Monday, 30 May 2011

Little Runaway

cloister ceiling at San Zoilo, Carrion de los Condes
We talk about running away, Paddy and me. We want to go to Venice, or Turkey, or maybe even Japan.
But we have four dogs and ten chickens, a cat and a canary, and a house where people like to find us this time of year.
We cannot run away, not without somebody going hungry or lonely.
And so we wait for a day when no one is supposed to come, a sunny day usually, when nothing else is going on. And we get in the car and run away to somewhere not too far.
People say The Peaceable is "in the middle of nowhere."
But we always jump in and tell them no. The Peaceable is "in the middle of everywhere."
The region is peppered with historic sites, tiny private museums of farm implements and folk costumes and historic or architectural ephemera, Roman remains, mouldering convents, converted mosques, hermit caves... It´s a delicious mix, if you like this sort of thing.
Which we do, very much.
And Saturday, we ran away for just a few hours, and touched on no less than three wonders.
St. Martin family homestead
We drove our little car east on the N120, the two-lane that goes past our back gate. It took us past Terradillos and Ledigos and hordes of hiking pilgrims, past the little Roman villa in the cornfield, and on to Cervatos de la Cueza, a place almost nobody goes anymore.
Cervatos Boy Made Good
And there, tucked along the road, three hundred-some years ago, was raised a great family of Spanish soldiers by the name of San Martin. The greatest of these generals and colonels was Don Juan San Martin, one of the founders of the Republic of Argentina. Argentina since, in thanks for Cervatos´ part in its glorious beginning, rebuilt the local church (in a jolly Argentine style), erected a statue of Don Juan in the plaza, and preserved as a museum the little half-timber adobe farmhouse where the military brood was raised.
The little town is plastered with plaques and commemorations. We asked about seeing inside the house, but the guy who keeps the keys was not in the plaza nor the bar up the street.
Cervatos´ Argentine church
So we will go back some other day. It looks like a very cool little house. I wanna see inside.
But if was too hot to wait around the Plaza, so we carried on east to Carrion de los Condes. In English, "carrion" means "dead animal carcass." In Spanish, it is the name of a river and a town and a ruling family made infamous in the medieval Spanish classic "El Cid."

the church at San Zoilo monastery
 Carrion de los Condes is a Camino town full of historic treasures and convents as well as tractor dealers and very good hardware stores. Saturday we stopped first at the Royal Monastery of San Zoilo, a Benedictine foundation that grew like crazy for a while, and then seems to have suddenly hit the wall. The part that is not now a deluxe hotel is a dusty old church with a great pipe organ and some grand tombs, a fabulous library, and a cloister with breathtaking ceilings. Oh, and a couple of huge Arab tapestries, in almost perfect condition, that are a good thousand years old. It is on the camino out of town, so most pilgrims just hoof right past the front gate in the morning.
Thousands of lives were lived inside those walls. Five times a day for hundreds of years that church rang with songs and music and worship. On Saturday, with the sun crashing through its high windows, it felt as empty as an airplane hangar. It is awesome in its size and age and forgottenness.
Over the bridge and uptown we walked. We stopped in a junk shop and I coveted old French clocks, the tick-tock pendulum kind, whirring away in a barn alongside a zinc bathtub and a new Audi. (Antique shops are surprisingly rare in Spain. People here never get rid of anything.) Up the main street we stopped at the old Church of Santiago, now roofed-over with iron and done-up as the parochial art museum.
It is a little treasure house, full of the very kind of thing you´d imagine finding in a pirate´s wooden chest: silver crowns, golden crosses, and rosaries made of coral, gilded statues, heavy keys, robes crisply crimped and embroidered with metallic threads by a hundred nuns in the far-off  Phillippines.
Carrion parish museum
It all is nicely displayed, and there´s not too much of it. I wish I´d brought my sisters there. 
From the church we walked past the Plaza Mayor to the Bar España, a crossroads where the Camino flows into town, and the bus to Leon stops and picks up the pilgrims who can´t take any more Meseta. It´s got prime people-watching tables set out on the pavement, and one of the biggest and finest gin-and-tonics on the trail. We had us one of those. And we took pictures of pilgrims taking pictures of one another.
From there we went to the Rincon de Hamburguesas, and ordered cheeseburgers and patatas bravas, and watched the crash-and-burn report from the Formula 1 races on the TV overhead. The food was wonderfully fatty -- a rarity in a place where all the beef is really veal. Paddy said it was vile, and that he loved it.
And then we hiked back over the river and through the woods to our car, and back to home we went. The dogs hardly had time to miss us.  (we took them later to a little lake we discovered recently... my attempt at video is (hopefully) above.


Laura said...

Sounds like a great escape-day. Nice to run away and still be able to sleep in your own bed at night. Watching the video I thought of what a good sport Tim is to welcome new companions into his life with such gentleness. He is a saint-dog.

MermaidLilli said...

I see a house-sitter in your future!!

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, several house sitters....

That San Martin was a guitarist, and studied with Fernando Sor in Paris, just so you know ! ! !

We'll chat soon. The monks from my monastery are coming to Spain next winter !


Anonymous said...

Hi Rebekah. I was recently regretting not getting a look inside San Zoilo. Now I have!

Keep escaping to interesting little spots near the Camino. It's exotic for the rest of us.

Thanks to Peacable Kingdom for accommodation, and sorry I missed you.

Rob (slow Aussie)

ksam said...

Well, maybe a good thing I wasn´t able to stop by last night! I had to taxi from just past Ledigos into Sahagun, after 34km. Everything Completo! My feet and I were toast. Would have loved to have seen your place as I thought/think of you often here. Tonight Elburgo Ranero, tomorrow ... uh...dunno! Saturday, Leon and onward! For all you´ve sorta taught me to see here on the road, Gracias, Muchas Gracias. Karin