Hola! Leon

Deep breath. I made it to Leon. I’m just a smidge over 300k to Santiago. And even less to walking through the gate at home. My friend, Amy, predicted it would get harder for me the closer I got to Galicia.

A cold morning in Mansilla de las Mulas

‘You’ll want to push yourself. Or just get on a bus. The pull of your own bed will be tough to resist.’

I scoffed at this idea. I’ve walked this before. The closer I got to the end, the slower I wanted to go. But now that I am in Leon I see her point.

Taken by my friend, Engelien

Walking yesterday looking up at those mountains ahead, all I could think about was Just two mountains left and I’m practically home. Portomarin is due south of Bricomart in Lugo. Jeff could swing by on his way home from the hardware store. Stop this, Kelli! <slap slap> We have some walking yet to do. Get a grip on yourself! That gate will come up fast after O Cebreiro.

After walking the Meseta, I’m taking two nights in Leon. I know I said it was mandatory to stay at a Parador hotel in any town or city that boasts one. But then I went to book my room and I discovered a hidden gem in Leon. It’s like The Parador but without the branding. And it’s amazing.

The Hotel Real Colegiata San Isidoro is everything The Parador used to be before it went corporate. A lovely hotel in an old cloister, the art and architecture are stunning. And the rooms are fully remodeled. On this very, very cold day, the warmth of the room has me pushing my laundry doings out until tomorrow. Tonight, I will hunker down and elevate my knee. And enjoy. Here are just a few photos.

I absolutely love Leon. The honey colored buildings. The old wall. Before settling in I enjoyed just my second glass of wine on the entire Camino. And I closed my eyes and savored it in the sun. No walking tomorrow. A bit of chores and a nap are on the agenda. Regrouping and allowing my muscles to rest.

Jessica (US), Liam (UK), and Martin (Ireland).

Walking to the hotel, I saw Pilgrim friends, some of whom are stopping in Leon. They’ll finish in Fall or next year. Bitter sweet, but I hope we will meet again. I guess that is always the way. Martin, the funniest person I’ve ever met, says we will ‘definitely meet up again.’

‘How’s that!’ I asked him.

‘Don’t you know, Kelli. You’re famous. I’ll find ya.’

He never clarified what he meant. Perhaps he meant infamous. 😉 But, oh well. The Camino really is like life. Filled with beginnings and endings. A series of hanging on and letting go. There are people pushing on tomorrow towards Astorga. But there are others coming up behind me that I haven’t seen for awhile. They’ll be in Leon by lunchtime.

Just last night I went to the Pilgrim meal in Mansilla. It appeared to be the only one in town, so no matter where you were staying, that was your food source. Walking in was like being Norm at Cheers. Voices raised in greeting ‘Kelli!’ And who did I see there? THE bully from the Albergue on my second night on the Camino. She smiled and waved. Then she fisted bumped me. ‘Its good to see you!’ I took a good look at her and truly, she is not the same person I met more than two weeks ago. The hard edges were gone. Her face was wide and open. A genuine smile. And I smiled back. I’m so happy for her. Because that’s why we walk. It’s what the Camino is all about. A physical manifestation of the idea that redemption is available to all of us. Its just that sometimes it requires facing the pain and walking through it anyway. I can’t think of a more noble endeavor.

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