January 14, 2011 A Rainy Touristy Day in León
Our first full day in this ancient Roman city! The Roman regiment went through here; in fact, we saw evidence as we walked by the old Roman ruins and even some wall that has been restored as we walked to the Post Office to send a package to ourswelves in Santiago. We then walked to the Cathedral; I remembered the Congreso de Literatura Chicana in 2010 and what a great time we had…but at that time, I stayed at the Parador–invited by the sponsors of the Congreso because I delivered the keynote address; and now, here I am back in León and staying at the Albergue! The Albergue is by the police station, and we can see the building from our window, see them go in and out of rooms, go in and out in their cars, see the workers inside. Our fellow pilgrims, Jose and Quentin, also decided to stay and hang out for a day to rest and prepare for the final stages of walking before Santiago. But, we only saw them at the Albergue–see yesterday’s photo. They are smokers, so often they are outside smoking before they go to bed.
We do not cook at the albergue, so we have to eat out. Not bad, since the food is great! Among the touristy things we did were things I didn’t get to do in 2010. We walked to see the Gaudi house and walked by the bull ring. The many sights–fountains, monuments, statues, and the river flowing in the middle of town remind me that this was and is an important place. For peregrinos, pilgrims, going to Santiago, this is a rest stop. I recall a couple we met when we were here for the Congreso who, like the Martin Sheen character in the movie The Way, were treating themselves to a night at the Parador. The shop keepers and the police officers out in the town recognize the pilgrims even when we don’t carry our backpack! I enjoyed the festive air that still hung in the air even after Reyes and Navidad. People crowded the bars and the hustle and bustle of the evening reminded me of how Spain lives outdoors, even in winter; people go out for a paseo, a walk, or to go get a drink at the local bar before dinner. There is internet at the albergue, the usual 15 minutes for one Euro.
We decide to do a bit of shopping too, so we return to El Corte Ingles where I had my hair done. I had actually tried a fancy salon, but they were booked until Monday; I explained that I would be gone — that we were peregrinas and the man just shrugged, well, then I guess we can’t do it. He recommended El Corte Ingles because they take walk-ins. And they did! We waited for about 15 minutes and then I was called in; it took 3 people to do my hair! I felt so pampered! Made me feel good to talk to them too–part of the research for my novel, Champú: Or Hair Matters. We are all tourists, enjoying the new sights and relishing the experience, but eventually everyone gets to go home. They talk about those who do the Camino as tourists with disdain; they praise those who do it for religious purposes; they are perplexed by those of us who are on a spiritual journey that may or may not be Catholic and still walk the Camino. Who are the “they” I am speaking about? Those who live along and profit from the Camino pilgrims.
MEDITATION FOCUS: I meditate on the ancient city and its many changes over time. The ancient peoples who preceded the Romans, who were they? I know about the South with the Phoenicians and the Goths, but who was up here when Hannibal came through? Or when Hercules, as the story goes, came through Galicia? Time and Place and Language–Tiempo, Sitio y Lengua! We are but a speck along the vast universe. I am but an atom in the world of the Camino that has been here in time and space and with its own languages over time and space. Humbling! I thank the powers that be for their protection and their guidance. Gracias!