Day 27 – 13th October 2015, Leon.
Hurray, hurray, hurray its a rest day – yippee! Leon is truly a beautiful city and my favourite city so far on my camino journey. I like the energy and the vibes, its cosmopolitan feel, the architecture and sense of space, light, sound and colour.
I awoke feeling rested and ready to explore. It was a gorgeous day, bright and crisp with clear blue skies. Fiona and I went for breakfast in Cafe Albany next door and planned the day ahead. Both of us had some errands to do as well as sight seeing, so we thought we’d get those out of the way and then we could relax and enjoy the sights.
Its about time for another nerdy fact alert isn’t it? When I rolled (or rather hobbled and staggered, creaking and groaning) into the city yesterday, I had walked about 466 km (290 miles) from St. Jean Pied de Port. This means Fiona and I will have approximately 310 km or 193 miles to walk in order to reach Santiago de Compostela, give or take a few clicks depending on whether we choose some green or orange routes (marked in the Brierley Camino guide). For those of you in the know, the orange routes tend to be the main, most commonly walked routes of the Camino Frances, whereas the green routes are those that can take pilgrims through more of the rural and picturesque areas. The green routes might add on a few extra kilometres but I like them.
Today presented a really good opportunity for Fiona and I to catch up on news from the last few years. We had met several years ago, when we worked on different types of social action projects in the East End of London, which aimed to bring transformative change to people affected by poverty, deprivation and complex social issues. More recently, in correspondence, Fiona had kindly supported me with encouraging words of guidance, when I was caring full time for my mum through her terminal illness, because she had gone through a similar experience with her family. Throughout the day we reminisced about the challenges and success of working in inner city London, as well as those from living and working abroad in humanitarian or development contexts. In addition, we shared our love of music and musical instruments (Fiona is also a guitar maker) and an interest in faith and unfolding spiritual journeys. I reflected on what the Camino meant to me, in terms of an unfolding physical, emotional and spiritual journey and this is why it was important for me to continue, even though I felt like giving up.
We popped down to the post office first so that I could to mail a Camino gift to surprise Brett. It was a small way for me to share my journey with him. Although we were miles apart, I felt him close by and I carried him in my heart every step of the way. In the queue, we bumped into Dale and Shelley, which was an absolute joy! They are such a lovely, friendly, positive couple, who really enjoy travelling around the world and meeting people. We had a good old natter as we waited for our tickets to be called to the desk. They decided to post some kit they didn’t need on ahead to Santiago so they could pick it up for their onward adventures. This seemed like a great idea and very practical.
Next, I picked up a new pilgrim passport for a couple of Euros from one of the tourist offices, because my first pilgrim passport, which I had obtained from the Confraternity of St. James in London, was almost full of stamps. Fiona bought a local mobile sim card and needed to do a couple of other things. Meanwhile, I ventured into Chocolateria Valor, for a cup of thick, warming hot chocolate and tried to write a bit more of my blog. Fiona and I met up again a while later to go to the Cathedral but it was closed for a few hours. Instead, we wandered around the streets, soaking up the atmosphere and the sunshine and promptly ran into one of the Four Pissed Pilgrims, Martin, who invited us to join him for tapas in a small bar/cafe called Rua 11. So the lads had made it into Leon too! We enjoyed excellent, mouthwatering bites and I downed a divine, bitter orange marmalade cheesecake….mmmm….of course pilgrimage isn’t all about food, honest!
Martin resumed his search for the rest of the guys, while Fiona and I meandered back to the Cathedral for opening time. The Pulchra Leonina (Beautiful Lion) is also known by two other names – the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Leon and the House of Light. It is easy to see why it is reverentially known as the House of Light. The stain glass windows are magnificent and elevate eyes and heart to the wonders above. Compared to the cathedrals I visited in Pamplona and Burgos, which I thought were cold and uninviting, I really sensed this one was a holy and sacred space. I had a good feeling, walking around its grandiose pillars, arches and side chapels. I stopped for a few moments to offer up a prayer and quietly imbibe the peace and tranquility.
Outside in the Plaza Regal, we bumped into young John from Australia, who was in good spirits and on his way to meet up with friends. Also Chris and Charlotte had just rocked into town at that very moment and were chatting merrily with Tias and Gerard. Hugs all round! It’s such a great feeling to meet up with fellow pilgrims at different points along the way, it is like meeting up with long lost family members! We seemed to have the same idea, to make the most of Leon on a rest day or two. In my humble opinion, it is certainly worth it.
A little while later on, I indulged in a spot of retail therapy and purchased a small travel size roll-on bottle of rose perfume…(ahh lovely, I can attempt to be more sweet smelling). I often use rose scent, because of its healing properties and I intuited it would give me a boost for the next stage of my pilgrimage. And why not? A little bit of pampering is good for the body and the soul! Bimbling around the streets once more, we came across some familiar faces, the Four Pissed Pilgrims were reunited and they introduced us to their friend Richard from Australia. They actually appeared to be very sober and very jolly. We joined them in search of a suitable place to go for dinner. We wandered around for quite a while and finally ended up back at the restaurant at Hostal Albany for a really good quality three course pilgrim meal, accompanied by wine and a couple of rounds of jokes. A few of us struggled with the last vestiges of the notorious ‘Camino cold’ doing the rounds and so it wasn’t long before we all bade each other good night and a ‘Buen Camino peregrino…’ for the following day.
Stay tuned for another exciting episode of life on the Camino road,
Peace, love and light,