Ávila, Spain – October 18, 2009
We received our 4Runner by ship on October 14. A mere four days later, I decided there was no better way to learn how to drive in Spain than to just jump in and try! We made this trip with our good friends Don and Pat on October 18. It just so happened they were visiting us at the time.
The town of Ávila is about 108 kilometers (67 miles) northwest of our home. We left our house at about 09:30, arriving about an hour and 15-minutes later. We wanted to attend mass at the Cathedral of Ávila; however, we had not bothered to look on the Internet to see the mass schedule. We just set the address in our GPS and hit the road. On the way, we drove by El Escorial. It is a huge complex that we hope to tour in the future.
When we arrived in Ávila, the GPS directed us right to the cathedral. We were able to find a parking space fairly close and then walked to the cathedral. At 6C (43F) degrees, it was rather chilly. As we were approaching the cathedral, the bells began to chime. I looked at my watch and saw it was right at 11:00. As we went inside, the mass was just beginning. It was nice to attend mass again even though it was entirely in Spanish. There were a few things I understood. Because of that, I could usually tell where we were in the liturgy during the mass.
After mass, we were able to spend a few moments looking around the Cathedral (no photographs allowed) before we were literally kicked out and the door locked behind us. That is one thing I have noticed as a major difference between Spain and the U.S. In the United States many of the Catholic churches are open virtually all of the time. In Spain, the churches are usually only open just before and just after the mass. I assume that must be because of the many valuable items that are in so many of the churches in Spain.
No one is certain of the age of the cathedral. It seems to date from either the 11th or 12th century. Regardless, this is the first time I have ever been in anything that old before. The cathedral is probably every bit as tall on the inside as the National Basilica in Washington, D.C. However, the cathedral is much more rustic. To add to that rustic look, at the time we were there, parts of the cathedral were being renovated.
Departing the cathedral, we walked across the street to a small pastry shop. We all had a pastry and a cup of coffee, then we walked around in the old city. We found our way to the convent St. Teresa founded. I found it fascinating to be in the environs where a saint of the Catholic Church had lived and worshiped, and a Doctor of the Church to boot!
Near the cathedral is the Museo de Santa Teresa (Saint Teresa Museum). We went through the museum. It was very interesting. I am sure it would have been even more interesting had we had a full grasp of Spanish.
When we left the museum, we wound our back through town and found a spot for lunch. It was an outdoor cafe across from one of the main gates into the old city. That gate goes right through the city wall.
While eating, I could feel the wall calling, so after lunch, Hillary, Tyler, and I went up on the wall to see the sights from there. The tourist book we had indicated this wall is the oldest and best-preserved in all of Europe. The wall dates to the 12th century. The views of the cathedral and the old city from the wall were quite unique. The wall is made of stone, a resource that is obviously very plentiful in the area. I imagine it is somewhere between 9 and 12 meters (30 and 40 feet) tall. Walking up the stairs I got a real feeling for what the ancient peoples felt and went through to get to the top of the wall. The stairs are not built like ours today. The treads themselves were very uneven. In addition, the distance of the rise from one step to another was very uneven. The handrail was a piece of rope strung through some metal grommets. Because of that, the rope provides very little support.
When we came down from the wall we made our way back to the car and ultimately back home.
Ávila is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.