Day 18. Bercianos to Mansilla, 26.7km. Followed by a quick 25 minute bus into the heart of Leon.
Day 19. Leon. 0km. (Though my pedometer says I walked 11k, so I more than made up our quick bus ride cheat.)
After non-stop walking for 18 days, we entered into a small suburb outside of Leon with dreams of a rest day. With our bodies moaning another 27km we decided to take the short bus trip past the industrial outskirts and factories, to advance into the heart of the city. Sitting in a courtyard surrounded by buildings from centuries past, intoxicated by the festival energy and the tapas our decision became validated.
The energy of a major city is unlike that of anything else. When you live in it, you can become numb to its allure and grandeur, but when you experience it with fresh eyes a metropolis is captivating. People hurrying about, shop owners vying for attention, street performers and musicians line all the more refreshing depending on how much you pour into your glass.
Hoping from bar to bar and concert to concert, the town was filled with people celebrating the festival of San Juan and San Pedro. Every alleyway and byway was crammed with pilgrims, tourists, and locals all hoping to consume another drink, bite, or experience. No one was left famished. Courtyards and squares played host to bands and artists from all around Europe and Spain as onlookers gawked not only at the spectral of their performance, but also the charm of the Gothic Cathedral, Gaudi Building, and turn of the century monuments. The dance between old and new echoed off of every surface and landed in the present moment.
By morning, the concerts faded and bars closed to be replaced by farmers markets and locals not indulging, but rather surviving and preparing for the days ahead. The juxtaposition of the old and new, decadent and depraved, mirror the reality of a city: the gypsy begging outside the Cathedral entrance; the small town farmer in for the week hoping to make enough money for the month; and the former cloistered convent turned overpriced tourist attraction. Cities, with all their abundance, can still live some with scarcity.
Having drank from the energy of the city and indulged more than necessary, our bodies, while still leery, prepare for another day; we still have 300 or more kilometers more to walk.