Friday – August 19, 2011 – 11:30pm – Hotel Husa Moncloa – Room #366 – Madrid, Spain
Time flies when you’re having fun, or driving/flying all over Europe on pilgrimage, or BOTH! 🙂 Seems like we just got to Assisi the other day and now we’re almost done with our trip. Yesterday was a travel day, as we were en route from Barcelona to Madrid. It was a safe and mostly uneventful drive. There were a few highlights though. First that I remember was one of the rest stops we went to. Was only supposed to be a 20 minute stop for the bathroom and maybe buying a quick snack. Well, it seemed like every pilgrim on every other bus headed to Madrid decided to stop at the same bus stop. Most crowded I’ve ever seen a gas station. It was tempting to get frustrated, but then I realized it was God using that to prepare me for the crowds in Madrid. The other rest stop we stopped at to actually get lunch was a good stop too. I was able to get an empanada and Coke for lunch. All for less than 5 Euros. Then, at the table I sat at, one of the ladies from our group gave me half of her chicken sandwich!
Another highlight was crossing the Greenwich Time Meridian thing. It’s the longitudinal marker that I think divides the Earth into Eastern and Western hemispheres. It also has something to do with all the different time zones in the world. it was marked by several highway signs at various intervals as well as a huge metal arc thingy over the highway right where the line is. Then at various intervals along the highway to Madrid, there were gigantic metal bulls propped up on the hillsides. Also had some massive wind turbine electricity generators. Pretty cool stuff.
Today was Avila day! 🙂 One of the highlights of the trip. Took us about an hour to get there by bus. When we got there we headed to the church where we were celebrating Mass. It was in the chapel where St. Theresa founded her 1st convent. Then we toured the newer church next door, as well as a small museum next door where her coffin and other relics were on display. Our guide then showed us around town, explaining interesting little tidbits here and there. Eventually we made our way to the church where she first began her life in the convent.
The neatest part was being in the room where she was born, a room which is now a side chapel for the church. We also got to see the cell she used to live in. Had a late lunch and then hopped back in the bus to come back to Madrid. Ate some leftover chicken from lunch once we got back, checked my email real quick, and then decided to explore a little. Didn’t have a map, didn’t have an agenda, and it felt great. Felt great to just get up and go. Only had 5 Euros in my pocket and wanted a snack, but things are so expensive here and I didn’t see any cheap-o places still open. Luckily though a lady from Burger King was handing out coupons, and guess what? One of the coupons was for a double-cheeseburger combo meal for 4.99! God works in mysterious ways. 🙂
Walked around some more and found a big town square area that had a fountain, and that’s where alot of French pilgrims were hanging out. Talked to a few people and then headed back to the hotel. Stayed in the lobby and visited with some of our group for awhile. Then I got another blessing…… Was chatting w/a pilgrim and her mom. They mentioned they were hungry at which I suggested they check out the hotel restaurant. I was lamenting the cost of Cokes, and so when I joined them while they ate, they bought me 2 Cokes! Not one, but two! 🙂 Praise The Lord! And then at the end of dining, they mom slipped me 20 Euros and said she was returning the favor due to kindness others have shown her kids over the years. Thanked them profusely and after they finished eating, we got up and left to go our separate ways. I’m about to go to sleep so I can be rested up for the Vigil tomorrow night.