Camino Postcard 35: Melide to Brea

Down a country road with wooded hills in the distance; past a sleeping cat and graffiti that read ‘Fellowship of the Camino’ – that made us feel very epic and heroic; past three more cats, one of whom eyed us very suspiciously; we stopped for the cows as they crossed the road from one field to the other, and once more caught up with Lilian. But only for a short while. It was another hot day, and she stopped at a café for a drink. We ploughed on.

Not long later, we came to a roadside ‘café’ – actually just a wooden box with a single banana inside it; other pilgrims had got here before us. Hopefully, they had given a donation to the money box as well.

Through the woods and across a brand new bridge that spanned a brand new motorway – so new it was still closed. It felt very eerie crossing this empty road that would soon be busy all the time.

We finally stopped for lunch at a café called the Casa Calzada. There, we saw a pilgrim and his dog take their rest before heading off together, and were greeted by a little jay who may have been a new friend but more than likely just wanted some food.

We walked past a lush green field; I saw a roadside saying ’80’ seemingly half way across it. I smiled at the idea of animals being told to limit their speed to 80 kilometres an hour. The reality, of course, is that the sign was on the far side of the field and was warning drivers on the road there to limit their speed.

After a drinks break, we left the roadside and headed back into the woods. There, the light of the sun made the field just beyond it glow brightly. I took a photograph to try and capture what I saw but it did no justice to the sight at all. Some gifts are for keeping, others just for the time in which they are given.

Twenty-five kilometres after starting, we arrived in the hamlet of Brea. We had decided to stay at a pensión called, appropriately enough, The Way. Lilian had caught up with us again and came to the hotel to see if they had any spare beds. Unfortunately, they hadn’t, so she left to find somewhere else to stay.

The Way was a pretty plush place. Our room was spacious and had a nice shower. They had a pool outside but although we were now well into May it was not yet in use. If I am ever blessed enough to do another Camino, it will not be in the summer; despite this, I envy summer pilgrims who get to use hotel swimming pools. What a feeling it must be to jump in after a hot day’s walking!

Dinner at The Way was scheduled to be served at six PM. It arrived, though not until a little while later. The slow service was compounded for some by the food not being to their taste. To their credit, the owner tried to provide an alternative but this was one of those days when nothing could be done.

What happened the next morning was more unfortunate than the meal. When we checked out, we were told that we needed to pay for our dinner. I was convinced that we had done so when we checked in yesterday. The son of the owner was brought in and after checking the records confirmed his mother’s statement. To this day, I am still sure that we did pay it but maybe I’m wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time. So, for that reason, and because the Camino is no place for disputes about meals, we paid the requested amount of money and went on our way.

The previous evening, we returned to our rooms and relaxed. Or tried to – for tomorrow would be the last day of our journey; we had decided to walk the 25 or so kilometres that remained between us and Santiago de Compostela. The end for which we had come but which we did not want to happen was almost upon us.

Camino Postcard 34: Palas de Rei to Melide

After walking nearly fifty kilometres over the last two days, we decided to cut ourselves a break today and walk just fifteen. I think everyone was grateful especially as it was another hot day.

What happened? A good question. I have no diary entry to go on and took too few photographs. Why, Past Me, why?? To make things worse, half of today’s photos in my album are snapchat pictures and there’s no way I am showing you those so don’t even ask.

What the actual, MJM?

From the photographs that I did take, I can say that we passed under a bridge that said ‘Jesus loves you’ which is a cheesy thing for a bridge to say but still true nonetheless and is a whole lot better than ‘Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here’.

After writing the above, I remembered that as we approached the bridge, my boot lace came undone. We were on an incline so I was going to leave it until we reached the bottom before doing it up again. Not knowing this, a kind pilgrim came to let me know that it was undone. He didn’t want me to trip up on myself. As always, the kindness of strangers is one of the greatest things about the Camino.

Further along the way, we came to the Casa Domingo, which bore one of the largest shells that it was my privilege to see.

We passed through woodland, and after a while, stopped for drinks at a little outdoors café. Well, I think it was actually someone’s house and the seats were on their driveway. But anyway, it was such a lovely place! Not because of how it looked, but on account of the owner’s gaiety. He had a big smile, was very friendly and funny. He was a true balm for our sore feet and any troubled souls.

Further along the road, we passed St. James.

By-the-bye, last Thursday (15th August) was Assumption Day. For Catholics in England and Wales it was also a Holy Day of Obligation so I went to St. James’ church in Spanish Place (London) for Mass. I visited St. James’ just before leaving London to start the Camino to ask God’s help to walk it and for St. James’ intercession. Ever since I got back home, I knew I had to go back to say thank you to both. Upon arriving at the church, I made sure I sat within sight of its statue of dear James. It was an emotional experience doing so. I very nearly blubbed. And it’s funny because I have to admit, up till that point, I never felt very close to St. James. I may have asked for his intercession and prayers during the Camino but I didn’t feel any significant connection to him – but now; in that moment… I was very grateful.

A little further up the road, we spotted a cat in a field. The tall grass gave it perfect cover for any stalking it might wish to do. When we spotted it, though, the kitty was happy to just watch the pilgrims go by. We watched it watching us for a couple of minutes before leaving it to itself.

And then, we were in Melide.

Or rather, the village of Furelos, which has been consumed by the town. There, we saw a beautiful medieval bridge.

Before crossing it, we had lunch in a little café-bar called the Mesón A Ponte. It was a neat place – the seats were on the ground floor and the bar on the first. If I remember correctly, swords were mounted on the wall. You’ll never go wrong at a place with mounted swords; unless, of course, they are taken down and used against you. In this day and age, though, that can be considered to be very unlucky.

By now, Lilian had rejoined us. After lunch, she went on her way again. We crossed the bridge and walked through Furelos. I wish we had stayed here – with its old brick buildings and tight roads it was an ideal place to stop at.

We kept going, though, into the town, up a road and round a corner and then a few more before coming to the apartment which we had booked for the night.

We arrived at it a few minutes early so wandered into an ice cream parlour for a little treat. After meeting the owner of the flat and taking the keys, we relaxed. We washed our clothes. There was no drying machine but the flat did abut a single room that was accessible only from the ground floor flat (we were on the top and first floor). Windows made it as warm as an airing cupboard, so we put our clothes on the window sill and hoped a. that they would dry by tomorrow and b. that they wouldn’t fall to the floor below. They dried, kind of, but fortunately, did not fall down.

In the evening, the three of us watched a Spanish drama on TV. I say drama but unfortunately the language barrier caused any dramatics to be lost on us. The fact that a good forty-five minutes of the programme was spent with the characters sitting round a table and eating dinner did not help either.

During the whole of the Camino, we saw relatively little television – none in the albergues and a restricted amount in the hotels and apartments. What we did see, though, was dominated by another programme. I shall come back to it when we arrive in Santiago…

We saw a watchful kitty