Sometimes you make an itinerary only to ignore it. Yes, you want to have some idea of what to see in a city, but you don’t always feel inclined to follow it to the letter. León is one of those cities that just begs you to wander through it, and this is what we discovered:
Of course the huge cathedral (how can you miss it?), but next to it is a little sign inviting you to please descend the stairs to see the Roman ruins. As recently as 1986, they discovered some Roman artifacts that launched a massive archaeological project.
While wandering some back alleyways, Marcus noticed the quick-release on a guy’s bike appeared loose. His attempt to help resulted in a dialogue that started with travel and concluded the next day in a small cafe with world politics. It was very insightful to hear a Spaniard’s take on Spain, the European Union, and the world at large. Gracias, Julio.
The Casa de Botines, a building designed in his early career by Antoni Gaudí, the Catalan architect we will see much of in Barcelona. I had no idea it was just down the street from our apartment.
A cool shop called Tiger that sells everything from craft supplies to kitchen gadgets. I could have spent all night in there.
The Camino de Santiago. For those of you who have not seen the movie The Way, find it and watch it and you will understand why we sought out this extraordinary pilgrimage route that extends over 450 miles from across the Pyrenees mountains in France to the cathedral of St. James (Santiago) in Santiago de Compostela. (Thank you, Dorothy Liss!) The 2010 movie stars Martin Sheen and his son, Emilio Estevez; Emilio wrote, directed, and had a small role in it. León is our first contact with El Camino as we head to Santiago. We were intending to seek it out at some point, and it turns out we had been walking on it all night! It runs right through the heart of León, and right past our apartment. The path is marked by bronze scallop shells (the symbol of St. James) imbedded in the cobblestones.
On our way home, I saw a sign for Four Lions Brewery, one of the few craft breweries in Spain. It makes an honest-to-goodness IPA. I wanted to cry – a beer, made right here in Spain, that tastes of hops! I offered one of our stools to the woman next to me. Too tired to speak Spanish, I spoke in English. She answered back in perfect English, but with a slight Spanish accent. I was surprised but didn’t say anything. Later she stopped to talk. She’s an English professor at the local university and has lived in New York and New Jersey. So warm and welcoming, she offered to help us if we needed anything.
Not bad for a night’s exploring. What a great city! I felt a connection when we first arrived. I sensed it was the type of place that would open up its arms and welcome us in, and it did.