To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience.
-Saint Teresa of Ávila
On a cool Saturday morning in Madrid, I set off for the medieval town of Ávila an hour and a half northwest by train. By the time I arrived mid-morning, the day was hot under Spain's sun and arid landscapes replaced cityscapes: bienvenidos a Ávila. This town is best known for being on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its "Gothic cathedral and fortifications which, with their 82 semicircular towers and nine gates, are the most complete in Spain." Ávila dates back to pre-Roman times in the 5th century BC and has since been under the rule of Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, and Catholic Monarchs, the latter under which the town thrived in the 16th century. Most of the town's beautiful old churches and convents were built in the 16th century leading many to claim that the town is blessed with one of Spain's best collections of of Romanesque and Gothic churches. Since the town is small and very pedestrian-friendly, I spent about three hours walking around the old town (yemas in hand) and hiking to Los Cuatro Postes for a spectacular view of the city, before catching the train back to Madrid.
Monasterio de Santo Tomás
While I didn't go inside this monastery built in 1492, I did admire it from the outside. I especially enjoyed walking past the tidy rows of cottages across the street, which reminded me of Belgium's benguinages. I couldn't find any information on the little houses, so I doubt they are related to Santo Tomás.