And, finally, Avila (with a bit of Madrid thrown in)

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The last stop for our group in Spain was in Avila, just in time to celebrate the Feast of St. Teresa on Avila on October 15.

After a longer-than expected drive to Avila, we arrived to the monastery of St. Thomas quite late.  The community there was so hospitable: they had dinner ready when we arrived and kindly moved all of our luggage to the 4th floor where our rooms were.  We settled in for the night, and then got back on the bus the next morning to spend the day in Madrid.

Madrid is a newer city than Barcelona, so the areas we were in had a different feel: wider streets, newer buildings.  We started the day at the Prado, a world-renowned art museum.  Their massive collection includes Hieronymus Bosch (Susan J, I saw the “Garden of Early Delights”!),  Francisco de Goya, Diego Veláquez and El Greco.  Since we didn’t have a lot of time, each of us chose one or two things off the museum’s long “masterpiece” list and made sure we saw those.  I wanted to see Veláquez’s “La Meninas,” since we had seen Picasso’s renderings of it a few days before in Barcelona.

Looking at great art can work up one’s appetite, so we went off in search of lunch.  Jacque (the on-site director here in Oxford) had recommended a market, which was incredible.  We wandered the stalls eating olives, fresh fruit, cheese, croquettes pizza, sushi, churros and cake.  Yum.  (We didn’t eat the sea urchins, but thought they were cool.)

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After lunch we stopped in another museum to see Picasso’s “Guernica,” which is stunning, and then it was time to head back to Avila.  I found Madrid quite charming.

Avila was in the process of getting ready to celebrate St. Teresa — she turned 499 on October 15. There were parades, a carnival, and fireworks all in addition to the mass and procession of the saint.

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Although the mass was in Spanish, it was fascinating to participate in it, especially watching the people around us.  One older woman near us sang and danced through the whole mass and then gave Molly a big kiss during the peace.  She was so full of joy;  I loved watching her and the people around us!

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Later that day, we wandered the almost-completely-intact city walls.  The 12th-century walls are pretty incredible, with 88 semi-circular towers.  They look like something straight out of a medieval picture book.

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We ended the day by walking up to Los Cuatro Postes shrine just outside of the city and along El Camino de Santiago, which afforded lovely views of Avila.

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The next day we headed toward our Oxford home, we had a great trip and absolutely loved getting to travel with our students.  They bless us and the girls daily.  We were ready to be more settled, though, and, admittedly, this introvert was a bit tired of people.

I don’t know that I would have even chosen Spain as a destination on my own, but I am so glad we went.  Girona was probably my favorite city, but there were treasures in every place.  Such a wonderful trip!

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