Kelly Lahart (2020) and Emma Reavis (2019) describe their first day in Avila as they journeyed by foot throughout the local mountains and town.
Part I by Kelly Lahart
Today was our first full day in Ávila, and we were happy to wake up to sunny skies for our hike. We departed our hotel at 9 a.m., and the bus took us on a scenic drive to our hiking spot. On the ride, not only were we impressed by the beautiful Gredos Mountains but also by our group’s a cappella rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.
When we arrived, we met our guide, Santi, who helped us navigate the trails. Our 5-mile hike lasted 3 hours. It began with some of us searching for the perfect walking stick to carry along the trail. On the first part of our hike, we enjoyed time chatting with each other as we walked through the trees, across the rocks, and over a river. Then, we stopped to eat lunch next to the river.
At lunch, we were challenged to complete the second part of our hike in silence. Inspired by Saint Teresa’s focus on the “interior life”, this challenge gave us an opportunity to observe the beauty around us while being more attentive to our own thoughts. In our daily lives at school, it can be hard to find activities that we truly approach with full focus (or full presence) due to other distractions and responsibilities. Because of this, I found this quiet time to be a special moment on the trip because I was able to appreciate the sounds of the running river and the sight of the tall mountains surrounding me with full focus.
Part II by Emma Reavis (2019)
After a reflective experience in the woods, we took to the streets of Ávila with Mercedes – no, not the luxurious car, but our tour guide – who gave us a luxurious tour of Ávila. The tour included a wealth of information about Saint Teresa and Mysticism.
We started our tour with a climb of the Muralla de Ávila, the castle walls that protected the Medieval city from enemies during the time of Teresa. Walking on the top of the wall, we reflected on some of the descriptors that best embody the life of Teresa, including: an agent of change, a knowledge seeker, and a brave person.
We then attended Mysticism Interpretation Centre which took a pluralistic approach to explaining Mysticism through different themes within each room of the museum. Beginning in the basement, or room one, with the theme of tradition, up to the 2nd level, being knowledge of self, to the 3rd level, being enlightenment or union with God, and then the 4th and final level, being action – which implied a return to the world to teach the path to others.
The final site on our multi-stop tour included viewing the Baroque styled Iglesia-Convento de Santa Teresa which was built by the Order of Discalced Carmelites on the site where Saint Teresa was born in order to pay the highest respects to Saint Teresa herself.
Through each step of our hike and tour of the city, the story of Saint Teresa resonated with us all as we took notice of her unwavering humility and desire to always better herself and those around her – all attributes that can be practiced and taken back to our own lives no matter our religious backgrounds.