Camino Postcard 22: León to Valverde

2.5.19
On our way out of León, we met a tired pilgrim. Despite his condition, he was kind enough to pose for a photograph with Ellena and Carolin,

I asked him if he liked any sports, and to my surprise he said he was a fan of cricket. Who wouldn’t be? The pilgrim took my hat:

As for León, it took us into Trabajo del Camino. Here, we passed through an ugly industrial estate and on into La Virgen del Camino. In La Vergen, I had to stop due to back ache on my left side; actually, the muscles there were stiffening up, making turning my back a little awkward. Ellena once more proved her quality (just like Faramir) and lightened my load by taking my sleeping bag.

You would be forgiven for thinking that the loss of a sleeping bag would not change things very much as it is very light but on this day it really did make the difference. Mine was not one of those light sleeping bags that some pilgrims carry. My back would not get better again until I came home (and no longer had to carry a backpack) but while it would never be quite well again, so’s to speak, I was able to manage it – and carry the sleeping bag.

It was another hot day as we passed a bunch of cyclists taking a drinks break. We met a Canadian man who was walking the Camino with his wife. Alas, she wasn’t with him – injury had forced her to take a bus to their next destination. Fortunately, though, she would get better and we’d meet them both not long after leaving Sarria. We also met an excited group of guard dogs, and their altogether calmer mother; Ellena made friends with one of the dogs who licked her happily.

How did they get up there?

Presently, we came to an albergue just outside Valverde. It was on the side of the road but had a lovely garden with hammocks, a round table and even a bed. Inside, the dining-living room was very rustic and homely. This albergue was on the more expensive end of the scale, being 10 or 15 euros to stay at but the bed was comfortable, the food was good, and at the end of lunch and tea, they gave us shots. Shots!

Did I say shots?

not even remotely sorry

At lunch I had a grappa. Pure joy. In the evening, I gave my liver a break and had one of the gentler spirits.

Ha – ‘giving my liver a break’ – drinks another shot.

Anyway, at one of the meals I happened to say that I had finished drinking alcohol and was ‘going back to agua’. Ellena and Carolin started laughing. Why? Why?? They told me to think about about what I had said. I repeated it to myself slowly. Nope. I could find no puns. But they had – Ellena thought I had said I was going ‘back to viagra‘.

wut

someone doth
too much

I am a strong, confident man; I do not need viagra.

protest

In the afternoon, we enjoyed a nice rest in the hammocks. I hung my clothes up to dry and tried to walk across pebbles in bare feet. Ouch! A quick retreat followed. In the evening, we retired to the dorm. One poor pilgrim would sleep in the living room that night due to a nasty cough that she had acquired.

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.