The warm Mediterranean sun hung low above the western horizon. Our bus slowed and turned into a parking lot. Our pilgrimage director announced, “We’ve arrived at Fatima. Before going to our hotel, we are stopping so you can shop for souvenirs.”
I looked at the building next to the parking lot and commented to my daughter Tammie, “This is different. Usually there are dozens of small souvenir stores near pilgrimage sites. All I see is one huge store.”
Following the others off the bus, I entered the store and discovered why there was only one building. It was set up like a department store devoted to all things religious and in particular, objects showing they came from Fatima, Portugal.
As I made a circular tour of the store I came across luggage, which I reasoned was for pilgrim trips, veils and shawls to wear in church, statues of every size up to full scale, medals, biographies of saints, prayer books, bibles, rosaries and rosary-making supplies. The variety of each item was staggering. I felt like a child in a candy store. Continue reading
In the waning evening light, I spotted the crenulated city walls of Avila. I tiredly thought without any enthusiasm, “Oh, another castle. How nice.” When a person is tired, it is hard to get excited even when seeing something beautiful and amazing.
My fellow pilgrims and I had slept in a castle the night before. Since then we had traveled through Spain by bus for many hours. We had driven through Madrid and on to Segovia. There, we had shopped, visited the cathedral and toured the famous Alcazar castle. That would have been more than enough to do in one day, yet we traveled on.
As our tour bus approached Avila, I sleepily noticed huge gray boulders along the way reminding me of our fishing trips to Canada. The difference was no water surrounded these monster, barn-sized rocks.
The big tour bus was unable to maneuver to the hotel inside the city walls, so we pilgrims carried our luggage the rest of the way up the hill on cobblestone streets. Fortunately, the effort fully woke me up. A four-course dinner awaited us in the dining room. We finished dining at 11 p.m. Continue reading
Our pilgrim bus pulled to a stop near Segovia’s main marketplace. My daughter Tammie and I looked forward to visiting the many shops along the streets radiating out from the plaza. Gray clouds hung low overhead. I pondered whether to take my sweater, or to leave it on the bus. Shrugging, I decided to leave it on the bus. I’d probably end up carrying it instead of wearing it.
Tammie said, “When I spent a semester in Valladolid during college, I visited Segovia. Gypsies sold things under the arches of the aqueduct. I don’t see any there today.”
I eagerly eyed the famous Roman aqueduct that ran through the plaza and the rest of the city. At its tallest point, it soared as tall as a nine-story building. Not content to simply build a utilitarian trough to carry water from the Rio Frio, a mountain stream more than ten miles away, the Romans artfully designed 167 arches into the structure.
Tammie joined me on the cobblestone street. She asked, “Did you know the Romans didn’t use any mortar to hold the granite stones together on the aqueduct?”
Admiring the way the stones were wedged together around the arches, I marveled, “It was built at the end of the first century, they used no mortar, yet the structure is still standing and it continues to work!” Continue reading