Sunday February 28th
Last day of Spiralin' and more Roman remains. The old cityof Astorga, which began as a garrison town of soldiers, miners and engineers and quickly grew into a civic centre, is slowly being uncovered as excavations continue to unearth what must have been a really vibrant society on the very Western edge of the Empire.
We went underground - firstly to look at the old city wall, then the baths, and finally the sophisticated sewage system. Then one more remarkable tapas meal and sadly, all too soon, it was time to say farewell. I followed the van out onto the ring road and let it zoom off towards Santander, where Carol is running a lunatic schedule of workshops next week. My journey was shorter just thirty miles or so up the motorway to Leon - which I reached just as the skies opened.
By nightfall the weather had cleared up enough for me to venture into the old town to see the Basilica of San Isidoro where the old Kings of Leon were buried and the wonderful Gothic cathedral - full of dark mystery and beautiful stained glass. There is something sinister about Spanish Catholicism, it feels more medieval, less transparent, shaded in black in comparison to the high camp frivolity of the churches in Italy. There are deep secrets in Spain and from Roman invasion to reconquest to civil war, much is hidden under the surface, miners and under miners still have much to do here. Walking through the streets of Leon in the drizzle of evening, though, I was very aware that I'm hooked by this fascinating country and need to find some excuses to re visit and explore some more. By 10pm the bars around the centre were serving free tapas along with small glasses of beer and slowly the ritual of going out, even on a cold and wet Sunday night at the end of Winter, had begun again.
It's been a magical trip.