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Published: November 12th 2010
Quite posh for a monk's home don't you think?
León to Tui - 2nd November to the 12th November
On waking up in León to beautiful sunshine, it was time for the first run of the trip. That way I got to have a look around the old Royal City and maybe shake off a beer or two which have been consumed to date. The run along the river didnt unearth too much, and the city appeared quite unremarkable. However a quick detour uncovered a lovely hotel, of which pictures are attached. The hotel was the old monastery founded around the 16th Century. I always thought monks were not allowed to own too much, clearly the church can own as lavish a building as it likes! Its a rather impressive example of Spanish Renaissance style (thats what the book says anyway). I did accidentally wander into a service being held in the church or cloister which led off the hotel, so swiftly excited without seeing too much of the inside. I missed out on the Cathedral, but there is only so many you can see so was not too disheartened.
From León it was off to Astagora. (I'd never heard of it before either) which was maybe only
40 miles due west. The Aire de Service was behind a bull fighting ring but there was no slaughtering of poor cows that night.
The only reason for the visit was that it was a significant stop on the pilgrimage route to Santiago and supposedly had some marvellous buildings by Gaudi. (I'm sure even the uneducated of you have heard of him). The Cathedral (woohoo, another!!) was quite impressive, and slap bang next door was a good looking palace. Nothing compared to the French Châteauxs but not bad nonetheless. They weren't open as Spain appears to have all but shut down at this time of year, but I wasn't too upset to be honest.
Feeling fairly religious at the moment so we carried on the pilgrimage route to Ponferrada where the Kinghts Templer built an enourmous castle. However, when I wandered up to it, it was rubbish, how it took them over 200 years to build even back in the 12th Century I'll never know. Clearly they never paid a visit to England to see Warwick or Windsor. So after wasting my time I refused to take any pictures and set off to the next stop which was
a Roman Gold mine just 20 minutes away.
After 20 minutes waiting for a space we eventually managed to park at Las Médulas and didn't expect too much of it to be fair, but it was quite amazing. The Romans basically tore a mountain down. They mined 500 tonnes of gold from it which was a huge amount back in that time, or so the guides say anyway. The remains of the mountain are bizarrely shaped peaks of stone that were possibly too much for them to pull down or they had no nbeed to. They used compressed water brought in from several aqueducts to cause explosions to bring in down from underneath, and then cleaned it all and sifted for gold in a massive manmade lake. Even though they couldn't defeat Asterix, maybe they were a pretty intelligent bunch afterall. There's a few pictures of this, and even a little video.
Next stop was Santiago, the resting place of St James who was carried here after being beheaded in Jerusalem in the 1st Century AD. It seems like a long way to carry his body, and so they built a beautiful cathedral over 1000 years later in
his honour. Now I wasnt too excited about queuing up to kiss the statue so I ended up getting angry at the ridiculous amount of roadworks and massive lack of parking spaces, and after an hour we cut our losses and headed off to the coast which was far more appealing. Adios Santiago. I'll have to google it to see what I missed!
We stopped off at the edge of the world (or so the Romans thought, idiots!) Finisterre (The finis terrae
for us Latin speakers) which was blowing a gale and I thought Scooby was going to be blown off from the cliff edge to the rocks below at one point as he bounded around like a puppy. And for the fact fans, Finisterre is the most Westerly point in Mainland Europe.
Since then it's really been a coastal journey down to the border with Portugal. The weather has been beautiful one minute, then raining and stormy the next. Hopefully the clouds will soon pass, it's only the middle of November after all!
So from here it'll hopefully be down the coast of Portugal to the Algarve, how many days that will take I have no
idea. I've downloaded a Portuguese phrasebook so will hopefully be able to get by a little better than previously in Spain, although I have my doubts!
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