By the time we arrived in Leon on Sunday night, Eric and I were both pretty wasted from a long and unforgiving day of travel. Although the sun had already set, we found the weather to be the most humid and muggy we have yet experienced on the trip. The air was thick and sweat dripped from every pore of our bodies. We ended up checking into a very basic, family-run hostel where we dropped off our backpacks.
After heading to Leon’s central park, we found a nice restaurant and sat down to eat our first real meal of the day. Having saved money by starving ourselves all day, we decided to splurge and order our first steak dinners of the trip. They were pricey meals at $10 each but turned out to be well worth the money. The steaks must have been at least 14 oz. each and were topped with chimichurri, a delicious condiment consisting of vinegar, parsley and herbs. We thought this would be an excellent introduction to the legendary steaks that await us in Argentina.
Although we were both totally exhausted, the heat prevented us from getting a good night’s rest. Our room was located on the second floor of the hostel and was equipped with but a weak, primitive fan that whirled out air which hardly reached us. I woke up several times in a pool of sweat and was forced to continuously roll over to try to find dry areas on my sheets. It felt as though I had wet the bed.
The next morning, Monday, we checked out of the place we were staying and headed to a hostel called “Big Foot,” located on the other side of town. Big Foot is a classic backpacker hostel that includes a bar, restaurant, swimming pool, pool table, and even free wireless internet. The free wireless internet is what appealed to us most. For those of you who don’t know, Eric and I are both traveling with Mac laptop computers and we like to “hijack” free internet wherever possible.
The rest of the day we spent exploring beautiful, rustic Leon. Leon as well as Granada, its more popular sister-city to the south, were both founded by Francisco Fernandez de Cordoba in the mid 1500’s. They are the two oldest cities in the new world. As the pictures above will testify, the lion is ubiquitous throughout Leon and serves as the official mascot for the town that carries its name.
Leon is known for its excellent collection of colonial churches. It seems common to find one or two churches in most colonial towns; Leon, however, has eight. Each church is unique in its own way and all are beautiful. My favorite is the grand Cathedral Basilica de la Asuncion, located facing the central park in Leon’s main square.
The next morning, Tuesday, we awoke at Big Foot and heard that a Brazilian girl staying in one of the dorm rooms got her laptop, wallet and camera stolen. The night before, Eric and I saw a suspicious-looking Russian guy checking into the hostel. He hung around for only two hours before leaving, claiming he had a family emergency that required him to travel immediately to Managua. Obviously, Eric and I took special note of this. Apparently the Russian guy was a professional crook who had to pick the lock on the security trunk that the girl’s valuables were locked in. As for our computers and valuables, we always keep them, not only locked in our smaller backpacks, but we also have a special metal webbing that we secure and lock over both bags. With this kind of security we are fairly confident, but we were relieved to find our things were undisturbed. I’m sure it helped that we were staying in a private room and not in one of the dorms.
This event brought to mind the only time I have been robbed while traveling. The robbery occurred about five years ago while I was in Amsterdam, staying in a hostel similar to the one we are in now. It was only the third day of my trip when I awoke to find that my money belt, containing my passport, Russian and Chinese Visas, ATM card, traveler’s checks, cash and plane ticket, had been taken while I slept. The money belt was inside my pants which were rolled-up, lying under my bed. Needless to say this made the rest of my trip a bit of a nightmare. I was lucky to make it to my final destination, Japan, and was even forced to get a new Chinese visa in Mongolia. It was a good lesson to learn and never repeat. Sadly, the most common robberies seem to be perpetrated by fellow travelers, not locals.
We spent the rest of Tuesday hanging out with two girls we met at the hostel. One was a very beautiful German girl named Sina (pronounced “Zena” like the warrior princess), the other was a girl named Kathy from London town. We all ended up going to a beach located about an hour away. We spent the day swimming and getting pounded by the relentless surf. It was a great time and we didn’t make it back to Leon until around 8:00 P.M.
Last night the skies opened up and a torrential rain storm of biblical proportion ensued. Unfortunately, Sina had a bus ticket to San Jose, Costa Rica, that required her to leave at 3:30 A.M., right in the midst of the storm. I can only hope she had some kind of rain gear. Eric and I found ourselves waking up several times in the night, and we even had to deal with the roof of our room leaking.
Today, Wednesday, we are spending one last relaxing day here in Leon before heading to Granada tomorrow. We have been told that Granada should be another gem. I guess it’s kind of like Antigua, only older and perhaps more beautiful. We’ll see.
***I have now posted some long-awaited pictures from our trip. They are all thumbnails that can be clicked on and enlarged. Just scroll down to my previous blogs to view the corresponding pictures. Enjoy.***