Camino de Santiago - French Way - Stage 31, page 2
Palas de Rei to Arzúa
Total distance - 31.7 km
Also in the Plaza del Convento you will find the 17th century Casa del Ayuntamiento which used to be a Pazo or noble house belonging to the Segade family. Because of its location it is believed to be one of the most beautiful council offices to be found in the whole of Spain.
Right next to the Casa del Ayuntamiento is the Obra Pía de Santo Antón a small chapel constructed in 1671 and believed to have been built by the architect who designed and built the cathedral in Santiago, Domingo de Andrade. The construction was paid for by Archbishop Antonio Segade who had made his fortune in Mexico.
Now if you are hungry and you like octopus, then Melide is the place to find it. There are a number of pulperias, restaurants that specialise in Pulpo a la feria, where the octopus is cooked in large copper cauldrons and served on wooden platters sprinkled with paprika and olive oil, best enjoyed with a cold glass of Albariño or Ribeiro, the wines made in Galicia. If octopus is not your thing then there are plenty of other places to eat especially the cake shops, as Melide also has a reputation for marvellous sweet cakes.
Accommodation can be found at an albergue and 4 hostals.
As you leave town you will pass by the 12th century Iglesia de Santa Maria de Melide with its impressive stone altar and beautiful frescoes on the ceiling, well worth a visit. Soon after you will pass through the hamlet of Santa Maria where there is a shop and a bar.
From here pretty much all the way to Santiago you will wind your way in and out of pine and eucalyptus forest. If you are undertaking your Camino in summer these forests will offer you well needed shade, but as you walk through take the time to take in the lovely scent given off by the trees, it's one of things I look forward to when I plan my visits to Galicia.
The gravel path here runs parallel to the main road and passes through the hamlets of Carballal, Raído, Parabispo and A Peroxa before reaching Boente.
In Boente you will find the Iglesia de Santiago with its two statues of Santiago, one in his guise as a pilgrim and the other as Santiago Matamoros as well as a welcome fountain. In terms of accommodation there is a small albergue in the village that also provides food.
The path now continues towards the Rio Boente and under the main road crossing the river and then climbing up towards the village of Castañeda.
You may remember back when we were in Triacastela we mentioned that pilgrims would pick up limestone from the quarries and take it along with them to the lime kilns of Castañeda as a way in which to help build and maintain the cathedral at Santiago. Well we have finally reached their destination but unfortunately nothing remains of the kilns.
Accommodation here can be found at either the very small albergue who also provide meals or at a casa rural.
From Castañeda the route passes through the hamlets of Pedrido and Rio across a bridge and into the eucalyptus woods, again crossing the Río Iso before entering the village of Ribadiso do Baixo.
The albergue in Ribadiso do Baixo has recently been restored and is situated in a lovely spot next to the river. In medieval times it had been the Hospital de St Antón and is said to be the oldest pilgrim hospital on the Camino still being used. For refreshments there is a bar and restaurant close to the albergue.
From Ribadiso do Baixo follow the road uphill through the suburbs of Arzúa. Be mindful that there are other markers dotted around here, usually dabs of yellow and white paint. These are not Camino markers but those for senderismo or walking markers for a particular country walk. The Camino is still marked with either the yellow arrows or the stone way markers. After about 3 kilometres from Ribadiso do Baixo you will enter the large town of Arzúa. Arzúa will be the last major town you pass through before you reach Santiago de Compostela.
Arzúa's origins are intimately linked with the Camino de Santiago and the village grew rapidly during the 11th century at the height of the Camino's prominence during the Middle Ages. There is however archaeological evidence that this area was inhabited much earlier. Like Melide before it Arzúa is the point where two Caminos join. Here it is the Camino Frances and the Camino del Norte.
There are a number of churches to be found in the locality which link directly to the town's association with the Camino one of them, the 14th century Capilla de la Magdalena is all that is left of a former Augustinian monastery.
Arzúa also has a number of Pazos or former noble houses and one of them, the Pazo de Brandeso built in 1554, was used by the famous Galician writer Ramón María del Valle Inclán as the setting for the romance between Concha and Brandomín in his novel Sonata de Otoño (Autumn Sonata).
Arzúa's other claim to fame is its cheese the Queixo Arzúa-Ulloa, a smooth creamy cheese made from cows milk similar to that of the Queso Tetilla. Every year since 1975 the town has played host to a cheese festival (Fiera do Queixo) during the first weekend of March, unless it clashes with other celebrations when it is then held on the second weekend of March.
Accommodation can be found at one of six albergues some of which provide either food or cooking facilities along with internet access if so required. There are also four hostals to choose from if the albergues are full.