Greetings from, you guessed it, Leon. As some of you know my middle name is Leon so it was pretty neat to celebrate my 5-bit birthday over here. And I spoiled myself with a luxurious 4 star hotel, the Alfonso V where they surprised me with a chilled bottle of champagne with a Happy Birthday card. Very cool gesture. And I bought a bright red tshirt with LEON on the front to wear out last night for the birthday celebration.
I have been walking solo the past few days and trailed off of my original group, both because I physically needed to slow down but more importantly because I didn´t feel like I was walking at my own pace. I had been making plans at the outset of each day as to where I was going to have lunch, rest for the night and countless other things. Instead I have started not planning beyond the next hour or so and just seeing how I feel before deciding whether to move on to the next town, or staying put or walking into an open field and just sitting down for a while and enjoying the surroundings. I finally, finally feel like I am walking my own Camino now. It´s yet another lesson from the Camino, one which I have found everyone on this trip has encountered. You need to figure out your own pace, figure out what you want to do, where you want to go, and then whoever you see there you´ll see. No need to make concrete plans at the start of each day as to where you´ll meet up and stay etc. We each take our own paths and when they cross with someone else´s, great. And if not, then maybe next time. And it´s way more exciting to run into someone by accident who you weren´t expecting to see.
Because of this newfound approach to traveling I had dropped off completely with the original group I started off with. But I´ve met some great people recently who had started the Camino a couple days after me. And then last night as I was walking to the cathderal in Leon, I spotted Dave and Ernie (Bert and Ernie) sitting outside at a bar. I joined them for a beer and gradually over the next couple of hours people I had seen throughout the trip started walking by and before you know it, we had a solid group of 15 people going out to celebrate my birthday. Completely unplanned and impromptu and we had a great night. Turns out this other guy in our group, Babas, a Hungarian, has the exact same birthday as me, same day and year. Very neat.
I hadn´t posted in a while because I´ve chosen to stay in smaller, more remote villages along the way which usually means you´re not going to find modern facilities like the internet. But there´s no shortage of mules or roosters if that´s what you´re looking for. I had always passed through these villages and wondered why anyone would want to stay in a place that had two mules, one bar and one restaurant and that´s it. Then after talking to my friend Jacob about it at dinner, he told me he prefers these places way more because they´re so much more intimate. And it´s true. One place I stayed in a few nights ago, Calzada de Coto was amazing. The town is 300 people and the albergue has no one working there! So it was me and three other guys, Anton, Jim and Manel running the whole show. And the best part was when Jim started snoring, Anton and I grabbed our sleeping bags and pillows and went to the other room. You can never do that in a regular albergue.
Speaking of which, in Fromista, the town I stayed in the night before, the albergue got so packed that I could only get a mattress on the floor right near the bathrooms. Great. This means people would be stepping around me all night long. So I, along with a couple of Swedish girls Emma and Anja, took our mattresses outside and we spent a night under the stars. I had been wanting to spend one night outdoors on this trip and I got it. And of course I still didn´t have a sleeping bag because I shipped it off to Santiago. BUT my Brazilian friend Rachel lent me this space-grade NASA-certified aluminum foil that you wrap around your body and that keeps you super warm. And it worked amazingly well. Within minutes I was warm and completely wrapped in shiny foil. I felt like I was going to be slid into an oven at any moment. Emma commented that I looked like a falafel. Great. Now however I do have a semblance of a sleeping bag as my German friend Ankst lent me the liner sheet from his sleeping bag which has been working great.
Actually a falafel would be really good right now. I´ve been making lists in my head of all the foods I´m going to eat when I get back and so far I´ve got Indian, Thai, a steak dinner and sushi. The food has been good here but you can only eat pasta and fish so many times.
And finally, thank you everyone for the birthday wishes. I love being continually reminded that I am now 32 🙂