Travelling through Spain

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May 10th 2017
Published: June 26th 2017
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Geo: 40.9494, -4.11921

. Today we set out to drive to Madrid but the distance was short and instead our focus was on other famous cities in Spanish history, Ou first stop was Avila. This is an ancient city and is a complete walled town. It has 98 gates to protect the perimeter. We went through the main tower, St Vincent's and proceeded into the Tourist Information Centre. We were able to access the town through a series of escaltors which led us into the main town

We walked as a group up to the Cathedral. Lucy pointed out some of the attractive old palaces along the way. These were the homes of the nobility and prominent families but most have now been turned into boutique hotels. In the square outside the imposing cathedral we were let loose and it was to ne our meeting place in a couple of hours time. The Cathedral itself is Romanesque but with a later Gothic archway at the entrance. We then walked along one of the small streets. Not much was yet open as here in Spain most shops open about 10am shut from 1-30-4 and then open again until 7. Everyone has to have their siesta.The souvenir shops tend to stay open though. We came to the main central square. The design of most of these towns has a Plaza at their heart. This contained the Town Hall and the café owners were just starting to put out the tables and chairs. We explored further finding another palace which is now an art museum. This was in a square with a statue of St John of the Cross another mstic writer who was born here. Must have ben something in the water.

The Church of St John was nearby. In this church St Teresa was baptised. Her family were converted Jews and her mother belonged to a distinguished and well connected family. We stopped for a coffee and a loo stop and then continued tp the Church of St Ignatius of Loyola. If I could have my Dominican connection Fletcher had to find something to do with the Jesuits. Eventually we all reconvened outside of the Cathedral and then it was back to the bus and goodbye to Avila.

After an hour's driving we came to the ancient city of Segovia. This is dominated by the most fantastic Roman aqueduct I have seen. The Pont de Gard in France is perhaps wider, but this is tall and stretches for 800 metres. It is the gateway to the old town. From here the streets wend their way to the top of the hill which culminates in the Plaza Mayor where the town hall and cathedral are both located. As we walked p to the top Lucy explained that this was the home of the suckling pig. It is typical food of Castille y Leon, the province we were now in. The most famous of the restaurants here was Candelido which as near the aqueduct. But as we walked she pointed out two or three others which she said were equally as good. We took note. Once we were given time we walked back down the hill. We had over two hours to look at the town and have lunch. We went back to El Bernardino, a classy looking restaurant with outside tables looking out over the lower town. Here we decided to have the Menu Typico de Segovia. We started with Castille y Leon soup, a tomato based broth with pieces of ham and bread. Not bad though I liked it more than Fletch. Then it was time for the suckling pig. A whole haunch of beautifully cooked young pork was brought to the table. Wow! The waitress broke it into pieces and then we served ourselves. The meat was moist and melt in your mouth while the crackling was thin and crisp, a delicious indulgence. Surprisingly there were no accompanying veggies or salad but we enjoyed the luscious dish which certainly proved to be way too much for two. We had chosen a lovely local red wine which complemented the food. There was still dessert to come. This was a crisp pastry crown in the middle of vanilla custard that was runny and warm . One of the highlight meals of the trip. We then walked slowly back to the bus.

After another hour's drive we entered Madrid. This is the capital and the largest city in Spain. It is also the highest European capital at 2,000metres above sea level. We could see four tall skyscrapers in the distance as we approached and this marks the new business district. We were accommodated in the heart of the old city in an extremely modern hotel, the Eurostar. The décor was very stark and clinical but the rooms were comfortable and spacious. We saw quite a bit of the old city as we drove in but our sightseeing tour was scheduled for the next day.

Having seen on Facebook that Rosie Pulvirenti had been in Madrid a couple of days ago I messaged her and found the she and Mark were still in town. We arranged to meet for dinner in Plaza Santa Ana where their hotel was located. After a rest we set out armed with a map and directions from the hotel about 7pm. It was fairly easy to navigate our way through largely pedestrian streets. It was bustling with the shops still open and lots of people in cafes having a drink. We stopped for a beer too as we were making good time. Our route took us through the Plaza de Sol, a large square right at the heart of the old city. From there it was a short walk to our destination and we were right on time at 8-30pm to meet Roie and mark. Outside their hotel the square was jam packed with restaurants but they had been told of one which had the best tapas. On enquiring we found that it was full at present but if we waited for a half hour we could have a table. We went into the bar of the restaurant and had a Gin and Tonic and chatted . We were just starting on the second gin when we were ushered to our table. It was a great night with dome delicious tapas and good red wine and of course, great company. A couple of hours later we found a taxi and were back at the hotel, well sated and having enjoyed a wonderful night! left at 8 as usual and drove through the mainly farming countryside. This area produces wheat and also beef and is green and undulating. We arrived at the walled city of Avila. The old town sits high on the hill surrounded by a very thick wall supported by 98 towers. It is an impressive sight. We were told that the fortifications had been made after the expulsion of the Muslims in the 15th century and it has been recently restored.

We entered through St Vincent's Gate, a ta; tower, the symbol of the city. Just inside was a visitor centre through which we could access the town at the top of some escalators. Of course, this place is widely known in Dominican and Catholic circles as the birthplace of St Teresa of Jesus, a Doctor of the church and widely admired for her mystic writings. She is also my patron Our penultimate day of the tour saw us visit some of the smaller and characterful towns of this part of Spain. Salamanca had been fascinating, a mixture of Roman, Medieval, Gothic and Romanesque

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