The next morning started out early as usual. Nothing eventful on the trail that day, just putting one foot in front of the other and chatting with pilgrims on the trail. Halfway through the hike that morning we stopped and took a look at the map. It looked like the rest of the trail was going to be on roads instead of dirt trails. When entering into larger cities like Leon, You had to walk on a lot of sidewalks and blacktop, which was a little painful on my feet after a while. I decided that I was going to wait at the bus stop and take the bus the rest of the way into the city. Dom, Caroline, and a few other pilgrims joined me at the bus stop where we waited for the bus, which turned out to be about 30-45 minutes late. I highly recommend taking the bus into Leon. Leon is a good place to take a rest day so why not start your rest a little bit earlier?
Several of us on the bus decided to stick together once we got off the bus and head towards the same albergue, the Santa Maria de Carbajal convent. It’s a Benedictine monastery right around the Plaza de Santa Maria del Camino y Grano (Thank you John Brierley guide). The place was a little hard to find, but well worth it. The convent split up men and women into 2 different large rooms full of bunk beds. That meant yet another night of hearing 9 or 10 different men snoring at the same time, but this far into the trip I had become used to it. Once again, hot showers and a roof over my head were more than enough to make me happy. A word of advice though, be sure after you sign in and have your passport stamped that you let them show you to your bed. I walked out to use the restroom and when I came back, they tried to make me pay again. The lady signing me in never looked at my face. I had to show her my passport with her handwriting and my signature in her logbook with the date next to it. It was nothing short of comical even though they were getting ready to try and throw me out. Once again, Dom served as translator and straightened everything out.
After settling in, I joined Sally, Ben (an Australian pilgrim from the night before), and Martin (an Austrian from the night before) for a beer just outside our albergue in the cobblestone courtyard. When I’d gotten about a beer in, Dom and Caroline invited me to go see the main cathedral and grab some lunch. Upon reaching the square where the cathedral was, we ran into an American woman that taught me about the generosity of Camino pilgrims. Several days ago, I had accidentally left my only pair of shorts in an albergue while packing in the dark one morning in Castrojeriz. I didn’t realize they were missing till that night, so I counted it as a loss and decided I would just pick up a new pair later down the road if I wanted. Well, when the American woman approached, the conversation went something like this:
American woman: “Are you the priest?” she asked looking right at Dom.
American woman: “I believe I have your pants”
Dom: “I think you’re mistaken”
American woman: “No, I’m sure they’re yours. You left them at the albergue in Castrojeriz a few days ago.”
At this point, I intervened and discovered that she had carried my pants since Castrojeriz with the hopes of running into me again and returning them. I also thought it was really funny that some random woman claimed to have a priest’s pants and was walking around Spain with them and all the while Dom is denying it as politely as possible. Anyways, this woman had walked about 60-70km carrying my shorts in hopes that she could return them to me, or rather a priest. Either way, I was floored that a someone would go to that much trouble for a stranger. She said she had even washed them! We worked it out that I would pick the shorts up from her the next morning at the hotel where she was staying (see, other pilgrims spoiled themselves every now and again too). I was so excited the next morning to get them back that I changed at the next bar into them to hike the rest of the way. God it felt nice to let my legs cool off for a bit while hiking. Kind of restores your faith in humanity a little.
Anyways, after we’d checked out the cathedral (which all started to look the same, but was still beautiful) and grabbed some lunch, I went back to the albergue while Dom went with Caroline to the physio to translate for her. Once I got back, I did the usual, took a nap, watched a little “Game of Thrones” on my iPone and picked up a few supplies for the next day.
There was no big dinner that night, but Dom, another pilgrim named Christoph, and I went for tapas. This is a great town for tapas! In fact, they were having some kind of tapas festival the weekend we were there. We ended up at this little place called Jamon Jamon, which was recommended to us by some friends we ran into at lunch. It was delicious! With every drink you ordered, you were given a plate of tapas for about 2.50 euros each! Jamon Jamon was only about a 10 minute walk from the albergue towards the cathedral.
Leon is another one of those towns I wish I spent another day in to fully enjoy. Next time I do the Camino (and there most definitely will be a next time) I’m going to do a little more research on what festivals are happening along the route.
Distance: 18.6 km
Accommodation: Santa Maria de Carbajal Convent- Good wifi access, hot showers, comfortable beds, no laundry but a space to hand wash your clothes. Great bar just outside the albergue in the cobblestoned courtyard out front. Once again, I recommend Jamon Jamon for tapas.