Monday morning, we flew to the island of Tenerife with the Packs and their family. Their daughter Lauren, her husband Scott, and their granddaughter Clara have been visiting for a couple of weeks. We went to Loro Parque. It is a like a combination Sea World and zoo. The weather was absolutely perfect.
We had two wonderful "tour guides," Elder Daniels and Elder Voss. They both served in the office with us, and they are now the Zone Leaders on Tenerife. They are two great missionaries.
Jonathon got to participate in the Bird show
Hermana Pack is loving her time as Grandma!
This was the most amazing penguin exhibit I have ever seen!
Of course, the orchids and Birds of Paradise reminded me of the Old Mission Home!
I loved looking out over the dolphin exhibit to the ocean!
And this guy definitely thought he was king of the jungle and he would move from place to place to pose for photos! Very entertaining!
Tuesday morning we flew to Gran Canaria. We really never thought that we would be back to the island, so it was a very special opportunity to return to this place and the people that we love so much! We spent the afternoon with Annie. She is a wonderful person and we really appreciate her friendship and her example. She went with us up to the Old Mission Home.
I love this view!
Since no one is living there now, it was sad to see all of the dead plants!
The bougainvillea needed some trimming by Elder Larsen.
It was also sad because they had five days of heavy rain prior to our trip and there are still water issues all over the house. With every move that we have made, I have always thought that empty houses are sad houses. This house looked very sad!
And the house across the street from us was finally finished and the family is moved in. I don't think I could handle living in a glass house where the whole world could see what we were doing! But the views would be amazing!
Tuesday night, it was just like old times as we went to the chapel in Las Palmas like we always did for English class. Some of our old students were there and many of our dear friends. We had a wonderful evening visiting with these wonderful people. There will always be a very special place in our hearts for these people. We are so grateful that we were able to be part of lives!
It was so wonderful to be with our young adults again!
President Deniz asked us to say a few words. I hadn't prepared anything, but I was able to express my love for these good people, and to share my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I think some of them were surprised that my Spanish had improved so much. It's not that good, but it is so much better than it was before.
And our thanks to the Esmiols for organizing this wonderful evening!
Wednesday morning, we drove up to the mission home and went on our favorite walk. We loved getting to see these beautiful places one more time.
Wednesday evening, we drove down to Maspalomas and walked along one of our favorite stretches of beach. We enjoyed the weather, the sights, and the memories...
And a new sand sculpture.
Then we met the Palms for dinner. Hakin suffered a stroke a year ago, right before they were supposed to return to Sweden. He has had an amazing recovery. It was so good to visit with them.
I snapped one more photo out of our hotel window before we left on Thursday. I love this island, but mostly I love these people and I feel so blessed to have had these wonderful experiences here.
Friday was a crazy day in the office as I tried to get caught up from the week before when I was sick and also catching up after 4 days in the Islands. That night we had dinner with the Packs and the Campbells, a new couple who will be serving on the island of Tenerife. They are very excited to be here and they are ready to serve. It is just so weird to be the ones going out when a new couple is just coming into the mission.
Saturday morning, we attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the chapel that will be built in San Sebastian de Los Reyes. I was asked to direct the choir for the ceremony. It brought back sweet experiences from when we sang together in Stake Conference. These people are so excited to have a new building where they will have the space that they need. The building will be just a few minutes from our apartment and it will also house the mission office. We are sad that we will not be here to enjoy it!
After the ceremony, we headed to the train station and rode the train to Gijón. The Woodburys had been serving up there, and we needed to drive their car back to Madrid. We were looking forward to seeing the beautiful views from the train as it travels high up in the mountains. But, it was snowing so hard that it was basically a white out, and couldn't see a thing. The elders met us at the train station, with the wind and the rain. Elder Larsen had told me many times about the cold, rainy, windy, winter that he spent in that area. With an umbrella out in front of me, and dragging a suitcase behind me, I began to wonder how long we would have to walk before we got to the bus stop. I was very grateful when we arrived. After retrieving some things from the apartment, we got the car and drove to Oviedo to spend the night. The Packs had driven up up there with the family because of a Branch Conference the next day. Hermana Pack brought some delicious pastries to our hotel room that she had purchased and a favorite little bakery that is close to the hotel. Yummy!
Oviedo is a beautiful city. It has been rated as the cleanest city in Spain, and one of the cleanest in Europe. This was the view from our hotel room, that looked out onto the plaza that is just above the train station.
Sunday morning, we walked just around the corner, in the rain, to the church. This was a very special experience for Elder Larsen because this was the first area that he was assigned to when he was a young missionary, 38 years ago. He and three other elders were the first missionaries to serve in Oviedo, and there were no other members of the church. At first they held their meetings in their apartment, and then they found a place to rent. Pilar was a teenager at that time and she was being taught by the other set of missionaries. She was baptized right after Elder Larsen was transferred from the area. She married a man from Italy, and they have two children. Her son served a mission in England. It was a delight to meet her and her family. We admire her for her years of service and dedication in the church and for her continued love for the Lord.
After church, we drove up in the mountains. It was a rainy day (which it usually is in the winter in this area), so you can't see the beautiful mountains that surround the area, but I fell in love with the lush green, rolling hills of this region, which is called Asturias.
I also love these little huts, that are everywhere. Hórreos are built to keep cobs of corn and other crops dry and safe from rodents. This type of building was used for more than two thousand years.
We drove up to the Cave of Covadonga which is a Catholic sanctuary. Tradition has it that in the 700's, the King of Asturias, Pelayo, found a hermit in a cave, worshipping the Virgin Mary. Because of the hermits devotion and the King's faith, they were able to defeat the Moors at the battle of Covadonga. The King then had a sanctuary built there. Later a basilica was built there in the little village.
This is a view of the cave from the basilica. The second photo shows the three crosses.
The entrance to the cave.
We were not allowed to take photos in the chapel, but this is a photo taken by Felix Herencias.
I love this view looking from the cave to the Basilica.
Normally, there is a nice, clear waterfall that is under the chapel,
but with the heavy rains that they've had, it was a torrential downpour.
We also drove to Canga de Onis which is an old city with a beautiful old Roman bridge.
A replica of the Victory Cross hangs under the arch. We were able to see the real cross at the cathedral in Oviedo the next day.
Monday morning, we walked to the park and the cathedral. Everyday they change the date. The park is just beautiful. Oviedo is known as the cleanest city in Spain.
We enjoyed the tour of the Cathedral.
I loved how this lone olive tree was in the courtyard. It made me think of the Garden of Gethsemane. The waterpot on the right is supposedly one that was at the wedding at Cana, when Christ turned the water to wine.
This room was closed off, so I couldn't get a good photo of its beautiful ceiling!
It would have been nice to add to my collection.
They also had a very large museum, but photos were not allowed.
Oviedo had changed and grown so much over the past 38 years. There wasn't much that Elder Larsen remembered. But he did remember the clock at the train station.
This is a shopping mall. The contrast between the new and the old architecture is very stark.
Though the weather was cold and rainy, we were able to see the first signs of spring!
Once again I wished I had a better camera so that you could see the amazing views of the mountains.
The brilliant green went right up to the snowcapped mountains. Then after we came through a very long tunnel into the mountain, we came out on the other side, in the region of León. The stark contrast is amazing. The mountains are rocky with no trees and no green. The green of Asturias was left behind.
What a wonderful week! We were able to see so many completely different areas of Spain. I love the beauty of the world around us. The Lord has created such a wonderful place for us to live. But more than the beauty of nature, I am so grateful for the wonderful people that we were able to see. Of all my memories of Spain, the people are what have made it so special for us. The friendships that we have developed will always have a very special place in our hearts.