It was easy to wake up early this morning. My excitement and nervousness about walking my first Camino supplied more than enough energy. I dressed and set to preparing the house for my two week leave.
Gas off. Check. Electronics unplugged. Check. Apartment in general order. Check.
I put on my pack and snapped some pictures to commemorate the beginning of the journey, then headed off to the train station.
When I arrived, there were other pilgrims at the train station too. Heading home or starting out, it was a little hard to tell where they were in their journey, but the telltale signs of packs and hiking clothes clearly conveyed “pilgrim”.
The train from Santiago to León was uneventful. I sat in one of those “quad” type seating arrangements, where two seats faced each other with a table in between. Two ladies sat across from me and one gentleman had the window seat next to me. To my surprise and delight, he got off at the stop just after Santiago, leaving me with both seats free for the rest of the way to León. I read and watched the beautiful scenery go by. It was a gorgeous day! Sunny and warm without a cloud in the sky.
Upon arrival in León, it was an easy walk through the city to get to my albergue of choice, the Monastery Santa Maria del Carbajal. I arrived late by pilgrim standards (about 4) and found that they had already filled their beds for the evening. Like all good monasteries, though, they didn’t turn me away but gave me the choice to sleep on the floor on a large soft mat that they would provide. I didn’t mind (and didn’t know where else to go), so I took the floor space. Hey…it’s a place to sleep and it was cheap.
After dropping off my pack, I wandered around to get a feel for the city. Since it was siesta, most of the shops and sights were closed, so I decided to grab a bite to eat to kill some time.
Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, I decided to sit outside at one of the café bars in front of the Pantheon and the Basilica of San Isodoro. As I sat reading and waiting for my food, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation of the two ladies next to me, mostly because, I could understand them.
When you live in a country where you can barely speak the language, your ears tend to hone in when your mother tongue is being spoken.
One of the ladies noticed that her chair was coming up against one of the chairs at my table, and she courteously adjusted hers out of the way. I saw an opportunity and told her that she was fine, I wasn’t bothered. Seeing that their table mate was friendly and spoke the same language, a nice conversation soon followed. I discovered that they were from Ireland, that their names were Juliet and Anita, and that they too were in León to start their Camino adventure. Juliet had seen the movie “The Way” and, like with most people, was inspired to experience the Camino for herself. Anita was along for the ride, literally, because they were going to complete their Camino on bikes.
When you complete the Camino on a bike, you have to ride at least 200 km in order to get a Compostela. León is a popular place to start, since it is 317 km from Santiago and a large city. I wished them luck as they headed off to their hotel to meet another friend, and smiled to myself as I enjoyed my first co-pilgrim interaction.
I finished lunch at around the same time siesta was coming to an end, so I decided to take another walk around the city and to visit the cathedral.
As the evening drew close, I made my way back to the albergue in time to attend the pilgrims blessing. A fairly decent sized group had gathered in the foyer outside the small church, and a small adorable nun walked us through (in Spanish) how the service was going to go. Thankfully, the sisters had booklets of the songs and prayers in different languages, so we could participate in our mother tongues.
I enjoyed the simple service very much. To reflect on God and to ask Him for his blessing and protection for the journey ahead, brought about a wonderful peace.
I had no expectations or grand purpose for walking. I just wanted to experience the Camino, to meet and connect with people, and to serve them in any way I could.
I headed to bed, excited about walking the Camino and the new experience that lay ahead.
I will be posting the pictures of each day in to their own page. Click here to see the pictures from Day 1.