|Any weary, footsore pilgrim can relate to this
wonderful statue just outside the Parador
Where We Be
|Welcome to Parador San Marcos in León, a 15th century
pilgrim hospital now restored as a sumptuous hotel
|During this stretch we hiked three days from Sahagun to León, with distances as follows:
11 miles to Burgo Ranero, 12 miles to Mansilla, and 11 miles to León, followed by a rest day.
|Hiking Day 24: Sahagun to Burgo Ranero
|Next day's 11-mile hike started out pretty enough, but it didn't last long
|Our guidebook described this as the one day you’d want to miss if you were going to miss a day of the Camino.
Our route paralleled the highway for most of the time, and the outskirts of León weren't exactly inspirational either.
|What a beauty! The cathedral was built in pure Gothic style, but, per the audio guide, an added dome almost
destroyed it with its additional weight. Pieces of dome started falling into the church! Risky repairs were made
in the 19th century that thankfully succeeded, but for a time it looked like the whole structure might be lost.
|But there's a moment when you pass into the historic part of León, and the traffic falls away,
and suddenly everything gets better. This ancient double wall of stone marks the transition.
|Closeup of the entryway statue of the Virgin Mary with Jesus
|Also in the historic district is this castle-like building known
as Casa Botines. It was built by Gaudi and now houses a bank.
|St. George slays a dragon on
the other side of Casa Botines
|Inside are moving works of religious art, and some
125 stained glass windows illuminate the interior
|Leon Cathedral is sometimes called the "House of Light"
|A big part of the pleasure of this evening was its unexpectedness.
We went out for tapas with friends and ended up here!
|We'll finish where we began this writeup -- at the Parador San
Marcos. This is a view of the lovely Parador from the outside.
|Standing at the entrance to the Parador with two of our
favorite peeps from the Camino, Fiona and Virginia
|Okay, so we'll admit that some days on the Meseta can be pretty boring. This 12-mile hike through flat agricultural
country may take the cake for most boring of the Camino. I hardly pulled out my camera once, except to take
the unusual plant photo above. The other one was taken sheerly to illustrate how tedious the scenery could be.
|From the balcony of our second floor room (#101) at Casa de los Soportales (€45)
we could see this agreeable plaza as well as a stone entry gate and two church spires
|Then we reached Mansilla and things picked up. Mansilla is a pleasant town which retains nearly half of its
encircling medieval walls. This grassy-topped gate (Arco de la Concepcion) is the only one left with an intact arch.
|We really liked the statues in Mansilla. The one at left depicts a medieval pilgrim and is located near
the central square. The one at right is on the way into town and depicts resting modern-day pilgrims.
|This weary fellow especially captures how we feel after a long day!
|On the far side of town, as you're leaving Mansilla, is the most intact stretch of wall
|Pretty impressive! The town wall was built in the 12th century.
|I guess even boring days can have their moments of glory
|For most of this 11-mile day there was little to see and the hiking was flat and frankly
monotonous. But near Burgo Ranero a literal river of red poppies flowed by the roadside.
|A silent stream ran here, and the poppies followed along obligingly. This was such
a beautiful sight I went from taking no photos all morning to a whole slew all at once.
|In Burgo Ranero (pop. 841) we stayed at El Peregrino Hostel (€45), which is noteworthy for its excellent pilgrim's
menu and its owner’s willingness to do our laundry free of charge. That's a big deal on the Camino, let me tell you.
|Hiking Day 25: Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas
|Hiking Day 26: Mansilla to Leon
|The carved portal into the cathedral is appropriately dramatic
Hiking towards León we made one of our best
friends of the Camino -- Fiona from Ireland. We
first met Fiona at a pilgrim's dinner then kept
crossing paths along the Way. During a rest day
in León we agreed to meet up for tapas with
her and her new friend Virginia. In the course
of conversation it came up that Parador San
Marcos was right here in León. For those who
don't know, that's where Martin Sheen splurges
to stay with his friends in the movie "The Way."
Virginia confided in us she was actually staying
there herself and invited us to come join her
for a glass of 1989 Rioja she'd been saving for
just such an occasion. We could hardly believe
our good luck -- especially when we saw the
room she was staying in: it very well could have
been the exact same suite used in the movie.
We sat around sipping fine wine and chatting,
surrounded by exquisite furnishings. We left
very late indeed given our long hike tomorrow
but wouldn't have missed this for the world.
|What a pretty setting for the Hermitage of Nuestra Señora de
Perales (Our Lady of the Pear Trees) just before Burgo Ranero
|The hermitage was once a medieval hospice for weary pilgrims
|We definitely won't forget the moment we came around
a corner and got our first glimpse of León Cathedral
|Other fine statues decorate the cathedral and surrounding buildings
|Even the ordinary buildings in Leon's
historic district have gobs of character
|We stayed at Casco Antiguo (€39) and couldn't believe the low price for such a nice place just a hundred yards off the cathedral
on a quiet street. When she learned we were pilgrims staying two nights, the manager even gave us a room with a private terrace.
|"Santiago Matamoros" (St. James the Moor Slayer)
appears above the entry -- a common Camino image
|Within is a beautiful lobby. Paradors in Spain are historic
buildings that have been transformed into first-class hotels.