Exploring Castilla Y Leon: Arrival in Avila, Spain
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* All photos taken with the LG G4 Superb Camera
When travel to Spain comes to mind, the popular destinations are the capital city Madrid, and Catalonia capital Barcelona. But increasingly, tourists are discovering the beautiful provinces that make up Castilla y Leon, the largest living museum of the world.
Arrival in Mardid Barajas Airport
This region of Spain is steep with medieval history and culture, and is seen in the renaissance-style castles, monasteries and cathedrals that are perfectly preserved through the centuries.
Busy Street outside the Muralla de Ávila
Some of the provinces to visit here are Salamanca, one of the oldest cities in Europe; Soria, a town near the Duervo river famous for its grandiose Romanesque cathedrals; Leon, with the spectacular Basilica de San Isidro; and Segovia, with its Gothic cathedrals and the Alcazar.
But our first stop was Avila, beautifully filled with fortificated towns and rich with historical culture. My 16-hour flight on wonderful airline Turkish Airlines brought me to Madrid Barajas Airport, from which we took another trip to Avila. There we met with our tour guide Mercedez, who was going to accompany us as we tour around Castilla Y Leon.
I lost my Passport in Madrid
As a side note: While En Route to Avila, I discovered that I lost some of my valuables, including my passport, travel documents and some euros. While I tried hard not to let this ruin the trip for everyone else, this serves as a warning for all travelers to always keep an eye on their things, especially during travel, to avoid any unnecessary stress and inconvenience.
Getting to the Walled City of Avila
If travelling from Madrid to Avila, one option is to take a train. Travel will take about one hour and thirty minutes if traveling this way. Regular buses also ply that route, and the journey takes about the same time as train travel would. Bus travel is a little cheaper than train (8 Euros for a bus ticket vs. 10 euros for the train).
Plaza Mayor in Avila Spain
We took a bus from Madrid to Avila. We drove through well maintained roads and pine trees, seeing our path change from the typical city scenes to a more relaxed, country-like setting. Cattles grazed in the greenery, and we were fast approaching the walled fortresses of Avila, which have stood there since the 5th century.
Buildings and a Church outside Ávila Walls
Historians say the walls of Avila have helped the city in preserving its history and culture within. It still embraced urbanisation like the rest of the provinces, but within it, the architectural and structural influences of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance period was perfectly preserved. There is almost a solemnity in the way the castles, gates and towers stand proudly and carry its ties to the past.
Walking outside Muralla de Avila
We arrived in Avila past noon. The sun was up but the weather was cool. Our tour guide Mercedez told us that this kind of weather is to be expected in Avila, which is one of the coldest parts of Spain.
Monasterio de La Encarnación – Carmelite Monastery of Incarnation in Avila
Avila reminds me of Intramuros, our very own walled city. Compared to Intramuros, however, Avila is much bigger and has higher points. But there are a lot of similarities, especially since the Spanish largely influenced the structure and architecture of Intramuros. Coming from a Roman Catholic background, the experience of seeing Avila was completely magical.
View from the Walls of Avila
Our tour bus did not pass through the walled city, so we all walked to Hotel Palacio de Los Velada, a former castle that was converted into a charming hotel. Located right in the middle of the main square, Hotel Palacio de Los Velada was going to be our accommodations for the stay.
Beautiful View from Restaurante La Bruja
We left our bags and went to La Bruja Restaurante to grab some lunch. Located just outside the walled city, the restaurant has a great view of nearby mountain ranges and serves tapas, which is a popular variety of Spanish snacks or canapés.
Paprica-Flavored Mashed Potatoes with Crispy Pork Lard
Brick walls and wooden beams line the interior of the restaurant, keeping in tune with the warm and cozy atmosphere that has since been the general feeling in Avila. We decided to have our lunch in the al fresco area, which offers a great view.
Chef of La Bruja Restaurante slicing Iberico Ham
We tried several dishes in La Bruja Restaurante: we had Beef Steak with Potato Fries, Jamón ibérico, or cured ham produced in Spain, empanaditas, garden salad, and Avila’s famous paprika-flavored mashed potato with crispy pork lard on top.
Beef Steak and Potato Fries for Lunch
Empanaditas from Restaurante La Bruja
I enjoyed my first dining experience in Avila. The ambience provided a great backdrop to the good food I enjoyed. I had so much fun that I almost forgot I lost my passport!
A walking tour, and getting to know Santa Teresa
Old Abandoned House inside the Walls of Avila
I was lucky to have been invited by the Spain Tourism Board to go through a special tour that explores the path of Saint Teresa of Avila, who was from the Castilla y Leon region. With journalists and bloggers from USA, The Netherlands and Mexico, I went on a tour to join the city in celebrating the 5th centenary of Saint Teresa’s birth.
Walking ontop of the Ancient walls
Born in Avila in 1515, Saint Teresa reformed the Carmelite order, producing a body of work in writing and music that talked about her mystic experiences. Many of the city’s buildings and structures are dedicated to Saint Teresa, as a way of honoring her role in the city’s culture.
Staircases leading to the top of the Walls
We went on a walking tour inside the city walls, which was erected in the 12th century. Inside, the walled city spanned 12 kilometers, enclosing more than 80 towers, 9 gates, and several restaurants, hotels and cathedrals that tourists can visit.
The Walls of Avila
To explore the walls, we entered Muralla de Avila tourist office at Casa de las Carnicerías. The Casa de las Carnicerías (butcher’s shops), a monument declared as a Bien de Interés Cultural in 1992, is located at San Martín square. It was previously renovated and adapted for bank offices but now serves as a tourist office that houses a diorama of the entire walled city and an access to the walls entrance.
Iglesia Convento de Sta Teresa
One notable place to visit in Castilla y Leon is the Iglesia Convento de Sta. Teresa. Built atop the place where Saint Teresa was born, the convent now has a church, a reliquary and a museum that is a popular place to visit for those following Saint Teresa.
Facade of Iglesia Convento de Sta Teresa
One interesting part of the Chapel is a small garden where St. Teresa played as a young girl.
Iglesia Convento de Sta Teresa Souvenir Shop
The convent also houses vaulted arches in its basement, where period manuscripts and displays about Teresa’s life are displayed. The Sala de Reliquias contains the relics of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross.
Image of Sta Teresa of Avila by the master Gregorio Fernández
Photography is not allowed inside the museum, so you’ll have to come visit to see relics preserved there – like Saint Teresa’s 500-year old finger, displayed alongside that of her friend St. John of the Cross!
After our walking tour of the walled city, we were ready for dinner! Our next stop was the Parador de Avila, where we learned some more about Avila’s revered saint.