Camino de Santiago de Compostela - Leon to Villar de Mazarife

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September 27th 2015
Published: October 22nd 2015
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Camino de Santiago plaque at San MarcosCamino de Santiago plaque at San MarcosCamino de Santiago plaque at San Marcos

Paradore is about 1 kilometer from downtown Leon. The Camino Jacobeos is the St. James version in the local dialect of Spanish here.
27 September 2015, Sunday. Stage 23, Leon to Villar de Mazarife (we are now two stages behind Brierley who is at 21)

GPS: 13.72 miles, 4hours 55 minutes moving and 6 hours and 45 minutes from start at Hotel Luis Leon to Albergue San Antonio de Padua end of walking day.

Fitbit: 13.41 miles, steps 30,689, stairs 52.

Breakfast is not until 0800 on weekend at the hotel so we do not plan on an early start. It is further delayed by our trying to get blog on Barcelona out. We agree to disagree. see early posts. Yesterday we had scoped out the most direct route to Plaza San Marcos and the Parador. It is about a mile from our hotel. The 10 am morning is cool and refreshing as we walk through the nearly deserted streets. Days begin late in Spain and seldom before noon on weekends and holidays. We see only a few pilgrims today.

San Marcos, a magnificent building in the Renaissance style, was a former monastery and hospital. It was the headquarters of the Knights of the Order of Santiago which was formed to protect the pilgrim way. The saddest chapter in the building was that it was used in the course of the Spanish Civil War to imprison Republican militia members and political prisoners.There is a pilgrim statue in the large square in front of the edifice. It is of a weary pilgrim, sitting at the base of a stone cross, admiring the stately surroundings while resting his weary feet.

After inspection of the open area of the Parador and reading its history. we are across the bridge. This is another stunning bridge, the Puente rio Bernesga, and dates back to the 16thc. We are intently reading our guide book when a young, beautiful woman, modishly clothed and wearing a cool bike helmet, swings up and inquires if we need any help. We reply we are just reading about the bridge and she nods, smiles, and says, "Oh, you don't need any help!"--guess we can fool the locals 😊 at least some of the time!

We plod through the 2.5 miles of suburbs on our way out of Leon. Our first up portion is the pedestrian bridge over the railroad line. But that was the easiest walk up and down of the day. For the day we climb about 70 meters total in two stages. Our first stop for tonica is the Cafe Acapulco in the village of La Virgen del Camino. Legend has it that a shepherd saw an image of the virgin and was told to throw a stone and where it landed build a church. Refreshed from the tonica and removing outer wear as the day has warmed to a pleasant 74 degrees, we pass the relief at the front of the church. It is quite modern in design and has the twelve statues of the apostles standing above the west door with St. James looking out toward Santiago and the Virgen floating over all. The statues resemble the works of Giacometti and are quite striking. They are also a pleasant, modern relief from the bombardment of Gothic and Renaissance art we have been privileged to have been viewing for some time.

We then start across the part of Castillo y Leon called the pa'ramo. The earth is rich and red but from the looks of the rocky farmland and the dry weeds it is far from being abundantly productive. Brierley talks of the rich red earth providing nourishment for crops and wild flowers in equal
Another cross at San MarcosAnother cross at San MarcosAnother cross at San Marcos

one moving and one fixed pilgrim on steps
proportion. I imagine the wild flowers flouish in the spring but we do not see many now.

We have, with some uncertainty, decided on our route. This area is infamous for establishments at Villar de Mazarife and Villadangos del Paramo vying for, as one pundit has said, "your soul and your wallet!" Signs have been changed, defaced and pavement painted with misleading directions.

We pass through three peaceful little villages, Fresno del Camino, Oncina de la Valdocina Fuente, and Chozas de Abajo, all with little or no life to be seen including pilgrims. In the last village we find a bench near the village water storage underground and have our cheese, apple and sandwich. For dessert there are dark chocolate covered almonds and bits of orange gel covered with the same chocolate. These treats were purchased at the Medieval Fair in Leon and are so delicious. Big, dry leaves skitter around the plaza and it is all rather eerie.

We are rather mesmerized by the day, and then ahead we see on the path a man pushing a person in a wheel chair. As we approach he is off and moving faster than we care to walk.
Bridge over the Rio BernesgaBridge over the Rio BernesgaBridge over the Rio Bernesga

Leaving Leon Puente rio Bernesga 16th century bridge
Soon he is down a hill and up the next and out of sight. He was at least a mile and a half from the nearest town when we saw the him and the wheel chair with what appeared to be a woman in it.

There are many water towers with conical top-like shapes scattered around on the horizon. Only a few scattered oak trees and weeds for vegetation and barely any flowers. We see a herd of sheep being moved across a grain stubble field.

An item which we have observed in almost every town, village, or city is the huge stork nests on almost all the church bell towers. No storks so it must be they have left for the season.

Our Albergue San Antonio de Padua has dinner and breakfast. So we join 28 other pilgrims for a great pilgrims meal complete with crepe dessert. A bottle of wine and a bottle of water for each 4 people is the standard pilgrims fare this year. We chat with a lady from Darwin, Australia doing the Camino for the second year in a row and a couple from Boston who are doing it in 3 stages: the first 2 years ago from Pamplona to Burgos, last year from Burgos to Leon and this year from Leon to Santiago. It seems we are the only ones who will go the 20 miles to Astorga tomorrow in one day - stay tuned for tomorrows saga.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


On the square of Villar de Mazarife near the churchOn the square of Villar de Mazarife near the church
On the square of Villar de Mazarife near the church

Sunday and all is closed except the albergues.

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