A sweet ending to this year’s Camino

Protein breakfast

One of my favorite benefits on The Camino is that you can eat and drink as you like, because you burn so many calories every day you walk. Not that I ever would count calories, but I thouroughly enjoy good food, and after leaving Bercianos del Real Camino, we stopped for a second breakfast of 100% protein – bacon and eggs. It tasted amazing and fueled our bodies for that day’s walk. For exactly the food and drink reason I consider doing the Via Francigena that runs from Canterbury to Rome. Imagine walking through Piemonte….oh boy what a feast!

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As we were getting closer and closer to León, I struggled with the decision about where to end this year’s walk. I had time to go beyond León, but would it make sense logistically? Walking and talking with my friend Gary made it clear – I would get off The Camino in León and limit this year’s walk to the Meseta, leaving the remaining roughly 310km to Santiago for next year. Everyone has their own way of doing the Camino. Many goes all the way in one stint, but I am really starting to appreciate my approach of cutting it in three, since I that way get to meet three times the people, that I maybe would have in one stint. For me, the amazing people I meet, are very much part of my personal journey, and I value the friendships I gain highly. img_6228

This picture was taken by the hospitalieri in Mansilla de las Mulas, where these fine pilgrims came together to make a fantastic meal of salad, lentil soup with rice, ice cream dessert and all served up with fresh made sangria. At this table sat most of the pilgrims that I was fortunate enough to meet this year. They all made a big impression on me, and I look forward to meeting them again in future as I have with some of the lovely people I met last time. Thank you all for making my Camino some of the best times ever!

And now for the fun story of the evening. The hospitalieri at the albergue was an assertive young woman, who not only was a great host, but also had taken courses in taking care of the foot injuries pilgrims suffer. That day had been very hot – 25-30 degrees, and since my thin socks were not dry from yesterday’s washing, I was wearing my thick wollen socks, which meant I had more or less boiled my feet during the walk, resulting in heat blisters. The hospitalieri offered to have a look, and then this happened:

Hospitalieri "taking care" of my suffering feet.
Hospitalieri “taking care” of my suffering feet.

We all loved her sense of humour! Once the laughter had died, she took me into her office and very professionally took care of my feet, making next day’s walk into León a breeze.

Many guidebooks and apps suggest that you bus into León because the way should be very industrial and along the highway. Actually I’m glad we decided to walk. It was almost a magic morning and I loved this last walk on my 2016 Camino.img_2666

I loved the image of the tunnel, we passed along the route, with the lovely view at the end.
I loved the image of the tunnel, we passed along the route, with the lovely view at the end
Walking the street of León
Walking the street of León

I entered León with my new Camino family – Maria Grazia and Gary, and along the route Pablo had joined our little band into town. It felt amazing walking these streets, knowing that 177km of Meseta was in my backpack. Of course we ran into fellow pilgrims right in center of city and sat down with them to enjoy a pilgrim lunch complete with wine and good company right by the cathedral.

The new camino family makes it to León
The new camino family makes it to León

We had decided to stay an extra night in León, so we settled in and prepared for a night out. I must admit it was my first time going out wearing fleece leggings, hiking shoes and no make-up. Not exactly a dazzling look, but who cared? We had our fun any way. Thank you, Patrick, for the insider tip on Four Lions Brewery. Great craft beer!

Ladies, Camino and craft beer
Ladies, Camino and craft beer
Living it up!
Living it up!
Argentinian Juan showing me the moves to "You can leave your hat on"
Argentinian Juan showing me the moves to “You can leave your hat on”

We had fun, beaches!

Next day I set out to get my bus ticket to Madrid, some civilian clothes and a sence of the city. Gary decided to walk on and we said our goodbyes at the cathedral. Later Maria Grazia and I went exploring and stumbled into The Parador – the five star hotel known from the movie The Way. It felt so perfect to sit on their patio with a cool drink. Thank you for the tip, Pablo!

The Parador in León
The Parador in León
Courtyard view at The Parador
Courtyard view at The Parador

That night we all went to an organ concert at the cathedral. It is a beautiful building and such a fantastic setting for the concert. León proved the perfect ending to my vacation.img_2715

Thank you León. See you next year
Thank you León. See you next year

Next morning Maria Grazia and I walked to the cathedral together. We met in Madrid and now our ways were parting – me back to Madrid to fly home and Maria Grazia was staying on the Camino. It was bittersweet, but I know I have made a friend for lifeimg_2723

Camino family forever
Camino family forever

We spotted a hot air ballon making it’s way over León in the sunrise. It seemed very fitting to part ways with that sight.

Hot air ballon cruising over the city in the sunrise
Hot air ballon cruising over the city in the sunrise

I had time before my bus, so I got a table at Valor, the chocolateria, and ordered churros. Again it seemed the perfect way to end my visit in this lovely city and to take stock of my camino. My credential is not completely full, but I need to get a new one for the final stretch to Santiago next year. I can’t wait to go back and hopefully meet up with old camino buddies, Helen and Paul from Australia. See you guys down there!

Spanish breakfast treat - churros at Valor
Spanish breakfast treat – churros at Valor
My credential is filling up nicely
My credential is filling up nicely

Thank you for following my way on the Camino. Now comes the hard part – re-entry and finding my way in life. I look forward to meeting life head on and with positivity in my heart.

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