León with your dog
León offers a variety of plans for you to get to know this historic land with your dog plans. For instance, you can: go inside the Sistine Chapel of the Romanesque era to see its famous frescoes, in San Isidoro; sail across the Riaño reservoir in the Picos de Europa; visit a genuine mine in Pozo Julia (Fabero) or explore Las Médulas – a unique landscape carved out by the Romans 20 centuries ago. I’ll tell you about my experiences here.
I was in León in July 2018 as part of my Spanish tour. Although the most iconic place in the provincial capital – the cathedral – is off limits to visitors with dogs, the museum at the other most emblematic building in the city - San Isidoro – does allow four-legged friends (in this case, “small ones”, as were explained to us by the management). And so that’s where we went.
And what can we find at this museum of the San Isidoro Royal Collegiate? Nothing less than the famous frescoes in its pantheon, known as the Sistine Chapel of the Romanesque era, and the recently-recovered Renaissance paintings in the former Chapter House, known as the Doña Sancha Chamber. You can see more in the video I recorded there.
Just after that I passed by Antonio’s shop, the city’s only scribe, which is just a few metres away from San Isidoro. I would like to thank him for keeping the door open to well-behaved dogs and for the beautiful depiction he gifted me of one of my ancestors taken from the Announcement to Shepherds to be found in the vaults of the San Isidoro pantheon. Antonio is a master of Carolingian calligraphy, which has been used sine the 9th century.
Another dog-friendly place of culture in León is the Egyptian Museum, which allows access to all types of dog, even to the workshops they arrange. In this case, I didn’t get time to go there, but I promised I would so next time.
By the way, the Musac only allows access to small dogs if they are carried by their owner, and so obviously I wasn’t able to enter.
There’s a good range of dog-friendly accommodation and bars and restaurants in León. I stayed at a mythical posada in Plaza Sta. María del Camino, which has a dog-friendly bar and restaurant with good food. You’ll find some information about places at the end of this report, including those I’ve been told about via social networks. Ah! And the MasQPerros Neighbourhood Platform has a fantastic website with loads of addresses of places where you can go with your dog. If you are planning to visit León, a good guide is: https://www.perrosbienvenidos.org
I was able to visit my friends at the Society for the Protection of Animals and Plants of León , where 150 dogs were waiting to find a family. Meanwhile, volunteers and workers from the society are in charge of looking after them and trying to make sure they are as comfortable as possible. If you would like to support them, they can be contacted via their Facebook page. A doggie kiss for all my furry colleagues!
LAS MÉDULAS - AN UNWORLDLY LANDSCAPE
After passing fleetingly through Astorga, we headed for a beautiful village just a few kilometres away: Castrillo de los Polvazares. This is very charming village where you can taste an authentic Maragato stew (starting with meat and ending with soup). You really have to try this (I mean you human earthlings) when you are passing through the area. Miguel taught us everything you need to know about this dish at his restaurant, located in a large old stone house with views over Mt. Teleno and the river (the hotel is also dog friendly).
And via Ponferrada (a pity we couldn’t enter the castle) we moved on to Las Médulas, which look like something out of another world but are actually man-made. The Romans carved through the mountains that there used to be in this place to extract gold dust for 200 years. They did this by injecting water they brought through very long canals – centuries later, the orange-tinged peaks of the gold mine, which was the largest open cast gold mine in the Roman Empire, ended up becoming covered with an impressive green layer of grass. This landscape, which is a World Heritage Site, is one of the most iconic tourist sites in Spain. We dogs are in luck here because, apart from strolling around the park, we can also enter the Archaeology Room in the village of Las Médulas and the tunnels that the Romans excavated to channel the water (what are known as the Orellán Galleries, located at another point high up and where there is a spectacular viewpoint). Las Médulas offer a whole load of walking opportunities, although we dogs have to be kept on a leash.
VISITING A GENUINE MINE
Did you know you can go with your human earthling to visit a genuine mine and enter the miners’ changing rooms and the engine rooms, etc.? León is a land with a long mining tradition and in the north, about an hour’s drive from Las Médulas, we can go on a guided tour of Pozo Julia, a disused anthracite mine in Fabero. Apart from entering the original installations, you can also get a sense of what it must have been like for thousands and thousands of miners working underground in a reproduction of the galleries and in a simulator. This is an authentic experience that you really shouldn’t miss. By the way, we are also allowed to enter La Escuela de Ayer in Fabero, a reconstruction of a classroom showing how school used to be.
I also provide you with a link to the list put together by the Ponferrada Dog Owners’ Association, listing dog-friendly establishments in the area (around 90 as of July 2018). This list can be viewed on the association’s Facebook page and, at the time of completing this report, it was expected to soon be published on the El Bierzo tourist website.
I shouldn’t forget to mention the Casa Maragata de Santa Colomba de Somoza and the Compludo Forge, which also allow dogs on their tours subject to prior telephone booking. I wasn’t able to get there, but both look like great plans!
SAILING IN THE PICOS DE EUROPA
From Pozo Julia we headed for the Picos de Europa Regional Park, where there is a large reservoir that we pooches can visit with our human earthlings by boat. This is the Riaño Reservoir, and on clear days sailing through the mountains reflected in the water is a real spectacle (I recommend that you go on one of the first trips of the day, when the light is better). The little boat leaves the jetty in Riaño and all we well-behaved dogs are welcome (up to 5 pooches per trip, without any size restrictions). Don’t miss the images we recorded for my short film! I guarantee you’ll want to get up and go there when you see them.
Riaño is the perfect base for adventure along the Cares River Route (dogs on a leash, by the way, as we’re in the Picos de Europa National Park). It’s about an hour’s drive from Riaño to Caín, a beautiful little village at the entrance to the Cares gorge (on the way, stop at the Tombo viewpoint). From Caín it’s about a three-hour walk (and another three hours to come back) along the footpath through the gorge to the Asturian village of Poncebos. This is a spectacular route because it follows paths literally carved out of the rock and crosses bridges that were built to make it easier to maintain the water channel for the Camarmeña-Poncebos hydroelectric power station.
This is a good way to celebrate the first century since the Picos de Europa National Park was established – the first protected area in Spain!
GUIDE: DOG-FRIENDLY LEÓN, WITH SUGGESTIONS RECEIVED ON PIPPER’S SOCIAL NETWORKS:
LA POSADA DEL GRIFO (LEÓN)
EL HOLANDÉS ERRANTE (MURIAS DE PAREDES)
ENTRE BABIA Y LA LUNA (VILLAFELIZ DE BABIA)
LA MARY LEÓN (LEÓN)
EL GRIFO (LEÓN)
VÍA PRINCIPALIS (LEÓN)
RESTAURANTE ZULOAGA (LEÓN)
RESTAURANTE CUCA LA VAINA (CASTRILLO DE LOS POLVAZARES)
RESTAURANTE DEL HOTEL PRESA (RIAÑO)
TO TAKE TAPAS:
LISTA DE BARES PARA IR CON TU PERRO EN LEÓN
LIST OF DOG-FRIENDLY ESTABLISHMENTS PROVIDED BY THE LEÓN MASQPERROS NEIGHBOURHOOD PLATFORM