Zen top-up: Melide to Arzúa

Leaving Melide late and at a leisurely pace, my feet were feeling a lot better, and the weather was perfect for a short 15 km bimble to Arzúa. Most of the morning rush was already gone so for a while I had the trail to myself. I even found the snake … Not today, pal, today I walk. And I’m loving it.

Along the way I bumped into all my sola mates – Dutch Yo, the Sisters, the Ladies and Swiss Iz among many others, and walked with them on and off, as you do, stopping at picturesque Ribadiso for some lunch on the way – one of many great meals. Because this would be a Very Good Food Day.

Already on the way into Arzúa, we walked past a massive paella cooking happily away, but it would be 20 minutes before it was done, so we decided against sitting down and waiting. Maybe we should have, maybe next time I see one I will.

I had booked a new (to me) albergue San Francisco and wanted to check in as soon as possible to try to get a a bottom bunk, and I was in luck! Everything was nice and clean and purpose built, there were even sheets for our beds, but those top bunks were very high and the ladders looked daunting for my knees and general dignity. There were little lights and charging points for every bunk and even a deep drawer under the bottom bunk for each, big enough for the pack and lots of discarded clothing. Quick shower – there were hooks on the backs of the doors and a shower curtain to keep everything you hung on them dry! – and laundry done and on the line, and I was out again.

Swiss Iz was sitting at a café bar just outside my albergue, waiting to meet up with her camiga who had walked from home … in Austria! It made me think of Britta and her great adventure walking from northern Germany, through France and into Spain, all the way to the coast at Finisterre. Wonder how it must feel to have walked that far and then be so close to Santiago? We could feel it looming already, it must be even more poignant to them. I was completely in awe of the lovely little Austrian adventurer, with her short legs, having walked so far. Amazing. Inspiring. Life goals.

The Ladies and I had planned to go to the Pizzeria El Fornaccio, which I had heard so much about, so when they opened I went over and booked a table for five for the evening. I also double checked that they did indeed offer gluten free pizza and/or pasta for one of the Ladies. That was all my to-do items crossed off the list, so I sauntered along to find a place for my anker bier and to call home.

I didn’t have to go far. Just a few doors down was Razas Gastrobar, which had recently opened, with a particularly beguiling looking table outside, in the shade, by the main pilgrim drag – and a menu board that mentioned burritos and smashed burgers, so it seemed a bit more interesting than the normal pilgrim menu. I also discovered that they had arepa, which I had never heard of until I had one in León in May on a camino rest day with Nanci. Arepa are South American pancake type things made with maize flour (so gluten free), opened like a pitta bread and stuffed with different goodies. I couldn’t resist trying one with spicy shredded chicken, salad, guacamole, pico de gallo and garlic mayo. It was delicious and a nice break from Spanish and even Italian food (until the evening).

While I was sat there, the Canadian Ladies joined me. They were trying to get all their laundry done, so they set up base camp there and took turns going to check on proceedings. They also discovered that Raza offered that fabled white unicorn of camino cuisine – chocolate Santiago cake! I fact it is called Torta de Finisterre, and if you want to try it, but can’t seem to find it, go to Razas in Arzúa. We shared a piece and it was perfect: dark, rich and handsome! (Check your teeth after though.)

That place really was pilgrim central; soon our Dutch camiga Yo came by on her way back from the shops, joined us and had a smashed burger with the bun dyed black, which apparently is a thing now. Her feet were playing up so she was walking shorter days and enjoying everything about the camino but the walking. I gave her my tiny pot of Betadine and a few plasters for her blisters, just like one of the Ladies had given me her tiny tube of Voltaren earlier. The camino provides – or at least, it’s a massive swap shop for foot related first aid.

Then, after all this food, it was time to go to dinner … The booking was for five people, six with Swiss Iz, and seven when another sola lady joined us, but there was room for everyone. I can’t remember which pizzas we all had but the photo below (thank you, Stacy!) looks like a carbonara and a vegetarian one with avocado? The menu had all the classics plus a sprinkle of very interesting own creations, like mine, the Arzuiña: topped with mozzarella, tomato sauce, fresh chorizo, grelos – yup, that’s the soup tree greens! – lots of creamy local Arzúa cheese and black pepper. I was certain there was fennel in there somewhere as well. In fact all the pizzas that arrived, looked gorgeous, and I didn’t hear any complaints. We swapped and shared and stuffed ourselves and still there was food left. Very tasty, and I’ll definitely go back again next time.

At the end of the evening, contact info was exchanged, a Whatsapp group was set up: We were getting close to Santiago now, and you never know who you are going to lose and for how long, or for ever. Two more walking days and we would be there.

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