Saturday, 2 February 2013

St. Teresa and Avila

An hour and a half away from Madrid, Avila makes for a perfect weekend day trip. The local train passes through views of countryside and rolling hills. For only 24.00€ return fare, you get to be within its majestic walls.

Avila's old city is surrounded by these medieval outer walls, built in 1090.

Before entering the old city, we took a thirty-forty minute ride on the beautiful green Muralla train which took us through the old city and out on the surrounding meadows and areas outside the wall. It was a bilingual tour (Spanish and English) and the train was so pretty! The 4€ was worth it.

Avila's pretty sightseeing train

One can walk along about half of the wall's circumference which runs about 2.5 kilometers. It costs about 4€ and one can spend a leisurely day just walking along these walls and taking the view from these high edifices. Or if you're a photo enthusiast (which I'm not!) spend the day capturing the vibe of this UNESCO heritage site.
The signs. These are definitely familiar signs to Filipinos like me as we studied these terms in our history classes, thanks to our centuries of being under Spanish rule.

The beautiful green grass around the walls is the perfect place to lounge on after hours of walking.

The old but pretty bricks of Avila's walls.

Avila is of course equally famous for being the birthplace of St. Teresa, the renowned nun and mystic of the Carmelite order. I am a non-Catholic so I am unfamiliar with the orders but even I know of St. Teresa, whose devotion to prayer and to a life of austerity is well known. One of St. Teresa's vision was the inspiration for Bernini's sculpture, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.
The chapel of St. Teresa

Avila is full of churches, there's the majestic Avila Cathedral, the chapel of St. Teresa and a few more churches which were pointed out during the sightseeing train ride through the city but which I can no longer recall (memory gap!). Suffice it to say that one can also spend the day doing a visit of these churches.

Because we came to Avila on a Sunday, we were unable to enter the famous gothic Cathedral of Avila, as it was only open in the morning on Sunday. But I am hopeful I'll be coming to Avila another time, since it's very close to Madrid. :-)

Avila is famous for its yemas. Sweet little balls of sugar and egg yolk. There's a lot of pastelerias (sweets and pastry shops) in Avila offering these sweets. To be honest, I've tried these yemas before in Toledo and found them too sweet, so I didn't try any. But yema and pastillas lovers would love this treat.

Our late lunch found us eating our most expensive meals to date in Spain. I had to pay 23€ for a two course meal plus dessert. I wanted to try a specialty in Avila, the Chuleton de Avila.
Chuleton de Avila served with potatoes

Sopa de Castellana

The chuleton is really just a huge steak cooked the Avila way. The steak was huugeee! I love steak above all other food on earth, but I could not even finish this monster. The steak was a little bland but it was cooked medium rare so that's a plus. Though to be honest, when I go back to Avila, I think I'll stick to the cheaper Menu del Dia (about 11€) and steer clear of Chuleton or its equally touristy food sibling, the Cochinillo.

At four PM, an hour before our train leaves for Madrid, we checked the Souvenir shops for good finds.
I bought the requisite plate for my mother and some pretty spanish mosaic magnets for our ref.

I also bought a container of purple sugar candies flavored with violet essence. Different with a faint herbal and floral aftertaste, but good and cheap.

Avila is an easy day trip to do. The old city is small and very walkable. A day is enough to walk through the walls, hit all the churches and other spots of interest, check out the cathedral and catch the 5 PM trip back to Madrid.


A pretty doorknob in Avila.

Travel is my happy pill

It's not easy wanting to do so many things in so little time. Work eats up my week days, ordering items for the shop eats up my weeknights, on friday there's the laundry, Saturday is shopping day for the ordered items. And I still need time to do other chores -- cook food, prepare my things.
But no matter, I never forget the real reason why I chose to come here: To travel and to write about my wanderings. So despite Madrid being beautiful and very livable, weekends become more special when I spend it travelling outside the city.

New places refresh the mind. It's like what we do in Pinas to recharge. In Davao, weekends may be spent at the beach in Samal. Or when in Manila, our escape route from the city points us to Tagaytay and nearby Batangas or Laguna.

In essence, this is what I try to do here. I go out of the city on weekends for a respite from the buzz. Go off for a chance to nurture my senses and recalibrate my center.

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