An occasional journal of the Life of Reilly

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mérida, Spain: It Falls Mainly in the Plain

Over the Sierra Norte de Sevilla we did ride, uphill for two very long days. This range is dry, and as we crawled up the steady grades there was not much more to look at than stately cork trees evenly spaced on the hillsides on either side of the road. Other than the occasional farmhouse, there was not much in the way of campgrounds, so we kept our eyes open for stealth camping opportunities. I was a bit worried most since impenetrable fences separated us from sneaking into the forest. But the mantra in my mind of "something will present itself" prevailed, and a most lovely campsite on a ridge in an abandoned olive orchard with an odd cork tree was our reward.


Sleeping among the olive trees.

Stork nests seem to be common, particularly at the top of church steeples.

Winding our way up through the cork forest.
Once we dropped down the north side of the range we were in gently rolling plains with olive trees instead of cork, reaching up the steepest of slopes into the horizon. We seemed to be in the heart of olive production. We filled our water bottles at one gas station in a tiny outpost of a town, and next to the potato chips and candy were gallon jugs of the stuff for sale. Soon after we crossed into the pork belt, with really big hogs standing guard outside little doghouse-like structures.

Weather moved in, and our final day of cycling into Mérida was like flying -- all we had to do was sit it the saddle as the wind pushed us. Mile after mile of vineyards and olive trees, with much activity as workers bladed the earth, trimmed the branches, and burned piles of debris. And with the wind came rain, and we checked our chilled and wet selves into a great hostal in the city from which we could explore the many Roman sites of Mérida. 

Below are a few of our favorite images from our day of exploring the city, umbrella in hand.

Puente Romano, the longest bridge from Roman times.  It is now dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists only, and this was how we entered the city from the west.

A few of the sixty arches supporting the bridge.
Only a small tour group explored the Amphitheatre with us in the morning rain.
Much of the Amphitheatre is constructed of concrete binding large cobbles.  Time has eroded what must have been smooth benches to a rough surface.
Adjacent to the Amphitheatre is the Roman Theatre, where performances are still staged today.
Smack in the center of town is the Temple of Diana.

Many artifacts are preserved and displayed at the wonderful Museo Nacional de Arte Romano.  It is four stories tall with natural light flooding the space with arches that mimic the Roman style.

Just two guys hanging out on what was described as a harness ornament.

There must have been a dozen mosaic floors on display throughout the museum.  This one was the largest.  The variety and level of preservation in which these floors were found astounded us.

And a bit of fun is your reward for making it to the end of this post!

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