Lovely Leon and Medieval Madness!

My last couple of days in Leon and surrounds have been really nice but I’m quite keen to get going.  There are some lovely historic buildings here including a building designed by Gaudi and a cathedral with dozens of spectacular stained glass windows, pillars and carvings.  The town itself is kinda small but quaint, cute little paved roads twist around typical Spanish architecture – a little like French but less ornate, more colour in the window boxes and a lot of orange tones. 

I left Paris with 1.5 Euros expecting to be able to find a travellers exchange at the airport – well I significantly overestimated Leon Airport and Spain on a weekend…
Everything was closed, there were no taxi’s outside and I couldn’t find an ATM.  I found the bus stop and asked the driver how much to Leon, it was 3 Euros so no luck there.  A taxi finally pulled up and I asked him if he took a credit card – No.  So I wandered round the airport a bit more until I found a woman I had seen helping others and asked her if she spoke english – No.  But she did find me someone who did.  I discovered that I had mistaken an ATM for a coffee machine so all the stress and half hour of wandering around in circles could have been avoided.  So I caught a taxi and he dropped me off in front of the hotel after pointing out the sights in a mixture of Spanish and English on the way.  It´s a good thin I got a taxi as central Leon is like a maze and I didn´t have a map!  The rain began as we pulled up outside. 

The hostel was full so thankfully I had a booking and my room is very cute – small but airy with a balcony overlooking a plaza, garden and fountain (and a street lamp as I was to find out later).  With some help I found a supermarket and got some dinner and breakfast in the form of baguette and chocolate spread – yeah, real healthy Claire!

After a good sleep courtesy of my ear plugs (there is also a restaurant outside my window) I headed off to nearby Hospital de Orbigo and their annual medieval fair – it was fantastic!  People dressed up in medieval clothes, stalls selling everything from cakes to crockery, leather goods to costumes and herbs.  The streets were adorned with colourful streamers and coats of arms on flags.  There was a jousting and tourney field (unfortunately I missed the jousting) where tents were set up among the displays of weaponry, falconry and kids games.  There were belly dancers, medieval clowns and a jester on a unicycle juggling scimitars.  Sadly I had to restrict myself to one purchase as everything I get I have to carry and settled on a pretty copper enamel scallop shell on a leather necklace – perfect!  The festival is well worth a visit for anyone thinking of coming to the area over the first weekend in June.  It is held annually in honour of the story of a local knight who, for the love of his lady, challenged to break 300 lances before journeying to Santiago de Compstela.  The story supposedly inspired the tale of Don Quixote. 

The bus was supposed to leave at 3 so I headed to the stop 10 minutes early so as not to miss it.  I was still waiting at 4 when an elderly lady from across the street started calling out to me in Spanish.  With the help of her daughter, grandsons and a map she explained that the bus didn´t stop here on the way back to Leon on a Sunday but stopped further up and round the corner and wouldn´t be there till 4:45.  By this stage it was starting to drizzle again and I had a migraine from the previously relentless sun, crowds and not enough water.  Finally the bus arrived and I headed back to Leon. 

Spain is a lot like Fiji –  nothing happens how or when you expect it to, it seems to run on its own time and everything revolves around siesta!  The main difference between the two is that Spain is loud, chaotic and over the top where Fiji is laid back almost to the point of falling asleep.  The Spanish and Fijians, unlike the French are happy to help if they can and happy to help you understand and explain – they have a lot of patience and are a very friendly people. 

This morning I got my pilgrims passport and checked out train times.  The train to Sarria leaves at 5am or 5pm so I can either spend the day wandering around Leon with my pack on my back and arrive in Sarria later with the potential of having nowhere to stay, take a day to get to somewhere nearby and stay there or catch the 5am train that arrives in Sarria at 8:45am and start walking the.  The latter option is the most appealing so I guess I’m going to become a peregrino tomorrow!  The taxi driver said something along the lines of; Leon survives off the pilgrims back, well, feet I suppose, but I guess that would be right, the place probably wouldn´t get much else in the way of tourism and they certainly cater for the pilgrims.  Everything from special meals to hiking stores and the image of the scallop shell is everywhere.  Tomorrow I will be following the scallop shell to Santiago de Compostela – wow, the time is finally here!

Hasta Luego amigo´s!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: medieval madness revisited! « Walking For Wisdom

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