Camino Postcard 21: Calzada del Coto to León

1.5.19
Ninth and last day on the Meseta

Actually, we probably left the meseta days ago but I haven’t yet got round to finding out where it officially ends. I’ll try and do that anon.

When we left Calzada del Coto, the sun was rising in the east. My attempt, below, to photograph it is much too dark. Perhaps I was trying to take a chiaroscuro picture. Or maybe I just don’t know how to adjust the iPhone’s photograph settings. You decide.

By the way – the iPhone. Suck it up, Apple.

We got walking, but not very far – Ellena was unwell. At the first opportunity, we stopped and called a taxi to take us to León.

How far did we walk? About five kilometres – from Calzada del Coto to an albergue just outside the town of Bercianos del Real Camino. It would have been better had we been able to stop earlier, but there was nowhere to do so: the path took us either through the countryside or along the roadside, away from anywhere that we could stop.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the albergue that we stopped at. That’s a shame, because the barman there was very kind in calling the taxi for us. In fact, all the people who called taxis for us along the way were really kind. I ask God for His blessing upon them.

We had a brief breakfast at the albergue while we waited for the taxi to arrive. I also took a photograph the lovely decoration, above. Scallop shells were a very comforting sight on the Camino. Actually, they remain so today. They are a sign of something different and better. Thank you, St. James.

The taxi arrived and whizzed us to León. Our drive removed two stages of the Camino Francés and so eased our muscles, money and time worries considerably. It helped us, therefore, in a very substantial way, to finish the whole journey.

At León, we stopped for a coffee and set about finding an albergue. It wasn’t easy. The two closest to us were both closed – yes, it was still early, but I wonder if May Day played a role. So we wandered about, passing a pilgrim paying for their way by busking, passed the city’s beautiful cathedral, a square where a rock band was getting ready to play, and sundry bars and cafés before stopping to eat outside another bar. There, we went online and found another albergue down a side street. Better than nothing.

We used Google Maps to find the side street. If I am ever given an epithet, it will never be Malcolm the Navigator. Malcolm the Bad Navigator, perhaps, because if there is a way to misread the map, I will find it. Despite this, we eventually came to the albergue.

Hand to the door, and pu— no! The door’s locked! Damnit. Will we ever find somewhere to stay? But hold on, what is Ellena saying? She’s looking through the window and can see someone sitting at a desk. A woman. The hospitalera? Who’s going to knock and get her attention? Rap rap rap. Time to play hapless pilgrim!

The woman came to the door. And the very first thing she did was point to the doorbell. Well, thank you, lady, but as you’ll see there are several doorbells and ALL OF THEM ARE UNMARKED.

No, I didn’t say that – I didn’t even think it until later. It was, however an inauspicious beginning. Fortunately, things got better – much better – very quickly. We wanted a private room: the lady gave us a four bed room and promised that she wouldn’t give the fourth bed to anyone else. She also gave us a little map of the city and showed us various places where we could eat. In so doing, she told us about the Spanish tradition (?) of giving customers free tapas when they buy a drink.

We took our room, dumped our backpacks, showered and rested. After a couple of hours, I was ready to go and take a few photographs. Ellena came with me.

RULE BRITANNIA etc etc

We wended our way round the tight León streets until somehow, magically, we ended up at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. The fact that we had seen this one on the way into town and that Ellena is fond of eating there back home is purely coincidental. I have instructed my lawyers to take action against anyone who says otherwise.

I never eat at KFC so this visit was quite an experience for me. I have to say, I rather enjoyed it.

Manynoms and good conversation but eventually a return home.

It was just as well we ate at KFC because we tried and failed to find a bar to eat a pilgrim’s meal later on. It wasn’t that they weren’t there but we timed our search badly – we looked too early when a lot of the bars were not yet open. Thanks to a newsagents, we managed to pick up some snacks and so we took these back to the albergue. In the evening, we relaxed with clips of The Hobbit on You Tube. I saw the first of the three Hobbit films in the cinema and disliked it intensely. Watching the clips, however, melted my heart somewhat. The best clip, however, was this, er, deleted scene:

Since coming home, I have watched the first two Hobbit pictures and – although they are not in the same league as The Lord of the Rings trilogy – enjoyed them much more than I expected.

Camino Postcard 20: Moratinos to Calzada del Coto

30.4.19
Day Eight on the Meseta

This morning we walked along the roadside and came across a possibly fake quotation from Socrates (below).

Further on, we met two doggos taking a stroll down the road – literally. It’s a good job it was empty. One was Very Large and the other Moderately So. Very Large Doggo was mum, and Moderately So her son.

If I remember correctly, mum had an injury – unfortunately, I can’t remember if it was a current or past one; hopefully, Ellena will mention it on her blog here.

If you have read the previous entries in this series, you will know that Ellena understands the language of dogs. She was able, therefore, to gain mother dog’s trust and pet her.

After enjoying Ellena’s company for a few minutes the dogs moved on to – who knows where? Hopefully nowhere near the work men that were shooing them on just before they joined us. Spain is a funny country like that: she loves her canines but we saw quite a few strays and injured dogs along the way.

Speaking of the dogs, just as they joined us, we were passed by another pilgrim who had a dog phobia. She used us as a shield before moving swiftly on! If only she had watched Ellena, though, she would have seen that if you treat dogs in the right way, there is really nothing to worry about.

***

Today, we reached the official halfway point of the Camino Francés – Sahagun. We entered the city in the company of another pilgrim who cleared up the question of whether or not river water is safe to drink: in short, no; it may have been polluted by animals. It’s a good job I didn’t give in to temptation on the Valcarlos route. If I had walked the Napoleon route, however, and eaten the snow, that would have been fine.

Statue on the way into Sahagun (there was another like it behind me)

In Sahagun we made our way to the Monasterio y Museo de Santa Cruz where we received our halfway compostelas (below). We had to pay a few euros for these but given the quality of the ink and paper it seemed a fair deal.

What to say about the monasterio y museo? We saw much of the latter but little of the former. The church was entirely given over to the exhibition within; I assumed then, and believe now, that it must have been deconsecrated.

As for the exhibition – it was a real curate’s egg. I imagine there are people who would have been impressed by the indictment of Man’s behaviour in the full-on photographs of people around the world suffering from man made and natural disasters, and the mummified body, and contemporary art but I wasn’t. There were old books on display which were nice to look at but on the whole I was glad to leave the place.

We left Sahagun and made our way down a roadside path out of town. It was another hot day. As a result, we only walked a few more kilometres to Calzada del Coto. Here, we stayed at a donativo albergue. This meant that there was no set price for our beds but just what we could afford to give. I took the opportunity to get rid of all my spare change, which amounted to five or six euros.

Bull fighting mementos in the bar where we ate dinner

There was one dorm, which was stuffed to the rafters with bunk beds. My bed was very stiff, which raised fears in me that it would hurt my back (when I was 18, I visited my relatives in Canada and we had to cut short a visit to a friend’s house there after their stiff bed hurt my back so badly after one night). Fortunately, however, all would be well this time round.

I slept on the bottom bunk, underneath a woman who couldn’t stop moving and then told us to shh later on. I made sure I spoke louder for a few minutes after that.