Sunday, 23 January 2011

Spain, Ávila City Walls

The agreement was to rendezvous for breakfast at half past eight so it was a bit of a shock when I woke up and checked the time and it was twenty to ten. We washed and changed and rushed downstairs and although the others had waited for some time for us to show up they had eventually given up and gone through without us. I was so glad that we hadn’t missed breakfast completely because the dining room was really special and so was the food. It was laid out on the tables and the choice was overwhelming; hot food, cold food, a selection of bread and fruit juices and local specialties as well. It was necessary to be really disciplined amount portions because it would have been too easy to fill right up with the first visit and not leave room for all the other delicious selections to follow.

Due to this oversleeping incident we were later than usual leaving our hotel to begin the sightseeing but this didn’t really matter because there was a disappointing start to the day weather wise and there was low grey cloud and a chill in the air.

First of all we walked past the serrated edged walls of the cathedral which was designed to serve a dual purpose, part religious and part military because the apse actually forms part of the defensive city walls and then we passed out through one of the main gates that led us to the Plaza de Santa Teresa, the Plaza Mayor of the city, which we found to be unusually quiet for a Saturday morning. What was also strange was that many shops were closed or had unusual and rather random opening hours and there weren’t a lot of people about at all. Micky and I skillfully avoided the main shopping streets and charted a route that took us to the Basilica de San Vincente and then back to the exterior of the city walls.

We walked for a while around the eastern side of the walls which are the best preserved in all of Spain and although they have had some recent renovation still capture the spirit of an impregnable medieval granite fortress. It is two and a half kilometres long with two thousand five hundred battlements, eighty-eight cylindrical towers, six main gates and three smaller pedestrian gates. Ávila was used in the 1957 film ‘The Pride and the Passion’ that starred Cary Grant, Sophia Loren and Frank Sinatra when a group of Spanish nationalists during the war of independence (The Peninsula War) lugged a huge gun up the mountains to attack the city and liberate it from the French invaders.

At the North gate we re-entered the city and strolled through the narrow cobbled streets and through the municipal fish and meat market back to where we had started and with no improvement in the weather looked for somewhere suitable for a later than usual first drink of the day. We came across a charming and traditional little bodega squeezed into the walls of the city in between two high towers and once inside found a table and ordered some drinks and were delighted to find that when they arrived they were accompanied by complimentary plates of tapas.

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