13. Samos to Melide 75.90 km

The area around Samos is of great scenic beauty. Rocks covered with greenery to the left, a river to the right. For the first 2.50 kilometres you cycle at the bottom of a gorge and then you get into the open countryside. About the same time, it starts getting hilly and you are on the point of discovering the unique property of Galicia that makes cycling here very challenging – never-ending hills. Galicia is exceptional, as are those hills. The point is that after the ascent there is no descent. The lie of the land belies both principles of physics and common sense. As you get closer to Sarria, this unique property of Galicia starts to slowly show up.

Samos to Sarria
Samos to Sarria

After about 10.30 km you will enter Sarria. If you don’t wish to visit Sarria, in the city, just keep going straight on until you see signposts on your left indicating Camino de Santiago, with an image of a car and “Pradela, Portomarin” written underneath. Turn left towards Portomarin as they indicate.

Sarria
The Camino in Sarria Copyright OpenStreetMap Contributors

If you do – when you pass mini-roundabout turn left onto the second street on the left (the first street with the Camino for walkers’ signpost is a one-way street). In the town follow the Camino waymarking for cyclists. Minute later you will find yourself on Rua Pelegrino. If you continue cycling along Rua Pelegrino, you get to the centre of Sarria. Cross the river, then turn right and take the second street on the left. Pass the ruins of the castle and minute later you will stand in front of the 14th century Iglesia de San Salvator. Partially cobbled street in front of you is Rua Maior. Dismount from the bike as the road is closed to traffic. To get to the monastery or exit the town turn left by the Iglesia de San Salvador following the Camino waymarking. Do not cross the footbridge and cycle straight instead. When you get to the other end of LU-633 cycle towards Paradela and Portomarin.

Sarria (481m; 13 km14 km to Paradela) is a rather busy town that was, through the centuries, a favourite of the Counts of Lemos. They considered the local castle their major seat. The castle was obliterated in the 15th century, then rebuilt and finally dismantled in the 19th century. Today only one tower remains. From the very beginning, Sarria was closely linked to the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

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Sarria Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

The Camino goes through the above-mentioned cobbled street since the Middle Ages. Houses of the local noble families sit along it. On the highest point of the street, just below the castle tower, there is the humble 14th century Iglesia de San Salvator with a Romanesque apse. Possibly the first hospice for pilgrims was the one founded in what is today the Convento de la Magdalena. Around the year 1200, Italian pilgrims made a request to the bishop of Lugo to establish a hospice for those going to Santiago. It was granted, and the Italian pilgrims received traveling pilgrims and led a monastic life according to the Rule of Saint Augustine. In the 16th century, the order disappeared, and the monastery was taken over by the Augustans. Monks continue the tradition of taking care of the pilgrims and today the monastery belongs to the Mercedarians who are, not accidentally, another order living according to the Rule of Saint Augustine. The Monastery contains some Romanesque elements but is mostly Gothic and Renaissance. The façade is Plateresque (late Gothic). The Mercedarians safeguard the tradition of caring for pilgrims and running the albergue. It might be a good place to stay for the night as it is far from the madding crowd:

Albergue Monasterio de la Magdalena, 110 beds, opens mid-March to the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

Sarria is a starting point for many pilgrims because it lies a bit more than 100 km before Santiago, which is the minimum distance for walkers to receive a compostela.

The town is full of pilgrims and runs 19 albergues to give an idea of how busy it is. It is worth adding that some of the albergues accept tourists as well. I clearly remember the one and only time I stayed in Sarria for the night. People were coming into the albergue at various times during the night, chirpily discussing the events of the last evening. There were double “rooms” and I shared one of them with an unknown Spanish guy. During the night he got violent diarrhoea. Was it the paella he ate in the evening or the excitement before his first day of Camino? – It is hard to say. Sadly, I know all of this not because he shared information about his health problems with me. No, rather because the acoustics in this particular albergue was phenomenal. Lying in my bed during that long sleepless night I was thinking that if they had a choir in Sarria they should rehearse here. In the morning I left without wishing “Buen Camino” to anybody. Just to make a point.

I list the albergues as you go past them. When you enter the city, at the first roundabout, turn right towards Camino Santiago de Tricastela:

Albergue Oasis, 27 beds, opens from March to October, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

Albergue A Pedra, 15 beds, opens from March to November, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

If you stay on the LU-633 (Rua Calvo Sotelo), on your right, opposite Cruz Roja and very close to the roundabout:

Albergue Alma do Camiño, 96 beds, opens from 1ST March until the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 9 Euros

Following the Camino waymarking in Sarria – on Rua do Pelegrino:

Albergue Credencial, 28 beds, open all year round, heating, 9 Euros

Albergue Puente Ribeira, 42 beds, opens from February to the end of October, heating, microwave, 9-10 Euros

On Rua Conde de Lemos:

Albergue Matías, 40 beds, opens from mid-March until mid-November, heating, no designated safe space for bikes, 10 Euros

Albergue Dos Oito Marabedís, 24 beds, opens from May to October, a kitchen, 9 – 10 Euros

On Rua Castello; pass the castle, the albergue is on your right:

Albergue Barbacoa del Camino, 18 beds, opens from March to the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 9 – 10 Euros

On the (partially) cobbled Rua Mayor; turn right for the first albergue and for the rest turn left, towards the bars and restaurants:

Albergue Don Álvaro, 40 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, 9 Euros

Albergue de Peregrinos de Sarria, 40 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, no designated safe space for bikes, 6 Euros

Albergue Los Blasones, 42 beds, opens from March to November, heating, a kitchen, 8 Euros

Albergue O Durmiñento, 41 beds, opens from March to December, heating, no designated safe space for bikes, 10 Euros

Albergue Obradoiro, 28 beds, opens from Holy Week to the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 8 Euros

Albergue Internacional Sarria, 44 beds, open all year round except in wintertime, 10 Euros

Albergue Mayor, 16 beds, opens from April to the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

On Rua Escalinata Maior, close to Albergue Mayor:

Albergue Casa Peltre, 22 beds, opens from the beginning of March to the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

On Rua San Lazaro, which is the exit:

Albergue San Lázaro, 30 beds, opens from April to the end of October, heating, 10 Euros

Albergue La Casona de Sarria, 30 beds, open all year round, heating, 10 Euros

If Sarria will drive you to despair cycle another 5 km to the albergue in the countryside (54th kilometre of LU-633), but call first to check if they are open 698 129 000 – 982 533 656:

Albergue Granxa de Barreiros, 50 beds, heating, a kitchen, 10 – 18 Euros

Sarria to Paradela
Sarria to Paradela Copyright OpenStreetMap Contributors

Cycle the LU-633 in the direction of Paradela and Portomarin. The road goes up, down a little, up and up and up again. This part of the Camino gives you the correct idea what cycling in Galicia is all about. It is tiring and doesn’t give you immediate satisfaction, because after the ascent there is not the expected descent. The reward only comes much later when you stand on Monte del Gozo looking at the Cathedral in Santiago.

Sarria to Paradela Elevetion.PNG
Sarria to Paradela

Galicia was always kind to me and never treated me with rain. However, it mainly rains in Galicia and that’s why it is so amazingly green. In the morning more often than not there is fog so thick that it would make London blush. The fog makes Galicia look like a world from a fantasy novel, completely unreal and fabulous. Visibility is limited to about 10 meters, so while enjoying this spectacle of nature remember to wear something fluorescent and waterproof because, after 5 minutes of cycling in fog, streams of ice-cold water will flow down your clothes.

After 14 kilometres you enter Paradela. Paradela (607m; 27 km10 km to Portomarin) is a small town that bears the cross of Saint James on its coats of arms. The Parish church of Saint Michael is late 11th or early 12th century and has an interesting Romanesque arch inside. According to local legend, a pregnant woman who rings a bell in the church will have an easy labour. There are two bars in Paradela, one by the petrol station and the other on the hill. Outside Paradela the road climbs up for a while but soon you will have the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful six kilometres long descent, the last proper one before Santiago de Compostela. 10 km from Paradela you will enter Portomarin. The best view over the town is from the bridge.

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The Church of Saint Nicolas (aka Saint John), an early 13th century single-nave Romanesque temple that also served as a fortress, Portomarin Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

Portomarin (406m; 37 km7.40 km to Gonzar) is situated on the banks of the Mino, one of the main Galician rivers whose source is in Sierra de Meira (Lugo province) and flows into the Atlantic Ocean in Portugal. The Mino flows through Ribeiro, a region famous for its white wine. However, looking from the bridge in Portomarin at the brooklet below (in the summertime the level of the river is really low) it’s hard to guess that you’re dealing with a mighty river that waters cultivated areas and provides hydroelectricity for Spain and Portugal. In 1963 water reservoir 50 kilometres long was built between the municipalities of Portomarin and Chantada that changed the area forever.

Encoro de Belesar (Belesar reservoir) was a symbol of the power and strength of Franco’s dictatorship. Political prisoners were exploited to build the dam. Propaganda highlighted the fact that it is one of the largest water reservoirs in Europe, made to the most modern project of the 1960s. The press called the dam “Pride of Spain”. Five thousand people had to be evicted from their homes to build the dam. Their fertile land went for a song as a wasteland. The inhabitants of the villages flooded by water never had a chance to speak up and nobody defended them. It took forty years to make a documentary to let the people tell their stories about the human cost of building a dam in Belesar.

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Mist-covered Portomarin, When Belesar reservoir was built the most important buildings in Portomarin were moved to a new location at the top of the hill and the old town was flooded in 1963 Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

When Belesar reservoir was built Portomarin was flooded by the water. Originally the town was set on the two banks of the river with Iglesia de San Pedro (Saint Peter) on the left and Iglesia de San Juan (Saint John), aka Nicolas, on the right bank of the river Mino. The bridge over the river, built in Roman times, made Portomarin a strategically very important place, guarded by the military orders; first the Order of Santiago, then the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. The bridge was destroyed and rebuilt numerous times and you can still see its remains if the level of the river is low. Portomarin was thriving until the beginning of the 19th century when nearby Lugo became the most significant town in the area. When Belesar reservoir was built the most important buildings in Portomarin were moved to a new location at the top of the hill and the old town was flooded in 1963.

The Church of Saint Nicolas (aka Saint John) is an early 13th-century single-nave Romanesque temple that also served as a fortress. It has four fortified towers connected by walkways and its top is finished off with merlons. The Church belonged to the military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. It was moved from its original location and today it towers over the town. Its main portal is clearly inspired by the Portico de la Gloria (Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela) and presents Christ in a mandorla surrounded by 24 old men of the Apocalypse. Above the portal, there is a rose window inscribed within an arch. Its North tympanum contains a rather original interpretation of the Annunciation with an angel decisively pointing his finger towards a scared-looking Virgin Mary. In its capital is a charming deception of the harpies (mythical nasty creatures in the shape of half-man and half-bird). The South tympanum presents Saint Nicolas, the patron saint of the church. And even more harpies. The Church is barrel-vaulted inside.

The other Romanesque Church of Saint Peter is situated at the other end of the town. At the town entrance, there is a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Today it is placed at the top of the stairs, while originally it was set in the middle of the old bridge.

Portomarin is easy to navigate as it was built from scratch 40 years ago. At the roundabout turn right as signs for Portomarin and “Iglesia romanica de San Nicolas” point out. Cycle up the hill and then turn left towards the town centre. You are on the main street with the Romanesque Church of Saint Nicolas on the right; shops and restaurants are there too. You will find even more shops on the parallel street.

The albergue municipal and private one is on your left, so is the church of Saint Peter. Two private albergues are at the other end of the main street, so go past the church and cycle down the hill. If you don’t wish to stay in the town just continue past the albergues and minutes later you will find yourself on the LU-633. However, if you want to have a sleepover it is a good choice because Portomarin is a brilliant place to stay for the night:

Albergue de Portomarin, 110 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, 6 Euros

Albergue Casa do Marabillas, 21 beds, opens from March until the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 15 Euros (breakfast included)

The two private albergues are situated one opposite the other on Rua da Deputacion, a street that goes up the hill by the church square:

Albergue PortoSantiago, 14 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

Albergue Ultreia, 23 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

There are two albergues on Calle Benigno Quiroga, several dozen meters from the Ultreia:

Albergue Novo Porto, 22 beds, opens from the beginning of March to the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

Albergue Casa Cruz, 16 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros
By the Guardia Civil barracks:

Albergue Aqua Portomarín, 16 beds, opens from March to November, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

On the main street:

Albergue Pasiño a Pasiño, 30 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros
At the other end of the main street is:

Albergue Ferramenteiro, 130 beds, opens from mid-March to mid-October, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

In the same area, on the way out of Portomarin:

Albergue Folgueira, 32 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

The hotel with a pilgrim’s hostel situated on Rua de Peregrino, turn right after the O’Mirador restaurant:

Albergue Villamartín (the albergue is part of the hotel), 20 beds, opens from late April to late October, a kitchen, 10 Euros

There are two more albergues in town:

Albergue El Caminante, 12 beds, opens from April to 30th October, heating, 10 Euros

Albergue Manuel, 16 beds, opens from the beginning of April to the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

In my notepad kept on the way I wrote about the road between Portomarin and Ventas de Naron as –

typical knackering Galicia

For centuries the area was known as challenging to walk or ride in – suffice to say that in the 15th century out of concern for pilgrims, one of the kings gave royal tax back to Portomarin to maintain the hospice, church and road. Now Galicia is going to show you its true colours.

Portomarin to Lameiros
Portomarin to Lameiros

Stay on the LU-633 in the direction of Ventas de Naron and Santiago. After about 3 km you will see the Camino path on the right. You can stay on the road or cycle the Camino; just to let you know that there is some off-road cycling planned for today anyway. At a village called Toxibo turn left, the Camino goes through the forest parallel to the road, when it comes back to the road choose which one you like. 7.40 kilometres from Portomarin you reach Gonzar (555m; 44.40 km1.20 to Castromaior), a village with two albergues and a non-expensive bar serving food and drinks.

Albergue de Gonzar, 28 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, outdoor bike docks, 6 Euros

Albergue Casa García, 40 beds, opens from Holy Week to the end of November, 10 Euros

Galicia is one and only, but knowing how different it is I was pretty surprised by all the good words that Aymeric just for a change had for this province–

(…) Galicia, well-wooded and well-watered region with rivers and meadows and fine orchards, excellent fruit and clear springs (…) The country is rich in gold, silver, cloths, as well as precious Saracen wares.

Although my 12th-century role model wouldn’t be himself if he hadn’t added at the very end

The Galician’s are more like our French people in their customs than any other of the uncultivated races of Spain, but they have the reputation of being violent-tempered and quarrelsome.

In Gonzar switch to the Camino track, after 1.20 km you will get to Castromaior (593m; 45.60 km2.50 to Hospital de la Cruz), a typical Galician stony village

Albergue Ortiz, 18 beds, open all year round, heating, 10 Euros

and 2.50 km later you reach Hospital de la Cruz (677m; 48.10 km1.40 to Ventas de Naron); whose name suggests that the village was built up around a pilgrim’s hospice:

Albergue de Hospital da Cruz, 32 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, no designated space for bikes, 6 Euros

As you leave the village, at the roundabout, head for Ventas and almost immediately turn right as the Camino arrows indicate. After 1.40 km you will pass Ventas de Naron (705m; 49.50 km3 km to Ligonde), a small village that used to run a hospice in the 13th century. The only remaining part is a chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene. Today there are two bars/albergues:

Albergue Casa Molar, 22 beds, opens from the beginning of March to the end of October, 10 Euros

Albergue O Cruceiro, 26 beds, opens from the beginning of March to the end of October, heating, 10 Euros

The local tarmac road from Ventas de Naron to Ligonde is rather narrow; there is a green hill to your left and a coniferous forest on your right. You are travelling through picturesque Sierra de Ligonde. This time after the ascent there is a very pleasant descent. When you pass the tiny hamlet of Lameiros, you will see a stone cross on your left, considered the most famous on the Camino Frances. It depicts the Virgin and Child on one side and the Passion and Our Lady of Sorrows on the other. The depiction of Mary as a mother looks almost as if was worked by a 20th-century sculptor. Cruceiro de Lameiros was founded in the 17th century by Ulloa – the famous medieval noble family from Galicia. The family ruled this part of Galicia – their coats of arms decorate two houses in the villages on the Camino. 3 km from Ventas de Naron you will go past Ligonde (630m; 52.50 km1.20 km to Eirexe), a village that had two Kings staying in the 16th century:

Albergue Fuente del Peregrino, 20 beds, opens from May to October, shared dinner/breakfast, donation

Albergue Escuela de Ligonde, 20 beds, open all year round, heating, 8 Euros

The next village on the neighbouring hill is called Eirexe/Airexe (627m; 53.70 km2.20 km to Portos), which means church in Galician and indeed there is a church there dedicated to Saint James. The village runs a hostel for pilgrims since the 18th century and still has beds on offer for weary travellers:

Albergue de Airexe, 20 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, outdoors bike docks, 6 Euros

Albergue privado de Eirexe, 6 beds, opens from Holy Week to the end of October, heating, 10 Euros

At the very end of the village, there are two bars serving food by the albergue municipal.

The road to Palas de Rei (7.80 km) is nice and easy for a change. You will cycle on a narrow tarmac road amongst the greenery. On your way you will see the tiny settlement of Portos (584m; 55.90 km5.60 km to Palas de Rei) with a bar/albergue:

Albergue A Paso de Formiga, 12 beds, opens from Holy Week to the end of October, heating, 10 Euros

Albergue A Calzada, 10 beds, opens from April to the end of September, no designated space for bikes, 10 Euros

Lestedo to Palas del Rei
Lestedo to Palas del Rei Copyright OpenStreetMap Contributors

Pass through the village Lestedo with its church dedicated to Saint James, A Brea, with a nice bar; now the Camino runs parallel to the N – 547 and in the village of O Rosario turns away from the main road to the left. After climbing to Alto do Rosario (apparently on the bright day you can see Pico Sacro, the mountain that overlooks Santiago from here) the track descends to Palas de Rei, passing an albergue about 1 km before the town:

Albergue Os Chacotes, 110 beds, open all year round, heating, kitchen and outdoor space for bikes, 6 Euros

When you get to Palas del Rei, the arrows will direct you to the church; because of steps, get back on the tarmac road and go downhill and when you reach the street turn right and around 100 meters later turn left. You are cycling on Avenida Compostela, the main street of Palas del Rei; on your right, there is a stone cross, the white building of the city hall and a market square, on your left another albergue municipal:

Albergue de Palas de Rei, 60 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, 6 Euros

Palas de Rei (560m; 61.50 km3.20 km to San Xulien do Camino) takes its name from the palace that the Visigoth King of Hispania Witiza, built here in the 8th century. On this site, the king killed Fafila, father of Pelagius and founder of the Kingdom of Asturias. Witiza was a pretty shady character, but the town he founded became an integral part of the Way of Saint James. Aymeric mentions the town in his 12th-century guidebook. The local Church of San Tirso has a 12th-century portal. The parish priest likes pilgrims very much and keeps a pilgrims’ book.

Camino in Palas del Rei
The Camino in Palas de Rei Copyright OpenStreetMap Contributors

When you get from gravel road to the tarmac road turn left onto the first street (Rua de Paz):

Albergue Mesón de Benito, 100 beds, opens from April to October, heating, 10 Euros

Get to the end of the street and turn left onto Avenida Ourense:

Albergue Castro, 56 beds, open all year round, heating, 10 Euros

Keep cycling Avenida Ourense for about 300 meters:

Albergue Zendoira, 62 beds, opens from the beginning of March until the end of October, heating, a kitchen, free bike wash, 10 Euros

By the church:

Albergue San Marcos, 71 beds, opens from March to 6th December, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

Next door to the city hall:

Albergue Buen Camino, 41 beds, opens from Holy Week to late October, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

At the church turn left:

Albergue Outeiro, 50 beds, opens from March to the end of October, a kitchen, 10 Euros

On the Camino on the way out of town:

Albergue A Casina di Marcello, 17 beds, opens from April to mid-November, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

If you are very, very tired cycle the N-547 to Melide but if you are still ok take the Camino, which although challenging is truly amazing. You are going to cycle through an enchanted forest, at the bottom of a ravine, on a golden sandy track and on huge rocks. The greenery makes a marquee above your head. In earlier parts of this guidebook I describe monuments, but in Galicia, I should probably rather describe the lushness of nature.

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Palas del Rei to San Xulien do Camino Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

Leave Palas del Rei by the main road. The Camino track branches off the main road to the right three times and comes back again. Stay on the road until you see the Camino on your left going along the main road. Follow the arrows and at the car park leave the N-547 for good (2 km from Palas del Rei). After a very pleasant descent, you will arrive in San Xulien do Camino (476m; 64.70 km2 km to Casanova), a tiny village that took its name from the medieval hero, Patron Saint of Travellers and Hostel Keepers – Saint Julian the Hospitaller. In the Middle Ages, this popular saint left his parents’ house as a young man and settled somewhere in Galicia. He actually ran away from his family because he was told that a spell had been put on him that would make him kill his parents. He married and led a happy life. Years later his parents managed to find his house. His wife took them in and gave them the marital bed to sleep in. Julien was hunting on that day and didn’t know about his parents’ visit. When he came home and saw two people sleeping in his bed, thinking that it must be his wife and her lover, he killed both. To make atonement for his sins he went on a pilgrimage to Rome. He spent the rest of his life building and running hospitals and houses for those in need. The killer-turned-saint became a very popular character in iconography and literature.

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San Xulien do Camino, A typical Galician village on the Way of Saint James Below: Typical Galician landscape Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

San Xulian do Camino is a typical Galician village on the Way of Saint James. You have everything here – crumbling houses covered in greenery, cobbled streets covered with cowpats, horreos (a granary sitting on stone or wooden legs to save its contents from pests; typical of Galicia and Asturias and performing well since the 13th century; if something works why change it?), a stone cross, the church and cemetery at the very centre of the village as well as albergues:

Albergue O Abrigadoiro, 18 beds, opens a week before Holy Week to the end of October, heating, 12 Euros

1 km further you will reach Ponte Campana with a pleasant albergue made from an old stone farmhouse:

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Albergue Casa Domingo
, 18 beds, opens from Holy Week to the end of October, heating, 10 Euros

The route to the next village is a bit difficult as you have to cycle on the huge rocks. One kilometre further and you reach Casanova (475m; 66.70 km3 km to O’Coto) with the albergue municipal:

Albergue de Mato Casanova, 20 beds, open all year round, heating, kitchen, 6 Euros

Cycling on the tarmac road, pass in front of the albergue and then turn left onto the field track as indicated by the arrow. 236Make a pleasant descent on the forest track then cycle on the flat surface and up a hill again (about 1 km) finally switching to the tarmac road. 3 km from Casanova in O’Coto (481m; 69.70 km0.70 km to Leboreiro) you will find three pleasant bars/restaurants.

You have just officially left the Galician province of Lugo and entered A Coruna. Turn left onto a field track and minutes later you will enter Leboreiro.

Leboreiro (450m; 70.40 km3.80 to Furelos) is one of a kind. The church, built in the 13th century and later remodelled, has 15th-century frescos to the left as you enter and a statue of the Virgin Mary to the right. Opposite the church, there is a cabazo, a small thatched granary made for keeping corn and an ancient pilgrim’s hospice displaying the Ulloa family coat of arms. That’s not everything of course; the church has its legend. One day water started flowing from a nearby fountain. It emitted a beautiful smell during the day and light at night. Villagers started to dig the ground around the fountain and found a statue of the Virgin Mary. The statue was placed in the local church but amazingly disappeared only to be found again close to the fountain.

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The Church of Saint Mary, Statue of the Virgin Mary is alleged to leave sometimes the church during the night to comb her hair over the fountain, Leboreiro Above: Enchanted forest, San Xulien do Camino to Furelos Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

It has happened numerous times and frankly I find the attitude of the statue completely understandable because normally if this kind of miracle happens the cult is thriving, a shrine is built, the pilgrimages are organized, and it is nothing like ‘let’s leave the statue in the church and that’s it’. So, the statue was found next to the fountain day after day until the local church was given a patronage of the Virgin Mary and her image was carved in the tympanum. Under these circumstances, the statue of the Virgin Mary decided to stay put in the church, although she is alleged to leave sometimes during the night to comb her hair over the fountain.

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Palas del Rei to Melide Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

From Leboreiro to Furelos there is a pleasant track made for the pilgrims. 3.80 km further on you will enter Furelos (415m; 74.20 km1.70 km to Melide) by a medieval stone bridge; a village with cobbled streets and the Church of Saint John. In the past the village provided accommodation for pilgrims, today there is a bar with hot and cold drinks.

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Furelos, A small town by a medieval stone bridge Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

The trail now goes through side roads to the centre of Melide. When you reach the main road (Pulperia Garnacha and Ezequel to your left) keep going straight and after passing the church (Iglesia de San Pedro) on the left, at the next roundabout turn left then immediately right and left again. A small street leads to the square that is the historical centre of Melide with its city hall and churches.

Melide (453m; 75.90 km5.50 km to Boente) was given to the Archbishop of Santiago in the 13th century.

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Historical centre, in the background the Sancti Spiriti convent church, for centuries belonging to the Franciscan Order, Melide Below: Oratorio de San Antonio and the City hall Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

In 1320 the town asked his permission to erect a castle and city walls. Both were built only to revolt against the Archbishop a century later. In the aftermath of the rebellion the castle and city walls were destroyed and Catholic Monarchs, obviously not trusting the citizens, categorically forbade rebuilding them. From the hill where the castle used to stand there is a pleasant view over the town. The stones from the destroyed castle were used to build the Sancti Spiriti convent church, for centuries belonging to the Franciscan Order, nowadays part of the historical centre of Melide. 243The church was erected in the 14th century, rebuilt in the 15th and again in the 18th. The main altar is Baroque, there are numerous Gothic tombs and the wall paintings are the 16th century. The other chapel on the same square is dedicated to Saint Anthony (Oratorio de San Antonio, 17th century). Both churches are worth visiting, perhaps not because of their artistic value but rather the unusual peace they hold inside. The building next to the chapel is a 17th century Palace, today occupied by the city hall and the old pilgrim’s hospital is nowadays a museum of the Melide district. Not far away on the Camino, there is the above-mentioned Church of Saint Peter (Iglesia de San Pedro) with its Romanesque portal taken from a different location. By the church is a 14th-century first-class cross, one of the oldest in Galicia and the pride and joy of Melide. O cruceiro on one side depicts a seated God the Father and on the other, the Crucifixion.

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The Galician speciality – Pulpo a la Gallega, Ezequiel, Melide Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

Melide is the best place to try the Galician speciality – Pulpo a la Gallega. I have to admit that I love it. Pulpo a la Gallega is boiled octopus garnished with paprika, rock salt and olive oil. It tastes best when it’s served with boiled potatoes and a glass (or bowl) of the Galician white wine like Ribeiro or Albarino. If you go to a ‘pulperia’, restaurant/diner that specializes in octopus when ordering specify that you would like potatoes (patatas) as well. The dish is very filling, so if you are two, you might start with one portion. There are many restaurants that do Pulpo a la Gallega in Melide, but at the forefront are two – Ezequiel and La Garnacha. One is close to the other and directions to get there are given above. Personally, I always went to the first one, but my Spanish friends said that the second one was less commercial. So last time I gave it a try. They were right. Take a look inside both and decide which one you prefer. If you visit Melide just for the day, check if you can leave your bike inside the pulperia (I did, following Spanish cyclists’ example).

Every year the town of Melide honours its artisans and their confectionery products in a festival that falls on the second Sunday in May. The municipality specializes in three: amendoados (round almond pastries), melindres (sugar-coated pastries) and ricos (longitudinal biscuits with aniseed).

When I stayed in Melide in the Jacobean Holy Year, my bicycle along with 6 or 7 others was damaged by vandals. The tyres of all the bikes were punctured with a knife in a way that we all needed new ones. The case was reported to the police; in the meantime, the owner of the bicycle shop came to our albergue and organized everything for us as quickly and cheaply as possible. The hospitaliera was surprised while the owner of one of the local businesses was not, saying that it had happened before. Sitting outside the albergue municipal and looking grimly at my damaged bike I thought about my favourite guidebook author who, 900 years earlier, was in a similar situation when he was forced to observe an evil Navarre’s man skinning his horse. Our setback wouldn’t have happened if there had been space for the bikes inside; sadly, in this albergue municipal bikes have to be left outside unlocked, “because loose boxes (belonging to the albergue) are for the pilgrims on horses”. Information that there are no pilgrims on horses made no impression on the hospitaliera. Anyway, I stayed in that albergue again, which by the way is spacious and friendly, but I paid the owner of the albergue next door to keep my bike inside.

Close to the historical centre of Melide, on Rua San Antonio that branches off from the main square:

Albergue San Antón, 36 beds, opens from March to the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 10 – 12 Euros

Albergue Vilela, 28 beds, opens from late March to the end of October, a kitchen, 10 Euros

Albergue de Melide, 156 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, bikes are left on stands outside, 6 Euros

Albergue O Apalpador, 30 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

650 meters behind the historical centre. Turn right onto the first street called Avenida Toques y Friol, Albergue is at number 52:

Albergue Alfonso II El Casto, 34 beds, opens from April to the end of October, heating, microwave, 10 Euros

By the roundabout:

Albergue O Cruceiro, 72 beds, opens from the beginning of March to the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

Albergue Arraigos, 20 beds, open all year round, heating, microwave, 10 Euros

At the roundabout go straight on, the albergue will be on the left 200 meters further:

Albergue Pereiro, 45 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

And the next one 200 meters further. On the right just for a change:

Albergue Montoto, 52 beds, opens from Holy Week to the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 12 Euros

On the main road, not in the direction of the centre but towards Palas del Rei, on the right:

Albergue Melide, 42 beds, opens from Holy Week to the end of October, heating, 10 Euros