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Wonderful as it was, we did not spend every waking moment in the classroom! French schools are off every Wednesday, so that meant adventure and exploring for me and Valle. We met up in Cannes, a city right on the coast and straight away headed to the harbor. I think we both had an internal homing device that sent us straight to the sea. As it so happened, the ferry was waiting for us at the dock and we hopped aboard and headed out into the endless blue of sea and sky.

The Lerins Islands sit a few miles offshore of the French Riviera. They are massive rocks, jutting out from the water, impenetrable to constant push of water and wind or the changing monarchies who have fought over them for centuries. We disembarked onto St. Marguerite and let ourselves wander through the verdant garden that the Island is today. There are many ruins of monasteries, castles, and forts, though I suspect the fishing village is the one set of structures hasn’t changed an iota since the stone-age.

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Goodbye, Cannes!

The French Alps are impressive: they tumble down from snow peaked ridges and throw themselves into the Mediterranean.

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Approaching the Island dock:

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The sky was clear, the water blue and the sun was warm. I curled up on a hot rock a fell fast asleep until a troop of hikers came by and woke me up with their ha-loo-ing and shouting. I could see wind-surfers and sail-boats out on the water too, and they made their fair share of fun!

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The largest set of ruins isn’t so bad; in fact, it’s still used as a hostel and vacation house for families. The piles of stone of served their time as a monastery, a fortress, a prison, a yacht club, robbers den (what’s the difference?), and now a vacation hostel.

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The Man in the Iron Mask was the most famous prisoner held in the fort. Can you imagine? I shuddered to think of never leaving…..

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There is a Story about these Massive Stone Walls. Its actually a very intresting story, complete with intrigues, blackmail, theft, pillaging and burnings and unrequited love. 

I’ll have to tell you sometime.  

 

 

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The gate was the main entrance into Citta Alta. The Lion motif showed that the city was actually under the control of Venice (St. Mark)

The old guardhouse is above the gate. Also full of intrigue.

 

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Pretty sights and clouds from looking down from the walls!

Poppets,

Early Friday morning I took a chance to fly to Madrid and meet up with friends who came down from Ireland. Our destination was Gredos, to join in a festival in honor of Fr. Tomas Morales. (http://cruzadasdesantamaria.org/English/biografia.htm) Madrid is a beautiful city but I hardly saw it as we caught the train directly to Avila.

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Avila is a town I remember well. The last time I was there I was a little girl of six or seven. The walls are still there, massive and imposing, rising out of the rocky hills as though city grew from the ground itself.

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We had a few hours to visit the Convent of St. Teresa. It seemed a bleak and barren sort of place! The centuries have simplified the once grand sort of visiting place that St. Teresa knew. It is now a fully functioning convent according to the strict Carmelite Rule. A small section had been set aside as a museum filled with treasures as relics of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross.

The walls are white plaster, the floor-boards worn down where the nuns have walked for the past five hundred years. In the old visiting ‘parlors,’ complete with the original grills, there were a few simple plaques: “This is where St Teresa and St John levitated in ecstasy” or another that read: “This is where St. Teresa saw a vision Christ at the Pillar”. The spiritual reality of the events that transpired within those quiet walls has not dimmed with time.

The Spaniards are not without a sense of humor, however, especially the holy ones. The little museum held an unusual statue of St. Joseph. It was too dark for a good photograph (he is holding Baby Jesus), but you get the idea:

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He is known as “St. Joseph the Tattle-tale” because he would be placed in St. Teresa’s chair in her absence and tell her all that had transpired while she was away. Quite original, I think!

We saw El Escorial from the train, and I insert a photo from the internet since my camera was not working:

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This is not far from Valle de los Caidos, the “Valley of the Fallen” A reminder of those who died for the faith and those who still need our prayers. In a few weeks, Pope Francis will beautify 522 more Spanish martyrs.

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Gredos was a little town ~ but not to worry, it wasn’t the least bit sleepy. When the ‘whole town’ turned out for a festival, all 500 guests showed up. The mayor cooked up dinner. He also serves as the post-master, local bar-tender, guest-house facilitator, and evidently, the town chef. He actually built a sort of cook-house with an enormous frying pan suspended over a fire for just such occasions. Pealla is the obvious choice for a ‘big crowd’ for dinner. It took a moment for an adventurous American to get used to shrimp staring back at her from a steaming plate of rice. Yum!

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And now, friends, the fun is back in the books!

Grace and peace,

Irene