Day 50: Santiago de Compostela to Leon - Grampies Go Valencia to Paris: Spring 2024 - CycleBlaze

March 27, 2024

Day 50: Santiago de Compostela to Leon

Yet another procession appeared under our window last night, causing us to stand out on the balcony, though it was very cold. The marchers must have been freezing. The processions here are definitely not on the scale of those in Seville, and also tonight there was a lack of a brass band, so we had only drums. Nonetheless, it is quite a spectacle, and I filmed this one as it passed. 

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Another procession was due to pass about midnight. We went to bed, thinking they would wake us up, but we heard nothing. Either they were very meek and quiet (very unlikely) or that one did not come off.

The next we knew it  was our alarm, which had been set for 6:30. We gathered our stuff and walked out of the hotel at 7, since our train to the east would leave at 8:14.

Even without a language barrier, trains and stations can be confusing. I tried and failed to get on a train to Madrid, which had been so bold as to be on the very platform and track of our train, and very close to the departure time of our train, which anyway paradoxically was tagged as going to Barcelona. The train to Madrid had locked its doors, because it left 15 seconds after I tried to get on. Too bad, we have never been to Madrid!

Standing on the platform now, we watched a screen that listed the stops that that Barcelona train would make, and comfortingly, the ninth stop was Leon.  We have booked a hotel in Leon for tonight, and will carry on tomorrow, to Pamplona.

Our tickets said we were in coach 9, but the highest numbered coach here was 4. No matter, we just took some seats, and everything was swell until the train reached its first stop at Ourense. The overhead screen said in terms even we could understand, that this was the end of the line. An examination of our tickets revealed the distressing footnote: "Por Obras Trayecto Ourense -San Claudio se realizara en bus".  While I was freaking over this, Dodie calming picked up our stuff and began to exit what had been our treasured train. Her plan was sound - we would follow the other people. The trail of people led to a bus station, and we did get directed to the otherwise unmarked third bus out of a stack of buses. The belly of the bus was already closed, and the bus crowded. We mounted the difficult for Dodie narrow and steep steps and sat down with our stuff on our laps. Nothing happened for a while, but in time the bus driver made a pass through he coach, counting the passengers. Dodie tried out on him something like "Where is this bus going? Am I on the right bus? I am trying to get to Leon", but the man spoke no English, and besides had no patience for further palaver.  Fortunately a nearby passenger overheard the exchange and leaned back to say we were ok, as he was going to Leon too. Later, when the bus reached wherever we went to, the man was so intent on helping Dodie not fall at the exit, that he forgot his suitcase and had to run back on board to retrieve it.

One of these buses will take us where we must need to be. Can you imagine if we had somehow talked our way onto that first train with our bikes?
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We were able to board the right train after the bus ride, and even gratifyingly found the coach number and seats that had been listed on the ticket.

The Galician landscape, coming out of Santiago, was all hills and valleys, and in today's misty rains, looked quite magical. But as I watched the bus careen around the winding road full of blind curves and with no shoulder, I was thinking certain death for anyone on a bike. To be fair, whatever the road was would (hopefully!) not be the one prescribed for going by bike.

We did not get much of a sense of the landscapes passing by that second train, and feel asleep for most of the ride. 

To put you in the picture, we are tracking back along the French Camino, using the train, and stopping in Leon, Pamplona, and Irun. The track looks like this:

Leon is at that bump in the track, almost half way across. Of course the train does not follow the green line, which is how we passed through Ourense today.
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I can honestly say that we had no idea at all of what Leon would be  like as a town, when we arrived here in the early afternoon (despite having cycled through in 2017). But we were delighted with what we found. First off, Dodie's good work had landed a hotel just down from the train station. The Riosol,  at 118 euros, is mid priced, and quite decent. And it also is basically on the same street as the old town and the cathedral. So the whole package is here for us, accessible on foot.

"Leon" means "Lion", and this is the symbol of the city. You might say this one is in distress, which figures because he has a flag up his butt.
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From our hotel, it was a straight shot over the river and past the business district to the old town.
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Even in the business district, the buildings are attractive, and that green denotes a car free street!
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How about this one? It has both circular and square balconies.
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Nice corner treatment.
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Karen PoretThis design of corner style is called a “flat iron”..
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2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Karen PoretThanks. Always good to learn something.
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2 weeks ago
And the blue one.
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The blue building heads up impressive rows of buildings on either side,
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Through the "business district" the road is car free, though people still mostly stay on the broad sidewalk. A little deeper in to old town, the road narrows and the people fill it.
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A souvenir shop gives us a cathedral preview, and a host of penitents.
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It is accurate that the hoods come in many colours.
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Ah, the actual cathedral, Santa Maria de Leon.
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Karen PoretComplete with flying bird for the Grampies avian collection ;)
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2 weeks ago

The first impression on walking into the cathedral is that its main claim to fame must be the stained glass. The space created by the gothic arches is filled with a huge amount of really nice glass. In fact we read (in our own 2017 blog - ha ha) that this is the most glass in a European cathedral, aside from Chartres.

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It's not just the glass, though. There are amazingly intricate carved, arched ceilings, multi-coloured figures (not sure of stone or wood), rows of ancient statues, highly complex rooflines. Overall, this is one of the most artistic and impressive buildings we have seen. Have a look:

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Oh, oh, King David has lost his harp.
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Karen PoretMaybe it was a loaner.
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2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Karen PoretHa ha, very funny.
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2 weeks ago
What a complex skyline.
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Many frescoes, now almost completely faded.
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Walking back to the hotel along the way we came, the streetscape is equally attractive. We stuck to the one street only. With an extra day, branching out to explore more of this inner city would be a lot of fun.

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Our straight line tour.
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Today's ride: 7 km (4 miles)
Total: 2,356 km (1,463 miles)

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