We’ve been dealing with the Covid restrictions in our area for residents and weekenders. Not to mention the restrictions faced by Peregrinos. We were just in Melide on this Sunday, navigating the crazy traffic that occurs on any given Market Day. Today, the traffic was backed up entering town on the N-547. We have never seen it this bad before. On Sundays now, with all those who have returned to their country homes for the month of August, and all the increase traffic on the Camino, I thought I might chime in with a few tricks to navigating life in a small town in Galicia on a Sunday.
First off, the traffic will be bumper to bumper. There are no real traffic lights, except those that assist pedestrians to cross. These are usually at the round about. In towns without a round about, you will want to watch the zebra crossings very carefully. People will cross themselves and step out – trusting you will stop. Europeans may be reading this and say ‘Duh Kelli’ but for my American friends, this is not a usual driving or walking situation.
All Dressed Up
A day in town, in places like Melide, means dressing up. High heels and hand bags you might only expect to see at a club in the city. They wear their best clothes and the men are in collared shirts and sweaters. Go into town on a Sunday in your painting overalls, old plaid shirt, and Birkenstocks and they’ll look at you like you’re from the moon. This doesn’t apply to Peregrinos, just people they all know live locally and should know the rules of social convention in a small town. That means me. But I have never complied with rules so they’re used to my strangeness. In the beginning I got A LOT of looks. Now, they don’t even react.
The main plaza will be packed and those in their finery will be promenading, greeting each other and giving them the once over. But only until their Sunday Lunch reservation at a local eatery. And here is why you should care about this. In the US, Sunday Lunch isn’t a thing. Getting your extended family together to consume a meal every week has long gone by the wayside in our fast paced and individualistic society that we seem to enjoy as Americans. But Jeff and I love this about living in Spain, and we have made it a point to go into town on Sundays and sit close to people who have big families with kids running around and multiple generations sharing a beverage, and a table groaning under the weight of the dishes coming out of the oven. For hours.
Lingering over a meal here improves digestion and gives everyone the opportunity to have a proper catch up. In the US, the waiter would bring out the check and nudge you along 5 minutes after you finished your last bite. They need to turn the table for more tips. Here, they don’t expect you’ll leave until closing time. Once you get a table, it’s yours for the duration.
But this means that there are only so many tables, and locals know to make reservations at their favorites. Walk into any restaurant in Melide on a Sunday and most of the tables will have a Reservado sign. And all along the Camino in Galicia, most of the towns are at high level of Covid restrictions. This means that they can open their outdoor tables but inside is only 30% capacity. And if you want to access the interior for any reason you must show a Covid passport, vaccine card, proof of having passed the disease, or proof of a negative antigen/PCR test in the past 48 hours. So tables for a Sunday lunch are even more limited for walkins, like Pilgrims.
If you know you’ll be staying in a town along the route on a Sunday especially (or any day lately), I would recommend calling ahead and reserving a table for lunch or dinner, depending upon your arrival time. This doesn’t mean just for fancy restaurants. Any restaurant you hope to sit down at. You may find that only interior tables are available and if you don’t have one of the above documents you won’t be allowed to sit down.
Near our house, we have a store who won’t allow you to enter unless you can show a vaccine certificate. It’s becoming more and more common here. So be prepared.
But where to eat in Melide? I can’t believe I am telling you this because you’ll take our Sunday Lunch table. But you don’t want to go hungry and it is all so tasty you just gotta try these places.
Casa Alongos – If you’re Gluten free (or any allergy, really) just let them know and they’ll accomodate you. Conchi is an amazing cook and her husband, Fran, will welcome you like it’s his home. They have an unconventional menu – not strictly the stand bys of the Camino. And their portions are large. Great for Pilgrims. As Conchi says ‘Gallegos don’t like being hungry. We eat.’ Their burgers are made from Angus beef and are enormous, with buns made from Galician bread. So it’s a little black on the edges. They’ll make them however you like.
Ruas Duas – We love these people. It’s a husband and wife who run it and the menu is extensive, the food is fresh, and it’s a twist on typical Spanish fare. They even make dishes with spicy siracha sauce. They have tables in front and out in the back alley. Their interior is not open, so get there early or make a reservation.
Pulperia La Gamancha – This is an operation like a conveyor belt, but the service and food are top notch and quick. They are very strict on the Covid stuff. I’ve seen Pilgrims try to sneak in and grab a table inside. They are having none of that – so plan ahead and call in advance.
Melide is a great food town. These are just our favs. There are many more. I know we advised Pilgrims to leave Sarria on a day other than a weekend. And that is still true. But, just know that on Sundays, it’s not other Pilgrims you’ll be competing with for a table. It’s the locals, and without a reservation they’ll win every time.