Monday, 15 September 2008

Facing the end game

León is the last big well of civilisation before Santiago de Compostela: the last place where we'll take a day off. A small city of around 130,000 people, it shakes us up with its flair and quiet sophistication. The government of the large, wealthy Castille y León region is based here. Café society has taken over the compact old town since it was pedestrianised a few years ago. Summer has returned to find us here after the near-freezing mornings and brisk winds of the last two days. A pleasant 18C brought little children out in their old fashioned Sunday best to stroll with grandparents in the shady gardens and chase pigeons along the cobbles while their parents take a pre-lunch wine.

Ahead of us are the final sixteen days of walking. Two high mountain passes and all the foothills they bring, until the last low undulations of the seventy kilometres into Santiago. The region of Galicia, a few days away, is reputed to be green and pretty - and rainy.

Sipping a beer in the sun, it's tempting to remain here in León, surrounded by more satin and silk frocks than I've seen in one place before, and with the fascinations of the Romanesque San Isidore, the Gothic cathedral and the much more recent coloured-glass construction of the contemporary art museum. I could quietly forget to do the next sixteen days.

On the other hand, Astorgas is also still ahead of us. The capital of Spanish chocolate production.

15th September 2008

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