Alcantara, Extremadura, Spain.

Alcantara is a gem of a town in relatively unknown western Extremadura. Alcantara spreads across a hill just south of the Rio Tajo and the renowned Roman bridge, which, although restored on more than one occasion to overcome damage due to age, conflict and seismic activity, still carries traffic on the main road north. The town itself is like a larger and somewhat grander version of nearby Brozas. It has the remains of a castle and sections of a town wall, some of the latter overlooking the Tajo itself, and some remarkably beautiful mansions, palaces and convents. The Convent of San Benito is, without question, the grandest structure of all, but the Convent of Las Monjas Comendadoras, ruined and overlooking the Tajo, is also pretty. Plaza de Espana is dominated by the Church of Santa Maria de Almocovar, but nearby are other churches almost as attractive. All these buildings, and the mansions and the palaces that litter the old town, are built from stone that has the most appealing shades of red, orange and brown when the sun is low in the sky.

Between Plaza de Espana and Plaza Corederra lie some of the old town’s narrowest streets. The narrow streets comprise the one-time Jewish quarter where there is a restored synagogue.

The outermost streets of the town to the west and the east are dominated by buildings of more modest character. Most such buildings are houses of one or two storeys. The great majority of them have whitewashed plaster walls, but a few, sometimes houses and sometimes farm buildings, are made from slabs of slate-like stone of many dark shades. Needless to say, the contrasting colours of the plaster walls, the slate-like stone and the stone used in the construction of the churches, convents, mansions and palaces (the stone of the latter buildings is often carved to fine effect) provide a visual feast.

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