As I mentioned last time, Pat and I began our Camino pilgrimage -- FIFTEEN YEARS AGO -- by spending the first several days of our Spanish adventure in the well-preserved medieval city of Ávila, home of our beloved Santa Teresa.
For lodging, we had arranged to stay at the Convento Santa María de Jesús, located on a hill right outside the famous walled city.
Not actually running a hotel for tourists, the Franciscan nuns (las Clarisas) at the convent agreed to let us stay in the Convent's guest rooms after I explained that Pat and I were pilgrims, headed to Pamplona, where we would begin walking el Camino de Santiago.
I will never forget our arrival in Ávila. After the taxi dropped us at what appeared to be the main entrance to the convent, Pat and I could not figure out how to get into the building!
First timidly, then forcefully, we knocked on the wooden door and waited. Several times.
Hungover from jetlag, I searched the massive door with black iron nails for something obvious that could announce our presence. A doorbell, a bell, a knocker. There was nothing but the handle that we kept trying to twist open, without success.
We set our backpacks down against the wall with a beautiful carved image of St. Francis and St. Clare. And Pat and I took turns knocking on the door and walking up and down the front of the building looking into the windows.
Nothing. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to get in!
I decided to walk the entire street block looking for a different entrance to the building. When that didn’t work, I walked down the hill to a paint store that had its door open, and I asked the clerk behind the counter if he could tell me how to get into the convent.
The man looked puzzled by my question, then generously offered me the store’s phone to call the convent.
“The door isn’t locked,” said the confused nun who answered the phone. “It’s not locked,” she repeated, “Just open the door.”
So once again, I walked back to the intimidating door. Stood in front of it for a moment. And this time, instead of knocking or reaching for the handle--I gave it a slight push.
The door was heavy, but it was, indeed, unlocked!
All we had to do was move forward to go through the open door.
As in the Camino, so in life…