Day 20: Leon (Mansilla de los Mulas to Leon)
I won't bother to bore you with the details of our trudge to Leon today, there's only so much you can say about a gravelly road that runs absolutely parallel to a very busy bypass for the duration of your hike.
My heart and spirits were lifted however when I saw the tall spires and iconic round windows of the 13th century gothic cathedral of Leon. I'm not alreally sure why I had Leon as such a focal point on the Camino; perhaps because it marked the tail end of the Meseta or perhaps simply because it is a milestone that marks roughly two thirds of the way. Either way, I felt bouyant as I meandered through its immaculate streets with sparkling fountains and many eclectic sculptures.
Our albergue, was a very new and modern spot, we had splashed out a whopping €15 on it, can you imagine!? With our rucksacks tucked safely in the lobby we saddled up and went to explore the city. Khalid, as usual, led the way. The little Arabian has been slowly grating on me of late. As a self professed authority on the Camino he sort of expects everyone to do what he wants or suggests, he is also one of those types that have a superseding story to that of everyone around him. Initially, I took this with a pinch of salt and attempted to listen avidly to his increasingly audacious tales (usually involving the prettiest, most sort after girl on the Camino) and nod along in the appropriate pauses. Perhaps more abrasive still is his increasingly dour moods where, after an increasing number of late nights and drinking (I'm genuinely in bed by 9 like an angel), he wakes up and sort of hangs like a dark cloud over every conversation. It's really starting to grate on me like sand paper on an apple skin...
We explored the cathedral for a judicious €6 and saw the famous stain glass windows of the cathedral, of which there are 125. With an ice cream in hand we also tottered around to some of the city's more noteable assets: Gaudi's Casa Botines, which looked like a French castle and is now a bank; the Peregrino statue; the Museo Panteon and Mayor Plaza.
When we all met back up in the Old Town, Khalid - who had left earlier under a cloud - was sporting both a GIGANTIC grey cowboy hat with a broad rim and black leather trim and a very serious face. As I approached with caution I thought to myself that the cheese had finally slid off the cracker and he'd lost his mind in the Meseta heat; he looked one tassle shy of becoming John Wayne! I automatically found myself bending down towards him, resting my hands on my knees and speaking in a soft, concerned voice whilst placing a hand on his back, "Is everything alright Khalid, mate". "I'm fine," he said, sat there like a raving lunatic. Straightening up, I thought that that was the final straw, anyone who genuinely wears a hat like that is mentally unstable and that that, coupled with his tiresome monologues, is why I will be walking without him from now on. If I am found dead with two smoking bullet holes in my chaps, you know who the killer was.