Temples of the Soul

Leon
Thursday 20 November

We had to rise early, as breakfast was served at seven fifteen, and we had to be out the door by eight. Very efficient those Benedictines. I had arranged to meet my Irish and Italian friend for second breakfast, as they were walking today. We will catch up later in the Camino. I was still undecided whether I wanted a hotel or to stay in the other alburgue. My Camino angel was thinking of staying, perhaps I would share a hotel with her. I had several coffees, then thought it best to make a move. I stopped by the tourist office, and asked for a hotel recommendation, but they are unable to give recommendations. I left, and a Spainsh woman came after me to say she had done the Camino, and told me of another highly recommended alburgue. I went, and it looked great, but it was closed for winter.

I went to visit the Cathedral, as it was nearby. I could decide later. The Leon Cathedral was a mastery of Gothic architecture, beautifully light filled, I could hear the angels singing. I enjoyed the space, and was interested to see a statue of the pregnant virgin, not something I’ve seen before. The audio tour was interesting and informative.

I had decided that the alburgue would be fine. I wasn’t desperate for a hotel, I had actually had a reasonable sleep the previous night. Perhaps later in the trip. The San Franciscan alburgue was in a modern ugly building, and was set up like a hotel. Four beds per room with an adjoining bathroom. It was warm, and the host was friendly. They had a free laundry, so I went to wash my clothes before further exploring the city.

I was hungry, so sent a message to my Dutch friend to see if he wanted lunch. I hadn’t spoken to him for a few days, and enjoyed his company. He wasn’t far away, so we went in search of a menu. He had been after a day of solitude, but it seemed we had similar plans for the afternoon, as we had both wanted to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, and perhaps see some music this evening. We decided we may meet later at the gallery, but would go to out to see a ballet performance of Carmen later. A day of culture, a break from churches, an opportunity to feed my true spiritual soul.

I subscribe to a dictionary word of the day. Every morning at 8am a word pops up on my phone. Sometimes I take notice, mostly I ignore it. Today’s word was ‘apocryphal’ – I took notice, and wondered why that word had been presented to me today. Later at the gallery the main exhibition was titled Colonial Apocrypha – images of colonial Spain. It was a collection of interesting juxtaposed images of religious colonialism, violence, anthropology and orientalism. I found it absorbing and thought provoking.

Later my Dutch friend arrived and we went in search of the concert hall to buy tickets to the ballet, as we had arranged. I was looking forward to it, I don’t get the opportunity where I live to see ballet. We arrived at the box office to find the performance had been cancelled. The other music options had already started, so we decided another evening of wine and tapas would fit the bill.

As we walked back towards the city centre, we saw the luxury Parador Hotel, a former pilgrims hospital which had been converted into a five star hotel. A perfect place to drown our sorrows. Unfortunately, being a five star hotel our budgets were only enough to dampen them, so me moved back into the city centre to finish the task. The clock was close to striking midnight, my generous curfew for tonight. Rushing back to my alburgue. I was happy to discover I had the room to myself. Five euros for a private room, not bad.

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