mostly what I do all day, in the immortal words of that woman in Rome, is Go Around and Have Snacks.  

When our family was vacationing in Rome in the summer of 2022, Ellen and her friend Nicole, who was studying there, set out to explore the Coppedè art nouveau neighborhood.  They ended up chatting with a a woman who was sitting on a doorstep enjoying a snack.  The woman sighed and said that she was "A terrible woman".  Nicole spoke enough Italian to get the story - the woman was supposed to work for her family business, but she kept avoiding work to "Go around and have snacks".  This expresses so perfectly my own preferred way of spending time.  

And I am so good at it!  I can leave the house to buy garbage bags and end up staying out for six or seven hours.  Once I leave the house, I so rarely want to come back, despite the many projects that are waiting for me here.  

A factor that definitely contributes to my inefficiency is my habit of sleeping in and wallowing around in bed reading novels until around 11 a.m.  It's always noon by the time I get up, have coffee, and get dressed.  I am aware that the world is full of early-rising go-getters, but I don't really understand why you would get out of bed unless you had to go to a job or drive kids around.  I mean, look at the view out of the guest room where I have established my boudoir - why would I get up?

A side note to all my female readers who are still sharing the marital bed despite the fact that there are several empty bedrooms in your house - why would you do that?  I love having my own space.  I can listen to my audiobook without headphones, leave the light on as late as I want, drink my bourbon in peace.  And a boudoir is part of a long tradition.  Ladies, claim your own space!  Sulk in peace!

On the day after Amy graduated from high school four or five years ago, I burned the St. Francis block schedule and celebrated the fact that most days I no longer had a reason to get up early.  I thoroughly enjoy staying up late reading with a glass of bourbon, sleeping in, and hanging about in my pajamas.  I thought I would eventually tire of my indolent lifestyle, but it still appeals.  

Here's a typical day for me.  A few Saturdays ago, I realized that we were out of Donna's frozen tamales, a staple food source.  They are sold at the Los Altos Farmer's Market, but that is closed for the winter, so I hauled myself out of bed to get to the Sunnyvale Farmer's Market by noon.  I acquired two dozen tamales and then went to a coffee house on Murphy Street.  (Tamales - the breakfast of champions.)

At the café I had an egg sandwich and read a novel for a while, and then drove over to the Sunnyvale Library Used Book Sale.  I love a used book sale.  I regularly attend the book sales in Sunnyvale, Los Altos, and Palo Alto which is why my house is absolutely stuffed to the brim with books.  I just can't help myself when I see a book that was originally $25 on sale for $1.  Here was my haul on that day.

The Windex is a part of the whole experience - I always clean the books as well as I can before shelving them.  This stack represents some of my interests - mystery novels, acrylic painting, comparative religion, crochet, books in Spanish (ese Dan Brown es in Español), gothic English novels, and apocalyptic science fiction.

Here is my stack from the more recent Los Altos library used book sale, featuring some of my other interests - travel memoirs, fairy tales, and pioneer stories.

Back to the Sunnyvale library - After snagging my cheap books, I of course had to check out Nonfiction Section 746 - Textile Arts.  I like to scan and print out instructions for projects I might one day do, since I only have about 200 projects ongoing right now.  Here is my current stack of potential photocopied projects, and my stack of used library books about crochet.  So many great ideas!!

On leaving the library, I texted Larry that I would stop by Safeway and get something to make for dinner.  But first I took a nice library parking lot nap in the gentle rain.  Despite sleeping plenty at night, I still love to take a good car nap.  I keep a bunch of sweatshirts in my car to use as pillows.  I keep a bunch of everything in my car.  Once during a wildfire season, I read an article about keeping a "go bag" with essentials handy.  Then I realized that my car is one big go bag.  The Subaru is full of snacks and water, a gym bag with toiletries in case a miracle occurs and I decide to do something at the Elks Club besides drinking Manhattans, blankets, sweatshirts, a first-aid kit, novels, a sewing kit, flashlights, umbrellas, a change of clothes, shoes, etc etc.  I just need to grab my passport and get in my car!

I don't remember what I made for dinner that night, but it was probably a casserole involving ground turkey, which is just about all I cook, besides soup.  Here I am with a pot of soup from a recipe provided by my 15-year-old Christian home-schooled Spanish classmate, Elise.

Another ongoing time-suck for me is Sudoku.  I love it, but it takes me forever.  After years I am finally pretty good at regular Sudoku, so I have moved on to Hexadoku.  One Hexadoku grid can keep me occupied for months.  I finally finished this Expert level Hexadoku on February 6 in my car after Spanish, after starting it on December 16.  I carry a puzzle around in my handbag and work on it sporadically.  This is the first Expert level grid I have ever finished.  My three previous attempts ended up shredded in frustration.  Am I challenging my brain, or just proving my stubbornness?  Who can say.

I am still taking my Spanish classes at West Valley Community College in Saratoga, so that's two days a week I am out of the house from noon until at least 6 p.m.   After class I walk around campus, or eat a burrito in the student café, or take a nap in my car, or go to Goodwill, or pick up craft supplies at FabMo, or read in the library, or buy groceries in a store other than the Los Altos Safeway.

The Los Altos Safeway is another reason I'm never home.  I refuse to stock up on groceries because every day I live in hope that maybe I won't have to make dinner.  So almost every day I am in the Los Altos Safeway, wandering around and muttering to myself.  If you showed me a lineup of sixty people and asked which twenty worked at my Safeway, I would nail it.  My favorite is the über-efficient girl-boss manager with the ball cap, dark hair, and great-fitting jeans with a carabiner full of keys.  You know who I'm talking about if you've ever f*&ed up the self-check.  A close second is Chris, the African-American woman who is OVER IT.  And in third, probably the short peroxide-blonde Russian who is always in a temper.

I take a basket weaving class on Friday mornings, so that's a whole day gone.  After class at the Palo Alto Art Center I hang out for a while with Charlene, the excellent instructor.  Then I go either to the Palo Alto Town and Country center for a Kirk's Steakburger and an hour or so in Books Inc, or to the Stanford Shopping Center to enjoy a cheesy item from The Melt and walk around and look at the flowers.  I don't need any clothes, but I like to stop by the Anthropologie Clearance Room, because although the brick and mortar store doesn't stock sizes for the plump, people return larger sized mail-order items that end up in Clearance.  It's a treasure hunt through a thin person's crammed, insane closet for the two or three things in a size 16.  All right, a size 18, if we're being honest here.

I haven't talked that much about the Having Snacks part of Going Around, but trust me, many snacks are involved, which probably accounts for the size 18.  I have my favorite spots - Chaat House, Five Guys, Panda Express, Popeye's, the Safeway deli counter, Taco Bell, that taqueria next to the Goodwill, State of Mind Slice House, Happy Donuts, Posh Bagel, you get the idea.  And I always have a bag full of Trader Joe's snacks in my car, of course.

So why do I feel vaguely guilty the whole time I am going around and having snacks?  It's the UFOs.  That's right, the Unfinished Objects crying out "Finish Me!" from all corners of my home.

I love to plan a project, buy all the materials for it, do about twenty percent of it, and then go out and get materials for another nine or ten projects.  My daughter Susan tells me I probably have attention deficit Oh hey!  There's that book I was looking for last week!

One of my favorite projects is finding an old handbag at Goodwill and fixing it up.  I wash the bag, replace the lining, add an interior pocket and key fob, change the shoulder straps to small handles, and add a cross-body strap.  Here are my completed bags.

But of course, my imagination far outstrips the time I have available, considering my proclivity for staying out all day, so here are some of the bags *waiting* to be altered.

There are also many crochet projects lying around.  I have given up the idea of knitting entirely.  Knitting requires precision and patience, so that's a hard no.  However - crochet is very forgiving and goes together pretty quickly.  And there is so much yarn available at resale stores!  I have very much yarn and have started projects including slippers, a beanie, a few tote bags, and an afghan.  I have also made a bunch of granny squares but am unsure what to do with them.

Sometimes, at Goodwill, there will be a child's weaving loom for sale, and I cannot resist.  I have yet to figure out what to do with any of them, but I ask you, what crafter could pass these by?

Basket making is a relatively new craft for me.  I have finished some baskets, including these tiny useless baskets.

Pero, por supuesto, there are many partially finished baskets lurking in corners.

Like every crafter since the dawn of time, I have a stash of fabric, which is currently stored under all the beds upstairs.  Sometimes I actually sew something, such as this housedress for my Mom made from chicken-printed fabric I found at FabMo.

And hey!  Today I finished something!  I took a class in bag-making at Needles Studio in downtown Los Altos.  The instructor was very patient and would periodically say, "Katherine, what exactly are you doing?" and I would say "Something wrong?" and she would point me down the right path.  So unlike my usual Wild West sewing which involves a lot of seam ripping, I did not have to rip out a single seam today!! And look what I made!

Larry and I are also still taking date-night art classes on Thursday nights at the Palo Alto Art Center.  I really like my last two paintings of apples and radishes, in which I am finally exploring the color wheel, after winging it for years.  Like all my paintings, they are slapped up on the walls of our home with masking tape.

And finally, I have a dream about writing a history of the Dousman family of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.  I have taken many field trips to Wisconsin, collected all this material (and read about half of it so far), made copious notes, and.... maybe someday I'll stay home long enough to start my magnum opus!!! 

But I do so love to go around and have snacks.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Extremadura - the Hot, Odd Part of Spain

The Christmas holiday season of family travel is over and it is cold outside (for California) so I am finally going to sit here with my bourbon and reminisce about our hot, odd week in Extremadura, Spain last summer.

We stayed in Cáceres in a great AirBNB right on the Plaza Mayor.  The above photo of Susan, Ellen, and Amy sitting on the S in the Cáceres sign was taken from the window of our apartment.  

AirBNB is very useful for travel in foreign countries, as the messages to and from the host are automatically translated.  I had exchanged several messages with our host, Agustin, who we arranged to meet at the Cáceres sign on the Plaza.  When we met her in person it became clear that she spoke no English at all.  In fact, almost no one in Cáceres, including the staff at the visitor center, spoke any English at all.

Agustin nattered away as she led us to the elevator in the back of a building on the big pedestrian plaza which housed a restaurant on the ground floor.  The apartment was furnished in an eclectic, almost schizophrenic mix of old and new and I loved it immediately, from the ancient tiles to the enormous stainless steel cricket.

Agustin showed us around the apartment and then asked "¿Conocen el programa Juego de Tronos?"  The children (who have all had several years of Spanish) and I conferred and came up with Game of Thrones.  "Si, si" we said.  "Esta actriz quedaba aquí por dos meses durante grabando" she said and then held up a picture of Emilia Clarke on her phone.

None of us had actually watched very much Game of Thrones, but we all knew who Emilia Clarke was.  Agustin explained that because the old walled part of Cáceres (a UNESCO World Heritage site) had not changed since the 12th century, it was used to film the last season of the show.  So every time we sat on the sofa, or made a cup of tea in the kitchen, or took a bath, we would think to ourselves, "I bet Emilia Clarke did this".  It added an extra soupçon of delight to our stay.

We set out to find dinner and ended up on a cute street at the end of the plaza.  I know from the time stamp on my iPhone that we started dinner at 10 pm - and it was still light outside!  It was also still about 100 degrees.

Larry and I had watched a few videos about Extremadura and he was excited to try the local specialty cheese - Torta del Casar, a soft sheep's milk cheese in a washed rind which uses wild thistle stamens as rennet.  What you couldn't tell from the videos was that Torta del Casar smells like old socks.  I can't tell you what it tastes like because only Larry would eat it.  And he ate it at every meal.

After dinner we wandered over to the old town inside the fortress.  Larry took this cool photo looking down on the plaza from the arched entrance to the old town - our apartment building was directly across the plaza.

Extremadura is not a popular region for tourists who live outside of Spain.  So how did we end up there?  During quarantine, I read several aspirational tourist guides and was intrigued to learn that the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico is the SECOND Virgin of Guadalupe.  The OG Virgin of Guadalupe is a wooden statue venerated in a monastery in the tiny pilgrimage town of Guadalupe, Extremadura, Spain, about an hour and a half drive from Cáceres.  So you KNOW I had to go to there.

I give you the backstory of the Spanish Virgin of Guadalupe.  Firstly, here is what she looks like without her fancy dress.  She is about 18 inches tall.

According to legend, the statue was carved in the 1st century by Luke the Evangelist and was buried with him.  Somehow it made its way to Rome and was in the private chapel of Pope Gregory the Great (540 - 604 CE) in Rome.  The Virgin performed her first great miracle there. There was a terrible plague raging, and Pope Gregory had the statue paraded through the streets where people prayed with fervor.  Suddenly, a heavenly choir was heard singing "Rejoice, Queen of Heaven, rejoice.  Here the one you deserved to concieve and give birth to is now resurrected as he said." And as if that wasn't cool enough, an angel appeared above the Castel Sant'Angelo, cleaning blood from his sword.  And the plague ceased!  Thank you, BVM.

During Pope Gregory's reign, the Catholic Church was still fighting the heresy of Arianism.  

Arianism: an influential heresy denying the divinity of Christ, originating with the Alexandrian priest Arius (250 - 336 CE).  Arianism maintained that the Son of God was created by the Father and was therefore neither coeternal nor consubstantial with the Father.

Leander (534 - 600 CE), the bishop of Seville, was instrumental in getting the Visigoth kings to reject Arianism.  He mostly did it by meeting privately with Princess Ingunthis, a non-Arian Catholic who was married to Hermegild, the heretic son of the heretic King Liuvigild.  Leander and Ingunthis met every day to "pray" and eventually Ingunthis convinced her husband to reject Arianism.  She convinced him so hard that he went to war with his father over it, lost, and was martyred.  Oops. Bishop Leander did not give up, though! He waited until Liuvigild died and then converted Hermegild's brother, the new King Reccared.

Pope Gregory was so impressed by this that he sent his lucky Virgin statue to Leander.  During the voyage, a terrible storm blew up.  The crew brought the Virgin on deck and prayed to her fervently, and the storm stopped! Bishop Leander was very pleased to have the Virgin and she was placed in the cathedral and everyone loved her.

But!  In the year 711, the Arab invasion forced the Catholic clergy to flee Seville and the priests buried the Virgin next to the Guadalupe River, where she remained for five hundred years.  Legend says that in 1326 the humble shepherd Gil Cordero, a resident of the city of Cáceres, had lost a cow, so he went to the forest to look for it. When he finally found her, the cow was dead.

When Don Gil took out his knife to skin the cow, suddenly, the cow came back to life and simultaneously a woman appeared and said:
“Do not fear, for I am the Mother of God. Go and tell the priests what you have seen, my wish is that they come here and dig right where your cow rested, they will find an image of me and for it they will build a chapel that will become a great church."

When Don Gil told the priests about his vision, they did not believe him. That same day Gil Cordero's son died, and when the priests came to bury him the young man was resurrected and said that a woman had helped him get up. Then the priests believed Don Gil, exhumed the statue of the Virgin from beneath where the dead and now living cow had lain, and built a church for it.  The Virgin, not the cow.

The Royal Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe was built in 1340 by Alfonso XI of Castile. Since the beginning of this church, the wooden statue of the virgin has been almost completely dressed in rich vestments, showing only the hands and faces of the mother and child. Pilgrims seeking an answer to a prayer or in thanksgiving for a prayer donated numerous expensive robes stitched with gold and precious stones to the monastery.  The monastery now has so many beautiful doll dresses for the Virgin that they are stored in two large rooms full of cabinets.  There are also many gold and silver gifts from royalty.

I knew I had to get out to Guadalupe but we didn't want to rent a car, so I contacted a tour guide named David who I found on the internet.  He pulled up to the bus stop outside the plaza in a white van with two other pilgrims already ensconced inside.  In the front seat was Teresa, a garrulous woman in her eighties.  Her surly daughter Linda was in the backseat, and she was NOT happy to see us.  We got the feeling that she was only barely tolerating this trip to appease her mother, and she certainly did want to share the van with a bunch of loud Americans.  Okay, one loud American and the four other members of my family.  We had to work based on feelings because none of the three people in the van spoke English.

I f*&@ing love to talk to tour guides, and a small thing like a language barrier is not enough to stop me.  We made nonsensical conversation all the way to Guadalupe.  

We drove through mile after mile of grasslands punctuated with widely spaced cultivated oak trees, which David explained are called "los dehesas" and are the habitat of the black pigs which produce the Iberian ham.  I looked it up later which is how I know what he was saying.  The trees are pruned to have wide, low canopies which produce shade for the pigs while they gorge on the acorns.  Apparently the soil is so poor in Extremadura that all they can do with it is cultivate oak trees which may be why there is so much Iberian ham.

When we reached the outskirts of Guadalupe, David made us all get out of the van to take pictures.  

The OG Guadalupe shrine and its pilgrims had none of the joy and exuberance of the Guadalupe shrine in Mexico City.  There were no vendors outside selling tamales and Virgin merch, no music, no little girls who had brought their dolls to see the Virgin, no bouquets of flowers casually tossed by the altar.  The Guadalupe shrine in Spain is SERIOUS BUSINESS.  

The monastery is still occupied by Franciscan monks, but they weren't the fun kind of homespun tunic-wearing barefoot bird-loving monks.  They were fully clothed in many starched robes and ready to keep you in line.  And they really seemed to believe that the small wooden doll was imbued with magical holiness and was also kind of a judgy bitch.  There were no fun audio headsets and no individual touring and no one spoke English.  You had to follow your no-fun monk around and listen attentively and NOT TAKE PHOTOS.

Okay, so I took a few sneaky photos until I got caught and lectured to in frosty Spanish by our monk.  There was a whole room of beautifully illustrated medieval choir books.

There were rooms full of large gold and silver things.

I enjoy that in this one you can see an extra crown for the Virgin and also a sign that says "No Fotos".

After thirty minutes of being led through room after room of treasures, we were finally ushered into the presence of the magic doll.  And then things got really weird.  The statue is on a turntable that is usually turned to face the public chapel, but if you take the tour they revolve her into a small room where you are allowed to - and I am not making this up -  individually approach and touch a medallion that is connected by a string tied to the statue that is held reverentially by the monk while he says a prayer.  Like the holiness is transferred down the string to the medallion.   Okaaaaay.

After we finished the tour we went around to the chapel to see the Virgin from the other side of the turntable.

Here is a zoomed in view of the Virgin from the chapel.

There were many paintings and plaques about famous people who have visited the monastery.  Christopher Columbus was there four times.  He went there to pray three times before his first voyage.  In fact, he traveled with a copy of the Virgin statue and named a group of the islands he encountered in 1493 Guadalupe. (Now French Guadeloupe). Not that he asked the Caribs living there whether they wanted a new name for the islands.  Columbus traveled to the monastery again in 1496 after his second voyage.  He brought with him two Indians who he baptized Cristóbal and Pedro, not that he asked them what names they preferred.  They were baptized using the baptismal font that is still in front of the monastery, which you can see behind our sweaty family.  

Here is a painting of the baptism, with Ellen showing how the whole affair made us feel.

There was not nearly enough Virgin merch, but I was able to purchase a small glow-in-the-dark replica of the statue, which now lives in my downstairs bathroom with her glow-in-the-dark friends the big Virgin (purchased in a flea market in Half Moon Bay), St. Joseph (purchased in the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion Wisconsin), and baby Jesus (purchased outside the Vatican in Rome).

We shook off the icky feelings engendered by the serious monks and the colonialism and went to wander around the charming town and get lunch.  Here is Larry's opinion on being served the smallest beer he was ever served in Spain.

I actually remember this lunch quite fondly, as I was served something approximating a green salad with no ham and only a little cheese in it.  After lunch we piled back in the van and David drove us to another beautiful old town, Trujillo.  

David really liked Trujillo.  First we parked in the plaza and he talked for a while.

Then, over the voluble complaining of Teresa and Linda, he drove to the top of the town and parked at the castle for a walking tour in the scorching heat.  After a few minutes, Teresa and Linda gave up and sat down by the castle walls.  We said we could skip the walking tour, but David was having none of that.  He left the ladies there and marched us around for a while, nattering on in incomprehensible Spanish.

There are storks' nests all over Extremadura, but the top of the town in Trujillo was the best stork-watching spot we visited.

Most of the alleys in the old towns in Extremadura look like this.  It was easy to imagine how it looked in the 1200s because it hasn't changed much.  Although it probably smells a lot better.

We made our sweaty way back to the car and loaded in with our very annoyed compatriots Teresa and Linda who had been left sitting outside for an hour.

After a tense drive back to Cáceres we enjoyed a siesta in our apartment and a nice dinner in the restaurant downstairs.  That night the plaza was packed with students until dawn.  I know it was until dawn, because my bed was right next to the window and they kept waking me up, running around and shrieking.  We assumed it was either graduation or prom night since they were all dressed up and kept taking pictures of each other.

As we watched the student show from our windows, we noticed that all the young men had the same haircut.  My children informed me that it is a haircut called The Edgar.  The Edgar is kind of a bowl cut on top with a fade on the sides and back.  If the hair is curly, it becomes a Fluffy Edgar.  

It is not an attractive haircut on everyone, but that mattered not to the trendy youth of Cáceres.

There was one other place in Extremadura that Larry and I were both very keen to visit - the Yuste Monastery.  I wanted to visit it because my guidebooks described it as an especially beautiful place, and Larry wanted to visit it because James Michener talked about it a lot in the book Iberia.  We had arranged with David to drive us there and luckily there was no one else in the van when he picked us up.  

I got to sit up front and thus was able to attempt conversation with David for several hours.  David was incredibly sexist and would really, really have preferred to speak to Larry, but Larry has no Spanish at all.  So David was forced to talk to me.  He would ask me a question, and I would attempt to answer.  Then David would correct my Spanish.  And then he would tell me why I was wrong.  And then he would appeal over his shoulder to Larry to agree with him.  It was extremely farcical.  We covered local foods, American football, climate change, women's rights, vegetarianism, Generalissimo Franco, and many other topics.  I kept thinking "I am paying this man to insult me, but it sure beats Larry trying to drive in a foreign country."

After an hour or so of driving through more oak trees, we climbed up a mountain road to the verdant monastery grounds.  El Monasterio de San Jerónimo de Yuste is mostly famous as the place where the Holy Roman Emperor Carlos V went to live out his retirement after he abdicated the throne in 1556.  
Carlos V is also the name of a Mexican candy bar, because he was the person who introduced chocolate to the courts of Europe.

We very much enjoyed our tour of the monastery, both because of the history and beauty of the spot, but mostly because there were audio tours in English with individual headsets.  So we all wandered around at our leisure.  There were many lush cloisters.

There was an ornate chapel, which had an opening in the upper wall to Carlos V's bedroom so he could hear Mass without getting out of bed.

There were many fine reliquaries containing pieces of Saints.

Before retiring to the monastery, Carlos V had a whole lovely suite of apartments built for himself.  He abdicated mostly because of his terrible gout, and he had a special chair in his apartment where he spent most of his time.

Sadly, he only had two years at his beautiful retreat before he died, not from complications of gout, but from - get this - malaria.  We were out on the balcony looking at the ornamental pond when we heard this fact, and I was like, why is there still a pond here?

David, who had declined to join us on the tour and had instead played games on his phone in the van, loaded us in and took us to the 11th century town of Plasencia for lunch.  We passed through the famous pimentón fields of la Vera where they grow pepper plants, smoke them over oak fires for weeks, grind them with stone, and produce the famous Spanish smoked paprika.

We enjoyed a lunch on the Plaza Mayor, including some jamón bellota de iberica (natch).

Plasencia is mostly famous for having two cathedrals.  Here is Larry in front of the new cathedral.  It was siesta time so we couldn't get into the cathedral, and about 104 degrees, so we were the only foolish people wandering around the town.

Here we all are in front of the old cathedral.

I stopped at one of the few open businesses to buy some apricots and became separated from the group and took this selfie.  I thought I might explode from heat before seeing anyone alive ever again.

But I found them!  We see here the amusing sight of David talking to Larry despite them having no common language BUT crucially both possessing man parts.

David insulted me some more on the drive back to Cáceres and then we said a fond goodbye to him, because above all he was entertaining company and a decent driver.  He works for Nattivus tours if you're ever in Extremadura.

It was so hot that afternoon that the plaza outside our apartment was completely deserted until about 10 pm.  We finally ventured out and had some pizzas at 11 pm.

The next day we dedicated to exploring old town Cáceres inside the walls.  It is so sturdily built that no one has tried to mess with it since about 1200.  There was a very good museum with artifacts from the Roman, Moorish, and Christian times.  It was fun to tour it with Amy, our classics scholar, who provided many fun facts to go with the displays.

Amy and I wandered around the old alleyways for a while with no idea where we were going, but we found a little tucked-away cafe for lunch where we got some vegetable dishes (probably).

While we were eating, I received this nice photo from Susan.  She and Ellen had wandered over to the new part of town to a park and had a nice girlie lunch.

Amy and I hung out in the cathedral in the old town for awhile.  Outside the cathedral is a statue of San Pedro de Alcantara whose feet you are supposed to rub for luck.  Look how shiny his feet are!

There were two pretty good Virgin statues in the cathedral - one sad Mary, and one Mary being assumed up to heaven, jetting power from her hands.

We then met up with the family at a quirky little house museum run by one Muslim dude who wanted to preserve a house from the Moorish era of Spain.  There were several rooms full of random Moorish stuff with handmade index cards and a very nice outdoor tea patio.

We had planned to go to the town of Mérida the next day to visit the Roman ruins there, but the train left very early and the weather forecast was for a midday temperature of 108 degrees in Mérida.  We did not go to Mérida.  Larry and I got up early for us (10 am) and went to Mass in the Cathedral.  There was a statue of Larry's name saint, Saint Lawrence, who, as always, is holding a grill like the one he was roasted on.

Ellen researched and found us a public pool a short bus ride from our apartment.  Everyone else swam while I guarded the phones and wallets and had a couple four-five gin tonics.

For our last night in Cáceres, we went to a restaurant that we had seen in a twenty-minute YouTube video about Cáceres posted by Primemutton.  Here is the link if you'd like to watch it yourself!

Larry ordered many weird foods and the rest of us tried to find the foods with the least animal content.  After dinner we had a final gelato from the place at the end of the plaza.

We said goodnight to the plaster duck outside the restaurant on the ground floor of our apartment and readied ourselves to take the train to Madrid the next day.