Tuesday, 26 June 2012

In famous footsteps

First stop of the day today was Talavera La Reina. It is the site of a major battle on 27–28 July 1809 between Sir Arthur Wellesley ( later Viscount Wellington of Talavera), his Spanish allies vs the French led by Bonaparte. Although its a later period of history than I usually am a fan of, the Bernard Cromwell's Sharpe series, charting the course of the Napoleonic wars across Portugal and Spain, and the charismatic soldier turned officer Rifleman brings it to life in a way that just makes me want to see the real places. Of course there is always the TV series too  - sadly, no Sean Bean in evidence .......

That said, Talavera just wasn't that exciting - the French seem to have made a point of destroying everything they could, so other than seeing the surrounding countryside, there just isn't that much left. It did make me realise one thing though : the wars were only fought during the summer seasons, the uniforms of the time were made of woollen clothe - and Talavera is *HOT*. And its not even July yet! The heat and the drenched with sweat clothing and presumably strong smells just doesn't come across in the books. Makes me think of Sean in a whole new ( and much less attractive ) light.....

It had a pretty church , but basically, time to trog on out of the Province of Toledo, and over into Extremadura. There's this child's habit of mistranslating words in other languages - and Extremadura just calls for that - it's either  'extra wood', or 'extremely hard' - both of which are incredibly apt. There is a lot of cork oak grown here, and as you drive though, the country changes from semi-barren wheat plains to hilly cork oak plantations and in a fair number of totally unagriculturally viable places, sun farms!

There are many beautiful castles, and I just didn't get enough time to visit them all : sights like this one from the motorway were very common!

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