Tim likes to travel. Follow his adventures as he explores the world.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

León, Spain: Carnaval and Free Pintxos

Synopsis: I have a three-day weekend and I look at my list of places I want to visit and see my next stop: León. I invite several people, but in the end, it comes down to the faithful few adventurous friends I have, Ainhoa and Greg. We plan to stop at a few places along the way, since we are following the Camino de Santiago and will likely encounter some interesting sights.

Seems so much closer on the map
Seems so much closer on the map



Trip Overview:
Day 1: We hit the road around 9 in the morning, and we have excellent weather. Ainhoa is co-piloting while Greg is DJing and I'm captaining the vessel. We make our first stop in Frómista, a historic town that is an iconic part of the Camino de Santiago. However, when we arrive, there is barely anyone around. We walk around the city and see the three major monuments and take photos. Afterward, we head to a bar to grab almuerzo and a coffee. On the way back to the car, we stop in the tourist office to see what information we can find about other places to stop along the camino, and one thing leads to another, and Ainhoa is inviting a peregrina (who happens to be from Greg's hometown) to ride with us to León.

Driving along, and we decide to stop in Sahagún, another major stop along the camino. With our new friend, we walk around the town and take photos and chat. We don't stay long, and soon we are headed to León.

Upon arriving in León, we say our goodbyes to our new friend, and continue on to our Airbnb. It's a nice place on the top floor and we have a great view. We immediately set out on the city, but first we have to stop to get chapstick. But Greg can't get just any chapstick, he needs the special menthol kind for his super special, delicate lips (I can't wait for him to see this, haha). 

Afterward, we head into town, stopping along the way at statues and monuments, and taking in the city as we go. There are so many nice buildings that we will have to come back in the daytime to see. We decide to grab some pintxos before dinner, so we stop in a bar that someone recommended to Ainhoa, and we order a glass of wine, and they give us (yes, for free!) a plate of meats and cheese with bread. Not a small, dinky plate, but a full serving of food. This is amazing! To another bar! And there we get a plate of fries. The next place, we get pizza. The following one has croquettes. We've given up on the idea of dinner and just plan to do this until we aren't hungry anymore. We stop in another bar, that we were turned away from before because it was so crowded, and I eat the best morcilla that I've ever had. It's spicy and delicious.

We go to a few more places and before we know it, it is really late, or really early, and we decide to head home. The famous cold wind in León is making my jacket seem like a t-shirt. The leisurely 20 minute walk to center, is now a bitingly cold 20 minute walk home.

Thoughts: Greg and Ainhoa are a lot of fun to talk to and there is never a dull moment between us. I am in love with the fact that León offers free pintxos with drinks, and though I've traveled all around Spain, I have not seen this before (despite everyone telling me it is common in the south). Today was a very long day, from early morning, all the way to the next early morning. Sleepin' in tomorrow!


On the road again!
On the road again!

Frómista's famous Church of Saint Martin
Frómista's famous Church of Saint Martin

Carrying Greg around Sahagún
Carrying Greg around Sahagún


I see a little silhouette
I see a little silhouette

Statue in the main circle in León
Statue in the main circle in León

This is how you know we really were in León
This is how you know we really were in León

An amazing cathedral from all angles
An amazing cathedral from all angles

Best morcilla ever
Best morcilla ever

What's he reading that's so interesting?
What's he reading that's so interesting?


Day 2: Of course we wake up late, and instead of rushing out into the city, we decide to take it easy and do some stretching. We eat a hearty breakfast, stretch for a an hour or so, and then we are ready to go out and explore León in the daytime.

As we walk around, we don't notice many people, but the people that we are seeing are dressed in costumes and hurrying somewhere. Today is the first day of Carnaval! We walk around the entire city, see the churches, the parks, the monuments, and the Gaudi building, before deciding to go in and tour the famous cathedral. 

After the cathedral, it's beginning to get dark, and we decide to grab a coffee in a cafe with a nice view of the cathedral. We chat and have a good time, and as we are about to leave, a torrential downpour begins, and we order another coffee. We can see the people outside, some in costumes, running in the rain, with umbrellas turned inside out. 

Once the rain stops, we venture out and find ourselves in the plaza mayor, where there is a free concert going on. The music is really good, so we dance and enjoy it for awhile before heading to a bar to start our night of free pintxos and drinks. We end up in a bar where we eat pig ears and all of the bar staff are dressed as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Lots of good fun all around the city, as we walk around and laugh at costumes and eat more free pintxos. 

We decide to go to a bar where there is music and a lot of costumed people going into. We hang out there for the rest of the night and dance. On the way home, we meet some interesting people, like a girl dressed as a strawberry, who really wants to practice English with us. We also run into Spiderman, but he must be on vacation and stress eating, because he is plumper than I remember.

Thoughts: I love free pintxos! Greg and his obsession with symmetry in photos is hilarious. We saw some really good costumes today and the concert was really cool.

When you are as tight as we are, you need a partner to stretch with
When you are as tight as we are, you need a partner to stretch with

Taking a quick siesta
Taking a quick siesta


My official León postcard picture
My official León postcard picture

I'm trying out some symmetry of my own
I'm trying out some symmetry of my own

With Gaudi's building in the background
With Gaudi's building in the background

Inside the cathedral with my audio guide in Spanish
Inside the cathedral with my audio guide in Spanish

Coffee #2
Coffee #2

Open air concert for Carnaval
Open air concert for Carnaval




The biggest Snow White I've ever seen
The biggest Snow White I've ever seen

Gettin' crazy in the bar
Gettin' crazy in the bar

Greg and Fat-Spiderman
Greg and Fat-Spiderman 

Day 3: We set out after a late breakfast and head home, but toward Palencia, where we want to stop. We arrive in the city, and it's clearly Sunday, because there not many people out and about. After a quick bite to eat, we swing by the cathedral, but because it closes in a half hour, we decide not to go in. We head to the other side of the city, up the hill to Cristo del Otero, where a giant statue of Christ is located. We take a billion photos and enjoy a sunset over the city of Palencia, before heading home.

Thoughts: We were definitely like bosses when we drove up the walkway to the top of Cristo del Otero. We had pretty good weather, despite the bitingly cold wind, common in the region. 

Hey, look at us, doing stuff
Hey, look at us, doing stuff

Cristo del Otero has two new additions
Cristo del Otero has two new additions

As I looked out over the city, Ainhoa's scarf attacked me
As I looked out over the city, Ainhoa's scarf attacked me


Final Thoughts: I love these kinds of trips where I have no idea what I'm going to do, and when I get to the city, it offers amazing culture, food, and fun. I was pleasantly surprised by the free pintxo business and I will now look for this when I travel to other cities in Spain. 






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Location: León, León, Spain

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