Sunday, October 10, 2010

My favourite thing is to go where I've never been. ~Diane Arbus

For our first 'puente' (break), I decided to use a couple of those free days to visit a few more buildings of Gaudi; the Palacio Episcopal in Astorga, and the Casa Bontines in Leon. Saturday, Elise and I took the 6:35 am bus, bright and early, to Leon, and then from Leon to Astorga. On the bus from Leon to Astorga, we met 4 women pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago who are from Winnipeg! What are the chances of that?! 

We arrive in Astorga only to find that it was gloomy and cold. I was only wearing a t-shirt, a cardigan and a scarf, and thus was pretty chilly the whole day. But it didn't ruin my day! We went to the Cathedral to find that the museum didn't open till 11 (it was 10:30), as well as the Palacio. So we decided that, since a) we had time, b) I was freezing, and c) we needed to find a ladies room, it would be a good idea to go to a cafe and get some coffee. It was this cute little cafe fashioned in the Modernist style, which I have developed quite a fascination for, thanks to Gaudi. So we relaxed there till the Palacio opened.

It easily is one of my favorite Gaudi buildings. After a fire burned down the old one, the Bishop of Astorga approached Gaudi to design the new one. He designed it to be reminiscent of a medieval fortification, with numerous Gothic details. Since it was to be a bishop's palace and episcopal seat, he also has different details that refer back to the bishop's office in the Catholic Church. Such as right: each angel holds a different object that signifies a bishop's office. The one on the left, the mitre (hat); middle the cross; right the staff. Each of these was supposed to be on top of the spires of the Palacio. However, after the untimely death of the Bishop, Gaudi left the project in the hands of the committee, who blocked every one of his 'strange' designs and who made his life difficult. After this, he said he would never work with a committee again. The house that he so painstakingly designed was never lived in; after a time, it was turned into the Museum of the Pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago.

Throughout the building, you can see how Gaudi took the Gothic style, but made it his own. Once we paid to get in (it was cheap!), I saw a sign that said you can't take pictures. I was like whatever! I am here for a project, so I am going to take pictures. Plus there were other people doing it too. I was the only one who was smart enough not to use flash though. She did catch me later in the chapel, and I just pretended like I didn't know. "Oh! I'm sorry! I had no idea!"

After our time there, during which I did 'accidentally' take a lot of pictures, we hopped over across the street to the Cathedral. It is beautiful, of course. My favorite part though is the front, with the beautiful carvings and details. We went through the cathedral and the museum, and then decided to walk to the other side of town to see some of the Roman ruins. It only took us like 20 min to walk to the other side of town since it is so small. It kinda reminds me of Assisi, Italy, with the simple size and the quaintness of it. We walked through the garden where the Jewish Synagogue once stood, and then along the Roman walls. Astorga used to be a Roman fortress. Hence there are ruins of a Roman house, complete with bath and mosaics; as well as a Roman museum. Get this: the museum was built in commemoration of the 2000 ANNIVERSARY of the Roman occupation. That is a lot of years.

After walking along the wall, we went to find something to eat; also to wait till the Chocolate Museum opened again after the siesta. We ate, then went to the Roman Museum, where we paid a combined entrance for the museum and the chocolate museum. I thought it was a great deal! The museum was pretty cool, and the guy made sure we got out in time to make it to the Chocolate Museum before they closed. The chocolate museum was awesome. It smelled so good! It showed how to make chocolate etc, and had some samples of the chocolate they make in Astorga. It was delicious.

And now for a Dokia story. I decided, since we had time, that I was going to find a book in the city of Astorga (mainly for the Palacio, since they didn't have their own book). So I walked into a little corner magazine/book store. There was this old man working, talking with one of his friends. I found what I was looking for and paid for it. After I put my wallet and my new purchase in my daypack, I went to adjust it again. I ended up hooking my finger on my necklace and the chain broke. The pendant and chain fell to the floor, among a bunch of magazines. That necklace is from my grandmother, and there is no way I am leaving it. So I scrambled around, pulling magazines out right and left, looking for this little pearl pendant. The old men were just watching me, intrigued as to what this foreign girl was doing. Meanwhile, Elise, who was standing outside, started wondering what was going on. She looks inside to see me on the floor, magazines everywhere, and the old men confused. She comes in to find out what was going on, and saw the pendant on the floor by my knee. I apologized profusely to the men, put the magazines away, and, pendant in hand, high-tailed it out of there. Totally a Dokia moment. :P

But the day was just great. I think Elise and I both needed just a nice, relaxing day such as this. We spoke English with each other the whole day, and it was so nice! Also, the weather changed from cold and icky to a nice fall day. Plus, I just love small towns such as this. Ones that only take you like 20 minutes to walk across the whole town. Such a beautiful little village.

1 comment:

  1. Astorga and León seem so quaint and enchanted! I saw your pictures on Facebook a whilea go, but reading about it makes it seem more real and alive :) Your 'Dokia moment' is hilarious.. I love embarrassing myself in foreign countries (NOT)!
    A couple of my roommates and I went to Porto, Portugal, and we meet a girl from Winnipeg in our hostel, like you met those lady Winnipeg pilgrims. It's indeed a very small world, or un pañuelo.. haha.
    I LOVE reading your blog posts, Dokia! Although study abroad is not easy, it's something that I think helps us grow and mature into who God wants us to be. I can relate to almost every joy and difficulty you're experiencing. Keep your spirits up, you're going to make it and be glad and proud that you did!