Gaudi & Tapas in Leon
We arrive in the city of Leon in the north west Spain. It's inland and although it's still hot in the day, up to 32 degrees, the nights are cooler.
We met our latest AirBnB host, Julio, in a car park. We received a text message from him, it said "I will be wearing a hat", so that narrowed it down a bit!
The apartment is in a pedestrian area overlooking the Cathedral square. It's the perfect location for exploring the old town where it is based, and the rest of the city.
One of the benefits that we find of staying in AirBnB accommodations is that when you meet the host they can share their local knowledge. To date, none of our hosts have done this better than Julio. He spent over an hour with us with maps, books, and magazines explaining us the delights of Leon and its surrounds, making lists of what we must see.
His recommendations included local specialities that we needed to try, tapas bars that we needed to eat at and a roof top bar with a sunset. He should be working for the Leon Tourist Board.
On top of this, each day, we have received a WhatsApp message from him detailing things to see and do that day. This has included sights, coffee stops, lunch breaks, dinner and bar recommendations. The best thing is that all of his recommendations avoid the usual tourist haunts so that we get a real locals experience. His knowledge of the culture of the city is second to none. It was like having a private tour operator.
Leon is the 2018 gastronomic capital of Spain, the city has one of the highest number of bars and restaurants per inhabitant in Spain, which is not hard to believe when you walk the streets. The old town of the city is abuzz with locals out late every night enjoying the bars and restaurants. We were amazed how many people were out after 10 p.m. on Sunday night, may be there were a few sickie phone calls on Monday morning?
In Leon the tapas bars provide a free tapa with each drink, which is pretty amazing when a glass of wine costs around €2 and there's a selection of decent wines to choose from! Julio supplied us a list of his recommendations, each bar specialises in certain tapa, e.g. croquettes, or jamon, or salad, or cheese etc. They were all delicious too.
We will definitely remember this city for it's fabulous tapas bars and nightlife, it's certainly the largest that we have experienced to date on our trip.
Observation of the week
French Women Don't Get Fat was a successful book a few years ago. The same seems to apply to the Spanish. We are not sure how they do it, but it seems that the day is broken down into eating times. Speaking with Julio he told us that lunch should not be eaten before 2 p.m. and dinner not before 9 p.m. In between this though tapas are consumed mid morning and again around 8 p.m., before dinner. Then there's the Gelato, cakes, and pastries that are everywhere. The Spanish certainly love their food and drink.
Casa de Botines is a neo-gothic building designed by Antoni Gaudi. It is one of only three that he designed in Spain that are not in Catalonia. It has a Disneyland castle kind of style about it and really stands out in the centre of town where it sits next to much older traditional buildings. In front of the building is a bench on which a bronze statue of Gaudi sits.
Astorga is a small hillside town near Leon, Gaudi designed a a palace here for the bishop of the towns Cathedral. It's an amazing looking building from the street and the interior of the building is one of the most decorated that we have come across on our trip. The bishop died before the palace was completed and Gaudi resigned from the project handing it over to another architect to complete. Gaudi died in 1926 after being hit by a tram in Barcelona and he never saw the completed palace.
The Gaudi Palace houses museum for the Santiago Camino walk plus a Roman artefacts museum in its basement. We reached an actual milestone on our trip, inside the building!
One of the artefacts is an actual Roman milestone which stands about eight feet tall, these were placed along main routes at every 1,000 steps.
Spain has over 900 churches and cathedrals and we've seen our fair share of them. The Cathedral at Leon is one of the best that we have visited due to the way it has been built. It's a Gothic style which used smaller pillars and allowed more windows, it is described as a glass box due to the amount of stained glass used in the building.
Muchos Caminos (Many Roads)
The Camino walk is also featured in an exhibition at he Museum of Contemporary Art in Leon. One piece that stands out in the exhibition is a compilation of photos of 1,050 individuals who have completed the walk. On average, this is how many people walk it each day.
One of the aims of the exhibition is to show "the human desire to go beyond what is known" which is such a great statement and makes us think of the current journey which we are taking exploring places we have not seen before and experiencing the emotions and feelings that come with that journey.
We carry on along the Camino route, in reverse, to Burgos. Luckily we are driving, not walking, but it really makes you appreciate how far some of the walkers go on this route.