Visiting Jarandilla de la Vera
This town (population 3,226) is 99 km west of Talavera, or 206 km west of Madrid. Jarandilla is an important stop not so much for itself, since it is a very small town, but for its surroundings. Alfonso VIII founded this town, and you will see a number of sixteenth-century coats of arms emblazoned on its houses. The fifteenth-century castle, with its glassed-in Renaissance galleries, is now a lovely parador.
This is no longer Castile. It is the pleasantest corner of Extremadura, the region from which the most famous of the Conquistadores came. The valley of the River Tietar, where Jarandilla stands, and the nearby Jerte Valley, are both sheltered by mountain ranges so they enjoy a surprisingly mild climate in the very shadow of snow-capped mountains. The Jerte district is famous for the beauty of its cherry blossoms. In the Tietar Valley, and particularly in the Vera district, orange trees blossom. Bougainvillaea splashes the walls of the parador with crimson.
Within easy reach by car or local bus are such places as:
Yuste Monastery (at Cuacos, 13 km west of Jarandilla), to which Spain’s King Carlos I (Karl V of Germany) retired in 1557, abdicating in favour of his son Philip II. Also in Cuacos is the humble house in which Don Juan of Austria, victor of the naval Battle of Lepanto against the Turks in 1571, lived as a child.
Oropesa, 61 km to the east, is a town (population 2,945) with a distinctive medieval air and a magnificent fourteenth-century castle, half of which has been converted into a parador and the other half of which is a Civil Guard Police barracks. St Teresa lived in this castle for a while.
Lagartera, 61 km east of Jarandilla, is a town (population 2,082) renowned for its handmade lace and embroidery. You can buy from women tatting lace in their doorways or from shops; great value for money.
Valverde de la Vera, 20 km east of Jarandilla (population 2,371) should be visited on Holy Thursday, when the empalaos – penitents with their outstretched arms tied to yokes – march in solemn procession through the streets. The charming and ancient church of Santa Maria contains the alabaster tomb of a noble fifteenth-century couple, but you must ask permission from the priest to see them.
Villanueva de la Vera, 30 km east of Jarandilla, was where in spring 1987 Daily Express reporter Edward Owen engaged in fierce competition with The Sun. Blackie the burro, according to the British tabloid press, was destined to be crushed beneath the weight of the fattest man in town and beaten to death by the villagers in the annual Pero Palo fiestas if humanitarian tabloids had not intervened. Both Owen and a Sun reporter offered cash ransoms for the animal.
Both claimed in print to have bought the beast, but in the end only Owen produced the authenticated one for delivery to a burro-lovers’ association, and The Sun’s ass was out. Villagers claim they cannot remember when a burro was killed in the fiestas which take place at carnival time, in the week preceding Ash Wednesday. But, after several years of unwanted British press coverage and what they consider to be interference with their fiesta by animal-lovers, there is mayhem in the townspeople’s eyes – and it is not for the beasts of burden.
Where to Stay
Jaranda, Avenida Calvo Sotelo s/n, Jarandilla de la Vera. An unadorned but satisfactory hostal with low-priced meals.
Marbella, Avenida Calvo Sotelo 103, Jarandilla de la Vera. Central, in a scenic location and with central heating for winter, when it is actually cheaper. Low-priced meals, too.
Huesped del Sevillano, Carretera de Extremadura, Lagartera. . This 12-room roadside hostal is simple but it is in a picturesque spot and has air-conditioning and a swimming pool. Meals are cheap too.
Sarah loves Spain and writes her Majorca Guide while living in Palma.