Day 1 Leon to Astorga

Hard first day on the Camino. Morning was ok, but afternoon was brutal. Riding in the burning hot afternoon sun with gravel to large stone roads while going uphill was tough.

Bike ready to go outside the hotel in Leon

We started the day leaving the hotel at 10am and riding out of Leon. Almost immediately we started to see pilgrims on their way west walking on the sidewalks. Since we were on bikes we were instead on the roads. Leaving Leon was nerve wracking as there really weren’t any bicycle lanes on our path out. We had to mix in with the city traffic which thankfully was slow up until the San Marcos parador. After that, traffic started to speed up and I started to really look forward to when we got off road. Leaving the city there were some pretty steep up hills that in retrospect were not too bad at all.

San Marcos Parador Hospice founded in 12th century, building from 16th century. Site of one of the key scenes from the Martin Sheen movie, The Way.

Right before we got completely off the roads shared with cars we stopped at a modern church on the side of the road. This church is the Basilica of La Virgen del Camino. I had read about the church in my research for the trip and so decided to step inside. While the outside (1957) was very modern, the retablo (from the 18th century) inside was not. I much prefer the older architecture and art, but I gained an appreciation for the modern from this visit. Inside I met a very nice man who worked in the church (I think he was a priest, but I’m not sure). He offered all of us water and use of their restrooms. We also got our second stamp of the day from him (the first from the hotel). He told us the history of the church and how the current church replaced a much older church.

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Basílica de la Virgen del Camino

 

Retablo of Basílica de la Virgen del Camino

 

Once  we go off road, my stress level dropped but the real hard work of the Camino began. Hills started to become steeper and the gravel didn’t make things easier. This dirt path we took is an alternate path and we saw very few pilgrims on this road.

Dirt path outside Leon

Puente de Orbigo This bridge hosted a jousting tournament in 1434 in what may have been Europe’s last true medieval tournament. The tournament was held by Leonese knight Suero de Quinones. Suero had been scorned by his lady and wore an iron collar around his neck as a sign that he considered himself bound to her. He challenged the best lances of Europe to meet him on this bridge. Jousting went on for several weeks until he broke 300 lances at the jousts, then he removed the iron band, led a procession back to Leon and promised to journey to Compostela as a pilgrim, which he did. When he reached the Cathedral he deposited a jewel-encrusted golden bracelet as a token of his release from the prison of love. The bracelet can today be seen around the neck of the image of Santiago Alfeo in the cathedral museum. This bridge is one of Spain’s best remaining Gothic bridges.

Casa de los dioses
Cross on a hill overlooking the city of Astorga
Top of a hill overlooking the city of Astorga, the cathedral can be seen in the distance
Statue and water fountain at the bottom of a long hill before entering the city of Astorga
Across the city you will find a variety of Roman ruins. These ruins include: a Roman tunnel or cave (between the Calle del Sr Ovalle and the Plaza San Bartolome) which may have been an entrance to the city’s forum or to a prison and until 1892 it was Astorga’s jail, a Roman plaza and house (near the plaza de San Francisco), Roman baths (near the west city wall), and Roman sewers.
Ayuntamiento de Astorga In the City Hall’s clock tower you will find typically dressed figures of Maragatos come out to mark the hour since 1748. The Maragato people form a small ethnic and cultural community with distinctive customs and architecture. There are several hypotheses on the origin of the Maragatos but one popular one is that they are people of Germanic descent who, during the Islamization of Spain, converted to Islam and adopted the peculiar dress that characterizes them.
Day1Map
Day 1 Map with Elevation

2 thoughts on “Day 1 Leon to Astorga

  1. did you write down the day’s activity each night or did you write this much later? and was that NASA patch there already? looks amazing.

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  2. I wrote some of the day’s activities some nights, one of my companions every night, and some of it is written from memory later. The captions were written way ahead of time. We put that NASA patch there 🙂

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