Day 15: Leon to San Martín del Camino

After much rest (well, rest from carrying our packs) in Leon, we got back onto the trail this morning. In what seems to be an ever recurring theme, Frank and Mikey exited the city via a bridge (Puente rio Bernesga). Still, we had some 7km of suburbs to cover before officially leaving Leon.

Mikey’s theory is that the larger the city, the longer it takes to enter and exit. Too bad😔

At least the water levels in Leon have receded. Having been plagued by extreme rains and unseasonably cold weather, we were happy to see some reprieve in this.

 The Iglesia de San Froulan sports modern bronze statues of the 12 apostles and the virgin floating above them. Apparently many miracles have been performed here since the 16th century.

 Talk about creepy lawn ornaments! We came across this treasure and were a little freaked out. Let’s just say that Mikey crossed the road with a quickness.

At least this Camino Gnome was patriotic.

 We often pass by abandoned churches in equally abandoned towns. But today in the hamlet of San Miguel del Camino, Frank noticed that this church was very much inhabited by a small parish of cranes.

 Back on the Meseta, the theme is utter desolation. Frank laughed at Mikey for taking this picture, but it captured perfectly the vast emptiness we endured for hours today. Thankfully, we will be leaving the Meseta soon!

Mikey has entitled this picture, “Missed Opportunity.”

This gem, however, was not lost on either of us! True, the French bread was a bit hard to manage and neither Mikey nor Frank could actually eat their burgers without the aid of fork and knife, but it was a gastronomical adventure. Yay for Spanish N-120 truck stop diners!

“Back to reality…” Walking after a meal is often nice, but Frank charged on with two direct goals: to find a bed and shower.

We checked into a very nice private albergue called Santa Ana de San Martín del Camino. Frank and Mikey decided to spring for a private room as the large dormitories of snoring pilgrims can often be unbearable. As such, we each kept a shoe nearby to launch at one another in the event of similar disturbance.

The highlight of this albergue was the paella. The hospitaleros (a husband and wife team) were most accommodating hosts. Considering the ease of checking in, laundry service, sommelier guide, and one being the best paella chef in the north of Spain, these two rock! A word about paella: Frank has had a hankering for it since crossing the Pyrenees. Unfortunately, this is a typically southern-Spanish dish hailing from Seville and various parts south of Madrid. Yes, one can find it in the north, but it is much less authentic.

Tonight broke all rules. Our host made the batch you see above. It took several hours, but that pan fed 10 people with many (Frank included) having second helpings. BTW, there was still a lot left after all had eaten.

Unlike many southern paellas, this one was made with heaps of fresh vegetables from our hosts’ garden. Sure, it had pork for protein, but the highlight was the plethora of organically grown veggies. In a country that believes solely in meat, bread, and potatoes, this was off the charts rad!

Oh, and Mikey got to try an amazing 2011 Rioja Reserve. That was his highlight, but he claims he can write it off as a business expense. If all could be as lucky!

We must leave you now and return to the mundanity of folding laundry. Our goal is to leave early and arrive in the town of Astorga by lunchtime. Lots of pictures to follow on that one! Adios.

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