Rest Day 3: Leon

Frank and Mikey definitely took advantage of our close location to the old town while in Leon. We started off the day with coffee, juice, and some sub-par sandwiches. Still, the view was well worth the 3€ each for a Spanish breakfast.   

 Mikey’d eat canned tuna any day for that vista! 

 So we did get to tour the cathedral (between services) and it was really amazing. An audio guide was included with admission, so Mikey and Frank are now experts on 12th century architecture (FYI). 

(And just in case you’re reading this, here’s a shoutout to you: Mikey found your seats):

Names aside, the choir stalls were pretty rad. 
   The cathedral in Leon holds one of Europe’s finest treasure troves of medieval stained glass. In fact, they were careful enough to box everything up for the better part of 60 years while redoing the stone work (talk about a crazy jigsaw puzzle when they were reinstalled!)
  Mikey had to pose with the (other) saints in the cathedral’s cloister. 

This 14th century coat of arms shows the union of the kingdoms of Castile and Leon. The Spanish seal would later add the kingdom of Aragon (with the marriage of Isabelle & Ferdinand – hello, Columbus and stuff) and Navarra. 
 

Following our tour of the cathedral, we wandered around the streets on a beautiful Sunday morning and happened upon this:

  It was basically a folk procession leading to the Basilica of San Isidro. Cool thing was that we recognized one of the “fife” players – he was our server from the prior evening!     And these were the big shots who participated in the ceremony. Notice the military guys’ funny hats. 

There was a LOT to see in Leon. While we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside of the Basilica Museum, Frank and Mikey saw the Holy Grail and the Royal Pantheon where 23 kings and queens of Spain are burried. The celing was decorated in a kind of Romanesque version of the Sistine Chapel (only 300 years older!) 

Later, we walked down to the former monastery of San Marcos. 

 
A view from the plaza of San Marcos.

Frank has happily found a park bench on which to rest and reflect. 

  In addition to the religious Museum of Leon, San Marcos still maintains a chapel which holds regular masses. We quickly snapped a photo before anyone noticed our presence. 

Not sure if it’s true, but we think the church is raising funds by selling off half of the monastery to the Hotel Parador. This is the other wing of San Marcos. Kind of swanky for a former monastery-turned hotel! 

 

After all that walking, Frank needed to relax and do some laundry. Let’s just say that there are two things Mikey can be sure of: 1) the sun will rise in the east and 2) if it exists, Mikey will find craft beer. 

Four Lions is kind of amazing. It features American-style beers made on premise. Great sliders and “gliders” (mini hotdogs) with wonderful ales to wash ’em down. Check it out if ever in Leon!

 Post nap, Frank and Mikey happened upon Leon’s Iwa Jima?! Kind of odd, but worth the picture, yo!

 And for you art fans out there, we made sure to visit MUSAC – the contemporary art museum of Leon. (Mikey thought his shirt might match a block or two!)

 Although it wasn’t exactly Frank’s cup of té, Mikey really enjoyed Pamen Pereira’s “The Second Wind,” among others. 

 But one cannot omit the edible art we both enjoyed! In background is chorizo on bread, but the foreground masterpiece is a Spanish “pig in a blanket!” Yeah, real win with both of us!

This was Mikey’s technicolor salad!

 We even took time to get haircuts, although Frank was a bit apprehensive due to the language barrier. Still, all ended well & they were only 7€ each!

 But, Mikey had to look good for his parliamentary address! 

  The turnout was low, but very attentive! 

  We took a walk around the medieval city walls…

  And went to the Plaza Mayor. This building dates back to the 17th century.  

 Ok, so it wasn’t very Spanish, but we found the American Cafe and had some barbecue ribs! USA! USA!

We definitely had a good stay in the city and got to see much more than time or Mikey’s patience allow us to post. Leon is the last city of size before we reach Santiago de Compestella in a couple of weeks. On the road again…

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Day 3: Zubiri to Pamplona

Wide awake at 5:25am, Mikey beat his alarm this morning! Frank begrudgingly strapped on his headlamp and joined in on the pre-dawn march. And yes, it was a march. Basically, Mikey figured that an early morning sprint would cut off walk time in the afternoon. So on we went, trudging through the dark until…

  Bam! Yeah, that’s called perfect timing. 
While we could have stayed on in the field for quite some time, the camino beckoned and brought us further along the path towards… 

 Mikey posing in the center of Ilarratz hamlet. 

  The importance of bread cannot be stated enough! Notice the morning delivery hanging on the door. 
Frank on the Puente de los Banditos in Larrasoaña. 

  A view of the valley  from Zurain. 
  

 Large sections of today’s hike were on footpaths near a river. 
  

 A church at Irlotz.
 

The highest form of flattery is imitation. 

 Frank auditioning for The Sound of Music?!
     

 Altarpiece in the 13th century Iglesia de San Esteban in Zabaldika.

 The circular steps that led to the belltower were no joke!
  Frank and bells. 
  When Frank rang the right-side bell, it basically ‘thumped.’ So, when Mikey rang the left bell … just watch. He wasn’t expecting it to be so loud!
  A church in the woods.

  Frank infront of the entrance to Arleta. 
  Puente de pa Magdalena – the extrance to Pamplona!
 Don’t stop now!!
 Entering Pamplona. Notice the sign about  sore feet – very tempting!

  Finally made it to the town square. ¡Time for pintxos, vino, y descanso!

Day 3 was definitely a needed break from the first two. Frank is dealing with preexisting leg pains and Mikey is discovering new leg muscles he never knew he had until they began hurting. Hooray for Camino anatomy lessons!

Ergo, we are taking a day to rest up in Pamplona. Perhaps a short break from walking with packs will help us a bit. That said, our next post will be entitled “Rest Day 1.” 

Final recap: 

We found that getting an early start was the key to arriving in time to enjoy our host-city. We will probably try to wake early as often as possible. 
The church at Zabaldika was truly the highlight of today. What Mikey omitted in his photo captions was how he managed to get us into the 13th century church. Basically, the door was locked, so he had to ring at the house labeled “Community of the Sacred Heart” and wait for a 70+ year old lady to bring a REALLY big key to the church door. 
After turning on some “mood music” (Gregorian chant), she encouraged us to look around and climb the belltower. Of course, Mikey asked if he could ring the bell. Yep, she said yes! After waking the entire valley, we descended from the tower and our host stamped our pilgrim passports with the church’s seal. Afterward, she established direct eye contact and wished us both a most heartfelt “buen camino.” We took a detour to visit this church, but have no regrets at all! 

Hasta entonces.