Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Avila and Fatima

The next day after an early breakfast we set out to visit Avila, which is about an hour's drive from Madrid.
A video of the landscape in Spain...
Here, we've just reached Avila... these Walls of Avila were completed between the 11th and 14th centuries and they are the city's defining image. We had a lovely guide, Maria, and she took us around this quaint city explaining about the fortress and the cathedrals.
Another video depicting the welcoming sounds of Avila... the constantly chirping birds over the walled city of Avila are quite captivating, they seem to beckon you in.
Avila's charm... 
The sun, spilling her beams... 

The church of St. Teresa of Avila
Inside the church, mass was just getting over...
The chapel dedicated to St. Teresa
The main square in Avila
So after checking out the church of St. Teresa and the museum where her finger is displayed, we started on our way to Fatima in Portugal which is about a five hour drive from Avila.

Stopped on the way to have a packed lunch of vegetable rice, puri, channa masala & yogurt... a panoramic view of the little roadside picnic. 
Reached the hotel in Fatima, a nice place
Our room at Lux Fatima Park
Dinner was soup, pork with potatoes and some custard... 
Mass was held in this ground opposite the hotel. The whole setting was beautiful... out in the open under the sky and trees, pretty much like how Jesus preached to His people.
I liked this rustic setting
First glimpse of the sanctuary at Fatima, this giant cross welcomes you
Fatima Santucary, this main shrine was closed due to renovation 
The 9:30pm candlelight rosary in front of the open chapel where Mother Mary appeared to three shepherd children...
The candlelight procession... and singing of Ave Maria (you can check out the instagram video)
Our Lady of Fatima on procession
What an experience... 
The candlelight recitation of the rosary in different languages is an experience that gets etched into your being. Everybody in the crowd lifts up their candles as the song Ave Maria is sung after every decade, and the beautiful singing along with the waving sea of candlelights fills you with a certain warmth and peace, it’s almost magical. Everybody was moved by this procession... we walked back slowly to our rooms, enchanted to be part of this beautiful day in Fatima. 

P.S: Thanks Uncle Mark Doyle and Joe Ben for your pictures used here without permission.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Landing in Madrid

Our flight from Chennai was at 4am, so after a small midnight prayer in church, after all the airport drama and the waiting, we finally settled into our seats for the four hour flight to Qatar. I was instantly asleep, and in Qatar after going through a security check again, we boarded the transit flight to Madrid. This was also mostly spent in a sleep daze... except when the food arrived.  
This was some good breakfast: eggs, mushrooms in some gravy, sausage and hash browns. 
A mid day snack: a calzone kinda roll which wasn't that great and an almond cake. 
So we landed in Madrid (which was an quite an ordeal, it was like one of those autorickshaw rides, where everything bounces and careens out of control, I almost started panicking and thinking 'just because I wrote this article, doesn't mean it has to come true, Lord...' it was one scary landing) and the airport here is quite interesting. We follow the crowd and reach these doors that say baggage claim above them, and I'm wondering why nobody was entering those doors. Then I figured that they were waiting for a train, yeah a train, that ran for a good ten minutes to reach the baggage claim section of the airport, which I thought was pretty cool! In between all this I saw a David Villa look alike and started freaking out... I think that poor guy freaked out even more, I kept looking at him to make sure he wasn't the real David Villa. 
So anyway, since the time we got off the plane and till we left two weeks later, this was our double decker tour bus driven by two really nice Polish brothers. 
So we drove through Madrid, which is quite beautiful... and for me pleasantly surprising, cause I saw that Javier Bardem movie, Biutiful, a few years back and it was depressing. The movie is set in Barcelona, and I don't know...  I think I related that depressing quality to Barcelona and Spain in general. Which only goes to show that one should never judge a city by a movie, cause the old town of Madrid is quite extravagant. 
As is proved here, in this picture of the Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid) which is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, but is only used for state ceremonies and contains 3418 rooms...  
Opposite the royal palace is the Almudena Cathedral
Which is also quite extravagant... 
and colourful.
This is the relic of St. Pope John Paul II in the Cathedral... 
There is a stunning blessed sacrament chapel here, couldn't take pictures cause people were praying... but every wall was covered in such beautiful mosaic work...so if you happen to be in this cathedral, be sure to check out the blessed sacrament chapel.
After roaming around we were taken to a nice hotel, nH Barajas. And like I wrote in the previous post, I didn't even know my brother was here, staying in one of the rooms. So after meeting him, we decided to split from the group and go out for dinner. 
This was what he ordered, an octopus dish... this was the first time I tasted octopus, didn't really like the rubbery bland taste... 
This was what me and mom had, a ham and egg sandwich...
We came back from dinner to find that mass had started... Since four priests were travelling with us, they celebrated mass everyday... and made the trip even more meaningful.