Mansilla is only 18 or so kilometres from León and and a fairly easy flat walk, but your intrepid correspondent was feeling weary and flat. This section of the Camino also enters the city via the industrial areas and I hadn’t enjoyed the experience of entering the previous city of Burgos via these areas. It is also regarded as a little more dangerous than the rest of the Camino and pilgrims are advised to not walk alone. The guide book recommends a bus as well; so leaving the braver Denis and Angela to walk on, I opted for more time in León, got the bus and had checked in to my hotel just after 10am.
The hotel is terrific – especially the public areas, the rooms are fairly plain. The hotel – with the grand name of Hotel Real Colegiata de San Isidoro is part of what was originally a one thousand year old palace of the Kings of León. And it is in the historic heart of the city.
Still feeling weary, I spent the middle of the day walking the old streets and visiting the major plazas containing the cathedral and tourist office…then a four hour siesta. I think I needed it. I woke up at about 6pm and actually thought I’d just go back in, get something to eat and crash again, feeling lucky that I still had another rest day in store.
But I had the most wonderful evening. Thinking I might walk up to the Cathedral plaza to see if there was anyone I knew, I ran into 10 people who had arrived from Mansilla sharing a table at one of the cafes. A nice catch up, but after one beer I started to head back to my hotel. Within 50 metres I ran into Sean from Ireland again (now wearing sandals to let his blisters heal) and an amazingly generous local, Isaac. Isaac takes tours of Spanish teenagers to mainly other European countries so they can experience other cultures. He had happened to stay in Sean’s mother’s B&B in Ireland on the day that Sean was leaving for the Camino and invited him to stay in his home when in León. I was lucky to tag along.
For the next three hours Isaac very proudly showed us some of his favourite places in the old part – first in the Barrio Humeda and then the very old Plaza de Santa Maria del Camino. For Barrio Humeda think: Spanish word Humeda = Humid -> Wet. Barrio Humeda then is the Wet Area i.e. Where you go to drink and eat tapas. He was very proud of the Leónese tapas as they were bigger than the ones in San Sebastián.
It was a great Spanish experience. Isaac took us to three of his favourite places in the narrow lanes – we ordered one drink at each place and, being with a local, were asked what free tapas we would like with the drink. Total cost for 3 drinks and three tapas – morcilla (black pudding), eggs, calamari, chorizo flambed in alcohol on skewers, minced chorizo, Jason… cost each 5€50. I don’t understand how they stay in business.
It was wonderful, generous evening and I really enjoyed myself until a thunderstorm chased me back to the hotel about 10pm in the twilight.