The walk out of León was an ordeal mainly because I was walking on city streets and through industrial areas. I left my hostel at 8:30 because I knew it was to be a short walk, but I first stopped at a cafe near the León Cathedral for a pain au chocolat and cafe con leche. I walked through the craft market, closed in the morning but occupying every street and made my way past the inviting Parador San Marcos, with its Plaasteresque edifice. Originally a more modest pilgrim hospital built by Doña Sancha in the 12th century, it became the headquarters of the Knights of the Order of Santiago, formed to protect the pilgrim way. Later, it was acquired and further embellished by King Ferdinand. The facade is embellished with pilgrim motifs and scallop shells.
Leaving the central city, we crossed over the 16th century stone Puente (bridge) over the río Bernesga.
León to Puente río Bernesga (2.3 km)
After the bridge, I made my way through León’s busy suburbs until I reached the open countryside of the páramo, or treeless plateau, until I reached a pilgrim cross and pedestrian bridge.
Puente río Bernesga to Cruce (2.8 km)
Then it was uphill past some bodegas, or underground wine cellars, and the endless industrial area until I found a cafe at La Virgen del Camino. Darina showed up then.
La Virgen del Camino
At the end of La Virgen del Camino was the big modern Sanctuary of Virgen del Camino, built in the 1960s. The sanctuary was built on the site where a shepherd saw a vision of the Virgin in the 16th century; she told him to throw a stone and then build a church on the spot where it landed. Apparently miracles were performed here and it became a pilgrimage in its own right.
Darina and I went inside. The façade of the shrine represents the “mysteries of the Rosary in bronze,” according to a sanctuary pamphlet. The huge bronze statue of the 12 Apostles stand above the west door with St. James looking out toward Santiago and the Virgin hovering above them all.
The Baroque altarpiece is from 1730. At the back of the church is a wall-to-wall stained glass window.
The bell tower outside measures 53 meters and represents the last station of the cross. At its base is a large stone symbolizing Christ’s tomb. It was interesting to find a modern church; I hadn’t seen too many of those on the Camino.
Cruce to Option (3.4 km)
After we left the town at the end of the urban sprawl, Darina took the alternate route and I continued along the roadway to Valverde de la Virgen, where I had made a reservation. From this point, I walked along a road for the remaining 3.4 km.
Option to Valverde de la Virgen (3.4 km)
Each day on the Camino, you don’t know what you’ll encounter as you walk in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims. Sometimes you find pleasant surprises such as the oasis of my albergue, La Casa del Camino: Albergue de Peregrinos.
Though it sits along a busy road, it was a beautiful spot with couches and comfy chairs, lounge chairs, hammocks, and beds on the lawn for lounging. There were areas under canopies and umbrellas and a line of square foot baths, and the most welcoming owners you could ever meet. When I arrived, they presented me with a glass of cold fresh orange juice as they checked me in.
Bowls of apples sat on tables, flower boxes and hanging baskets dotted the space around an above-ground swimming pool (with no water), gardens bloomed, and Buddhas reclined and sat, looking serene.
I sat outside having a glass of wine and one of the owners brought me a small bowl of peanuts.
When I have happened upon places such as these, I felt so joyful and grateful for the peaceful and refreshing surroundings.
This place rates up with a number of top albergues along the Camino. There are a fair share of bad and mediocre ones.
The pilgrim meal at the albergue was lovely, but sadly, I forgot to write anything about it so I don’t remember the food or the conversation. 😦
*Day 31: Thursday, October 4, 2018*
*18,451 steps, or 7.82 miles: León to Valverde de la Virgen (11.6 km)*
You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Vila Franca do Campo.