My 6 kilometer walk from Reliegos to Mansilla de las Mulas didn’t take very long, even with a limp. It was perfect walking weather: cool with a breeze, and big, fluffy white clouds sailed in a blue, blue sky.
Out in the country I saw this fire burning unattended. It was such an unusual sight for this urban Californian, I had to take a photo. Way in the background you can see a little fringe of snow on the mountains.
Mansilla still had its medieval walls, and it seemed like it had walled itself off from the 21st century. The stores on the Plaza Mayor sold fabric and craft supplies, children’s clothing, and toys. All of them had dusty windows and were closed for siesta. I’m amazed how Spain is largely unspoiled by chain stores or fast food restaurants. Not a Starbucks in sight outside of Madrid!
My friend Nancy had recommended a place to stay in Mansilla called Albergeria del Camino. I’d sent my big pack there from Reliegos that morning. It turned out to be a cute little hotel with just four rooms. When I walked in the entryway the owner said, “oh you’re the one who belongs to this pack! I didn’t have a reservation for you, but I have one room left!” He showed it to me and it was so cozy! He said, “this is the best bed on the Camino!” It was the Spanish version of a Tempurpedic! I couldn’t resist. After a soak in my own tub, and blow-drying my hair for the first time in several days, I went downstairs for a late lunch. The Ensalada Mixta was a cut above the usual pilgrim menu. I had definitely kicked it up a notch by staying at the Albergeria.
Javier, the owner, recommended I visit the Provincial Ethnographic Museum of Leon about five minutes across town after lunch. Wow! What a fantastic place! I wish it had more presence on the web so I could post some links. It was a Smithsonian quality museum about the history and culture of the people of the Province of Leon placed in a former Monastery. It had three floors of exhibits of all eras of history going back to before the Romans. Fashion, furniture, photographs, jewelry, traditional farm equipment, looms, spinning wheels, and other artifacts were all arranged by century and theme.
Visiting the museum was just the right thing to do that afternoon. I’d fallen in love with Spain and I wanted to understand it better. So many times I’d wondered, “What did this place look like before it began to crumble? What did the people wear 100 years ago? What is the terrain like a little off the Camino? What is that mountain range? I wonder what happened here during the Civil War?” That afternoon in the museum helped me integrate something of what I’d learned and observed along the Camino. And lots of the exhibits were in English.
I wandered back to the hotel taking my time. It was a luxurious feeling to not be in a hurry. Perhaps that was one of the themes of Camino 3.0. Taking my time. I walked out of town a bit, investigated the Camino route for my exit tomorrow. It crossed another rushing river, and as I looked back, there was a nice view of the walled city.
Back at the hotel, my room faced the church. The stone glowed in the evening light. I rested on my “best bed on the Camino,” with ice on my ankle and watched the stone of the church change color as the sun went down. One of my stork friends was hanging out on the roof. Seeing the storks in their nests all across the Meseta was one of the joys of my Springtime Camino.
Eating dinner in the dining room I noticed that by staying at the Albergeria, I’d shifted uptown into a more affluent crowd of pilgrims. Lots of people on the Camino ship their luggage every day, and stay only in hotels, or travel in organized groups, but for the most part, I had been hanging out with the backpackers. Among that crowd in the dining room I felt like I was transitioning back into my regular life, and also teetering on the cusp of being a tourist. It felt very comfortable and it also made me a little sad.
A group of five Irish women sat at the next table. They were very jolly, and we talked over dessert. They walked together for a week on the Camino every year. That’s more of a European approach—to do it in chunks. Right then I wished I was walking with a group of old friends, too.
I was contemplating whether to walk all the way to Leon in the morning. It seemed like a prudent thing to get a taxi into town at some point with my sore foot. What did it matter really? It would give me more time in Leon. I’d finished the missing link of my Camino. I went to bed feeling conflicted about it. Tomorrow was my last day of walking. Just 18 kilometers to go. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.