Saturday, 22 September 2012

Villadangos

Last night we went to mass in Leon Cathedral. It is a massive gothic building with flying buttresses and towers and statuary and carved doors and the whole nine yards. But there is something which separates it from everyother cathedral I hav ever seen, namely,  the glass. In our diocese one of our great treasures is St. Barnabas Church, Warrington. St. Barnabas would be a fairly ordinary small wooden country church except that early in the 20th Century, for reasons I won't bore you with here, someone installed a stained glass window intended for another, much larger church. The result is a back wall that is almost entirely glass, and the effect is breathtaking. Those familiar with St. Barnabas might like to imagine what that effect would be like if you applied it to every wall of a very large gothic cathedral. If you can get your head around that, you can get your head around what Leon Cathedral is like. We sat through the mass in a side chapel, and no, I didn't join the queue to take the sacrament, and walked out through the nave with appetites whetted for a day of exploring on the morrow, when we intended to take a rest day.



At about 6 am Clemency and I woke in separate parts of the Alberge. This one is run by Benedictines and men and women have separate quarters. Independently we watched people packing up all around us, doing their blister routines, stretching, putting on hats and boots, wishing each other buen camino! and striding off into the breaking dawn. Both of us knew that that was how we would like to be spending our day, rather than wandering around art galleries and sitting at dinky little tables sipping vino tinto.

We are not tourists. We aren't here for the sightseeing and the shopping. We are here to walk the path of miracles. So when we met for the day, both of us surprised the other by being fully packed up with our walking shoes on.

We got away at 9 am. Many had described this day as being "the ugly day", and as we moved steadily Westward we could see why. From the elegant boulevards of Leon, with their intelligent, quirky statuary we moved across the bridge to the other Leon, the one that makes the classy one work. We passed through raw, working class neighbourhoods and grim little industrial enclaves.


For most of the way the camino ran beside a busy two lane highway full of vans and eighteen wheeler trucks. There was graffiti and rubbish and yards piled with incomprehensible equipment. The sky was overcast, but it was warm all the way, mid 20s probably, with a headwind. We stopped in a small shop and bought mixed fruit and nuts, and we drained our water pouches before the day was through.

There is, apparently, a more scenic route, but we were in a rush to leave, didn't look at our guidebook, and missed it. So here we are, where we washed up at about 12.30 after about 23 km of walking. The municipal alberge is on the outskirts of Villadangos and we were glad to see it. It is housed in an old school, is clean, light and spacious with all the facilities we might want. 

There is hardly anybody here. The hospitalera had left a note saying she would be back at 1.30, but to choose a bed and make ourselves at home, which we did. after showering and laundry we walked the hundred metres into the local village and bought the makings for lunch. Fine crusty Spanish bread, tomatoes, fruit. All is well with the world. And tomorrow is Astorga! Goodbye Meseta, and hello winding paths, greenery, quaint villages, rolling hillsides and photo ops on every corner.

ps. I am writing this on a computer that is so old it has a disk drive. A  5.25 inch one. And  it has a Spanish keyboard. The version of Internet Explorere I am using won't allow such niceties as spell checking, so if I've made a few mistakes, tough. I did it on purpose to see if you would spot them. I'm sleeping in a school, after all.

1 comment:

Elaine Dent said...

I loved the part where you both met each other in the morning ready to walk instead of the previous plan.