I'm just back from Cáceres in Spain, and am busily catching up on a hundred emails, a bit of writing, housework, cat-cuddling etc. I was over there to teach a couple of CW classes at the University of Extramadura - my friend Carolina Amador teaches there in the Departamento de Filologia Inglesa - she's a Hiberno-English expert. She had me over to talk to her classes about my story 'Storks', which is set in Cáceres (inspired by my previous trip to that beautiful city) and also to talk about my novel Miss Emily. Her students were great - really engaged and bright; I had a great time speaking with them.
I was put up in a stunning little boutique hotel on the main square, Hotel la Boheme which is decorated in a Moorish style, it's all salvaged tiles, gold sinks, wooden shutters and Moroccan lampshades. Glorious.
We managed to squash in two great museum visits around a hectic schedule of teaching and socialising with Carolina and her family (our daughters are friends too). We saw an exhib of Picasso's sketches at the beautiful Fundacion Mercedes Calles in the old town. I'm Picasso mad so it was a joy to see recognisable sketches that later became paintings.
Carolina also brought us out to Malpartida, to the Museo Vostell, one of the most eccentric and wonderful museums I've been to. A German man bought an abandoned sheep farm and woollen mill and turned it into a gallery for his own modern art and that of his friends, including Yoko Ono. It's a treasure trove of bizarre installations - think cars that rake the ground and rockets fashioned from vehicles and chunks of welded metal.
Cáceres is a bit of a hidden gem - it's 3 hours from Madrid, near the border with Portugal, and it's a gorgeous mix of old and new. It thrilled me - again - to see the huge nesting storks all over the place; to walk the cobbled alleys of the old town; to enjoy delicious cava and Rioja at insanely low prices, as well as local cheese and tapas; to go into the ancient churches and watch them prepare their Easter procession floats. Having friends who live in Cáceres is such a bonus. No doubt we'll be back.