Having spent what felt like the longest night of the year so far in Villamañán, we set off to the province's capital with slight trepidation.
According to folklore (stories from half a dozen Spanish MBA students), León is the local city that never sleeps. It's a mythical place where beer comes with free food and bars don't have stools because the pub crawls move too quickly. Thanks to one swig too many of Orujo last night, this doesn't quite conjure up the grandeur it probably should to an Englishman.
Rolling into town late afternoon (around 9pm) we toured the central fountains and dropped off suitcases which had yet to be exposed to Spanish air. Wandering down the high-street, León could be one of any circa-150k cities in Europe. Here are the pastry shops, over there the church square and around that corner - a local bank's headquarters in the form of a huge fantasy mansion.
Okay, maybe not like every other European City. Spain has the wonder of Gaudi, which we'll explore later. Leon has a Gaudi sample in the form of the Casa de Los Botines. Aside from the triumphant figure of St George slaying a dragon, the building is a Modest offering (for Gaudi at least) that's sadly closed to the public except for the stark lobby. Perhaps they have open days, we didn't stay long enough to ask, otherwise it's a shame the inner beauty is out of reach.
A quick tour of the Cathedral's inner beauty later and already past midnight we were thirsty if not mentally geared-up for a drink. This is undisputedly where Leon really comes alive. I won't be dragged over the coals for acknowledging that Spain has some employment issues; the career-protesting masses are incredibly well-catered for along the narrow cobbled lanes and plazas of the old town.
Around every corner is a dusting of miniature bars where a shiny continental coin is enough for a small beaker of lager and a mouthful of whatever tapas the bar specializes in. No two are the same so to get a full complement you'll likely have tired legs or be too sozzled to notice. With jetlag and San Juan to thank we were of the former category and far too early for a true spaniard, turned towards home around 3am with bellies full of jamon, croquettas and tortilla.
As (MBA) folklore would have it, Northern Spain is a foodie heaven - the true zenith of produce and preparation. So far, aside from a motherly paella and some fine jamon, I was expecting more. This seems a fitting point to admit that my first foray into tapas was 1998 in 'La Tasca' Newcastle upon Tyne. It was revolutionary. I'm ready for a tapas epiphany in Spain. Maybe things will change as we head over towards Galicia. Next.
Previous PostSpanish Introductions: Villamañán
On a summer's day in a sleepy village of 55 uncles and 400 cousins, a dear friend called Isidro introduced us to his dear country called Spain.