The trip back to Bilbao from Leon was a long and slow 7-hour journey on the narrow-gauged train again. Along the way the group presented pakdokter with this lovely Birthday Card and sang 'Happy Birthday' to pakdokter. We arrived at Bilbao late in the evening. A few of us went out for a light dinner and drinks.
The next day we left the hotel very early ( at 530am) for Bilbao airport to Paris to catch the connecting Malaysia Airlines plane home.
Our train trip back to Bilbao was at noon - so we had a whole morning to kill. I took the opportunity to walk along the Roman wall and went to see the Paradores de Leon. This was first built as a hospital and hostel for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Today it is a museum, and a 5-star paradores. I could only take a peep at the inner courtyard of the hotel.
part of the Roman wall
a gate that opens into a square across which is the paradores
Pakdokter's birthday was actually on the 10th but that being the last day of our tour and we would be spending most of the time on the long train journey back to Bilbao with the expected time of arrival to be late in the evening - Vero had chosen a lovely restaurant overlooking the Leon Cathedral for our last dinner as a group. And she had also ordered a 'surprise' birthday cake for pakdokter.
Thank you Vero and thank you Malcolm, John, Michele and Dave, Margaret and David, Anna and Ian, Robert and Daryl, Brian and most of all pakdokter's partner, Fareeda - for a most memorable holiday!
This cathedral is also known as the Santa Maria de Leon Cathedral and the 'Pulchra Leonina' ( House of Lights). It was built on the site of a Roman baths dating back to 2 centuries BC. It later became a palace occupied by King Ordono II. When he defeated the Arabs in the War of Saint Esteban de Gormaz in 917 he decided to give away the palace to become a cathedral. The first cathedral had Mozarabic features until the second one was built during King Ferdinand of Leon reign when Romanesque style construction was added to the cathedral. One century later a third reconstruction of the cathedral was made in the Gothic style. This cathedral enjoys great illumination by virtue of having the most number of stained-glass windows in Spain. It ranked second to a French cathedral in terms of the number of stained-glass windows allowing light into the cathedral.
This basilica site was originally the site of a Roman Temple. Its Christian roots dated back to the 10th century when a monastery for St John the Baptist was built here. In 1063 it was rededicated to Isidore the Archbishop of Seville. He was the most celebrated academic and theologian of Visigothic Spain before the Arab invasion and occupation. With agreement from the Muslim Ruler of Seville Isidore's relics were brought to Leon to be buried in Christian soil.
The original church was built on a Roman temple for the God of Mercury. In the 10th century Leon kings built a community for Benedictine sisters there. The church was destroyed when Al-Mansur invaded the region. A new church was built in the 11th century by Alfonso the V of Leon.
The church also became important because it is located along the route of the Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela. Later Kings, Queens and members of the Royal family were buried in the church.
We were taken on a conducted tour inside the church , however no photography was allowed inside the church.
The basilica was built mostly in Romanesque style but subsequent addition had Gothic elements as well as some of the Islamic art style.
The Royal Pantheon has columns in Romanesque decorations and the ceiling murals were in a good preserved state. The 12th century painted murals were mostly of stories from the New Testament.
The Library contains a huge collection of old Bibles - it is interesting Arabic-style drawings decorating the pages of these old Bibles.
The most important exhibit in the Museum is the Chalice of Donna Urraca - which 2 local historians in March 2014 published a book claiming that it is the Holy Grail. Its origin from Jerusalem was brought to Cairo but was given to an Emir of Al-Andalus who had helped the Cairean Caliph during difficult economic times and famine in Egypt. The Emir had given it to the Spanish King Fernando as a 'peace offering' - and it was kept in this church in Leon.
The group met at the hotel lobby in the afternoon and was introduced to the local tour guide who would be taking us on a walking tour of Leon. The tour guide was very good at narrating the history of the city and describing the architectural features of the places we visited.
We walked out of our hotel and turned right towards a square where 6 lanes converge into a round-about. One of the lanes from the 'square' leads into the Old Town. The City Hall is located at one corner of the square. An important building at this square is the Casa de los Botines.
Casa de los Botines
Casa de los Botines is designed by the famous Catalonian architect Antonio Gaudi. A friend of the architect, Eusobi Guell had asked Gaudi to build a house for one of his customers, Simon Fernandes and Mariano Andres, in the centre of Leon. Fernandes and Andres used to buy fabrics from Guell and they wanted a residence with a warehouse in Leon. Today the building is named after its last owner, Joan Homs i Botinas, and the Savings Bank, Caja Espana now occupies the building.
Gaudi built a building with a medieval air and numerous neo-Gothic features. It has four floors, a basement and an attic. with an inclined roof he added towers in the corners to give it a Gothic look. The owners lived on the first floor with offices below and the upper floors were rented out. The entrance is decorated with the statue of St George slaying a dragon.
a nearby buiding houses a government office
wrought iron fence around the Gaudi's building
the statue of St George slaying a dragon at entrance of Casa de los Botines
After marvelling at the building built by Gaudi, we walked on along the Roman wall that protected the Old Town of Leon. The history of Leon started from pre-Roman ages through the Moorish Spain and back to Christian stronghold from where the Reconquesta was planned and executed. Many restaurants and shops have been built along the wall - some of which have been incorporated into te wall.