Zen top-up: Portos to Melide

My French and Canadian room mates made an early start, and not too quietly, so I just stayed in bed and waited until the ruckus and rush for the bathroom had quietened down. There was no breakfast until seven or so, so no need to be out in the dark – which anyway I don’t do (ever again). The Italian man joined me for a coffee and a chat before he set off at speed, and as soon as the world outside was nicely visible to the naked eye, I hit the road too. The first kilometre felt pretty gothic, with its graveyards and gloom and mist.

There were lots of people out that morning, all the early starters were catching up with me and I didn’t mind. I had a sore foot which I had hoped would improve overnight but hadn’t, so I trundled along in my own pace. And I still had this nagging feeling that I was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, or doing the wrong thing. I didn’t for a second question the wisdom of being on the camino – absolutely not – but just had a sense that I was caminoing wrong somehow. Not enjoying it as I should.

As I hobbled closer to Palas de Rei, where I should have been the night before, I got a message from a friend asking me if I happened to be anywhere near a church and if so, could I please light a candle for her grandmother. Not five minutes later I stood outside the church in Palas, which I have never been to before because it always seems so busy. That morning – or at least at that moment – it was very quiet, just a few pilgrims dotted around in silence on the pews. I lit two candles to be on the safe side and sat down for a little while contemplating. I never normally do that, but while I was there I might as well. And as I sat there, I thought about spaces and places, and where I would like to be right now, if not here, and the answer was very clear: Melide. I want to go to my room in Melide and sleep. I want to rest my foot, maybe do some laundry and catch up with my Ladies.

So that’s what I did. I went to the lovely little café bar on the corner of the actual camino, which was almost empty at this time of the day between waves of pilgrims, and ordered a large café con leche and a Santiago cake while I waited for the taxi to arrive. And I was pleased and content (apart from the foot) and it felt like I was catching back up with myself.

After checking in, having a much needed nap and getting my laundry done – wash and dry, such luxury! – I met the Canadian Ladies outside Ezequiel. When in Melide, the capital of pulpo, one does not simply miss the Ezequiel; the oldest pulpo bar still going I think. It has long wooden tables with hard wooden benches and serves freshly cooked pulpo, scissor cut by ladies with asbestos fingers, piled onto wooden plates and drizzled liberally with olive oil and a good sprinkle of paprika. For those who love pulpo I am reliably informed it is The Place to have some, and it can get very busy!

It was lovely to see the Ladies again, and pick up the stories and giggles where we had left off the day before. They were sitting outside the Ezequiel in the shade while they waited for the luggage transport to catch up with them and provide clean clothes, and in the mean time they had a drink and shared a portion of pulpo. Me being me and now in a much better place, in every way, I decided the time had come for the Ladies to have some zamburiñas! It would be cruel and highly unusual of me not to.

Later they/we were meeting two American sisters they had met on the trail for dinner, so there was a group of us going to the other standard pulpo place, Garnacha, where the menu is a bit more extensive, with pilgrim menus and more choices. The meal was OK, the waiter was … odd and seemed to be behaving quite inappropriately to some of the ladies at our table, so we didn’t hang around after we’d finished the meal. In fact the best part of it all was sitting outside an ice cream place afterwards with a nightcap in good company.

All in all I was very pleased with my little epiphany in the church and the decision to rest up. Tomorrow would be a nice short day as well, so I could start late and take my time. Good plan. Back on track.

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