The Shrine Chaser: Finding my way to Avila, Spain

Getting to Avila

I need to go to Spain, I tell Anniqua.

Take the Simurgh.

The Sunbird? I look surprised. You know she devours the unworthy, and I may not be one of the worthiest. Also, she’s a man-eater. Who do you think I am? Sinbad.

The Adventures of Sinbad and the Roc from One Thousand and One Nights was one of the most coveted books in our childhood “bedroom-library”. We’ve both read it numerous times.

But, she raises one eyebrow, You are not a man.

No, I am not.

In the clutches of the Simurgh?

After lunch, we walk along the Portuguese coast, my mind still on Spain. Looking east towards the Atlantic, I see a bank of clouds.

“الذي يعيش يرى الكثير، لكن من يسافر يرى أكثر” – ابن بطوطة / He who lives sees a lot, but he who travels sees more. — Ibn Battuta

If I were Ibn Battuta, I say out loud, I would see a Simurgh in those clouds. I would write about this surreal incident in my travelogue and tell my readers that the Simurgh lifted me up in her claws and flew me to Avila in Spain where I met the spirit of Santa Teresa – and this 600 km celestial journey took just a few seconds. My readers would believe every word. Or, perhaps I’d take a leaf out of Dante’s Purgatorio and make it a lengthy, colorful narrative which people would translate into dozens of languages. 

You wouldn’t get away with it, Anniqua replies, not today. Our readers have the power of the all-knowing Google-god, and then Snopes would fact-check you in seconds. No, I’d just stick to the truth for now.

By Train

I do, eventually, reach Avila, but not in the death grip of a Simurgh’s claws. The high-speed train, AVE, of Spain is a lot more comfortable and it has a well-stocked café-bar to boot.  If this had been an option available to Sinbad, I’m sure he would have done the same.

Click to find out more about what to see and do in Avila.

You wouldn’t get away with it, Anniqua replies, not today. Our readers have the power of the all-knowing Google-god, and then Snopes would fact-check you in seconds. No, I’d just stick to the truth for now.

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