First impressions can be deceiving.
Trip Start May 02, 2012
40Trip End Jun 28, 2012
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Today we are making our way south to the city of Leon, in the region of Castilla y Leon. It is a relatively short distance from Cangas de Onis, and thankfully the rain has stayed away, although it is still quite cool. We pass through some spectacular mountain scenery, with snow still visible on some of the mountain peaks. We are staying in Leon for two nights at our last Parador on the trip, supposedly the 'jewel in the crown' of the Parador chain. As we pull alongside the entrance we are gobsmacked at how beautiful and majestic the building looks. It was built in the 16th century by King Ferdinand as the headquarters of the Knights of Santiago, and it's highly decorated facade is very impressive. The reception area is just as magnificent, with extremely high vaulted ceilings, and beautiful furnishings, lighting and artwork - it felt like you were walking into a museum. Then we were shown to our room, and I have to say we were disappointed
Anyway, we move on and head down to the hotel cafe to have a coffee before walking to the old quarter of the city.
The walk takes us about twenty minutes, and I'd have to say we are not that impressed. During our travels in Spain, we had not really witnessed any signs of the economic crisis that the country finds itself in - that is up until now. There are a large number of businesses that are closed, and those that are open look rundown. As we reach the old quarter we observe a political rally or protest in one of the squares - the people are not happy, but thankfully not in an aggressive way.
Moving away from the rally we head towards the bar/restaurant area to get a drink before finding a place to have dinner (due to our new policy of not eating in Paradors). Sadly, things are not improving. Although there are plenty of businesses open, none are too inviting, so it takes some time to make a decision
Thursday 21st June
After a late breakfast, and with map in hand, we walk along the river towards the old quarter, where the majority of the points of interest are located. The river is not the prettiest we've seen (hence no photos), and is overgrown with weeds. However the first stop on our tour is the Casa de Botines; a magnificent building which almost resembles a gothic castle, and designed by guess who - Antoni Gaudi! The facade sports a figure of St George fighting the dragon, and the building is currently used by a bank - but who knows for how much longer! The next attraction on the whistlestop tour is the Catedral de Leon. Construction of the cathedral began in the mid-13th century and was completed less than 100 years later. Unfortunately a large part of part of the building was covered in scaffolding, due to air pollution attacking the soft stone, and because of the renovation work we are unable to enter inside to view some of its major features. We then make our way to the Plaza Mayor, which quite often in Spanish towns and cities is the main or grandest square. Sadly for Leon, like many of the other areas of the old quarter the plaza has seen better days (hence no photos). We decide we have had enough of being the tourist for one day, and as there isn't anything else of great interest to see, we return to the hotel.
We have dinner at a restaurant across the square from the bar we ate in last night. Again it was okay, nothing great, a bit like Leon. Tomorrow we drive to Salamanca, a city that we have heard good reports about - lets hope it lives up to its reputation.