Castilla means CASTLES!!!

In my town of Leavenworth, you can tell that someone is a tourist by their fascination with deer. Visitors will stop on the sides (and sometimes in the middle) of the roads, excitedly leaning out of their windows with cameras and binoculars in hand to see the indifferent animals. After a few days, the tourists realize that deer are absolutely everywhere and stop getting crazily excited and blocking up traffic in order to see them. 

That was me with old buildings. 

 Our hotel had the most beautiful stone columns I'd ever seen! This lobby was also my first introduction to little European coffees, for which it will always be sacred. 

Our hotel had the most beautiful stone columns I'd ever seen! This lobby was also my first introduction to little European coffees, for which it will always be sacred. 

Our train pulled up to the little town of Avila and I immediately went crazy about the buildings. There was a giant cathedral and a wall around the town and an old looking tower and ANOTHER cathedral and our hotel was build into an old convent with stone columns from the 16th century! The view from outside looked almost like a castle! There were real paintings on the walls, a real bed, a shower with hot water, clean towels and, above all, WIFI! I may have been staying in a renovated nunnery but I felt like a princess! 

 

I took pictures of every old-looking structure I saw. And there were a lot of old-looking structures. Val and her mother laughed at me for that. They got an even bigger kick out of my habit of photographing every meal I ate. 

I don't usually take pictures of my food. My Instagram is full of art, not pictures of meals! But Spanish food is so beautiful I couldn't help it. 

Arroz con leche, lasagna, ensalada de queso de cabra, flan, gazpacho-  it was all delicious and beautiful! 

The view from the wall in Avila. 

We spent one night in Avila, touring cathedrals and walking around the walls of the city. Then we got in the car and drove on to the next city, Salamanca. 

At this point my inability to communicate in Spanish was becoming painfully obvious. I had spent a few days in Spain and was starting to get the lisp in "grathias" down but my vocabulary was pretty much limited to verbs, adjectives and farm animals. I could communicate with my exchange student Val just fine because she speaks English, but her mom speaks less English than I speak Spanish! Trying to order food was an interesting challenge but fortunately some farm animals were on the menu. I guess that's how I ended up with goat cheese salad so many times. 

On the drive to Salamanca, between exclamations of "muy bonito!" and "increible!" I saw my first real castle. It was a run down old thing on the side of the road that Val and her mom barely looked at. But I was jumping up and down in my seat yelling "mira!" and pointing out at the castilla! Val's mom promised we could see more while I was there, and she sure kept that promise. 

Eventually we arrived in Salamanca. It took about an hour to find a parking spot, but pretty soon we were wandering around the two giant cathedrals that it's famous for. Val has an old friend in the town so I walked around with her mom. We managed to communicate through basic phrases, hand gestures, and a translation app on her phone. The app was set to British instead of American English so she asked me "are you fancy?" instead of "are you hungry" quite a few times. 

One of the cathedrals at Salamanca, as seen from a balcony halfway up it. 

 The spiral staircases were deceptively difficult to walk on. I'm amazed none of us fell and were added to the crypt below! 

The spiral staircases were deceptively difficult to walk on. I'm amazed none of us fell and were added to the crypt below! 

There were these secret stairways leading to bell towers, rooftops and little museums all around the cathedral. I had too much fun climbing up all of them and ignoring the signs telling us to wait in, as Val's mom would say, "typical Spanish" fashion. 

Salamanca is also famous for its university, which is over 800 years old. By the end of our short visit there, I was already planning my semester studying abroad among the ancient cathedrals and beautiful cafes. They do have a really good program for learning Spanish as a foreign language... we will see if I end up back there some day, I certainly hope so! 

And with that we were on our way to one more city where we spent the night and went to see a castle the next day. By this time, old little cathedrals and churches had lost their earlier thrill. They were still beautiful and amazing, just not so novel. Just as the deer are still beautiful after the tourists have gotten used to them. But castles were still a thrill! I'd never been in one before, so we wandered inside the ruins of this one. 

 This is a REAL LIVE CASTLE! 

This is a REAL LIVE CASTLE! 

After this quick castle visit we hopped back in the car (with some cheese and chocolate) and drove up to Val's home town in Galicia!