Archive for the ‘Amy Welborn’ Category

I’m going to wait until I get home to do a lot of detailed posting. I just can’t think much here and the internet is weird and I’m on this Chromebook (one that Son #4 had to have for school, and so why not bring it and LORD IN HEAVEN I HATE IT) so nothing is easy and everything is dependent on internet and, as I said, I hate it.

So we’ll just do photos mostly.

Oh, and if you have a moment, please note the temperatures in Spain and other parts of Europe for now and the rest of the week. I’ll wait. Got it? Yup….100’s. 100’s. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m a hot-weather gal, for sure. But it’s a different thing when The Obligation of Touristing must happen in 100-degree weather, indeed.

(And here in this part of Spain, the peak temps happen between about 3-6, fyi)

Today we rose, had a lovely breakfast at our hotel, which is not in the old city, but across the river. I have a car, I needed parking, and so I opted for something where that would happen. It means either a long walk or an easy bus ride to the center, but that’s fine. We’re content here. (Again – two rooms).

We caught the bus down and up into the marvelous city of Toledo – and it is marvelous, although I will say (and will say at more length later) that even with its richness, I prefer Seville to Toledo.  And I prefer smaller places like Caceres to either of them. The old city of Toledo may indeed have permanent residents – I’m sure it does – but as a whole, it has a far more touristy feel than any place else we’ve visited in Spain so far on this trip – almost Venice-like, as in: “Would this exist if it weren’t for tourists?” I prefer a place in which real people are  obviously living their real lives amidst the richness of deep history and I’m simply privileged to peak in for a bit and hoping I’m not getting in their way too much.


I’m going to go into more detail later about the beautiful churches of Toledo, but just know that today’s highlights were the Cathedral, which is, of course, fascinating and gorgeous. I’ve been in many major Cathedrals, and I might just put Toledo at or very near the top. The orientation for visitors is extremely well done and the audio guide is tops. You are getting tired of me saying more later, but believe me – when I return home next week, it will be a month solid of posts on this trip.

Ah – that first sentence in the paragraph again said “were” – which indicates plural, which indicates more than one. There were other lovely churches, but the other highlight was probably the Jesuit church, San Idelfanso. Wonderful side altars with vivid statuary and a great view from the bell towers.

By the time we finished with all of that and more and an excellent non-Spanish lunch img_20190626_134620(here – a welcome change), it was past four and time for a break. We caught a cab back to the hotel (it’s uphill and did I mention it’s 100 degrees here?), rested for a bit, during which I did some research and discovered a possibly interesting site about ten miles south of here…

and it was…

Holding my breath, driving up dirt road switchbacks to a  ruined, abandoned castle was the perfect way to say “thank you” to my traveling companions for trudging through countless churches over the past few weeks. It actually wasn’t as bad as some of the discussion board comments had led me to believe – just take it slow and you’ll be fine.

What a sight. Real people lived and worked here, scanning the landscape for danger, prepared to protect and defend, waiting and watching in the silence of a vast, windswept landscape.

All right then. What next? It’s seven o’clock and this being broad daylight because it’s Spain…we’ll bow to the memory of all the tough hombres who manned the castle…and head to the mall.

I do enjoy grocery shopping and mall cruising in foreign countries. It points to the differences and similarities and the ubiquity, quite frankly, of American popular culture. We spent time in the food court and there is no question, without a doubt that the most popular place by a factor of at least five, was McDonald’s. But you could have guessed that, right?

Left: sight not normally seen at Publix. Right: the love for chocolate here runs deep.

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Stories in ceramic

When figuring out routes in any kind of travel, even locally, I always search for “what to see on the way from A to B” or “What to see around C” and so on. So for this leg, I searched “What to see between Guadalupe and Toledo” and searched the map for possibilities. Talavera de la Reina came up – and it was a great stop!

It’s famed for its ceramics. We didn’t have time to do an extensive exploration, and the city was busy and traffic was the heaviest I’ve encountered so I wasn’t really in a mental space to just drive around. It was best to just find parking (underground and extensive) and hoof it to the main site – the Basilica. 

It’s located in a lovely park, right next to – and I mean right next to – the bullring. No idea if the latter is still in active use. Park features from lamposts to the bandstand to fountains and benches are all decorated with ceramic tile.


The basilica itself is lovely. The front entrance has tiles depicting various scenes from Scripture. Once inside, the left side of the church is lined with figures from the Old Testament, and on the right, with the main stories from the lives of Mary and Jesus. Even the pulpit is decorated with ceramic tile. It’s a lovely place, and so clear how, in a time in which people didn’t read the Bible and couldn’t read at all – coming to a space like this every Sunday, encountering the basics of the story of salvation through images – they might be just a bit more knowledgeable than most of us who fancy ourselves more advanced simply because we know what a jumble of letters mean and can listen to Scriptures “in our own language.”

Anyway, here you go. The circumcision is clearly…a circumcision, isn’t it?



Love the tiled pulpit.

Anyway…on to Toledo!

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First, business: The Absence of War is now available on Kindle again. I had pulled it because I entered in a competition which, not surprisingly, I did not win, so here it is again for you – lending is enabled, so if you like it, you can pass it on. And while you’re at it, check out Son #2’s new book, coming in a week or so: Crystal Embers.  Preview here. 

All right, now for travel things. Monday, we traveled from Caceres to Guadalupe, the site of the famed Royal Monastery of Guadalupe. History:

There is a legend of the origins of the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The legend says that St. Luke was the person who created the statue in the first century AD. When he died in Asia Minor, he was buried with the statue. In the 4th century, his remains were transferred to Constantinople in the 4th century. In 590 Gregorio Magno was elected Pope and he had a devotion to this Virgin and exhibited the statue in his chapel. One day the Pope was having a solemn procession with the Virgin in Rome and asked the Virgin to intercede to stop an epidemic in the city. An angel appeared to the Pope and the epidemic stopped.

Pope Gregorio Magno sent the statue to Seville to St. Leandro, who was the archbishop of the city, through his brother Isidoro, who was in Rome. During the boat trip, a sudden storm overtook the boat, but Isidoro prayed to the Virgin and the storm stopped suddenly. The Virgin was enthroned in Seville in the principal church at that time until the Moorish invasion in 714. Many priests in Seville fled the city during the invasion and went north with the statue of the Virgin and other reliquaries of the saints. They hid the statue near the river in Guadalupe.

At the end of the 13th century, a cow herder called Gil Cordero had a vision from the Virgin Mary beside the river. She indicated to him where her statue could be found. She told him to tell the priests where the statue was and for them to build a church in that place. The priests of Caceres then build a hermitage in that place and dedicated it to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Pilgrimages started to the hermitage and later in 1389 the monks of the Order of St. Jeronimo arrived and took over the hermitage. Many of the Spanish kings, especially the Catholic Kings, favored the monastery and many additions were made to it and many treasures were given to it too. The Catholic Kings made a pilgrimage to the monastery after their conquest of Granada.

The statue of the Virgin has been examined by experts several times. The statue was carved in cedar and polychromed at the end of the 12th century. Its style is Romanesque and today her image looks black, from the passage of time. The Virgin is seated and has the Child Jesus in her arms. The image measures 59 cm. Today the Virgin is venerated and on Sept.8 there is a celebration on her feast day. After Santiago de Compostela, the number of pilgrimages to Guadalupe is the most numerous in Spain.

On July 29, 1496, Columbus brought two Indians named Cristobal and Pedro to the monastery to have them baptized, when he met the Catholic Kings here. This was the first baptism of Indians from America. They returned to Mexico and many hermitages and churches in the Americas were dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Columbus named one of the islands he discovered Guadalupe, after the Virgin. Today there is a great devotion to this Virgin in all of the Americas and around the world, especially in Mexico.

Images of the baptism are everywhere and the font that was used is the center of a fountain in front of the monastery.

I was a little surprised by how the monastery was situated. The place has a mini-Lourdes-like vibe, not surprising, if you read the note above about its long-time popularity as a pilgrimage site. So it’s not exactly a peaceful place, with the monastery being literally right up against the little town – the steps a couple hundred feet from the plaza-side cafes. It’s kind of strange, but because the town structures around the monastery retain their medieval look (except, you know, for the Mahou ads and such), it fits.

There are two aspects to visiting the monastery complex: Visiting the monastery itself, which requires participation in a tour, and then visiting the basilica, which is of course, open. The tours just kind of…happen, it seems to me. Enough people gather, and they start a tour. So, thinking that we might do this tour on Tuesday, we showed up Monday around 4:30, having checked in our cute little hostel (2 rooms for $70 total), and people were sitting around in the gathering area, so..you know…why not?

The tour is in Spanish, and takes you in the cloister, adjoining rooms which have been made into museum rooms of choir books and religious artifacts, the magnificent sacristy which features paintings by Zubaran, and then the upper…chapel, I guess. A layman takes you through most of the tour, and then in that upper chapel, a Franciscan takes over. We were, I gathered, about to see Guadalupe herself. He talked for a while, then opened another door – there was a panel with all sorts of painted images on it which he turned…and there she was! He lead a Hail Mary in front of it, then offered us a disk attached to the statue with a rope for us to venerate. Most in the group did, some held back. There was a pregnant woman in the group to whom he gave the privilege of turning the statue back the other way. (When you go in the basilica, the statue is up high from your vantage point – so where you’ve been on the tour is up behind it.)


At one point one of my sons asked me, “What is he saying?” of the lay tour guide and I quickly explained that he was telling us we were in the former refectory and this is where the tables where and up there was the niche in which the reader stood during meals. He stared at me and said, “But you don’t speak Spanish.” “But I speak Catholic,” I said – and continued explaining that if I know the context of the speech and if I’m familiar with the topic, I can follow the general gist of what someone is saying in French, Spanish or Italian. Context is everything, though. So here, once I picked up the word for refectory, I was set.

The tour was a little rushed, but I guess you could also say it was efficient, right? The basilica was…a basilica. There was not much distinctive about it, so I’m glad we got all that done when we arrived – the advantages of the late-living Spanish lifestyle!

No photos were allowed in the monastery, but you can easily find images of that online.

Monday evening, we wandered, took in views, and prepped for the next stage. Tuesday morning, we got up and I thought we might do some walks around Guadalupe, but as we drove out, I couldn’t figure out stopping points or parking places or trail beginnings, so we just sped on. It would be an hour and a half to the next stop, so might as well….


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The one in Spain, that is.


You may not know that long before Juan Diego, there was another Virgin of Guadalupe, and we saw her today. So now we can check that off – we’ve seen the Our Lady of Guadalupes from both the Old and the New Worlds. 

And now, coming to you from the balcony of a lovely little hostel steps from the Real (meaning: Royal) Monastery of Guadalupe, perfect, clean and so cheap we can have two rooms. In fact, if they’d had them available, it’s so cheap, we could have had three, which would have been just fine with me at this point…

I’ll be writing about aspects of this trip in detail for a while, so tonight (from the balcony!) I’ll just summarize today.

I want to begin by saying that from this point on, only about 1/3 of the trip was planned and booked. I booked this hostel the day before we arrived, and I just now booked a hotel in Toledo for the next couple of days. We’ve got a car, there’s no shortage of places to stay, and there was just no way to predict how we’d feel or what we’d want to see. As I always say – it’s all new to me, so really, what does it matter whether I see A rather than B or C?

We got up this morning and headed out to see a couple more things in Caceres. I’ll just remind you that “seeing things” in Spain can be just as fraught as “seeing things” in Italy. God only knows when things will be open, so you have to just do what you can and give the rest to that same God. I mean, hours are posted, but there are all sorts of complications – such as Corpus Christi last Thursday, the Birth of St. John the Baptist today, and so on. So “things” that we couldn’t see yesterday got seen today – most of them, that is. Because, well..it’s Monday. And that means museums are closed and unfortunately one of the things I wanted to see was the Moorish cistern under the museum….no go.

We saw some things, bought a few things and checked out of our hotel –the very nice Casa Don Fernando  hotel right on Plaza Mayor in Caraces. Then to the car and off we went.


A word on the car: I rented the car in Seville, picked it up at the train station there, rather than the airport, which was much further away from our apartment. Given that it was a Saturday and so traffic was much lighter, driving wasn’t an issue. Driving in a foreign country on a weekend is a good introduction: traffic is, as I said, lighter, so you have time to contemplate the mysteries of signage without the pressure of impatient drivers behind you.

Our hotel in Caceres was in the old city, with, of course, no parking, so I parked in a lot about a third of a kilometer away (see photo on the left above), and we just walked with our luggage to the hotel (see photo on the right above). It was about twelve Euros for 24 hours, and they’re so advanced, the ticket must have an RFD chip in it – you pay on the floor on which you’ve parked, and you don’t even have to insert it as you leave – it reads it from afar, somehow as you drive near the exit, and up swings the gate.

Note: I did stress a bit about the car – I don’t know why, considering I’ve driven in Sicily for pete’s sake, and I even worked out alternative itineraries which did not involve driving, but oh boy, I’m glad I dropped that idea. After being dependent on walking and buses and trains for two weeks – what a joy to get behind the wheel of a car again. Really.  Plus, there’s no way we could have done what we did today without a car.

First stop: a place called Romangordo (Fat Roman? I have no idea) which I learned about from this blog post. It’s a small village which has been enriched by a bunch of urban art. It was interesting to walk around in – and we weren’t alone – there were two groups of school children there – and one were getting a big lesson is something related to something the British did in 1812 (not sure what it was). A pleasant twenty minutes or so.


Then back in the car, down the road on the way to Guadalupe to Cabañas del Castillo  ……. I learned about this from a blog post as well, but had no idea, even as I drove up to it, why we were there or what would be interesting about it, until M saw the remnants of the castle on the heights, figured out that we could get up to it, and then…dang it. 

Okay. It wasn’t too bad. I have to say, I saw the sign indicating distance when we began walking, and noted the number “0.8”  I gulped a little, but then determined, as I try to do with everything from finances to social media fascism, it’s for the children, and forged on. When we were all done, I said, “You know, that wasn’t bad. It didn’t feel like an eighth of a mile.” When of course, I was reminded, “It was an eighth of a kilometer, Mom.”


Well, of course.


Gorgeous, gorgeous views.

Then on to Guadalupe…more on that tomorrow, when you awaken!



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All right.

We’re in Caceres, Spain (moving on tomorrow) and today I want to share with you a bit about the celebrations of Corpus Christi we’ve experienced in Seville and, as it turns out, here.

When I booked and “planned” this trip, I didn’t think, “Oh, let’s do Seville during Corpus Christi.” But as I researched, I noticed that, well, Corpus Christi would happen during our time there, and it’s a Thing in Seville. Of course, it’s a Thing in most traditionally Catholic communities, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s not at the same level as their Holy Week extravaganza, but it was a big deal, indeed.


It began, it seems with music. Tuesday and Wednesday night, local bands (that is, community marching bands, of which there are many) marched and played concerts in the Plaza de San Francisco near the Cathedral. There was a big concert, it seems, which we did not attend. My interest in doing so was cut off at the knees when I saw the program and noted the final piece being played.


Makes complete sense, doesn’t it?

Things start getting intense on Wednesday afternoon, as local businesses, households and churches decorates storefronts, balconies and street corners with altars. Wednesday night, the crowds throng the streets. One of my sons and I ventured out – it was a mob scene of all sorts of people from everywhere doing the usual evening strolling and gnoshing with the added attraction of windows done up with Jesus, Mary, angels, chalices and bread to look at.

The owner of our apartment had advised purchasing tickets for seats for the Thursday morning procession. Doing so wasn’t easy, but eventually I figured it out, and snagged some Wednesday late afternoon. The man in the ticket office asked where I’d like to sit, and of course I had no clue, so I just nodded at the first spot he pointed to on his chart.

Turns out…they were pretty good seats! Right in Plaza de San Francisco, which is considered the beginning and center stage of the procession. There’s a big altar set up, the choir is there, and from there prayers are led.

It begins early – 8:30 – and as the morning wears on, you can clearly see – and feel – why. For this is Seville, and while I have lived in the South – including Florida – for much of my life and vastly prefer heat to cold, this southern Spanish heat is something else. It was fine under that canopy for about two hours, then the sun got high enough to start heating up our backs and I started counting the floats – or – .

The procession itself was quite interesting, but not what I expected. I expected, for some reason, I don’t know – bands. Maybe more objects processing. But that’s not how it was. This, rather, is how it was: Most of the procession was composed of members of confraternities and other groups, most carrying long (like 4 feet long) lighted candles or symbols of their particular group. Many, many people young and old. Scads of them, women dressed to the nines, men mostly in what seems to be the Spanish male dress-up uniform – a blue suit. Sometimes black, but mostly blue – not exactly a style you’d see in the US. It went on and on, and led me to understand something about this type of thing: it’s a spectacle, but it’s not intended to be watched. It’s intended to be a spectacle in which you get to participate. For in its origins (and still in smaller places and parishes) the Corpus Christi procession is an action of the entire community. Keeping that in mind, I dug up a little more patience.

And that was that – about three hours later. At which point everyone breaks and heads for lunch, and as you see the confraternity members leaning at tables with their tapas and cervesas, finding refreshment in the hot sun after escorting Christ through the busy city on a weekday morning, you (or at least me) are grateful for where ever the “reformers” were resisted.

A couple of notes:  One of the glorious moments occurred when the bells of the ….tower started ringing wildly. It was, we decided, the moment when the float bearing the monstrance emerged from the Cathedral.

Secondly, the final group in the procession, after the Eucharist had passed, was the military. Men and women of all branches, marching solemnly, were greeted – as no one else the entire procession had been – with applause and scattered shouts of Viva Espana! 

And then here we are, Sunday morning in Caraces. Our hotel is on the Plaza Mayor, so all we have to do for Mass at the Cathedral, is walk across the plaza, up some steps and down some medieval stone streets.

The church was packed – it was to be the community’s Corpus Christi celebration, followed by, yes, a procession. A bishop presided at Mass, and while the liturgy was a little scattered, the Mass parts were in Latin in settings we knew and what a pleasure that was. After Mass, a man got up to the microphone and began organizing the procession, calling out the various confraternities, who got themselves to the middle aisle and out. We waited a bit and then went around them and down to the plaza, where an altar had been set up. The path of the procession was marked – as it had been in Seville  – by a path of rosemary.

Members of confraternities, children who’d received First Communion – girls in long white dresses, boys in suits, many of a vaguely military style, religious, priests and the rest of us, including a brass band – led Christ through the town. For a time, we sat at a cafe on the plaza, eating a light breakfast while we waited for the procession to make its round. We moved back to get a good view as the monstrance returned, and in a lovely moment, a family emerged onto a balcony and tossed flower petals to celebrate Christ as he passed.

Later, we drove to Trujillo – about thirty minutes away. In the late afternoon, even there, little girls in long white dresses appeared, walking around the plaza as the adults ate and drank. In general, it was an immensely civilized scene, so beautifully structured to allow everyone the freedom to do what they want – adults to enjoy each other’s company, children to be around and safe, but also on their own, exploring and just being. The girls in white dresses and boys in their suits, racing around with popsicles and soccer balls told me that here, too, there’d been a procession, a celebration, that here he’d been welcomed, too.


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Corpus Christi

First, an image from the Loyola Kids Book of Signs and Symbols, which I’ve just learned was awarded First Place in the Children’s Books category by the Catholic Press Association:




Of course, there are many more pertinent references in the book, but I’m not travelling with the book and a scanner, so here you go!

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— 1 —

Yes, we are still here, but not for long. Long days and lots of people around have meant no time for regular posting – just here, about our Monday trip to Cordoba. Hence, what follows are mostly photos of our major activities of the week.

 — 2 —

Oh, I was in Living Faith this week. Go here for that.

And speaking of writing, don’t forget to order a copy of my 2020 daily devotional, which will be available in July That will give you time, if you’re an administrator of a school or parish or diocesan entity, to naturally choose to order it in bulk for your people! (Reminder: no royalties are made by me from this project. It’s written for a stipend. But I did work hard on it and would love to see it in the wild!)

Speaking of writing, check out the first chapter of Son #2’s next self-published novel here and pre-order here.

— 3 —

A ripped St. Jerome, possibly a naked mole rat served up at the Last Supper and St. Ramon Nonato, who had his lips locked by his Moorish (I think) captors. All from the small, but very good Museo de Bellas Artes. There were several more interesting pieces, so I’ll be writing a longer post on that later.


Wednesday-Thursday were focused on Corpus Christi, but with several other activities. Everywhere we went in the center, we were met with signs of preparation for the feast, and then the actual procession on Thursday morning.


The procession begins in the Cathedral, goes to the Plaza de San Francisco marked by these arches in the photo on the right, and then goes through streets, where groups and businesses erect altars (on the left) and decorated windows and balconies. I was under the impression that they did something with the streets as well (making designs with flower petals and such), but I didn’t see any of that.


–5 —

There are several convents around town which sell baked goods and sweets. Some of them are more open to the public but with others, the sisters remain hidden. Here, at San Leandro, where we purchased some lovely “Magdalenas” (like French Madeleines, but in muffin shape) via this turnstile arrangement. You greet the sister – you’re supposed to say Ave Maria Purisima. She asks what you would like (they have what’s available posted), she tells you how much, you put your money in the turnstile, she turns it and returns it with your purchase.

— 6 —

Wednesday night, the town was out in full force. There had been band parades and a concert earlier in the evening, and then everyone surged through the streets, viewing the altars and other decorations:

— 7 —


Then Thursday morning – the procession:


It was suggested that we purchase seats rather than stand, and that was a good decision to do so. We happened to be write at the main altar in the Plaza, so we were in front of the choir and there for some prayers when the Eucharist processed by (last photo). A very interesting experience, about which I will write more later.

There have been other events: Flamenco, a bullfight (yes, sorry. Not saying I thought it was beautiful, but it was something I wanted to see and attempt to understand.) food, various other wanderings, including the The Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo – housed in a former monastery, then ceramics factory.


Wrapping up today, and then…onward….

As I’ve said, take a look at Instagram for more (I have been lax in posting there as well, also, though) and come back for more detailed posts over the next couple of weeks. Half of us are returning to ‘Murica soon, so there might be a bit more time for me to think and write. There’s better be, actually, since I have something due on Monday and then something pretty soon after we get home….

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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