All Photos Are Below the Travelogue Text ↓
Click on Any Photo To Open Slide Show
From Ourense my train trip to Leon started with an unexpected 1 hour bus ride detour to a nearby town on the same rail line, as the train tracks out of Ourense were under construction.
Leon was the ancient capital of Castile & Leon after successfully driving out the Moors in the 9th century. With a long line of kings through the 13th century, its power and wealth saw some stunning Romanesque and Gothic construction. Even most of the 18th through 20th century buildings in the town center are “eye-grabbers.” I had an efficiency apartment with balcony overlooking the Plaza Marcello, about 2 blocks from the Catedral and the Plaza Mayor.
The cathedral, an early 13th century gothic masterpiece, may be the most visually stunning in Spain. It sports some of the earliest gothic standouts – the ribbed vault ceilings soaring impossibly high, and wide pointed arch windows, here with over 18,000 square feet of stained glass, an unrivaled masterpiece. It is described as the most French of Spanish cathedrals, having been originally designed by a Frenchman. I sat daily in a sidewalk café on the square before the cathedral for my morning cappuccino.
The Plaza Mayor and Plaza San Martin, together with the cathedral, formed a triangle of winding tiny passageways comprising almost exclusively tapas bars and cafes. The main plazas filled with outdoor seating for drinking beer and wine from 6pm to 8pm – at 8 most of the tapas bars opened and the passageways became walls of people eating and drinking till midnight.
Just north of the cathedral is the Basilica Santo Domingo with a marvelous 13th century Romanesque cloister, Gothic church and interior Renaissance detail and staircases. The fully renaissance Convento San Marcos, across the Roman bridge over the Bernesga River, now is the city’s Parador (a Spanish government line of historic buildings turned into luxury hotels).
On the Plaza San Marcelo where I stayed, I visited the Leon Museum with its archaeological and Roman collection and 2nd millennium art. Next door was one of Gaudi’s earliest buildings, now called the Casa Botin with its historic Gaudi museum.
From Leon a short train ride south brought me to Valladolid, where I stayed in a suite with two balconies directly viewing the Parroquia Iglesia Santa Maria Antigua, a gothic church with an 11th century Romanesque masterpiece bell tower. The photo below of the tower at night with the full ‘Harvest’ moon was taken from my room’s balcony. A block south is the city’s Gothic cathedral, sitting next to the original renaissance University building. Every evening I sat at an outdoor cafe below the façade of the cathedral drinking beer, and watched the white storks flying across the city for the night roost.
Some may have noticed my photos are showing many more bronze statues – not the old boring kind, but modern quirky pieces posing in public sidewalks or squares, seeming to be interacting with the surroundings. These started appearing 20 some odd years ago, and now are becoming much more common. They are delightful, especially the lion emerging from a storm drain, and the man and boy admiring the Leon cathedral.
From Valladolid there is a daily ‘slow train’ running just the 100 miles to Salamanca. When I say slow, it means it didn’t ever get much over 100mph. The Alvia’s on which I usually travel are faster averaging top speed just over 150mph. The newest long lines run the Ave trains which can get up to about 240mph. The rail system pretty much covers all corners of the country. Too bad the US is so far behind in high speed rail. I will write re Salamanca in my next report as I am booked here for 11 days.
Share your thoughts.
Respond by Email to Dave with the Form ↓