Jesse and I decided to take a few day trip to León, which is about 90 miles (140km) south of Gijon, on the recommendation of a friend who is from there. The train ride was three hours and is quite relaxing compared to air or bus travel, the seats are larger, there is leg room, a bar car, and bathrooms. It is really a much better way to travel. The train was sparsely populated on a Thursday evening and we were part of a select group exiting the train after ten in the evening. At the León station there were many more passengers ready to board for the train’s final destination of Madrid. The León train station was quite bright and clean, with the mural below on its walls.
We exited the station, and after we crossed the León Lion bridge, with four imposing lions marking the entrance and exit to the bridge, we walked along the Bernasaga river to our hotel, dropped our bags off, and headed to find some dinner.
León restaurants, bars, and cafes are known for their excellent tapas and racciones, with tapas being little snacks that accompany beers or wines, and racciones greater amounts of tapas. Tapas are provided for free with drinks, and racciones can be ordered. As we were hungry, we ordered two racciones at Los Cazurros Tabierna. We sat outside, enjoying the cold, fall air in the late evening, watching the people walk on the old cobblestone streets, talking and laughing with friends, and enjoying tapas at the other restaurants and bars nearby. While the racciones were quite tasty (Jesse goes into much more detail on her blog about the excellent food we ate on our trip), my favorite part of this was the placemats, detailing a story about León (of which I am still translating), and you can see below.
Our last stop in the evening was to walk the Plaza Mayor, with the bright, vibrant lights provided by the Ayunamiento (city hall), though a great many patio seats sat empty on this cold Thursday in late October, it was still pleasant and inviting. Our subsequent walks through the Plaza Mayor on this trip gave a different vibe, from the more lively early evening to the early morning bazaar with the stalls of fruit and vegetable stands, and the scarf and jacket sellers, to the socks and underwear tables, which are very common at Spanish open air markets. León is much cooler than Gijón, with temperatures in the low 40s/high 30s at night and high 50s/low 60s during the day. The changing leaves of golden ochre and burnt sienna and fading greens provided Jesse and I with the welcoming fall feeling we have not had in past five years since we left St. Louis for California.
We walked the fifteen minute route arm-in-arm through the narrow streets, well fed and ready for a good night’s rest.
The next morning we traveled to Asotrga, a short bus ride away, where we spent half the day, exploring the small town, which I will detail on the next post. But upon our return to León, we made a beeline for the Casa Botines, which was a tenement house and partial textile factory designed by famed Spanish artist and architect Antoni Gaudí, and now, along with a few rooms dedicated to Gaudí’s other Spanish buildings, also housed an art museum dedicated to Spanish artists from medieval paintings to contemporary and modern works. On the front of the building is Saint George slaying the dragon, and we learned that, the original was made of material that eventually disintegrated in the harsh Leon winters, and inside was a metal tube with the original building plans, signed by Gaudí.
The art inside was also very engrossing; our favorite room was compiled of art made by Salvador Dalí, of his series of thirty artworks based on Dante’s Divine Comedy; being big Dalí fans we had no idea this was here, and amazingly were were alone in the room to view them for as long as we liked, and take as many pictures as we desired. My favorite is below left (of Dante’s initial descent), as well as Ramón Casas i Carbó’s painting Adversity (center), and Fernando Zóbel’s painting Béjar II (right), which gave an uneasy, unsure feeling viewing it that it was hard to look away. A very cool gallery housed within an even more impressive building. A highly recommended visit when in León.
We ended the evening walking through the city, under a large Roman gate, through the Barrio Romantico while stopping to try as many different tapas plates as we could. I’ll finish the trip to León in the next post, as there was even more we did on our last day!
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