Day 18: Foncebadon to Molinaseca

Last night’s sleeping arrangements could probably have been better. Frank is still not sure whether it was our French or German bunk mates who flavored the room so pungently. Still, we awoke rather early for mountain village time, and gathered our things. 

Our host from the previous evening greeted us and asked if we were hungry. Looking around at other pilgrims’ coffees and plates of toast, Mikey was a bit hesitant. After all, one can only consume so many carbs in a day! But our host understood our quandary and instructed Mikey to sit down and wait for breakfast. 
Needless to say, all the other pilgrims were jealous of our “American Breakfast” of eggs, bacon, and (of course) bread. 

Oh, and you can totally tell whether bacon is fresh based off of the skin. This porker was definitely a local resident. 

 Ok, no relation to our breakfast – we just thought that the horses in a pasture with snow capped mountains in the background were worth posting. The morning was completely beautiful with only a few wispy clouds. This was perhaps the most picturesque start to a day yet.

The Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross) is one of the most iconic places on the Camino Frances. It has a great camio in the movie The Way and is written about in all Camino guides. So, what’s it all about?

Well, the Cruz de Ferro (Mikey begins as he puts on his professor hat) stands 1,505 meters atop a mountain along the way. A tradition dating back to the late medieval period exists wherein pilgrims deposit a stone carried with them from their point of origin. Ergo, there’s a big pile of rocks at the cross’s base. But wait, there’s more!

The mountain was originally a holy place of worship for the Roman god Mercury until it was “christianized” during the middle ages by placing an iron cross at its summit. And while we are splitting hairs, the mountain is actually 1,500 meters high, but the pile of rocks measures 5 additional meters raising the summit to 1,505m in total. 

 Just off from the Cruz de Ferro stands a quiet hermitage which is a bit more modern.  

ALSO standing nearby is a heifer who don’t play! She tried to charge Mikey 3€ for this picture. Talk about primadonna!

This was our amazing view for a large part of the day. Mikey thinks the mountains looked good, too.  

What goes up, must eventually come down – including Frank. The hardest part of today was descending the peaks we had climbed over the past few days. This picture does not accurately portray how treacherous our hike was. Frank is walking at a 35% grade over loose shale rocks. Hang ten, Papa!

Speaking of shale, we noticed that something was missing from this picture: terracotta roofs! As we saw in the picture above, this region abounds with shale rock. Thus, no one wastes time baking clay shingles when they can layer thin shale rock over their heads. 

Something else was missing: food in our stomachs. So Frank and Mikey took a break and grabbed some healthy grub. 

This is the standard Spanish salad. It consists of lettuce, tomato, onion, tuna, carrots, and corn. The last two ingredients are optional, but the first four are mandatory. This is served with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. (Fun fact: a salad with tuna is considered to be vegetarian!)

 Speaking of healthy grub, Mikey got his first taste of Galician cider! Unlike that in the Basque Country, this cider is sweet and carbonated. Yum!

This is a typical sight entering many of the villages in this area. Again, notice the shale roof. 
Just a picturesque reminder of where we’re headed. 

After many miles and steep descents, we caught sight of our destination, Molinaseca. Prominent in the skyline is the 17th century Church of Saint Nicholas. 

Pilgrims enter the city via the Puente Romano (Roman Bridge). While this is actually a medieval bridge, it is built atop the ruins of an original Roman structure. 

Mikey likes it!
Just a front-facing view of the Iglesia de San Nicolas. 

We stayed at a really amazing hotel called the Palacio Hostal. Oh, and the manager did like ALL of our laundry for 7€! Total score, plus we had a balcony overlooking one of the main streets. The trees out front were kinda wacko, though. 

  Speaking of wacko, this was a most original way of promoting a grocery store. Take note, hipster DJ wannabes working that sales job! 
 
Still, we decided to go out for cooked food at a restaurant along the river. Oh, boy!

  In honor of the Camino and its scallop theme, we feasted on some grilled shellfish. The ones on the left are grilled with a delicious crême sauce while those to the right are more traditional olive oil and garlic based. In case you were wondering, neither Frank nor Mikey could decide which was better. 

For the main course, we both opted for fried local river trout. Having passed SO many streams and rivers, we mutually concluded that there must be something tasty in the water. Yep, Mikey and Frank called this one spot-on. 

Unlike American-style fried fish, the Spanish do not batter their catch. Instead, they clean said delicacy and drop it into a shallow pan of sizzling olive oil with garlic. A pinch of salt and pepper finishes off the dish perfectly. That is to say, “fall-off-the-bone perfection!” 

Well, that’s about all for this leg of our journey. Tomorrow will be a short walk TO a city and a LONG walk through all it offers. Stay tuned for Ponferrada! Buenas noches, vos. 

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