MANSILLA DE LAS MULAS – LEON
We started walking a little bit later than other mornings, because it was only 18km to Leon. But we also heard from several people that Leon is packed with tourists, backpackers and pilgrims because of Easter weekend … which meant accommodation won’t be easy to find. Somehow, we trusted that there will be beds available when we arrive in Leon …
One could almost immediately sense that you were busy nearing a big city. The ancient villages were gone and the walking path today almost run parallel to the busy main road.
Medieval bridge before Villarente
When we initially planned our Camino, we decided to spend an extra rest day in Leon. It was after all close to Easter weekend and we understood that Leon has beautiful tourist attractions. But the funny thing is, that once you’re on the Camino, your mindset totally change. It’s actually your desire to avoid the big cities and spent more time in the rural areas and ancient villages.
As we were approaching Leon, we realised that one night will be enough for us for now … on another day (when we are not doing the Camino), we will bring justice to the beauty of Leon and spent more time there.
In Arcahueja we decided to stop for breakfast – we had after all more than enough time to get to Leon. When it came to breakfast choices, our friends (consisting of the group of Spaniards and Monica from Sweden), decided on the traditional tortilla (omelette), but Berto and I needed something more “substantial” and ordered chorizo sausage and bread.
Breakfast – Chorizo, bread and café con leche
We were discussing the walk that suddenly changed from tranquility to hastiness. It seemed as if this caught everybody off guard. It was interesting on how one’s perception of relaxation can change when you are on the Camino.
The last gravel road before we walked into Leon. The blue pedestrian bridge over the motorway is on the outskirts of Leon
As we walked into Leon, we headed towards Albergue Santa Maria de Carbajal, a Benedictine monastery situated in the old city … this is where most pilgrims, who are on the Camino, will sleep and we were hoping to find available beds here.
As we were standing in the queue to get a bed allocated to us, I overheard that women are accommodated on one side and men on another side of the albergue. As we reached the front of the queue, the nuns looked at our passports and asked whether we were married. I replied “yes” and then they sent us off to the “married quarters”. It was interesting to see that there were not a lot of married couples (we were in total only 5 couples). This made me think that it’s possible that not all husbands and wives can (or want) to walk the Camino together. I felt really blessed to do this Camino with my husband.
The entrance of the albergue Santa Maria de Carbajal
The albergue was almost full and we realised that we were (once again) lucky to find beds for the night. Almost all of our Camino friends were in this albergue and it was great seeing everybody again.
Backpacks stacked against the wall in the albergue
We decided to skip the laundry today – there were just too many pilgrims trying to get their clothes washed and dried. We have two sets of hiking clothes and tomorrow is another day to do laundry ☺️.
After we had something cold to drink, we set off to explore the old city of Leon. Monica, Gloria and Javier joined us walking up and down the streets of Leon. There were many tourists and pilgrims in the streets and restaurants and one almost felt claustrophobic after all the quietness on the roads the past week.
In front of the Leon Cathedral and exploring Leon
Javier and Gloria joined us in the streets of the old city of Leon (Monica took the photo). How do you recognise a pilgrim? On their flip flops of course
A happy moment – ice cream time! And almost impossible to decide on a flavour
Later that evening, there were a big gathering right in front of our albergue where there were once again processions to celebrate Easter weekend. We spent some time watching these – it was astonishing to see the effort that was put into these celebrations.
We had to be in the albergue at 22:30, because that was when the nuns locked the doors … time to go to bed. There were still a lot of noise outside and it was difficult to fell asleep.
We were glad we had the opportunity to see a little bit of Leon, but were also looking forward going back to the villages tomorrow!