Oct. 5- Mansilla de Los Mulas: 17 miles, five hours
Watching your every step hour after hour on the Roman Road is exhausting, so I entertain myself by thinking about the people that walked this same route thousands of years ago. Later in the day, we’re back on the Senda. This is my kind of path: dirt, flat and divided in half by scrub brush.
We arrive at La Pensión de Blanca and settle in. On the street, we strike up a conversation with pilgrims from Washington state, then are happy to see some familiar faces from a few towns back. We have a glass of wine together and swap stories of our latest travels.
One young woman is traveling with her service dog and tells the story of how her dog is able to sense some ailments in people by scent. The dog kept walking with an older Pilgrim that day, though she insisted she was fine. Luckily, they were staying at the same albergue. When they arrived, the woman passed out from low blood sugar. The dog knew!
Oct. 6- León: 12 miles, four hours
This is not the scenic route. We’re walking single file close to the road through an industrial park. Once we are in the city outskirts, we are greeted by the municipal police, who give us a map and point us in the right direction.
Our hotel, Hostel Casca Antigua is in the heart of the old city and features Roman ruins in its basement, under glass. Our terrace is a great place to people watch.
León is known as one of the loveliest cities in Spain. This lively ancient city is known for its 13th century Gothic Cathedral and its tapas scene (buy a small beer, enjoy free tapas, then move on). We are excited to be here for the Fiesta de San Frolián, the city’s patron Saint. There is a medieval market with vendors in costume, processions and dancing.
We find a lovely restaurant for dinner. We are the only ones there when they open at 8:30 p.m., but when we leave at 10 p.m., the place is packed. Spaniards start work late, take a siesta for a couple of hours in the middle of the day, return to work and then continue with their evening. Everyone stays up late, even on a “school night.”
Oct. 7- León: Rest Day!
We start our day at the Cathedral (pictured above). To me, this is more impressive than the Burgos Cathedral. Headsets explain every detail: the building was built in the 13th century over Roman baths. The poor quality of the stone left the building unstable. In the late 19th century, a massive renovation began that took 50 years!
We visit the Convento de San Marcos, the sumptuous parador that was featured in the movie “The Way.” We read all about the building’s history, as we visit the Cloisters. The parador was once a monastery, a prison and a horse farm. It was in such disrepair that it was slated to be torn down, if not for the Leòn residents.
We opt for a late lunch, rather than another late-night dinner and decide that we need a nap after enjoying a bottle of wine.
Oct. 8- Villar de Mazarife: 13 and one-half miles, four hours
It was an easy day. We walked through city streets and an industrial area.
Meson Albergue Tio Pepe has recently been renovated (love the wood smell), but we soon realize that that there is no insulation between the ceiling and the floor, so every time there is movement above us, the floor screeches like a haunted house!
We think there is not much going on, until we’re told of a museum run by a local older gentleman. He lives in an old wooden structure and every corner houses a collection: telephones, farm implements, shells, etc. which he proudly displays so neatly.
Then, a young pilgrim priest tells us that he will be saying Mass at the local church at 6 p.m. and invites us all to attend. The Mass is dedicated to the pilgrims and it’s a very special experience.