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Fighting fatigue with culture and tapas

It was Sunday afternoon and León was alive and bustling with bicycles, the streets clogged with wheels inexpertly manned by helmeted tiny children, fussing parents, old grannies – cyclists of all ages, ready for the off on an outing, or race of sorts. There was a great sense of excitement and fiesta and we found it hard to find a way through – or find a way at all actually – to the Santa María de Carbajalas Convent where we were segregated for the first time. Men to one side, women to the other.

It wasn’t late and Richard and I had walked only 25km or so but I was totally whacked when I arrived, lying down on my narrow bunk by the window and closing my eyes just the way I was: sweaty, dusty, exhausted, drained. Finally I had a shower, changed into clean clothes and wandered wearily into the street to find a table at a café where I sipped a sedate vino tinto and just watched the weekend city world wander by.

Finally I explored a little and found León Cathedral, a beautiful 13th century gothic structure that was satisfyingly simple. My German friend Andreas turned up as I sat admiring it on a bench outside and we walked round together listening to audio guides in different languages. The original architecture had been fundamentally flawed and the cathedral had gone through some hair-raising remedial work in the 18th century when its very survival was at stake. What I found fascinating about this building was that only 5000 people lived in León at the time of the original construction yet they were able to fund such an ambitious project. There’s an statue of a pregnant virgin Mary here too, which isn’t something you see too often!

Andreas claimed he knew a great tapas bar at the other end of town so we plodded off there, down endless streets (and past countless other tapa bars!) only to discover it was closed. So we sat down at the neighbouring one, drank wine, ate delicious “tapas variados” and communicated surprisingly well for the rest of the evening considering I can’t speak german and he has limited english! The wine undoubtedly eased translation.

It had been a great day. I had forgotten my exhaustion and weariness and lay down in my bunk that night believing I could tackle the exceptionally long haul the next day if I was going to catch up with other friends many, many miles ahead.

Morning would tell.


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