To Salamanca…and Fatima

Wednesday, August 24

8:30 am Bus Time

Today, we begin our journey to Fatima with a three-hour stop in Salamanca, where I will see my brother whom I haven’t seen in three years. I was so excited last night that I could hardly sleep. As motion sickness has already ensued, I will take a nap in the hope that it will pass.

10:30 am First Impressions of Salamanca

After being impressed by the imposing walls upon our arrival to Toledo and Avila, we were let down by the modern and unimpressive initial appearance of the highly acclaimed Salamanca. However, this is a simple lesson in not judging a book by it’s cover, or in this case, a city by its walls. It wasn’t until we descended from the bus and began walking to the cathedral that we found ourselves surrounded by the rich and seemingly ancient architecture of Salamanca. On our way to the cathedral, we entered the main plaza of Salamanca, suitably called “Plaza Mayor.” The periphery of the plaza consists of subsequent arches that provide for a shaded sidewalk and entrance to the various bakeries, restaurants, and souvenir shops. However, there was no time to stop and look around; we were on our way to the cathedral for Mass at 11:00. Not only did I not want to be late for mass, but I was also excited to meet my brother, Robert, at the cathedral. He has been studying at the Legionary seminary in Salamanca for the past year and studied in Germany for the previous two years, which means that I haven’t seen him for three years. With this in mind, I stopped taking pictures along the way and started power walking ahead of the group.

11:00 am The “new” cathedral of Salamanca

It’s referred to as “new” not because it is a modern cathedral, but because it was built in the 16th century, while the old cathedral was built in the 12th century. If it were in America, we would consider it as the old and the ancient. The breath-taking beauty of the cathedral placed it alongside that of Notre Dame and St. Peter’s. It’s difficult to imagine how human hands could create the sequoia tree-sized columns or the intricate designs covering the ceiling. As we admired the majestic architecture, we made our way to a small side chapel for a private mass. There, outside of the chapel, I met up with my brother who was just the same as ever. We Antonios never seem to age (a good thing for the older ones, but not so fortunate for us younger ones). We quickly filed into the pews and into the back, as there were not enough pews to accommodate all 50 of us.  I expected to be standing throughout the Mass, when the large gate which separated the congregation from the altar were opened and several, including me, found places in the two pews just alongside the altar. “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” I was just about 4 feet away from the altar, the closest up I have ever been in mass. Fr. Jose Felix L.C. gave us a wonderful homily about faith in God, saying that faith is not just memorizing our YouCats (which we received from the Pope at WYD), but knowing our faith and living our lives centered in God.

3:00 pm Back to the Plaza

Immediately following mass, my brother and I left to spend some time together while the others took a tour of the famous sites of Salamanca including one of the oldest universities in Spain, the University of Salamanca. Br. Robert and I walked around the Plaza Mayor four times trying to decide where to eat. Indecisiveness runs in the family. Finally, we went to a cafe and asked for coffee and a snack (to avoid further decision making). We sat down at a table and chairs in the plaza as we sipped our lattes and looked through recent family pictures. Then, the waiter came out and served each of us an exquisite plate of crepes drizzled with chocolate and with three dollops of cream on the side. Que rica! (how delicious). After our snack, we took a walk trying not to lose our sense of direction and get lost. As we did so, we noticed groups of American girls everywhere we went. Strangely enough many of them were wearing skirts.

In our last few minutes together, we decided (yes, we decided) to eat lunch there as well. After once again searching for a place suitable to our appetites, we settled for a simple dish of tortilla (Spanish omelet). As for the others of my group, they too ate and shopped at the Plaza Mayor. My visit with my brother was short but very enjoyable. The last time we were together I was in 9th grade, which is a big difference from now. I also noticed that we look much more alike now. Whenever we asked someone to take a picture for us they would ask, “hermanos?” Some of my friends have said that we actually look like twins.   As my brother and I waited for my bus to arrive we found ourselves standing in front of a shoe store with a large sign on the front that says “ANTONIO.” It made a nice picture to conclude our visit and to depart with.

5:00 pm Back to the bus in the back of the bus

As I look outside, I no longer see the barren plains that we drove through en route to Toledo and Avila. The landscape resembles something like an American national park, with hills and ravines covered in luscious green vegetation. Every three hours or so we take a break at a rest stop for gas, to admire the scenery, go to the restroom, and/or have a snack. There is a rule for bus drivers that they can only drive 10 hours in the day and that they have to stop every so often. Just now we made our last stop before leaving Spain. Some bought 2-foot-long baguettes (baguettes that are 2 feet long) for just one euro, which is $1.50. Others, like me, have our own traditional American snacks to share on the bus, like octopus shaped gummy worms.

“Boring” is far from describing our life on the bus. Several, including me are learning how to make friendship bracelets (something I would never do in my spare time at home, but I am just discovering how fun it is). Many are reading, listening to music together, writing post cards, or (of course) just talking.

Immaculate Conception Academy Consecrated Team

8:00 pm Fatima at last

We have just entered the city of Fatima! Our experienced bus driver brought us to a Fatima souvenir “supermarket” where everything is cheaper than in the shops near the shrine. We checked our lists, making sure not to forget gifts for anyone. Now we are at our hotel which continues to exceed our expectations. The hotel, Hotel Santo Amaro, is mainly for pilgrims like us. It is only about a quarter mile from the shrine, but it’s a little too late to go now. We just received our room numbers and roommates. I’m sharing a room with three others on the 5th floor. Since the line for the elevator was long and we didn’t want to be late for dinner we dragged ourselves and our suitcases up the stairs. We’re settling in with a nice three-course dinner and looking forward to a good sleep and a wonderful day tomorrow

About Margaret Antonio

Margaret Antonio is valedictorian of the 2012 graduating class of Immaculate Conception Academy. She is a student at Boston College.
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