Hello! I cannot believe it has been over two weeks...well, it is believable considering the travels and studying (or attempt at studying) I have been doing in the past few weeks.
Lena (friend from Bellarmine) arrived on Monday, May 3, and our adventures started! We stayed in Salamanca until my classes ended on Wednesday, and on Thursday we headed to Santiago de Compostela...
A beautiful, small city. The Cathedral is an amazing example of art and architecture (with a huge incense burner), but what is more impressive is the reason Santiago de Compostela attracts so many tourists. This city, the cathedral, precisely, is the end of The Way of St. James. A pilgrimage technically is any walk which begins in one's home and ends at a pilgrimage sight, and therefore, there are many paths to Santiago (there is a path through/leaving Salamanca). The traditional pilgrimage begins in France (with The Pyrenees), and follows the route St. James himself walked. His remains are kept in the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. A mass is held for the pilgrims everyday at noon, and on Fridays the large burner is usually used. We were lucky enough to be able to attend this mass (well, the first fifteen minutes we had to wait outside, because the church was filled, but then we were allowed in and able to observe the mass. The most enchanting part of the city is the number of pilgrims still making the trek, which can take weeks to months. And for purely unselfish reasons...simply to walk in the footsteps of a saint, and grow closer to the Lord. I have added this to my dream list: finish El camino de Santiago!
After this adventure we spent two days in Porto, Portugal. I fell in love with Portugal when I went to Lisbon, and found the same charms in Porto. I must admit, I prefer Lisbon...it just had a cleaner, more colorful feel. But we spent our time well and took in all the sights (while learning to navigate the city bus system!). We tried the famous Portuguese sandwich but I cannot say it was our favorite meal...We enjoyed a picnic on the beach, and though it wasn't warm enough to even consider swimming, there is something so inspiring about the ocean, it was a lovely day. Lena was able to see first-hand the European obsession with "futbol" when we walked into a plaza to find disgruntled fans angry with all the fans of the winning team celebrating by honking horns, waving flags, yelling taunts...the police were also hanging out in the plaza, keeping an eye on things, thankfully.
From Porto we took an early flight to Madrid to spend our last two days before Lena left for the United States. I was very excited to see Madrid, because up to this point all I knew was the airport, and I knew that well. I was expecting a big city feel, but the neighborhood of our hostel was busy, but not overwhelming. We took in the Royal Palace, the Cathedral, the Prado, the Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Santa Ana, Parque del Buen Retiro (this park is absolutely amazing-I could have spent an entire day there!). A sucker for art museums, especially after taking two different art history classes in Spain, I loved the Prado, but there was so much to see it was a bit exhausting! I plan to go back to Madrid to see the other art museums. And revisit the park...
I came back to a large study load...I have my first exam on Tuesday! I am trying to stay calm (and not scratch my scalp too much) and just take it one day at a time...prayers are greatly appreciated, however!
Though I vowed that I would not take the time to blog or post pictures before Tuesday...I am always looking for an excuse to put off studying, so I hope you enjoy! And I hope I pass my exam...
I am missing you all more each day!