Last spring we cruised to Spain. We spent one night in Cartagena, picked up a rental car and headed north.
Our drive took us up into the mountains and past El Escorial, about 30 miles northwest of Madrid. Philip II was very religious and built Escorial in the mid 1500s to be a retreat from the secular world. He designed it to be a palace, monastery and a grand mausoleum for Spain’s royal family.
It was late afternoon and we only had time for a couple photos from the highway.
Avila was our destination for the night. It is 3700 feet above sea level and in April it was pretty chilly.
Avila, a Unesco World Heritage site, is famous for its complete preserved medieval walls. Begun in 1090 the walls enclose 77 acres, are 2.5 kilometers long and have 9 gates. Avila is also the birthplace of Mother Teresa.
The streets in the historic area are very narrow. Driving inside the old city was a trial. We were able to drop our bags at the hotel but had to park our car outside the city walls. The hotel was the former renaissance palace of the Velada family. Our room was small but the hotel was worth the hassle.
We had dinner in this beautiful courtyard and breakfast was served in another large atrium. Just what you would expect from a palace!
Just around the corner from the hotel was the Cathedral of Avila. Forming part of the city walls, the Cathedral was begun in 1107 and completed in the 16th century. It was the first Gothic cathedral in Spain. The exterior shows the medieval alliance between “the cross and the sword”, fortress on top and church below.
Lots of narrow streets and alleys make this a fun little town to get lost in… on foot.
You are never far from the fortified walls. Like the Cathedral, many buildings are built directly in the wall.
Built in the 15th century, the Los Guzmanes Tower houses the Regional Government.
The Convent of St Teresa was built in the 17th century. In the same plaza is the Sala de Reliquias where there is reported to be a shop that shows off, among other relics, Teresa’s finger still wearing an emerald ring. Eww…
The Palace of Polentinos was built in the early 16th century. It became a Military Academy in 1875 and is now a Military History Archive and Army Museum.
Plaza del Mercado Chico
The best view of Avila was on our drive out of town at the Cuatro Postes (the four posts).
On to the north of Spain……