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The flamenco strains were so haunting I asked the quintet of 20-somethings playing guitars on the doorstep of a massive, whitewashed centuries-old church if I could listen for a spell.I spent a weekend there last October exploring Roman ruins, climbing up medieval towers and scarfing down plates of the famed local ham without seeing one tour group.I traveled mostly on comfortable public buses that rolled through olive and oak tree-studded hills, past fortified towns and palm-fringed farms, stopping to pick up schoolchildren returning home and elderly couples going to market. Every stop appealed – especially Trujillo with its castle – but I focused on three must-sees: Merida, Caceres and Guadalupe.Just across the two-millennia-old, half-mile river bridge, stand a couple of monuments dedicated to Merida by Rome and by its namesake city in Yucatan, Mexico.SPIRITUAL ESCAPEThe enormous swirling rose window of the Royal Monastery of Guadalupe towers over this tiny, remote mountain village where pilgrims have come for seven centuries to honor the Virgin Mary.GETTING THERE: Fly to Madrid or Lisbon; buses connect them, stopping at Merida, http://www.avanzabus.com. Trains/buses link Merida with Caceres; from Caceres, bus to Guadalupe.
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