Periodically, and since we are currently closed due to lack of water, I thought I would feature other businesses in the area that might be of interest or potentially useful to Peregrinos as they walk the Camino Frances through Palas de Rei, and on through Melide. Just one such business is a hidden gem, quite literally, off the beaten path.
Let me first say that no one on the planet likes a good farm or ranch store than Jeff and me. In the US, these are usually in rural towns and they are the hub of communities built around all the varying facets of rural life. Often, on top of the usual things like feed, veterinary medicine, fencing and farm implements, they also carry garden products, tools, some home products, knick knacks and, clothing. There is always something to see and unusual products you won’t find anywhere else.
AIRA is no different. It took us more than a year to discover this miracle of a business, and it was entirely by mistake. Tucked behind the one gas station in Palas de Rei, off the N547, and on a road that looks like another parking lot in front of a car wash, the AIRIA is all you would expect a farm store to be. Including staffed with friendly and helpful people. And they have a meat counter – because, well, it’s Spain.
Why are you writing about a farm store on the Camino, Kelli? You might well be asking right about now. We can only carry what is on our backs! What do we need with a leg of jamon or a trough for watering the herd? Well, my friend, let me tell you why.
If you are walking in a fringe season, during variable weather from far away. Or, if you’re walking for a week from Sarria to Santiago during any season, Palas will be your third day. The third day you really know what you’re missing. You might find you are in need of something, urgently. But there is no Decathalon store between Lugo or Santiago. And, it’s something to help you get to Santiago. Perhaps the weather has turned cold. Or wet, and windy. Maybe those boots you have been wearing are making you miserable. You stop as you enter Palas de Rei. The walk from Portomarin has taken it out of you. You need more than just some Compeed from the farmacia, or a boat load of bandages. You didn’t listen on the FB groups that told you not to wear athletic socks. Or, like me, you did and after 30 days you have blisters under your blisters, anyway. A polar fleece to sleep in, and wool socks would help a lot. Maybe some new, waterproof boots, or a real rain poncho, instead of those disposable ones from the tourist shop in Portomarin. Sure, there are small shops in Palas, too. But their selection may be limited, especially for larger men’s boots and clothes. What to do?
Let me tell you, AIRA has all you’ll need, and more. It’s a walk up the N547 – maybe a half mile from the center of the town. And it will be well worth your while. Note: like most Spanish businesses, they close for lunch mid-day, from 14:00 to 16:00. And they close early. At 19.00. But no self respecting Pilgrim is shopping at 7pm, anyway. You’re eating at that time, and getting ready to go to bed shortly thereafter. Tomorrow will be a long day, for goodness sake.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to find what you need in rural Spain. And who would think to look for a farm store in a small village to meet your Camino walking needs? But, trust me, you’ll be glad you made the trek up the hill to the secret farm store behind the gas station and the carwash parking lot. And tell your Camino friends and family. You’ll look like a pro in the know, and help others at the same time.
As always, we are located between Palas de Rei and Melide. And we are here to help. Reach out if you need anything. And stay tuned for more episodes of Camino Hidden Gems. Buen Camino.