Sunday, August 23, 2015

Day 3, Leon: Trains, Tapas, and Paul's dad's name to boot!

The ancient Roman wall of Leon

This morning, we got up in Madrid and made our way to Chamartin station for a high speed train ride to Leon. For the most part, we departed the vestiges of cities and travelled across arid Meditteranean topography with mountains in the distance. The closer we got to Leon, the more fields of corn and sunflowers we saw and the mountains got closer. It was a gray day with threat of rain.  As we got closer to Leon, things got progressively more green outside. After only about 2.5 hours, we reached our destination.
It looks like Paul didn't enjoy his train ride, but I think it's more about the camera. He enjoyed a good long inner eyelid inspection on the way here. Our seat mate had a cute little part terrier mutt that kept getting out of his carrier and inspecting my feet and legs.

Leon is not a popular city for tourists, we are told, but I liked to just fine. The Camino de Santiago passes through it and we walked the length of it  as it passes through. It's a city of about 140,000 people and it is steeped in history and churches. 
Our hotel here was the Eurostars which at about 45EUROS per night, we found to be clean and the staff helpful and the beds are quite comfy. There's even AC even though we didn't need it. In fact, Paul and I soon donned jackets after our arrival. This is the view outside our room. We started with sunshsine but  spent most of the day in a slight spit of rain.

One of the reasons Leon is in this location is that The River Bernesga passes through the center of the city. A good water source in ancient times, it is a source of renewable hydroelectric power now, although the dams are hardly "east Tennessee" size. 
The city is home to a number of churches including the Basilica San Isidro pictured here, the main cathedral and the Monastery of San Marcos. Most of the churches were closed to tourists today, since they were celebrating mass. But we were able to go inside San Isidro

It was quiet and we took a good look around the sanctuary. We sent up a prayer for our friend, Tommy, who luckily found out yesterday that his lung cancer is probably resectable. So for thank we had to say a thanks.

Alas, however, we were struck by the hunger bug and someone in this group whose name shall remain a secret (but it rhymes with mall), gets "hangry," so we found a gastropub called Clandestina. It was all about good food, but pretty. We had some fish, pasta with mushrooms and a deconstructed Ceasar salad (what else do you have inside a Roman wall?) For dessert, we had this "false mandarins with coconut ice cream." The coconut ice cream was some sort of liquid nitrogen creation that looked like dippin dots surrounded by a cold orange slurry. The oranges in the middle--FAKE!  But the dessert was tasty and a feast to the eyes --as long as you didn't bite into the plastic...okay, I admit it. I bit into the plastic. 

We continued walking along the St. James Way. This is our first day to see it, although we don't start the walk in earnest until Tuesday morning. We saw a few pilgrims, but maybe less than we expected. One Asian man was carrying a tripod which Paul says is evidence that it isn't that steep. Hope he doesn't have any words to eat! They have made it fairly easy to find the way through town with yellow arrows and the scallop shells implanted into the side walk. The scallop shell is the sign of the peregrino.

We walked past the old fort of San Marcos which has been many things over the years including a concentration camp during the Spanish Civil War. But now it is city museum of Leon and the Parador Hotel. For those who saw the movie, The Way, you will remember Martin Sheen becoming a slacker one night at the Parador. Apparently the rooms are all very unique. 
The beginnings of the structure were in the 16th century and it was built to house the Military Order of St James. It's been a hostelry of sorts since the 1920s with the current hotel management owning it for the last 50 years. It is magnificent to see night or day. 
We made up our minds to come here for dinner later in the day...really later as in about 9pm. There were diners still arriving at 11pm when we left. Oh how Paul loves Spain. It's his kind of dining.
Entry way to the Parador, a site of war, pilgrims, concentration camps, friars, military men and now peregrinos of the St James Way.

We went back to our hotel for a few minutes of my favorite Spanish tradition, SIESTA, and returned to the Parador for the evening meal. What is nice about the restaurant is that they specialize in food from the region of Leon. We had ox carpaccio, gazpacho and shrimp croquettes. We enjoyed a lovely wine from Leon with it and topped it off with great dessert pictured below.

All in all, a great day and we managed to walk about 7 miles and get acquainted with Leon. Most of the touristy places were closed since it is Sunday, but we didn't mind. The stroll through the many plazas, along the river and through the old Roman walls was refreshing, even in a drizzle. And the food didn't suck either. 

Our meditation for today was about Noah of the Old Testament and the flood. Paul says he learned Noah was a man of faith. He likes him because his name is used with the first Biblical reference to wine. If Noah had vinyl this would be a match made in heaven. I remember learning about Noah as a child in Sunday school. What he taught me then and now is follow your own path. Only you know the truth as your heart allows you to become aware. Keep the faith!

Paul's Ponderings:
Headed to Leon today from Madrid....we had a 2.5 hour ride on a high speed train, which went well and arrived at the Eurostars Leon Hotel afterwards.  Leon is a fairly good sized town and full of historic churches and squares but very walkable.  We had fabulous tapas for lunch at Clandestino -- a very modern place with fabulous modern tapas.   We then walked a bit of the St. James Way around town and ended up back at the hotel for a nap, followed by a great meal at the Parador Hotel, which dates back to the early 1920s.  One thing is that it is quite cool here and blustery -- jacket weather!  Quite a change from Knoxvegas!

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