At the outset I must stipulate that a spacious room in a luxury 5-star hotel is a great place to organize for a longish walk on the Camino de Santiago. The Parador at the Convent of San Marcos in León, Spain, where I stayed before I began my Camino, meets this description of “luxury”. I stipulate to this luxury a bit abashed: the concept of a pilgrimage and the life of ease don’t mesh together so well. Traditionally, a pilgrimage involves penitence and pain—the blisters currently on my feet satisfy this requirement, alas.
According to the Wikipedia, the “convent of San Marcos is one of the great architectural jewels of the Spanish city of León.” It’s featured as the luxury stop the protagonist treats his Camino cohort to in The Way, the Martin Sheen and Emilio Estévez film that has brought so many pilgrims to the Camino de Santiago.
The Convent of San Marcos has been (as the name implies) a convent, a monastery, a hospital, and a way-station for pilgrims. My photograph of one of the interior cloisters is shown below.
In its current incarnation as a newly renovated luxury hotel, part of the Parador chain, there is something tawdry and abominable about the place. It’s geared for the luxury bus tourist trade. Easy listening American standards are piped via a too-high volume sound system into all the public spaces. They’ve gutted the classical atrium and replaced it with a modern interior structure, justifying this colossal design inanity with an exhibition of modernist Spanish art.
One can have second thoughts about privatizing a great historical structure for the benefit of well-to-do tourists. No second thoughts are possible about the awful design choices that were made during this renovation.
So, ready pilgrim one! Onward to the simpler life as a pilgrim-with-a-camera walking the Camino.