After driving all morning through thick, freezing fog, I finally arrive in the city of Avila in Central Spain. As I sit having a picnic lunch inside the relative warmth of Trixie, the fog begins to clear and I get my first view of the 12th century walls which stretch for 2.5 kilometres around the city. I’m realising that the main difference between the walled towns in France and those of Spain is size. Avila is even bigger than Carcassonne and I thought that was big!
A narrow flight ascending of steps brings me to the Carmen Gate and I enter the maze of medieval cobbled streets. In France the streets of the walled towns were very much pedestrianized, whereas here I have to dodge the erratic Spanish drivers as they weave through the city like Fernando Alonso. But then the city is still a living, breathing place with a population of 58,000. In the past Jews, Moors and Christians all lived together and their legacy can still be seen in the religious buildings that they left behind. There are many beautiful churches, synagogues, monasteries and convents, as well as the fortified St Vicente Cathedral. There are also many shops and my eyes are drawn to the traditional ‘Yemas de Santa Teresa’ (yolks of Saint Teresa), a sticky ball of sweet egg dough, spiced with cinnamon.
Saint Teresa was a Carmelite nun who was born in Avila and was canonised in 1622. She is the most important female saint in Spain and many pilgrims visit Avila to worship her. I was able to visit the Convent of Santa Teresa with its attached museum and small reliquary room / souvenir shop where you can see holy relics of the saint, including the bones of her ring finger, with the ring still on them!
Unfortunately, after only 90 minutes of clear sky, the freezing fog descends once more and envelops the city and its walls. Back in the car park, I can barely see the next motorhome so I huddle up with my gas fire and sleep under my duvet, blanket and sleeping bag with my winter hat pulled down around my ears.
When I wake in the morning I can see my breath and the windows are encrusted with ice, both inside and out. It takes Trixie 30 minutes to warm up and I still have to scrape ice from the wing mirrors and headlights. There’s no water, it’s frozen in the tank but luckily I’ve stocked up with bottled water. As I leave Avila, the sun beams down and I can finally enjoy the surrounding scenery as I continue to head south to Toledo. A petrol station signboard informs me that it is -8°C but I heard that it could get as high as 15°C later. I can only hope.