The Road to Santiago.
Journal.

October 29, 2002
Tuesday

León fountain.
León fountain

Mansilla de las Mulas to León

I left early in the morning after exchanging email addresses with Vicente and José. Since I knew I would be going to a hotel, I wanted to say goodbye to Gundrun and MaryAnn, but they weren't up yet. From the street I could see a woman looking out the window from their room. So I motioned for her to open the window. I then asked her to get the two women. They came to the balcony and I shouted out my goodbye. They both blew me kisses — made an old man feel good!

The walk was pretty good — the weather nice, the scenery varied, and the upgrades not too difficult. However, the closer I got to León, the trickier things became. Generally el camino is parallel to the highway, but on a couple occasions, I had to cross the road. Since this was a major access highway, the traffic flew by. I would wait for a break and then jog across the road, praying that nothing from my backpack would fall off. Just before the suburbs, I fell in with a group of pilgrims and kept up with them, thinking that there was safety in numbers. At one point, we actually had to walk along the berm with cars and trucks speeding by. The dead dog in the ditch didn't make me feel any better. Fortunately that stretch was very brief. Soon there was a pedestrian bridge which took us across the highway and into the city.
 

Outskirts of León.
Outskirts of León
The walk through the outskirts and eventually the city proper was long and I was tired by the time I came to a tourist information display that had a map of the city. I wanted to stay in a hotel, so I tried to memorize the location of several in relation to the cathedral. I finally set out, confident that I could find one quickly.

I was headed toward the cathedral when I ran into a priest in a white cassock. When he saw me with my backpack and the scallop shell hanging from my neck, he beamed a big smile and grabbed me by the arm. He proceeded to escort me to the albergue while asking me where I was from. I hadn't intended to go the albergue first, but he was so happy to help me, and I was going to go there eventually anyway to get my credencial stamped, so I didn't put up any resistance.

In front of the albergue I ran into Chris, from Los Angeles, who was going to the train station to pick up his wife. She's going to walk the rest of the way to Santiago with him. I asked Chris about Rudy and he said that Rudy had left that morning. Just as I was leaving for the hotel, I heard José call out — he said his feet were much better.

Finding a hotel wasn't as easy as I had expected. I headed for what I thought was a logical part of the city — the old section. Nothing! As I entered a newer section I could see only a giant 4-star hotel which I knew would be muy caro (very expensive). I found a two-star place (my price range), but a room was available for only one night. (I needed to stay in one place for two nights so I could receive my insulin shipment from Madrid). The clerk gave me the address of a place around the corner, but the place looked so sleazy that I didn't even go into the lobby. I asked someone on the street where there was a hotel cerca de aqui (near here) and she gave me a series of directions. I finally found it but it was another 4-star, luxury hotel.

Discouraged, hungry, and tired, I decided to have something to eat and found a good restaurant with a reasonable menu-of-the-day. I asked the waiter if there was a hotel nearby that was no muy caro (not very expensive). He gave me a name and address; in fact, he wrote it out for me.

It was very close by, but it was a pension above a restaurant. Yes, they had rooms, but none of the rooms had a telephone. I continued on. Soon I found myself back at the same information board. This time I took off my pack (which I was reluctant to do the first time), got out a pen and paper, wrote down names and addresses, and drew a crude map to the nearest one.

The nearest one was very nice with a reasonable price. But the problem was that the phone was in the hallway. I couldn't imagine sitting in the hall for two hours trying to transmit my pictures and text. Fortunately the next hotel on the list had everything I needed — a clean room available for two nights with a telephone. I was so tired that I didn't care what the price was. Fortunately, it was very reasonable.

This experience really made me appreciate the Friends of Santiago and what the albergue system means to the pilgrim.
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