Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Improv, Segunda Mano, A Medieval Wall

Medieval wall encircling Ávila
This week, Rich and I attended a comedy improvisation performance with dinner at a local restaurant. The following day we rode the train an hour and a half north of Madrid to Ávila, which has the oldest (begun in 1100), most complete and well preserved wall in Spain. We loved the wall. For our Sunday outing, we went to El Rastro, block after block after block of flea market vendors, shoppers, crowded streets and pickpockets. I bought socks, sunglasses, a painting and a wireless ratón replacement for  my computer. 
El Rastro wares and shoppers 
Shopper and artist (90 years old)

On Monday, I started a four-classes-a-day, two-week, intensive, Spanish language class. Homework necessitates a short communication.

One of the three performers in the improv group is the daughter of Antonio, who we believe to be the jefe/boss/manager at Casa Vicenta, our regular neighborhood hangout. As is usual in Spain, the dinner began after 9 p.m. with the performance following multiple courses, dessert and coffee. At a table for three near us, a child dozed head on table while the couple finished dinner, then bundled coats and child and left before the performance began.The lively, spirited antics of the performers were entertaining and trying to grasp words in the Spanish dialogue added to the fun of the evening. 

Click on any photo to enlarge. 

Gate in the Ávila wall
However, the late evening meant a later train to Ávila the following morning. The train wound up through shrub-covered hills, through topless tunnels of rock, past farmland, grazing sheep and cattle, up toward the town, 1,000 meters high, credited as the highest pueblo in Spain. 

The cathedral in Ávila 
We set out to see Ávila's three main tourist attractions, but first we stopped for lunch, including a bowl of Ávila's famous judías del Barco, enormous white beans cooked with flecks of ham into a thick soup. Unfortunately, while we lunched, the cathedral--which displays an El Greco painting, combines Romanesque arches with the early beginnings of Gothic architecture, and incorporates its granite apse within the fortified town wall--closed for the day. Weigh that: in one hand white bean soup and in  the other, cathedral. 

So we walked the wall, and it's a truly wonderful wall. Medieval and impressive and high above the town with the countryside spilling beyond in every direction. Occasionally, other walkers passed us on the cold, windy, blue sky with threatening dark clouds day.

Our last stop, the Convent of St. Teresa (1515-1582), built in the 17th century on the spot where the mystic nun was born, draws pilgrims to see the side chapel marking the place of her birth and relics including her finger embellished with an emerald ring and her sandal, along with tiny little bones from St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa's mentor and a fellow mystic. Rich stayed outside while I viewed the relics. St. Teresa is known for establishing convents for the Discalced (shoeless) Carmelites throughout Spain. 

And the next time in Ávila, I will visit the cathedral first, then lunch on judías del Barco  and definitely, walk again on the wall.


  1. Impressive photos--Impressive WALL! I like the pic of you with the artist--hope you bought one of her paintings?

    1. I did buy the painting she is holding. Rich was busy taking the photo and keeping his eye on two suspicious characters who kept hanging around and really insisted that I let them use my camera to take the photo. The suspicious guy want to serve as translator between the artist and me, but her Spanish was much easier for me than his fractured English. The artist was just lovely, but I don't even have her name.

    2. The message of this experience is that in Spain you put your spiritual side ahead of your stomach.


    3. Pero en españa, one's spirit resides in the stomach.

  2. Didn't know you had a blog... NOW --I'll have to take time to catch up... Sounds like you are having a wonderful time. I have thought about you so often and it's GREAT to hear from you.