Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 21: Leon - Villadangos del Paramos (20.4 kms)

We are ready at 8 am but after breakfast and all, it is already 9 am when we get started.  I had slept very well the previous night but I was still not feeling great and was still trying to rehydrate.  It is drizzling the first half hour of our walk but it becomes full-fledged rain afterwards. It is also quite cold, about 5 degrees or so.  We did not have time yesterday to see Leon, probably one of the biggest cities on the Camino, but the Way brings us on a little tour passing some of the major sights.

We pass the Cathedral and go inside to pray.  Such a beautiful structure!  We then pass by the Hostal San Marcos, a former convent with a statue of a pilgrim in front.  We even go inside the Hostal to look around and in this case, use the toilets, so luxurious!

On a bridge on the way out of the city, an elderly Spanish man stops us to ask where we are from and if we are doing the Camino.  We pause for some small talk.  Several times during the trip, Spaniards on the street or in cafes have spoken with us -- they are not stinting of compliments and most of the time, we get a muy guapa or "very pretty" remark.  I think that this is the most number of compliments I have received in such a short time.  Once in a while, they even hug us, or kiss us on both cheeks. Again, it is the most number of hugs and kisses I have received from people on the street that I do not know.  I think that the Spaniards are very expressive of their feelings and not ashamed to say what they think and are generous with their compliments.  I think this is a wonderful trait, for what is there to lose by saying what you think, specially if it brings a smile to someone's face, which it does to mine.

The rain keeps on pouring and my sister soon realizes that she is getting soaked through even with her rain jacket on and possibly needs to get a rain poncho.  And right there is a Chinese variety store!  We stop here to buy a 1 euro rain poncho. We arrive at the La Virgen del Camino around 11:30 and have lunch for more than an hour.  At the same time, we wait for the rain to abate a little.  We start again around 1 pm and stop first by the Sanctuary of the Virgin del Camino, dedicated to the Patron Saint of Leon. It is a modern-looking structure but a very serene church inside.

From here, the way forks into two and we take the trail leading to San Miguel del Camino and passing through Villadangos del Paramo. It passes right beside a major highway with cars and trucks whizzing by.  The rain stops finally and it becomes alternately sunny and drizzly until we arrive in Villadangos del Paramo.  It is one town before our goal - San Martin del Camino. But we are tired and decide to stay there at the Municipal Albergue.

Later, I cook some rice for dinner, paired with sardines and noodle soup we get at the store.  As we are a day delayed, Virgilio, the hospitalero, helps us out by planning an itinerary for our remaining 10 days.  He actually ends up telling us that it is not possible to do the remaining distance of 292 kms in our remaining 10 days, and gives us a schedule for 11 days.  He even urges us to do some portions by bus. But even if we do not talk about it, both my sister and I are quite steadfast in our belief that we will and should walk the entire Way -- and that we can do it or will try our very best to do it, so we take his itinerary but prepare ourselves for possible 30 to 40 km days.

Signs leading out of Leon -- 309 kms more to go

Fellow pilgrims -- in Leon with Sebastian and Julia from Aachen, Germany,  and Ana from Mexico

Basilica in Leon

Paradores Hostal San Marcos in Leon

Pilgrim statue, Leon

From pilgrim to pilgrim

Alternative routes from Leon, via Villadangos del Paramo, or a more leafy way via Villar de Mazarife

So nice that the people let them be -- crane nests on Church towers -- we see a lot of these on the way

Still walking beside highways on the way to Villadangos

Triple decker bunk beds in Villadangos del Paramo - glad we got the bottom bunks

Drying up in front of the fireplace in Villadangos del Paramo after another rainy day

Virgilio, the helpful and industrious hospitalero of Villadangos del Paramo -- he makes the gourd and shell souvenirs on display

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