Day 42- León to La Virgen del Camino

  • Distance today:                       4.3 mi
  • Distance Camino 2017:        303 mi

We considered taking a rest day today in León but we’re both feeling strong. So we decided instead to keep moving but to take a short day. This will, in effect, also make tomorrow’s walk easier (12mi to 8mi).

We slept in this morning and didn’t leave our hotel until 8:30.

We walked directly to Plaza San Marcos via Grand Via de San Marcos where we took photos of ourselves sitting beside the pilgrim statue facing the Parador Hotel, formerly a 15th century pilgrim hostel.

We then exited the city, walking across the Río Bernesga via the Puente de San Marcos.

A few steps later we stopped for our standard breakfast of 2 cafe con leches and 2 tostatas, but for an incredibly cheap, 2.50€ total!

The rest of the walk today was totally on sidewalks through the edge of León, then Trobajo del Camino (pop.21,378), through residential areas, bodegas and along the Spanish version of a “motor mile” with every brand of automobile showroom you can imagine and finally into La Virgen del Camino (pop.4,820).

The existence of the town of La Virgen del Camino is centered around the Basílica de la Virgen del Camino. It’s is a modern church (1961) of artistic significance, unique along the Camino. The location stems from a legend that in 1505 the Virgin appeared to a shepherd here. The shepherd went to the bishop to build a hermitage on the spot, but the bishop was not convinced. The Virgin Mary told the shepherd to use a slingshot to throw a stone and build the shrine wherever the stone landed. The shepherd obeyed, and the small stone became a boulder, a miracle that convinced the bishop to build the church. Another legend says that a Christian was being held captive inside a strong box in North Africa in 1522. The Virgin Mary knew of this man’s plight and his desire to visit her church, so she miraculously transported him here, box, chains and all. The sacristy of the current church houses the box and chains. The church became a local pilgrimage site and was recently elevated to the rank of a minor basilica. The modern façade features the 12 disciples, and the interior includes the Baroque retablo from the former church.

Our hotel is La Villapaloma (45€) and we’ve been treated like royalty.

We were allowed to check in at 10:30 and were given a nice, spacious double room with private bath and amenities. Once inside our room, we saw there was not an obvious place to hang our wash, so Jim got the attention of one of the housekeeping staff. He asked if they had a clothesline for us to dry our hand washed clothes and they insisted that we move to a different room. So we returned to the lobby and 10 minutes later they escorted us to an equally nice room but with a large balcony with room for hanging out wet clothes to dry in the sun!

After completing our routine chores and ready for lunch, Jim asked a staff member if they served lunch and after some effort he surmised that they normally did not provide food, only bar and hotel, but they would gladly prepare us a light lunch and supper if we wanted. Jim explained that we didn’t want to inconvenience them and the only reason we asked was we wanted to give them the revenue instead of another restaurant. They understood, thanked him and confirmed it was ok if we went elsewhere for meals.

We walked a few blocks to a restaurant across from the Basílica de la Virgen del Camino, had lunch, then spent some nice moments in the unusual church, especially for the Camino.

After a restful afternoon we walked across the street to a different bar and had a light supper before returning to our room for the day with less than 200 miles to Santiago!


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