For the last day of our World Youth Day pilgrimage, we headed to Avila.

This beautiful town is located an hour and a half from Madrid, out in the rolling countryside of Spain. For all the Carmelite fans and religious out there, it is an essential stop when visiting Spain.

We headed out around 10 this morning, only to have a slight mix-up on the Metro. If we were going to get lost, today was the day to do it — rather than when everything was pure chaos due to WYD!

I fell in love with the little town of Avila. It is so quaint, with gorgeous views and ancient churches. It is also the hometown of St. Teresa, Avila’s famous Carmelite nun. She lived here from 1515 to 1582. She had frequent holy visions and ecstatic experiences and is known for writing devotional poems dedicated to Jesus.

You can easily walk to all the main sites that relate to St. Teresa’s life in just a few hours.

Here are a few fun facts about the city:

Avila is the capital of Castile-Leon, it is 1,117 meters above sea level, and the entire city is a World Heritage site.

The Arab Moors captured the city in 714, and it was recaptured by the Christians in 1088.

Its protective walls were built in the 12th century: 2,500 meters (8,202 feet) long and encircling the old town, the massive walls have 90 heavily fortified granite towers. The walls provide an amazing view of the surrounding countryside and make you feel like you are living in the time of knights and ladies.

The current church, which was begun in 1091 and completed in the 13th century, is where St. Teresa prayed. Near the church is the house where she lived.

For me, the Cathedral of Avila was the most amazing sight. Everything was so old that you could just feel the presence of Teresa. It was so incredible to think of her praying in that same place, walking those same streets, and looking over the same walls. Thinking of her traveling the rough terrain in a cart certainly made the famous story of her fall from the cart, and proceeding dialogue with God, all the more amusing. What a strong woman and beautiful place!

It was even more awesome to visit there knowing that St. John of Avila will soon be a doctor of the Church. (Pope Benedict shared the news during WYD!)

Definitely include a trip to Avila when you visit Spain. The peacefulness there gave me a chance to meditate on all that I have learned on this beautiful pilgrimage to WYD.

Thanks for all the prayers for the WYD pilgrims! Please continue to pray for our Holy Father and the country of Spain.

We are so blessed to be Catholic! The history and unity of the Catholic faith has truly overwhelmed me on this trip. God bless!

Rachel Howell, the Register’s customer-and-administrative-support representative,

has been blogging about the faith-filled events of World Youth Day 2011 from Spain.

She traveled with a group of first-time pilgrims from her parish in Alabama.

Read about Rachel’s other WYD adventures:

Praying for World Youth Day
4 Reasons to Go to World Youth Day
Madrid, Here We Are!
Opening Mass Welcomes Pilgrims to WYD
Day 3 in Madrid: A Trip to Confession Park, Vocational Booths and ‘Life on the Rock’
Day 4 in Madrid: The Pope Has Arrived!
Day 5 in Madrid: The Way of the Cross and a Blessing by the Pope
The Final Blessings of World Youth Day: Prayer Vigil and Closing Mass
Sightseeing in Madrid Post-World Youth Day