Friday, August 30th

Leaving Mansilla
With the green cornfields on one side, and the main road on the other. Flat. Absolutely flat. But God bless the Boot repairer in Mansilla. Hasn't felt this good since leaving LePuy, my right foot is abounding with newfound confidence. Zapateria!

Puente Villarente
Couldn't resist the Casablanca, but then, I'd have stopped anywhere for a coffee anyway.And the song of the morning was Tom Traubert's Blues,
"lost my Saint Christopher,
now that I've kissed her"



after walking on a track that paralleled the main road, through some areas that weren't pretty, hearing dogs in the distance, imagining them to be the pilgrim-eaters of legend. But no, they weren't. Not yet, anyway.
A concrete seat, another opposite. A children's playground, a house with stained glass windows, a tiny and very ugly dog, somewhere there's meant to be a bar. Damned if I can find it.
Meeting another group of pilgrims, who've since moved on. I'll give them a good start. They've told me that it's only 8kms to Leon. In my way of thinking that 2 hours. Easy.
There's another pilgrim, over at the farmacie, who's explaining his problem to the farmacist. I'll bet it's to do with feet.

The last kilometer or so has been like walking against the traffic on the Eastern Freeway. It's different. Not ugly as such, quite a welcome change actually. Just hoping that this pathway I've just turned off into means the end of actually having to walk on a freeway.
But there, sprawled out in front of me like a desperate tart, is Leon.

At the albergue, waiting for 12:30, when the reception reopens.
Walked in, over the blue bridge, along the streets, passing service stations and being slightly nauseated by the small of petrol, following the yellow arrows until they divided, one direction to the 'Monasterio', the other to the 'Albergues', apparently there's more than one here. Met up with three Spanish pilgrims, whom I met briefly last night. Up the stairs to the second floor. Just waiting now.
The albergue turns out to be part of a sporting complex, next to a futbol field.
Have a map, had a lemon-flavoured Fanta, then sitting on the steps outside for a while, the nearby trees full of the cawing black birds. The refugio is a few blocks out of town, but it's okay, I think I have plenty of time. My feet need a rest anyway, I think walking on the Freeway didn't do them much good.

Stephen, the English guy, and his girlfriend Carly have turned up.
Reading the Town Plano, it has where the one-star hotels are, I'm hoping for a no-star whatsoever. Must be at least one in town. The Leon equivalent of the Hostal Garcia. Somewhere, and I have this afternoon to find it.

Went wanders after booking in, and dumping my stuff in the room. Room 8.

They have this rule in this albergue that you have to surrender your pilgrims passport for a voucher, and when you leave, they return your passport. I'm still not sure why. Something to do with being late.

Found Pans. The Leon equivalent of the Fast Factory, except the chicks that serve you are prettier. Also got totally lost, not that it matters, and ended up finding Cyberhades. About 30 computer terminals, mostly boyos playing games, Men In Black, Quake III. Hotmails. I write replies. Admit to my daughter that I'm in Leon, but I've lost the Cathedral. One of the most important pieces in European Cultural heritage, and I've lost it.

Around the streets, found a bookshop, and my "libro en Inglis ?" didn't really get the response I'd been hoping for, but "books in English ?" did. I'm directed to another bookshop. Got lost again, some confusion between left and right, but eventually found it anyway. Not much. One small shelf, but between "Duckhunting 1978 Annual" and "Inglis Practice" was D.H.Lawrence's "Women In Love", 2.70 euros, at least it's brainfood.

To the Cathedral, closed 'til 4:00. Wonder why they close for two hours in the middle of the day. Do the priests siesta? Maybe that's when the diablos come out to play. Wanders, around the streets, restaurants, bars, some empty some full some overflowing into the streets, one Plaza in particular looked like wall to wall diners. 'Leon Gotica' posters and stickers everywhere, and I don't know what it means either. Souvenir shops, the same tacky stuff as everywhere else. T-shirts, 'Universidad Leon' was tempting, but not quite tempting enough, there's buttons, plates, ashtrays, whatever, anything capable of having 'Leon' written on it was there, and written on.

Pans. And bejaysus, I've just finished the boccadillo, and nearly the large coke, and there's a beggar accosting me, mumbling something like "give me money because I'm a totally useless waste of space." I don't think so pal, just feck off.
The old part of town is quite beautiful. The Cathedral, the other churches, the Gaudi building. But get out a little and it's not so pretty. I've walked into this town, walked passed it's factories, its suburbs, I've seen it's grot, and it ain't all beautiful underneath.

Cafeteria Alaska
I'm celebrating getting a cheap room, 14 euros a night, for tomorrow night and the following one. So, I'm having a cafe solo. Bejaysus, it's a tiny cup, and here they only half fill it. The staff here dress in white lab coats.

Anyway, walked a bit, following the map to the one-star places. Some just looked too awful, some I couldn't figure out how to get in. But the last one, the Hostal Oviedo, on Avenida de Roma, was easy. Up the stairs, second floor, ring. Explain, kind of. Two nights, tomorrow night and the day after. The woman is a little confused, calls for Patricia, the daughter, who helps out with the English.
A little disturbing was one guy storming out, "I'm not staying here!", as I entered. Maybe a little ominous, and worrying, as I haven't actually seen the room yet. Whatever.
So, right now, it's worked out.
I'm genuinely so thrilled I could internally combust.

Damn, just discovered there's no cooking facilities at the albergue, my culinary skills just going to waste. So, it's picnic in the park time.

The Menu:
1. Baguette, avec 'Calvo' ensaladilla Rusa con Atun
2. Yoghurt. Peach flavoured
3. Orange
Drinks Menu

I have a knife, picked up from somewhere, and a spoon, courtesy of the Macdonalds in Boronia.

Strange how things turn out. Also dining in the park was Marie, a Spanish pilgrim, a native of Madrid, and she gives me advice about what to see there, and how to negotiate the Madrid Metro. Jaysus, didn't even know they had one. The aerporto is apparently a Metro stop. We're then joined by some other pilgrims, two Austrian guys, four Spanish guys, and a Brazilian girl. Attempting, mostly successfully, to talk.

around 10
To a bar, all of us. Apparently it's the last day on the Camino for two of the Spanish guys, so it's beer time. Sitting outside a bar, had three beers, feeling utterly pissed, and the raciones just kept on comin', olives, sardines, cheese, ham, bacon, and Lord knows who was paying for it. It was great, even if the tail end of the conversation turned to the love problems of one of the Austrian guys. One of the Spanish pilgrims telling him he was "stupido," and all he could reply was "Si, si, si, si".
Feeling just a tad antsy, as I'm sure the albergue closes at ten, but stayed, drinking, until midnight. By this time, I'm absolutely sure I'm in for a night under the trees. Eventually left. But it's okay, just show the ticket thing, or someone else does, and we're allowed in. This albergue is different, they treat you like an adult.