What a week! We usually do interviews in the south by taking the train to Valencia, then Alicante, then Murcia, and doing all the interviews in those three locations. But last week we decided to go by car and visit the missionaries in their "pisos" and in the towns where they work.
KM 0: We left home about 9:00 a.m. with the TomTom GPS, a set of Google maps, and a road atlas (as missionaries we always have a backup plan), a case of mail to be delivered, car food, CDs from the 2009 Seminar for New Mission Presidents, and the two Ayudantes, and headed south on the Autopista del Mar Mediterraneo!
KM 110: Our first stop was Tarragona, one of the great cities of the Roman Empire, home of the Tarragona Ward, and the home of Elders Hancock and Hansen.
KM 300: Next stop was Castellon, home of the Castellon Ward, the Romanian Consulate, and Elders Harris and Roos.
KM 375: From Castellon we drove along the Sea to Spain's third largest city, Valencia. There we interviewed the Valencia missionaries - Elders Boxx, Coons, Haymond and Brian, and Hermanas Diehl and Church - in the Valencia Chapel before retiring for the night at the Silken Puerta Valencia Hotel. The Silken is within walking distance of the chapel and our usual stopping point in Valencia, so they know us well. We never have to ask for our reservation - they get the room key ready when they see us walk in and welcome us back!
We left the Silken Valencia at 9:00 a.m. and headed for new territory: Alcoy.
KM 485: Alcoy is a beautiful city in the mountains between Valencia and Alicante. There has been a unit of the Church there for over 35 years, and only a few years ago there 6 missionaries in the city. Today Elders Cranford and Pynes are nearly lost in their large piso, but have the beautiful city and ward to themselves!
From Alcoy we wound down out of the mountains to the palm forests of Elche.
KM 560: The Elche Stake Center is one of the most beautiful chapels in Europe. It sits in a large palm forest which the city decided to develop into building lots several years ago; the church bought property for the chapel, and the city then decided against selling any more lots and has preserved the forest as a public space. In Elche we interviewed Elders Fiske, Burton, Miskin, Jacinto, Davis, Crofts, Hall, Niebergall, Millar, Christiansen, and Hermanas Walters and Brown.
KM 660: As darkness settled over the south we arrived at the ancient Roman port of Cartagena where, like travelers for two millenia, we spent the night. Except we spent the night at the Best Western Alfonso XIII.
After the traditional breakfast of cold meats, cheeses, scambled eggs, fruit, and pudding-like hot chocolate with churros, we sandwiched ourselves back in the car and drove to the Cartagena Chapel where we interviewed Elders Melgarejo, Worthen, Pena, Flores, and Hermanas Bowen and Merrell.
KM 715: After interviews in Cartagena, we headed up the coast to the resort town of Torrevieja. The Torrevieja Branch includes a number of English-speaking members who live in this Southern California-esque beach community. In fact, this town is so much like California it even has a drive-up window at the McDonalds, the first we have seen in Spain. We drove through and ordered Big Macs just because we could! Hermanas Woolf and Brown have a pretty nice assignment here!
KM 765: A short drive inland took us to Crevillente, a smaller industrial town, where we met with Elders Forsgren and Nelson. Because we have a number of deaf members here, many of our missionaries learn Spanish sign language.
KM 835: From Crevillente it was back to the coast and the famous resort town of Benidorm, a town of 50-story skyscraper condominium towers, home of the largest theme park in Europe, and the home of Hermanas Alfieri and Eberly who fed us and entertained us in their piso in the neighboring pueblo.
KM 900: We then headed up the coast to Gandia and Elders Lammi and Awerkamp. This is a strong ward with a long history of great missionary work, and Elders Lammi and Awerkamp are keeping the tradition strong.
KM 975: Another hour brought us back to the Silken Puerta Valencia with barely enough time to drag ourselves to the room before falling asleep!
The Ayudantes took the early train home in the morning while Pte. and Hna. Hinckley took a short walk around Valencia then visited the Lladro factory outlet store located in a pueblo outside of Valencia. With our newly acquired Lladro of two missionaries safely sequestered in the trunk, we headed towards home. It was a lovely if long drive along the Pau Cassals Highway, past the orange and olive groves, and ultimately into the beautiful city of Barcelona.
KM 1325: Home at last. I don't remember if I actually took off my suit before falling asleep!
The lighthouse at Formentor, Mallorca
The background shows sidewalk tiles - "rajoles" - that pave the sidewalks throughout Barcelona. They were designed by architect Puig i Cadafalch for the entryway of a home. Since 1915, they have been used by the city to pave sidewalks, and have become emblematic of the city. One of the city's most famous chocolatiers, Enric Rovira, produces chocolate bars in the shape and design of these tiles.