By Day 7 on the Primitivo, I knew I needed a break. Those first 6 days that I’d walked were not easy stages, and each day had seemed to hold some significant ups and downs. I love walking big days, but I could feel how tired my body was. So instead of another big stage, I decided to walk a straightforward 15km into Lugo, where I could rest and explore the city and- try- to take it easy.
I’d had a great night’s sleep in the beautiful albergue in Vilar de Cas, and because I knew I was walking a short day, I took my time in the morning. I lingered over breakfast- toast and coffee and fresh orange juice and a big slice of cake (there’s a name for this- the slightly sweet cake that’s often served at breakfast- but I can’t remember it!) and I sat again at a table outside, and the German girls joined me and then left, and once again, I lingered. I finished breakfast, I packed up the rest of my things, I took pictures and videos of the albergue, I wandered back to the bar area to pay my bill, and Mer was there! She’d already walked 5km that morning, and as she drank down her coffee and ate her cake, she told me that she was in a hurry to get to Lugo so she could make it in time for a city tour.
She left before me, for some reason I was still lingering. Eventually I grabbed my walking stick, said goodbye to my hosts and waved to the villagers and walked out of the village. It was such a wonderful place, and I thought about it as I walked: how safe and taken care of I’d felt there. I was a pilgrim and just passing through, I couldn’t speak the language of my hosts or the villagers, and yet, I felt included. I felt like I was part of something there, that I was seen, that I had a place at the table.
The 15km passed quickly; I tried to slow my pace but I was energized and I walked strong all the way into Lugo. I’d been through here before, on my first Primitivo in 2015, but I never really saw the city back then. I’d moved through it quickly, not wanting to be in a crowded place, wanting to be somewhere quiet. This time, I was arriving at 11am and I had the entire day in front of me. I stopped for a coffee and sat in the shadows of the city walls, and then I walked up onto those Roman walls, a 2km+ path that circles the city. It was incredible, and over and over I asked myself- “how could I have missed this the first time I was here?”
I checked into my hotel room and it was perfect. I’d gotten a recommendation from my hospitalero for a place called Hotel España, a small room with a single bed and a private bathroom with a view of the city walls for only 25 euros! Pilgrim luxury. I’d been walking for a week at this point, staying in albergues, and even though I’d had some rooms all to myself, it was a treat to have a very private space and my own bathroom. I emptied my pack and reorganized my things, took a shower with the hotel’s shampoo and soap (and towel!), washed my clothes and found wire hangers in the wardrobe and hung the clothes from the window so they could dry in the breeze.
Once the chores were done I went back out into the city for lunch. I found a narrow cobblestoned street in the old city with a cluster of restaurants lining the sidewalk, with tables under umbrellas, and settled in at one of them. I ordered a menu del dia: ham croquetas, salmon with salad, quince and cheese, a basket of bread and a glass of white wine. While I ate, a small bird landed on the chair across from me, chirping as I sipped my wine. The German girls walked past, and we smiled and waved at each other.
It was 3pm and I had the rest of the afternoon and evening and a beautiful city to explore, but I decided to head back to hotel for a little siesta. I stretched out on the bed, thinking I might relax for an hour or so, but one hour turned to two, to three, and I knew that what I needed more than anything was rest.
I’d walked a lot in this first week on the Camino. Possibly too much, although in many ways, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I’d reserved most of my lodging before I left for Spain which is something I typically wouldn’t do, but with the uncertainty of a COVID year and reduced capacity in albergues, I wanted to be safe and assure myself of a place to sleep at night. And when I was planning, I told myself that the long days would be fine, and good. And they were fine, and good, and I loved the people I met and I loved the challenge of the hard days, but there on that bed in Lugo, with the breeze blowing back the curtains and spinning my t-shirt on its hanger, the thick stone of those Roman walls so close I could almost touch them, I decided to slow down. My original plan had me walking several more long days, and I’d already shortened the day’s stage by stopping in Lugo, but I decided to tack on an extra stage, and stretch out my Primitivo by one more day. I suppose that I did it all backwards: walking long days on the most difficult stages, shorter days on the easier days into Santiago. But it felt right, so I didn’t question it. I mapped out a new plan in my journal, sent a couple of emails to see about reserving beds in albergues, and felt settled about the decision.
And I gave myself a quiet night: a quick walk to the nearest grocery store, a packaged salad and a hunk of bread and a cold beer, cookies for dessert. The Olympics on TV, the open window, my laundry and soft white towels and my little nest in the shadows of an ancient city wall. Resting after a week on the Camino, ready for whatever the next week might hold.