The first two days of May mark a national holiday (Labor Day) and a regional festival specific to Madrid, so literally everyone was off on holiday from Wednesday through Friday. Nothing quite like a five-day holiday from work and school to attempt to get your head back in the game before finals week!! My Spanish family graciously invited me to their family’s home in the country located just an hour south of Madrid. Despite really needing to take the time to prepare for the last week of school (exams, packing, etc.), I desperately needed a break from my homestay and from the buzz of the city, so I tentatively accepted, and I am so glad that I did. The majority of my weekend was spent going to bed early, sleeping late, playing with the girls, and sunning myself in the yard. Talk about a perfect time for some much-needed R&R!
When Saturday rolled around, the family and I headed to the city of Ávila, which is located about an hour northwest of Madrid. Ávila was a lovely city that I was eager to experience after we passed by it on our way home from Salamanca. My breath was taken away by the beauty of the still-standing city walls, which date back to medieval times.
Upon entering the city, I could feel its warmth through the numerous sandstone buildings and cobblestone streets. At first we were a bit lost as we tried to find out way to the Plaza Mayor down the long, winding city streets. Luckily, there was plenty to see between people-watching, window shopping, statues, and architecture.
Our first stop was to the gothic cathedral that calls Ávila home. It was absolutely beautiful from the exterior! Statues of lions guarded its perimeter and its architecture was one of my favorites so far here in Spain. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos of the inside of the cathedral as it was part-active church and part-art museum. I can’t say that it was too much of a disappointment once we entered though, because the interior left much to be desired. I did really enjoy the fact that its layout was very different than the majority of the gothic-style cathedrals, though.
After our tour, we stopped off at a small café to enjoy some beer, tapas, and conversation as we determined our plan of action for the remainder of the afternoon. We decided that we would walk back down to the car so that we could enjoy our lunch at a restaurant just outside of the city (which was awfully delicious, I might add). After dining on roasted goat and cochinillo, we returned to take a stroll along the top of the city walls. This was about the time that my camera finally lost its life, but thankfully I was able to get a couple good pictures in the meantime.
The view from the city walls was spectacular – you could easily see the whole city, both inside and outside the walls. I was a little uneasy because the gaps in the walls were rather small and if you weren’t careful when peeking over it truly felt like you would fall to your untimely death. Additionally, the stairs that you had to climb to get to the pathway along the wall was incredibly steep, and had my heart racing. Overall, it was a beautiful (albeit, nerve-wracking) way to end our afternoon in Ávila.
The following day marked Mothers’ Day here in Spain, and after the girls gave their gifts to Lola we had a tasty barbecue lunch prepared by Lola’s father. It was nice to see and talk to Lola’s brother Luis, who had driven out to join the family for lunch. After we dined, we relaxed in the sunshine while Lola and Luis helped me with one of my homework assignments, in which I had to interview them about their experiences with the health system. One of the best things about being so close with a Spanish family is that you truly learn so much more than you ever would otherwise. I truly wouldn’t know half as much about Spanish culture had it not been for this family!
All in all, it was a spectacular long weekend to be sure, and I am so grateful to have this family in my life. I can only hope that I’ve impacted them half as much as they’ve impacted me – leaving Spain will certainly be a bittersweet experience when it comes time for us to say goodbye.
In other news, I’ve created a public Facebook page so that those reading have an opportunity to view more of the photos that I can’t post on my blog due to the strict limits of WordPress. If you have a Facebook, please “Like” my page to follow me, and if not, bookmark it so that you have an opportunity to follow my travels more closely!!
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