Spring Pilgrimage ~ Madrid

It was Day #5 and the 25 of us on the bus were beginning to be family.  Riding out of Portugal and into the plains of Spain was tranquil, comfortable, fun.  Clusters of cities with orange-tiled roofs were similar to those in Portugal.

Enormous closed rice fields came into view from our bus windows.  The Moors brought rice to Spain during the Middle Ages.

Puffed up clouds clung to mountain tops.  We saw storks nested in electrical towers; they are protected birds in Spain.

Horses, sheep, and cattle grazed in the valleys.  Bulls ran in herds like the buffalo in America.

We crossed the familiar Tagus River, the same one that empties into the sea at the Port of Lisbon.

At "rowdy" roadside stop we found unusual merchandise.  Marcus said that bullfights in Spain are a remnant of the Roman occupation.  It was too far and hard to haul in lions and tigers from Africa for their coliseum games, so they used bulls and bullfights for bloody recreation.

Enough leg o' lamb for everybody!  Carla LaBore was the best sheep spotter on the bus. 

Castles and Spanish fortresses stretched high in the distance.

The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.  Thank you, God, for the rainbow.

Our tour of Madrid began at 9 a.m.  Spanish high rises are colorful, clean, somewhat ornate, and old.  Families reside on the other side of the grills and gated balconies.  Narrow streets led to Plaza Mayor.

Magnificent architecture surrounded the Plaza, a big city square where apartments sell for about $6,000 a square meter, according to  Marcus.  Madrid became the capital of Spain in the 16th century.  "It is very modern compared to other capitals," he said.  The building with the fašade of frescoes, dedicated to the goddess of fertility, is where royalty lived.

Hi, Father Stan.  The Atocha Railway Station contains the main bus terminals as well as art galleries, restaurants, and tropical gardens.  I don't believe it's used as a train station anymore because they built a new one nearby, but it's a popular place to meet people, shop, and eat.

Lee LaBore and Bob Wendt also had cameras, some of them moving.  Marcus told us that it is now two years ago that the Muslims bombed the station.  They set a bomb on a timer, but the timer was two minutes late so "only 200" people were killed; many more were injured.  Hospitals were very busy, he said, but the late timer saved many lives.

Ladies wait in line for everything, it seems.  Hi, Marilyn, Rose, Mary, Rita, and Judy.

Spaniards put Christopher Columbus on a pedestal in Columbus Square, which is dedicated to the discovery of America.  Although the gent was Italian, 'twas King Ferdinand of Spain and his Queen Isabella of Portugal who helped finance his voyages, especially as he sought a westerly route to India.

Our Blessed Lady is honored throughout the country.  This image is built into a niche at the top of a three-story building that bears no other marks of distinction.

At the grass line is a sculpture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, who were made famous in Man of La Mancha,  under the eye of their creator, Cervantes.  Marcus said that "La Mancha" is Arab for "dry land."  Muslims controlled the Iberian Peninsula, and other parts of Europe, in old times.

I don't recall if this building has a name, but it's indicative of many buildings that we saw in Madrid.  Look how we pilgrims huddle en masse, attentive, interested, and well-behaved.

There were many photo-ops in this capital city.  Hi, Chris, Mary, Rita, Judy, Marilyn, and Dennis. 
We were reminded by Marcus that the number of feet that a sculpted horse holds in the air signifies how the soldier died.  This soldier died in battle since two hooves are raised.  If one hoof is raised, the rider was wounded.  If all four are on the ground, the rider survived all battles unharmed.  In the background is the Royal Palace, traditional seat of the Spanish Royal Family.

The Royal Palace has more rooms than any other European palace.  Adjacent to the Palace are the Royal Botanic Gardens of Madrid. 

Hi, Father Stan.  How come you're in so many pictures with me and Mary?

A long royal line of statutes and pigeons led us to our meeting place.

Father Bob is surrounded by admirers.  Hi, Chuck, Judy, and Mary.  Is that you, Marcus, with the leather jacket?

It's been a long time since we prayed the rosary, boys.  Better get started.

Our priests said Mass at 12 noon that day, at San Antonio Catholic Church in Madrid, with Leo Oas doing the readings.  Yes, St. Anthony is popular in Spain as well as Portugal.  Father Bob gave the homily:  "We are guests.  We are visitors.  We are pilgrims on a journey, not just to Fatima and Lourdes, but to Heaven."

After Mass, all of us pilgrims were on our own for lunch and for the afternoon.  Mary and I found lunch not far from our hotel, with an excellent array of small sandwiches -- "tapas," I believe they're called, which consisted of crusty breadlets topped with proscuitto, and also a dish of marinated olives and onions.  We enjoyed the wait staff and the food, but Mary did not appreciate the "dirty" sparrows that were flying in and out of the open-air restaurant begging for crumbs.  The waiters smiled at Mary's disgruntled demeanor, and then we smiled at them.

But, horror of horrors, as we were leaving, Mary's rubber-soled shoes caught on the rubber-soled mat, and she tripped.  Catching herself with her right hand, she dislocated her little finger.  We spent two hours at a hospital where Mary was very brave, and where I learned new words such as Traumatologia, No Pasar, Ambulancias, Urgencias, Por Favor, Sea Paciente, No fume aqui.  While I waited for the doctors to relocate Mary's little finger, a big rain came up and blew tree branches and hail against the windows.  It sounded like Spanish castanets. 

Mary said that the most painful part was getting four shots of Novocain before they pulled the little finger back into place.  Then they taped together fingers number 4 and 5 and sent her home.  Mary never had to take a pain pill nor pay a pittance for health care.  It's called socialized medicine, which was wonderful for us as tourists from America, but Spanish citizens have 75% of their paychecks automatically deducted to pay for health care in their country.  Thank you, Marcus, for your help, especially in translation.

The next morning at 8:30 a.m., after two nights in Madrid, our group of 25 pilgrims was back on the bus.  It was Sunday, April 23rd, an overcast day as you can see, and our final destination, Lourdes, was in mind.  But I kept thinking about the night before, as Mary and I had sat in the lounge with Father Bob and Father Stan and talked into the night. 

We talked about the vocations of Father  Bob and Father Stan, and about their fathers, and then we veered into conversation about the most famous people we have personally met.  Father Stan won.  He met Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1990 with two other seminarians.  "I was tongue tied at first," said Father Stan, "and then I called him His Holiness.  I never referred to him as His Holiness before."

Father Stan personally received a rosary from Pope John Paul II, which could one day be declared a third class relic.  Father Stan passed that rosary around the bus for all us pilgrims to touch.  Thank you, Father Stan, for your thoughtfulness and for taking things to heart.

It became a beautiful day of sunshine, shadows, and sheep sightings.  At a rest stop for lunch, Father Bob led a group of pilgrims in a stretch exercise before we re-boarded the bus.

The next pit stop on the road to Lourdes included the looming Tour de France Monument.  Yes, we had by now crossed into France.  Hello to Marcus, Gene Sweet, and Father Bob. 

The sculpture of bikers -- like in Space Odyssey --  seemed to rise out of the earth.  Thank you, Marcus, for the stop.

Onward Christian Soldiers, the pilgrimage continues.  Hi, Mary Balster, the waver in peach, and Sara Linsley, her daughter in green.  Hello, Rose in the navy.  Hello, priest in shades and shorts.  The bus is waiting!  Click here to continue with Spring Pilgrimage:  Lourdes.

NOT the End!
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Spring Pilgrimage ~ Lourdes