June 2, 2011 León Rest Day

Woke early and downstairs to hotel dining room, leaving Sebastian in room. Realizing now that Luke is involved, Rocky is suffering from blisters and Gail is busy with work and not writing much from home. Feeling lonely and a little sorry for myself. At breakfast met American woman, Laurie, who has walked many caminos and who invited me to consider walking the Camino Invierno with her to Santiago. This camino begins at Ponferrada and follows a river valley toward Ponte Ulla, then picks up the Via de la Plata, approaching Santiago from the south. Told Laurie I might join her, depending on how our camino family developed.

As day wore on waited on Calle Ancha and enjoyed reunions with many pilgrims from previous days. Sat with Sebastian much of the day and many other people. Learned late in the day that Rocky had left earlier that day. Saw Stefan of South Africa in the afternoon (from 2008 camino) and as always he pretty well took over — in a good way, full of humor, laughter, bawdy talk, and conspiracies. He was soon making moves on Catia and every other girl and they were on to him. In late afternoon saw Monique, then in very late afternoon heard that Luke, Gal and Lila were in town. Planned a meeting with Sebastian at 19:00 for supplies and dinner with everyone at 20:00 with Stefan in the lead. Sad goodbye to Andreas as he went on ahead.

Our group for dinner ended up as Sebastian, Catia, Martin, Monique, Luke, Gal, Lila and Stefan. First stop was dinner, then bar for shot of absinthe, followed by golden tequila for others. Then to next bar for mojitos. Best mojito ever. Left bar at about 01:00 for bed. Stefan and Sebastian closed the bars down later and I proved once again that I’m a true party wimp.

June 12, 2008 Mansilla de las Mulas to León

Today I learned why many people suggest taking the bus into Leon. The long walk through suburban/exurban estates sucked the life out of the spirit, but as León became more dense the city started to breathe. On entering the old city it became clear León is a gem of Spain. Its walled city contains hidden plazas and winding streets full of restaurants, pubs and, at night, party-goers. The center of it all is the cathedral, which on Saturday overflows with brides and grooms readying themselves for the wedding vows. I could tell I would love this place.

I found my hotel, the Posada Regia, and then sat at a table on the Calle Ancha, where I discovered a great vantage point for pilgrim-watching. One after another I saw pilgrim friends and acquaintances walk by and share  waves, hugs, and “buen caminos.” Stefan called to say he’d like to meet me here to tour me through the nightlife of the town, so I prepared for an extra day for rest and to gather strength for a party night with Stefan. I hung out through the day with Maria Paluselli of California and scouted out a masseuse to ease our tired muscles and relaxed next to the constant stream of pilgrims on Calle Ancha.

Next day: I visited the cathedral and the church of St. Isadore, along with many of the nooks and crannies of the old city. In the evening I met Stefan, greeting the one remnant of my original camino family with many hugs, stories and laughter. Stefan is a force of nature and one just has to try to keep one’s footing while being around him. He’s full of ideas, muscular charm, an eye for pretty girls and the South African equivalent of the gift of Blarney. We headed out for a night of great food, great conversation, and several types of the mysterious liquor absinthe, a curiosity of mine that at the time could not be sold in America. Thanks to the persistence of Stefan, who after much searching and much sampling, found this rare liquor at one tiny bar that didn’t open until after midnight.

By 1:00 a.m. I had had my quota of 4 drinks in one day, so I carefully and a little nauseously walked back to the hotel and dropped on the bed to get some sleep in advance of a long walk tomorrow to Hospital de Orbigo. It was great to see Stefan and I had a blast with him in one of the true “party nights” of my straight-laced life.