Camino Day 23 – Mansilla de las Mulas to León: after the Meseta, the rest

Saturday 9 September 2023 – After all the exuberant shenanigans in Mansilla during yesterday evening, I expected the night to be a noisy one. In the end, the only thing disturbing utter quiet was the sound of thunder, so we had an undisturbed night. The forecast was for rain to fade away by 8am, leaving a warm day, so we timed our departure accordingly. The hotel’s rather patchy service level extended to breakfast which was only available over the road and only after 8am, so we quietly ate yoghurt and bananas that we’d bought, imbibed a mug of Twining’s finest Earl Grey and slipped out onto the Camino at 0730.

As we crossed the Roman bridge past the old city walls, the weather looked somewhat ominous,

and some pilgrims in front of us stopped to put on rain gear; I decided to put my confidence in Accuweather and refrained. Once again, we got some lovely light, courtesy of clouds and the rising sun

but basically the clouds cleared and we escaped any further rain, although we could see lightning ahead of us and thunder occasionally rolled around us.

The path ahead looked very similar to what we walked into Mansilla the previous day,

i.e. a track beside the road; I expected this to be our lot all the way for the 19 or so kilometres to León. There was some variation, though. After a few kilometres, informal signage promised us a bar off to the left, and so we headed that way into a village called Villamoros. There was a church

and, indeed, a bar – which was closed, despite a sign on the door saying it opened at 0730. Sighing, we moved on from Villa Morose and got back on the track.

Fortunately there was a bar open a couple of kilometres further on, so we stopped for a coffee and pastry to supplement what we’d eaten earlier. Shortly after moving on, we crossed a bridge

that makes life a bit easier for pilgrims, as originally, it seems that people were expected to ford the stream below. As we left this modern bridge we were confronted with a much older and more impressive one.

This is a Roman bridge which I think has as many as 20 arches, although it’s not possible to see them all; anyway, it’s an impressive piece of work, and further tribute to the quality of Roman construction.

The main Camino then carries on alongside the road for a few more kilometres, but the Google map we had courtesy of showed an alternative which was slightly longer but which took us away from the road.

The going was largely fine, although it required some careful puddle slaloming and the occasional well-judged leap. We were glad, though to get away from the trail of pilgrims on the main drag; although it couldn’t be called crowded, there were enough other people to encourage us to seek quiet and solitude – which we found with the exception of one other pilgrim, from Switzerland. He stopped to ask us what what was going on when he saw me apparently videoing an electricity pylon. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? This is what I was videoing.

Jane had spotted what was going on, and it was a pleasure to spend a few minutes watching the antics of these little chaps. I also spotted a bigger electricity pylon which I reckon has the face of a cat,

and we saw storks’ nests on other pylons, including one with both penthouse and mezzanine dwellings.

I reckon flying into the lower one of those requires a well-calculated approach path.

We eventually re-joined the main Camino track, which by this stage had also diverged from the road

and followed it past the village of Arcahueja, and past a rather nice pilgrims rest area

which featured a couple of water fountains, one of which had an amusing disclaimer on it.

We didn’t need any water anyway, and as it happens we were approaching a refreshment stop so moved on after I’d applied a bit of sun block, since the sun was now out and hot. The refreshment stop was in Valdelafuente, just a couple of kilometres further on, somewhere clearly beginning to be within the León industrial catchment area.

There were a couple of bars

and so we stopped for a coffee. On the left of the picture above, you can see the edge of a garden which featured some lovely colour

and the lady whose house it was was there, so Jane stopped to compliment her on the display, which I think she rather appreciated.

After our usual coffee/OJ/beer injection, the route was clearly nearing the city; we could soon see its sprawl

and, after a little more walking, could see the cathedral in the distance, too.

The rest of the walk in was, rather like Burgos, a bit of a fag, trawling through the suburbs which were pretty much like city outskirts everywhere, with the odd occasional sight worth a photo,

and then we were into the Old Town, which is very handsome and photogenic, and has some streets with a nice atmosphere.

I’m going to end the narrative here, because there’s so, so much to see in León that I would like to dedicate a separate entry for our sightseeing, and just say that we reached our rather nice hotel,

the Hotel Real Colegiata San Isidoro, which has some lovely corners

and were able to collapse, with a relieved sigh, into a comfortable, air-conditioned room with a couple of hours free to decompress before taking lunch. And a Very Nice Lunch it was, too – a Proper Lunch, indeed. We needed some exercise after it and so we went for a walk. Obviously. That walk, and all the things we saw today and will see tomorrow, will feature in an swpics Special Entry on Sightseeing In León.

I leave you with some stats. Our total kilometrage is now 476.9, a mileage of just over 296. Since Burgos, and the start of the Meseta, we have covered 193km – 120miles.

The Meseta, often talked about as the “mental” third of the Camino Francés, has not been dull, and we haven’t found it mentally challenging. It was very different from the first section – no really large towns, many small, very quiet villages, and a landscape dominated by large-scale agriculture – so very interesting to observe as we walked through it. But I have to say that it was wonderful to arrive at this luxurious accommodation, knowing we don’t have to walk tomorrow. A couple of places in the Meseta were nice to stay in – Emebed Posada in Castrojeriz and Casa El Cura in Calzadilla de los Hermanillos top the list – but the norm was for basic levels of service. That’s not a complaint or a criticism – I can’t imagine that there is a credible business model for a four-star hotel in the middle of the Meseta. It’s simply the way that things work there, and coming into big city levels of accommodation and service amplifies the contrast.

Weather permitting, we’ll be out and about in León tomorrow and I hope we’ll get some (more) great photos from the experience. Do check in and see how it all went, won’t you?

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