Viva la something: Triple Treat – Ávila

Thursday 22 September. Three cities, three tours, three cultures, three times the fun!

Ávila, our final stop on Triple Treat Thursday, is a beautiful little city north west of Madrid. Again, oh for more time! While we had a fascinating walking tour with Alberto, there were tantalising glimpses everywhere of more to explore.

The standout feature of Ávila is the intact walls that circle its original town. Dating from medieval times, these are the best preserved of their kind in the world. Probably because they are very, very, thick.

Now that’s a bulwark and rampart indeed.
One of the five city gates. The wall is thickest where the lay of the land offers less protection: one side has a steep approach but this one is an easier gradient. Ergo, metres thick walls and well defended gates.

Next time I am wandering this way, I would love to walk these walls. For now, I had to content myself with gazing, photos, and imagination.

Ávila is also know for its famous resident, Teresa of Ávila (or Teresa de Jesus as sometimes called), the Spanish monastic, mystic and theologian. Her rich history and legacy of contemplative prayer is well documented and has been a part of my own journeys in spiritual formation.

Memorial statue of St. Teresa. Ironically she was less than fond of her home city and especially her original religious house, which she found scandalously lax. So she moved on and founded her own  where she could be as serious, ascetic, and contemplative as she wished.

In later parts of our Spanish sojourn I also learned that Teresa was descended from converso Jews, which meant that along with her radical reformative views she became at times a person of interest to the Spanish Inquisition. Fortunately she was not subjected to the horrors so many endured, though she was frequently persecuted by other religious figures who disapproved of her work. Sadly, some things don’t change in five centuries.

Along our wanderings I became ridiculously excited by the sight of a small plaque.

Buen Camino, peregrino!

You see, this is the reason husband and I are taking separate flights home. I’m meeting up with my bestie-sister-in-love Kylie and my brother Russell, who’ve been walking the Camino del Norte for weeks already. We’re going to do a mini Camino on the coast so I too will be a pilgrim! This sign, though, is for one of the many other Camino routes criss-crossing Spain, Portugal, France and even further, to rendevouz in Santiago de la Compostela. I was still excited to see it – and my very first Camino scallop shell:

This is The Way.

But I’ll tell you more about that later…

Ávila Cathedral

Back to our last moments in Ávila. Regretfully we decided that there was not really enough time to tour the cathedral properly, so it would be a swift cafe con leche instead. Heading to the point our guide had suggested for those desiring bevvies, we were dismayed to find it closed. Alberto was equally indignant, leading us and another couple in search of refreshment. We went along for the ride (hey, if you’re with your guide, the bus won’t leave without you, right?)

Well, it was still a pretty close thing. Cafe was found, drinks ordered – and shouted by our lovely Californian friends, I feel mortified I never learned your names, but thank you again so much!  By the time we were done and back to the bus it was decidedly late…  but despite glowers from the driver (and some of the other unrefreshed passengers) we were unrepentant. We’d had a great time, and they could have come along too if they chose.

Another hour with sporadic napping and  before we knew it we were back at Plaza del Toro, which looked even darker as it was now well into the evening. Gratefully disembarking, with copious thanks to our Amigos, we headed in search of a swift dinner with as many vegies as possible (entirely too many things frites lately). Thank you VIPS restaurant for enormous and delicous salads! One more quck metro trip, a trudge back to our apartment and we hit the hay as fast as possible.

What a day! Mind whirling despite my exhaustion, it was dificult to fall asleep. When finally my eyes drooped, they were still filled with images of saints and soldiers, battles and glory… colour, splendour, rich cultures… zzz… sweet medieval dreams, Lou…

For more information about this tour visit Viator – I highly recommend their informative site and flexible options.

For more pics and informal updates check out my Instagram @maedharanael or Facebook!