Time walked – off and on all day
Total distance walked – 10.1 miles
Miles to date – 327.2 miles (Ray) and 317.4 miles (Wendy)
Weather – Warm to hot, 85 degrees F
Terrain – sidewalks and city streets
I convinced Ray to be a tourist in León for a couple of days to allow my feet to rest. We had great wifi in the city, so it gave us a chance to get caught up on work as well. I knew that I needed to do something about shoes as well. The sandals I bought were working on the plains, but we were headed back to the mountains. It was difficult to know what to do, however. Not only could I not figure out what kind of shoes I would need, I couldn’t imagine how I would break them in on the Camino. I was afraid that new shoes would break me first.
Ray and I finished up some work in the morning, then got out to find a bite to eat and to look for a sporting goods store. I had my sandals on with a thick pair of wool socks that are highly recommended for hiking, and I thought they’d be good for trying on shoes.
Using a map app, we followed the dots to a nearby sports shop. On the way, some running shoes caught my eye in a store window. I was also looking to replace one of my shirts that wasn’t holding up well, so I asked Ray if I could check out the store. There were two employees working, one a young girl who spoke excellent English. I told her that I was looking for a shirt and shoes for the Camino. She had a couple of recommendations for shoes, so I sat down and started trying them on. Once she saw how my foot was fitting in the shoes, she brought out a pair of New Balance. I had read that many people wore New Balance on the Camino, so I was hopeful. Not only did they fit, they actually were comfortable enough that I felt as though they wouldn’t take much to break in. They were even a purplish color, continuing my Barney the dinosaur Camino attire. The price was €130 which was way more than I wanted to spend. Ray still wanted to check out what other stores had, so we left the shoes and said that we would be back later.
We found two other stores with walking and hiking shoes, but nothing felt as good as the New Balance. Ray and I decided that I had tried nearly all the options, and it was approaching 2 o’clock in the afternoon when all the stores close for siesta. We were too far away from the store with the New Balance to make it back before they closed, so would need to be there when they reopened at 5:00 p.m.
I checked my emails and saw that Steve and Ann had arrived in León and wanted to meet up with Ray and me to do some sight-seeing. They were close to where we were, so we waited a few minutes giving me time to rest my feet. When they found us, we decided to head toward the León Parador.
The Spanish Paradors are ancient buildings such as monasteries and hospitals that have been converted into luxury hotels. The Parador de León was built in the 16th century as headquarters to the Military Order of St. James. It also happens to be the hotel where Martin Sheen’s character in the movie, “The Way,” stayed with his Camino friends. Steve and Ann had visited the year before on their vacation in Spain.
We had fun taking some photos before entering the attached cathedral.
We left the Parador de León about 4:30 and headed directly to the sporting goods store. We arrived within a few minutes, so grabbed a café con leche at a nearby restaurant, sitting outside where we could see the front door of the store. Ray and I were amazed by the number of restaurants on every street as well as the number of people enjoying the outdoor seating with friends or family. We laughed that we could get very comfortable with this lifestyle.
The store opened, and I went right inside to try the shoes on now that my feet were a little more swollen. The box was right where I left it, so I sat down to try the shoes on my feet. They weren’t quite as comfortable as I remembered, but still much better than anything else I had tried. The box said European size 41, U.S. size 9 1/2. Ray was checking emails on his phone so I went to find him. My foot measured a size 8 normally, but because I have a wide toe box, I’ve worn size 8 1/2 most of my adulthood to get the room I need. I was very concerned that buying shoes this much too big would result in me stubbing my toe, which could cause more problems. The store did not have a size smaller. After some discussion with Ray, we decided that I really didn’t have a choice.
I took the shoes to the counter to buy but the employee was on the phone. I turned around so that I did not appear to be impatient and spotted a 50% off rack. I wished that I could have found shoes that were on sale. Most of the shoes were a brand that I have never been able to wear because they are made too narrow for my foot. As I scanned the rack, I blinked when I saw shoes that looked similar to the ones I had worn to the Camino. On the bottom rack, the last pair of shoes was the same brand I had been wearing for the last couple of years. As I stood in disbelief and in shock, I wondered what the chances would be that those shoes would be my size. I bent over, picked them up and lifted the tongue of the shoe. They were Euro size 40, the same as my worn out shoes. I thought that I might be dreaming when the employee hung up the phone. I asked him if there were other sizes in this shoe, and he answered that I was holding the last pair. I tried them on and they fit as though they were made for me. It was a miracle.
Ray and I went back to Pensión Blanca’s after buying my shoes and answered some more emails. We didn’t know if we would see Steve and Ann again since we had planned different schedules, so we met up with them for a delicious and delightful dinner. We ran into Claudia on the way, and she joined us as well.
With only a few items on our list the next day, Ray and I walked back to the Cathdreal of León for some more touristy stuff.
We had read that there was a display dedicated to the Camino at the Museum of León, but it wasn’t what we had expected so didn’t take long there.
There was a special military display at the Casa de los Botines, a modernist building designed by Gaudí and built in the late 1800’s. The special event brought more than normal tourists to the area who seemed to be enjoying themselves thouroughly. The city was full of excitement and energy.
Ray and I spent most of our time in León walking back and forth down one main street. Although we enjoyed our time here and hoped it was the recovery that I needed, we were anxious to get back to the Camino trail.