Sunday, August 17, 2014

Leon: Wow

Hello, everyone.

As you remember from my last post, we got to Leon pretty early. If we hadn't had something we needed to do, we would have kept on going. We did, however, have something we needed to do: mail home unneeded stuff.

Ancient walls of the city, which we passed through at the Money Gate.

Cathedral of Leon. Right hand door is for tourist entry only--pay admission, hours restricted to when it doesn't conflict with Mass. Left hand door is for worshippers; it opens 5 minutes before Mass begins.
Main center door of the Cathedral. Beautiful carvings, both the stone lintel and the wooden door. Statue in center is the Virgen Blanca, Our Lady holding the Christ Child.
Sign explaining the archeological digs. (See below.)

The archeological dig, showing a Roman encampment. The dig was later covered with glass tiles so people can see it.
We stayed at the Benedictine hostel in Leon. This is not only in the old city, it's next to a plaza full of ancient cobblestoned pavement. But we walked carefully and survived our approach to the front door. The dorms are upstairs here, and as usual we had an up and a down--my sweetie really preferred the top bunks. And I preferred the bottom ones. As we had arrived early on a Sunday, we left our stuff at the hostel and went back to the Cathedral for the 11 o'clock Mass. When we got there, we read the sign again, wandered in circles, and eventually found an old man who was telling everyone that wanted to goto Mass to just be patient and wait near the left hand door. Promptly at five minutes before the time, that door opened and all of us scooted inside to pray.

After Mass we  wandered Leon taking in the sights. We visited San Isidoro church, which was beautiful.  We found outside the church doors both a gypsy market (souvenirs and cheeses) and an archeological excavation of the ancient Roman VII Legion camp.

We kept hearing a BOOM! that sounded like cannon shots. We figured it was some kind of fiesta cannon-firing and started hunting for the post office and the library. (Post office to mail a box, library to try and post an update here.) After much wandering, and much map checking, we discovered a park area in the center of the city. The park was across the street from the post office--which would be open at 8:30 in the morning. We discovered the Zumba class there, all gathered in a crowd with the dance leader on a stage at the front. And as we were looking around at the scenery we heard a Whoosh! that sounded very unexpected and really scary. My sweetie said it sounded rather a lot like an RPG. I thought it sounded like a bottle rocket. At 1 in the afternoon on a Sunday in the park full of people and trees. Then we happened to see where it came from: an old man standing on the sidewalk with a wooden holder in one hand and a really big bottle rocket in the other. He lit off the rocket and it Whooshed! up into the air and then it exploded with the loud boom that we had been hearing. All around him, everybody else was just carrying on like nothing was happening. We decided that the locals probably knew what to do and copied them as well as we could.

The next morning we stayed around, eating Ham Toast at a little restaurant and generally twiddling our thumbs until the post office opened.

The post office had numbers for service, one set for mailing and another for picking up. We took our number and waited around with our little red bag of clothes, first aid kit, and so on, then mailed it. The package was 2.3 kilos--about 5 pounds. Then we found the Camino trail markers and got on the move. It was about 9:00.
Parador Hotel at San Marcos Square.

Santiago Matamoros--detail of front of Convento de San Marcos.
On the way out of the city we passed through the Plaza San Marcos. The present-day Parador is in the restored building of the Convento de San Marcos, the former headquarters of the Order of the Knights of Santiago. The plateresque facade on the building is amazing.