Thursday, November 4, 2010

El Escorial, Salamanca, and Ávila

This past weekend was our first trip with my study abroad program, ISA.  It was nice because everything (transportation, hotels, tours, etc.) was planned out for us.  However, it was a pain in the butt because a group of 75 Americans cannot discretely travel through small towns in Spain.

We left Madrid and drove one hour to El Escorial, which is the historical residence of the king of Spain.  It is a beautiful building, complete with one of the world's oldest libraries, the Royal tombs where many of Spain's kings and queens are buried, and a monastery.  Sadly, pictures were not allowed inside the palace, but here is an areal view of El Escorial:

After we left El Escorial, we drove to Salamanca and had free time to explore the city for the rest of the night.  Salamanca is an extremely small city.  It is essentially a college town and is the home to the oldest University in Spain and one of the oldest in the world.  It is possible to walk the entire town of Salamanca in approximately 20.  Very different from Madrid.  Salamanca has a beautiful Plaza Mayor (The plaza mayor in Madrid is modeled after the plaza of the same name in Salamanca).  

The next day, we toured Salamanca as a group.  First we visited the Old and New cathedrals, which are absolutely gorgeous.  The are attached to each other and located in the heart of the city center.  The old cathedral was built in the 12th century and the "new" cathedral was built in the 16th century.  Which isn't very new if you ask me.  I propose that they call them the "old and older" cathedrals.  Here is a picture of the inside of the Old Cathedral. 

We also toured the University in Salamanca.  As I was wandering through these beautiful academic buildings and classrooms, I just kept thinking to myself "well, this is no Sturm Hall."  There were people being married inside the school because it is such a beautiful venue.  I don't think anyone would want to get married in Davis Auditorium...

After we left Salamanca, we drove to Ávila.  The one and only reason why this city is worth visiting is because it is surrounded by a really old wall.  That's it.  A wall.  

We climbed the wall and took a lot of pictures.  Then got in the bus and drove back to Madrid.  If you ask me, the stop in Ávila was unnecessary.  I've seen walls before.  And I will probably see one or two more in the future.  But my exploration of central Spain continues.  Oh, here's the wall:

We arrived back in Madrid and I had one day to un-pack and re-pack before MOROCCO!  Please see next blog entry.

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