The hotel restaurant opened early so we popped down there for a bite to eat then bumped into Richard from the UK as we were heading back to our room. The albergue was closed so he’d had to opt for this more expensive option, especially costly for a solo traveller. We commiserated about the previous day and the dreary town before he headed for breakfast and we packed up to hit the road.
The day’s route started on a dirt track, then switched to an old road beside the highway and then finally onto the side of the highway itself and for longer than I would have liked. Walking right on the highway is always the worst. Eventually we were back on a track and getting close to Mérida. It felt a little sketchy coming in to town, with deserted buildings and farms. Soon that gave way to a suburb, with a park along the river and suddenly a view of the impressive Roman bridge.
It felt quite astounding to be walking over a Roman bridge as we entered the city, with the walls of the alcazaba ahead. This was our first experience of coming into a large city from the camino and it was both a little jarring to be among all the crowds and quite magical to just walk into such a place. We found our gem of a hotel easily and since it was only 12:30 when we arrived (but our room was ready) we were able to shower and then head out for a well-deserved (after no dinner last night) and delicious almuerzo.
After our long lunch we headed to the amphitheatre and theatre complex to start our explorations. Augusta Emerita was the most important Roman city on the Iberian peninsula and well worth the planned extra/rest day we were giving it. Both the amphitheatre and theatre were open to wander around and it was just the kind of place that I imagined Nedjo would like and I was right about that. You could climb up and take a seat imaging yourself back two millennia. There is also a combined ticket good for a number of sites, so having opted for that we knew we’d have more sites to visit tomorrow.
After some down time we headed out for more wandering around the city and ended up going for tapas and drinks on the main plaza, enjoying being able to sit outside (although under cover as there had been some rain) for some late dinner as we had earlier in the day at lunch. We were both quite charmed by this place and also very much looking forward to the experience of not getting up and starting to walk in the morning. Before crawling into bed I did the math and we had covered 208 kilometres in our first ten days.