The grey stones covered with greenish and orange lichen look like a giant child’s play area.
Some stones still stand upright, in a circle. Others are on the ground, as if knocked down in a moment of frustration. There are gaps in the circle as if some pieces were taken away, or have not been put in yet.
Bright green grass separates the stone circle from a rounded path along which people walk around the monument, their faces turned toward the stones.
Beyond the path a herd of sheep pays no attention to stones or humans, concentrating on finding the juiciest bits of grass.
When we decided to do a road trip from Madrid, Spain to the coast of Portugal last year, we decided to find a city or a town to stay overnight on the way, rather than drive the 600 km (372 miles) or so in one day.
The names of towns and cities along the three different routes that GoogleMaps suggested for us didn’t tell me much, so I turned to guidebooks of Spain from Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, and to TripAdvisor reviews.
In the end, I’ve decided we should stop in Mérida, a place I’d never heard of before, because every guidebook I looked at suggested visiting the city’s Roman ruins, and we like ancient stuff like that.
We arrived in Mérida on a Friday afternoon and went sightseeing on Saturday. Given all the historical attractions in Mérida, I was really surprised by the low number of tourists we saw.
Clearly Mérida is not as popular as it was during the Roman times, which is really too bad.
First word of advice – if you want to visit Castelo dos Mouros (The Moorish Castle) in Sintra, Portugal – get there BEFORE the parks open at 9am (10 am in the wintertime) if you can, because right at 9am the cars and busloads of tourists start pouring in, and soon every spot along the road winding toward the castle and down into the city will be taken.
And last but not least – bring a jacket or a sweater, because even if it’s the middle of the summer and hot down below, it might be colder and windy up on the mountain. It was when we were there in July 2014.