Last month, just on the heels of our Central EuroTrip, we found ourselves face-to-face with yet another longer weekend (seriously, being a student here sucks). We decided to take advantage of the surprise days off and do a little bit of local exploring. So, early one Friday morning we found ourselves at Atocha station with tickets to Avila in hand.
For the next couple of hours, the Renfe Cercanías train (think long commuter train) took us 1,132 metres above sea level to the Town of Stones and Saints, Avila. The capital of the Avila province, the city of Avila is situated on the flat summit of a rocky hill right on the bank of the Adaja River. As the crow flies, Avila is only 86km north of Madrid, but on that early-April day, the temperatures couldn’t have been more different.
Before we’d even set foot outside of the train you could feel it, a bone chilling wind that was notably absent in Madrid – thank goodness I’d elected at the last minute to pack a toque and gloves. We bundled up and disembarked the train, making the 1km walk passed cafes and shops to the historic centre of town.
Avila is famous for many different reasons. For many, it’s notable because of its ties to Saint Teresa of Jesus, and its claim to being the town with the highest number of Romanesque and Gothic churches per capita in Spain. But, for others (and for us) it’s notable for the 12th-century walls that encircle the city.
The walls of Avila stand 12m tall and stretch 2,516 meters around the city. Two sections of the wall are open to visitors and for some reason, despite my well documented (and super embarrassing) fear of heights, I thought it would be just a genius idea to climb them #whatwasIthinking?!
We arrived in the city and immediately made our way to the ticket booth. I handed over my euros (€5/each) with confidence and then I looked up at the narrow, steep staircase that was my only way in and out of the short 300m section.
But up I went, clinging to the railing and the wall as I put on foot in front of the other, thinking how stupid I was with each thundering step.
I quickly made it to the top and then pretty much refused to move. As Dave wandered around with ease, climbing the stairs, peering over the edge, I walked at a snails pace in the middle of the 3m wide walkway, glancing mostly at my feet. When I finally got over my fears (aka, I had found a new wall to cling to) I was blown away by the view. Not only did the walls give you a birds-eye view of the city, but of the surrounding valley.
I must admit, with the cherry blossoms blossoming, it was actually quite pretty.
We snapped a few photos, and then I began my descent to flat ground. We spent the next couple of hours snacking and exploring the city.
After our picnic lunch, it was time to tackle the second portion of the wall, all 1,300m of it. Even though my first experience was fine, I still wasn’t super excited about the second half of the wall.
We found the entrance, showed our ticket and climbed the creaky wooden steps up and around until we finally burst through the door onto the sun kissed wall.
I will admit, I initially hated every second of being up on that wall, so much so that I threatened to go back down. But, after being reminded that this isn’t the high dive and I’m not 10 years old, I pushed those fears aside, gripped onto the metal guard rain and started my walk.
Or, to be more accurate, my shuffle, because really it’s an insult to call what I was doing walking.
It took us nearly 30 minutes to walk the second section of the wall. Although I hated ever step at the beginning, by the end, I was actually enjoying. Maybe I had gotten used to the height (not likely), or maybe the view of the green rolling hills and the snow-capped mountains just had a calming effect on me. Whatever it was, by the time we hit that last gate I was actually a little disappointed it was time to leave the wall.
Back on terra firma, we had just enough time to grab a coffee before heading back to the train station for our second leg of the journey (stay tuned, more on that soon…).
Our time in Avila was short but pretty awesome. Really, it was the perfect way to spend a sunny (but chilly) April afternoon.
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