It was as hot as it generally gets in the town of Mérida that august of 1972. It was on this old capital of the Romans- Lusitania province- that we spent some time and met some of my family having reached the nearest point to the Portuguese border we would get to, on the Interrail stretch.
Mérida is an interesting place: founded in 25 BC by order of Emperor Augustus it preserves to our time the longest remaining bridge from the Roman times, the one over the Guadiana River. Some of its remaining monuments are the amphitheater, triumph arch and theatre.
“In 713 it was conquered by the Muslim army under Musa bin Nusair, and became the capital of the Cora of Mérida; the Arabs re-used most of the old Roman buildings and expanded some, such as the Alcazaba.The city returned to Christian rule in 1230, when it was conquered by Alfonso IX of Léon and subsequently became the seat of the priory of San Marcos de León of the Order of Santiago. A period of recovery started for Mérida after the unification of the crowns of Aragon and Castile (15th century), thanks to the support of Alonso Cardenas, Grand Master of the Order. In 1720 the city became the capital of the Intendencia of Mérida.” Wikipedia.
It was sitting on the seats of the ancient theatre that we chose to immortalize our family gathering in the Spanish Extremadura. My sister Joana, a 14 year old teenager, by brother Pedro 18 and my mother Pamela 43 can be seen in the picture together with me João, at 20.Mona, 20 holding the camera!
Nobody could tell when we would be able to see Portugal and being so near was a special feeling for me at any rate.
From now on our return trip was on and our holiday beginning to end. We got in touch with our Spanish cousin Martinho and it was decided we would pay him a call when we arrived in Madrid!
After the long stretch between Barcelona and Valencia we were convinced that we had done the worst trip that the Spanish railway company RENFE could offer her passengers. In Valencia we booked ourselves at the Hotel Europa to get a much needed rest. This hotel was spot on in the centre of this important Spanish city with a view towards the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
Our destination now was Andalucía in the south. I am sure we touched on Sevilla and spent a few hours there before heading for the coastal town of Huelva. Once there we were looking for somewhere to stay. Since entering France I was left in charge of communication, as I knew the languages.
I approached a young couple and asked them if they knew where we could stay. They promptly invited us to their home. There was no question about it… They just would not hear of anything else. Mona was very impressed as this couple with a small child prepared their own double bed for us to sleep in. They somehow settled somewhere else. This beat all records of hospitality before or after. We talked about it many times later and sent them a postcard thanking them and inviting them to visit us, although we had not settled anywhere at this time.
We were now prepared to meet the Pinheiros as they planned to arrive. My father came by car bringing Bua along and perhaps Pedro. It was a much awaited moment this one of seeing my grandmother. It was decided that my father would drive us to Merida where we could meet the rest of the family, somewhat like the changing of the guard. We took in at a hotel in the old Emerita Augusta, important Roman town, in its day.
Pleasantly enough there was a swimming pool at the hotel to cool us down!