Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Parador Experience Part 2 -- Hostal San Marcos, Leon

One night in the awesome Parador in Santiago de Compostela, the Hostal dos Reis Catolicos 
left me wanting for more. I was glad that a week later we would be  in Leon where we had reservations at the Hostal San Marcos, another Parador in a landmark building.

Located on the outskirts of the old town of Leon, the Parador was built in the 16th century  
as a pilgrim shelter and hospital for peregrinos along the Camino.  It has reinvented itself 
many times.  At various points in its history,  it has been used as a school, army barracks, 
military prison, church offices and even horses' stables.  
Today, the Hostal San Marcos also has a church and the museum of Leon within its complex.

Like the Parador in Santiago de Compostela, the Hostal San Marcos has an elaborate
Plateresque facade -- the stone front is adorned with carvings featuring historic and religious 

Right on top of the entrance is a figure of Santiago, not as a peregrino but as soldier and moor-slayer.  
It's sad that parts of the stone facade have disintegrated due to pollution and exposure to the elements.  
The Hostal is on the list of the World Monuments Fund which is working on conservation efforts
to protect and help preserve this significant monument.

As you enter the lobby, you will immediately see this grand marble staircase. Not to worry though, there are lifts so you won't have to climb all the way up to your room.

There is a beautiful cloister surrounding a serene garden.  Some of the rooms on the third floor overlook this lovely view.  

On one side of the cloister we found our Amigo, Santiago along with statues of the virtues 
Esperanza,  Fe and San Froilan,  Leon's patron saint.

Old stone blocks  are by the cloister wall -- I wondered how much one block weighed and
how much I would have to pay in excess luggage if I brought one home.

The cloister has a paved stone floor  -- I would find the same kind of stones later on in the streets 
of the old town of Leon, swirling in different  patterns.  

It was a warm afternoon and people were in their air conditioned rooms having siestas -- I enjoyed walking under the cloister's arches by myself,  wondering how it looked like hundreds of years ago.

There are small carvings in the vaulted ceiling -- do you see the cruz espada or Santiago's cross?

Like the Hostal dos Reis Catolicos, the interiors of the Hostal San Marcos feature period
pieces that remind one of its heritage.

These two small wooden cribs on the lobby of our floor may be hundreds of years old but
they were a bit creepy for me -- I wondered if they rocked by themselves in the middle of the night.

An old coal warmer has been repurposed as an interesting side table.  Again, I had brief larcenous thoughts but this definitely would not fit in my suitcase.

The patterned red carpet leading to the rooms may be a bit worn but still looked quite elegant.

Our  room at this Parador was bigger than the one we had in Hostal Dos Reis Catolicos.
The rich red tapestry blended nicely with the warm yellow walls.

We even had a little balcony -- heavy wooden panels separated it from the other rooms
and gave each a sense of privacy.

This was the view from our room --  the taller stone building on the right is the church and museum.
On the left side are the newer buildings of Leon.

After a walk through the old town, we came back to the Hostal San Marcos at 10 p.m., just
as the light was fading.  Softly lit up, it was an even more magical sight.

A brass statue of a peregrino  sat at the base of a cruceiro looking wistfully up at the Hostal.

There is a bed for you inside peregrino, just follow the flecha amarilla.  

Two days later and I had to say good-bye to the Hostal San Marcos.  Staying at the
Paradores here in Leon and in Santiago de Compostela was definitely a highlight of this
trip to Spain.  I hope there are a few more Paradores in my future.
I read that the one in Toledo is particularly nice, and there is one in Avila, in Segovia, in Zaragoza ....

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