The End of the R19

Day 11 | Arcade to Combarro

Last night’s supper was superb. We walked along the water, stopped for a cold drink before seeking a restaurant. We found one in a little back street which according to Google had reasonable reviews. We asked if we could eat now (7.00pm is early for dinner in Spain)… yes yes of course came the reply and we were escorted inside. The lady of the house spoke only Spanish but somehow we conversed… if Gerry’s mum had a Spanish counterpart, this senora would have been her… oh she was wonderful.

Her husband also had a birthday today but he was 78… she said Gerry was just a baby. She took his hand and showed him the fresh crab, just delivered and together they choose one. He ordered fresh oysters to start, followed by crab… and a bottle of local white wine. Senora was suitably impressed with his choice. I ordered steak… she seemed OK with that too.

The food was excellent. Gerry was given a lesson eating crab. Covid rules were kind of thrown out the window as she got up close and personal showing him how to find the best of the crab. She was fabulous and we loved her for making our meal so great. My steak was huge and I left some. She thought it was because it was under cooked and took it away to cook it some more… so I felt obliged to eat some more. But Gerry had finished so I handed him my plate and he finished the steak and the chips… although senora did catch him… but seemed to approve nonetheless.

She asked if we wanted pudding. For me, she said nada… nothing that was gluten free but for Gerry there was a list but he was so full he just couldn’t. Instead we had coffee and asked for the bill. She bade us farewell as if we were old friends and we walked back to the hotel full, slightly tipsy and happy happy pilgrims.

We’d planned breakfast in our hotel but it was going to be late at 8.30am. We had a longish day ahead so decided to start walking. As soon as we reached the main road we realised we had a big choice so we stopped at the first one and ordered coffee. There were no gluten free options but I had a few snacks so munched on those and Gerry was presented with a plate of cake and croissant… free for every cup of coffee. We listened to the 80s playlist on the radio, singing along to “500 miles” by the proclaimers and “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia… Gerry wanted to wait and see if “99 Red Ballons” would come on but we had to go.

To keep him happy on his birthdays we sang it as we left town. We crossed the famous medieval Ponte Sampaio Bridge and ooohed and aaahed at the pink sky and the reflections. Gerry likes to check for fish when we cross a bridge and today… well anyone would think it was his birthday. Fish jumped all around and as he looked, processions of fish swam under the bridge. Indeed as we walked across the bridge the water was literally bubbling with fish. We have no idea why but it would have been a good catch today.

Onwards we headed, through the tiny narrow village streets and off into open countryside. I remember this walk from 2019. It had been glorious. The same apricot sky and cool morning air greeted me as I walked. Today autumn was far less advanced but Gerry took more pleasure in the stones under our feet. Since Ponte de Lima we’d seen reference to the Rua Hispanuca XIX… he’s been calling it the R19 for ages. Today we walked for many kilometers along the old stones and marvelled at the Roman engineering. We stopped for a break partway along and looked it up… it seems to have come up from Seville and Merida to Braga and was heading to Iria Flavia and Padron before diverting to Astorga. So many cities that I’ve walked through… so much history. But for us though we were heading to Pontevedra.

We made great time and reached town before midday. We had planned a simple lunch in the old town before heading off again. I knew just the spot but it’s hard navigating your way around an old town where all the narrow streets look the same. Gerry was about to lose patience with me and take command but luckily I found it… a pretty tree filled square full of little bars, cafes, restaurants and people. Today was market day so it was busy… and noisy with all the chatter and greetings. Everyone is wearing a mask but it really feels like life is returning to normal. It was good to sit in the dappled shade of a large maple tree and just watch the scene unfold. We ordered a ration of tortilla and some more padron peppers… and cold drinks. It was perfect. These last few days have been wonderful and our doubts about walking inland have long since disappeared. We ate and watched and chatted and made plans, drank coffee and just enjoyed the warm sunny Saturday feeling. But we had to go. We had a date to keep.

A few kilometres out of Pontevedra the road splits. You can continue on the Santiago or turn left and follow the Espiritual Variente. We turned left. Today we were heading to Combarro on the coast via the old monastery at Poio. It was time to leave the R19. The path wound up and up until it turned and went down again. And of course what goes down inevitably goes up… and so we did too. It was hot and as we entered Cabaleiro we were horrified at the closed bar… but then overjoyed to discover an open one a little further along… indeed there was also what appeared to be a very popular restaurant in town too. But we just enjoyed cold drinks before continuing.

I’d really wanted to visit Poio monastery but alas it was closed… we arrived too late. It would reopen at 16.30 but we couldn’t wait… so perhaps another time I’ll get to visit here. For us we walked on. We could see the bay of Combarra ahead. The path took us slowly down into town. Since we left Ponte de Lima we’ve been following either a horse or a donkey… or to be more exact his poop. When we left the main route today we thought we’d never catch up with him but we were rather delighted to see his trade mark poops as we entered the town. We’ve called the beast Shinto… in honour of the Donkey in Tim Moore’s book. Gerry decided there could be a sequel book called Shinto Does The Portuguese but I’m not sure the title would work. Nonetheless there is a chance we could catch sight if the animal before we reached Santiago. We travel onwards in a few days on a boat.. my guess is that our pooper will travel on land… and so we might get ahead. We’re actually very happy at the prospect.

In the meantime we’d reached Combarro. A beautiful galician seaside town famous for its seafood. I’d planned our route so that we’d stay here tonight. Gerry loves seafood. Tonight id planned for a table, looking out at the ocean. The tide will be in so the water will be lapping at our feet… its almost like it was meant to be. Happiest of birthdays Gerry… life is always (mostly) better when you’re around

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