Day 2: Modern Family

Family dinner was a big deal in my house growing up. Sometimes, the only sound was forks clanging on plates. Other times, things got heated. Usually, there was laughter. Always, there was love. The dinner table was where I learned. It was where I most felt like a family. Tonight, only on our second day in Spain, our group meal became about more than just food, and we became more than a class. Tonight we had our first family dinner.

The food and bonding was much needed after a day spent learning about León’s history. We started the morning off with a three hour walking tour led by the fearless Blanca. Along the way, Blanca taught us a lot about Romanesque, Islamic, and Gothic architecture, which came in handy for the final stop; the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is famous for having the second most stained glass windows in Europe, made across three centuries. On the lowest part of the building, there are no windows, which symbolizes the mineral kingdom. Slightly above this are windows depicting animals and plants, then those representing common people with their vices and virtues. Next is a gallery of the coat of arms of nobility, followed by windows depicting biblical characters. Old Testament scenes are in darker colors on the north side, and New Testament scenes are in lighter colors on the south side, symbolizing the light that comes from Jesus. This theme is repeated where the two sides converge in the center of the altar at a depiction of Jesus at the center, at the point where light first streams in in the morning.

The windows were spectacular, and it was amazing to see how much thought went into each part of the design. That thoughtfulness was something that Blanca revealed in every place we visited, and made us much more appreciative of each site. Hopefully, we will get to put our new knowledge to use along the Camino. I know that recognizing the attention to detail and effort that was put into the Cathedral made me think more deeply both about what I was seeing, and how much attention I give my own faith. If the city of León gave 300 years to building this church, I can surely give my spiritual life 30 minutes of my time.

After all the sight seeing, we definitely worked up an appetite. At the Restaurante Racimo de Oro in downtown León, we were served endless plates ranging from roasted red peppers to blood pudding. (For those of you who read yesterday’s post, Sebastian wanted to let you know that I did not get a peach for dessert. I got an apple. I am also allergic to apples.) The staff kept the bread coming like it would be illegal for us to leave the city limits with our glycemic indices in check. And just like family dinners at my house growing up, there were moments of silence, heated debate, and plenty of laughter.

There was silence as we faced off with the blood pudding, until Melissa took the brave first bite. The verdict: it is better with bread. Name something that is not.

Things got tense when Willie declared he has never seen High School Musical and never will. Family wants the best for one another, and that includes watching Troy Bolton lead the East High Wildcats to victory. It just does.

Oh, and the laughter. There was Stephan trying to teach us how to finally pronounce his name right. And Lisa’s laugh alone that had to have echoed down three flights of stairs. When I looked around the table, I had no worries about what the Camino will bring, because I knew I have a family that will be walking it with me.

I loved seeing more of León and learning about its history, but family dinner was the highlight of the day. If I can do as the Spaniards do and stay up late enough to eat it, I think it will easily become what I look forward to each night. More bread and laughs to come!

Riley Bannon, Behavioral Neuroscience