Monday, October 24, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Monte De Gozo To Santiago De Compostela

I slept in.  Maybe I didn't want it to end.  Maybe I was just tired.  GV and I didn't leave til 7:15 AM.  We walked up to the monument at the top of the hill so I could take pictures before we headed towards Santiago de Compostela.  The walk was short, the shortest stage of the entire Camino - 3.12 miles (5 km).

There was a little drizzle as we entered the city but it didn't last.  We arrived at the albergue GV had made reservations at, Seminario Menor.  We were going to stay in style in single rooms.  It wasn't open yet but we were able to check in and we left our backpacks in a locker so we wouldn't have to lug them around the city.

We walked the last mile to the cathedral.  We took in the sights.  We listened to the sounds (As you pass through a tunnel near the cathedral you pass a man playing a gaita - the men are street performers and they take turns playing in this prime spot).  We watched other pilgrims walked in.  We also saw our friends, the tent protesters, who had been in Logroño, Burgos, León, And now Santiago de Compostela.

Pilgrim's mass at the cathedral was a few hours away so we went in search of the pilgrim's office.  You pick up your compostela at the pilgrim's office.  We'd heard that the lines could be terrible but when we arrived there was no waiting.  I walked up to a clerk, and handed her my pilgrim's credential.  She asked a few questions ("Where did you start?" is the only one I can remember) and she gave my credential a rather cursory examination before pulling out a compostela.  She looked in a book and was a little confused before she asked if I knew what my name was in Latin.  I said I didn't think I had a Latin version so she wrote my name (The compostela is in Latin and they write your Latin name if one exists).  She asked if I wanted a mailing tube.  Yes. One euro please.  And that was it.

GV and I left the office and kind of looked at each other.  It was a little strange.  We were smiling of course but, frankly, it was a letdown.  Where was the fanfare?  Where were the cheering crowds?  This was it?

We went back to the cathedral  and went in.  The cathedral fills up quickly and the doors are shut and locked once mass starts so you need to get there early to get a good pew.  I wandered around a bit taking pictures and taking it all in.  I went up behind the altar where you can hug the statue of Santiago.  I placed my hands on a large shell, as other pilgrims were doing.

I went down into the crypt where the relics of Saint James are kept in a silver coffer.  I prayed for the old ladies who had stopped me outside of Pamplona thirty-two days earlier.  I then went to the cathedral gift shop and bought a cool silver shell rosary for the Wife (number four).

As we waited for the mass to start we saw RT, who I hadn't seen since Atapuerca.  We exchanged hugs and congratulations.  She'd walked the second half of the Camino with HT.  We learned others had arrived a few days earlier and had all moved on to their homes or next destinations.  We arranged to meet her after mass.

Mass started with a sister with a magnificent voice leading the congregation in song.  The priest followed with a list of Camino starting locations and nationalities of pilgrims who started at each place.  RE, the Puerto Rican I'd met outside of Cacabelos, practically had his own shout out as he and his sister were the only ones who had started in Sahagún.  Parts of the mass were sponsored by Spanish Camino groups and a German church group.  They participated in the mass.

At the end of the mass we were fortunate to witness the swinging of the Botafumeiro.  The botafumeiro is one of the largest censers in the world measuring five and a quarter feet tall (though it looked smaller).  The botafumeiro is usually only displayed (and used) during holy days but, for €300, you can sponsor it.  This day we could thank the German church group for sponsoring the botafumeiro.  I heard that the Japanese television crew had sponsored it the day before.  The censer was lit and it was given a shove to get it swinging.  It was pretty incredible.  The censer almost hit the ceiling of the cathedral some 69 feet (21 m) above the heads of the congregation.  The pulley system is 407 years old and, frankly, I'm amazed someone doesn't get hurt when that thing is swung.

Outside the cathedral we met up with RT.  She hadn't found HT so she led us to a restaurant and we arranged to meet her and HT for dinner that evening.  GV and I ate at the Galeón restaurant.  It was a good restaurant with a brilliant marketing scheme.  On the backs of their menus was a map of Santiago de Compostela with the two Galeón restaurants marked on them.  These map/menus were all over the place.  Nearly every pilgrim carried the maps/menus.  A bonus was that the food was great and reasonably priced.

We headed back to the albergue.  Along the way we ran into a couple of pilgrims who looked confused.  We pointed them in the direction of the cathedral and pilgrim's office.  They called us pilgrim angels.  Ha ... me ... an angel.

Back to the albergue, we grabbed our packs, climbed the three flights of steps, and went way back into the far corner where the single rooms were and settled into our rooms and did our chores.  The rooms were spartan as I would expect but they were private and had their own sink and a very hard mattress.   Showers and toilets were shared.  The privacy felt luxurious.

We went back out to explore the city and to find the local tourist office.  GV needed airport bus information and I needed information about the next phase of my adventure.  The next phase.  When I originally planned my Camino I assumed forty days to Santiago de Compostela.  I soon realized that I was walking farther each day than I anticipated.  I ended up doing it in thirty-five days.  With the extra days I'd originally planned on (three days = four minus the one wasted waiting for my bag) I had eight extra days before I had to leave for Madrid and home.  Somewhere along the Meseta, maybe earlier, I decided to continue my walk to Fisterra (also calls Finisterra).  Fisterra is the traditional end of the Camino.  It is located on the western most tip of Spain and was once considered the end of the world.  Originally I was going to take a bus to Fisterra but, with the extra time, walking it seemed like a more interesting thing to do.

The Galician tourist office was closed when we got there but we were entertained as we waited by a parade put on by the Portuguese tourist office next door.  It looked so fun I think I want to go to Portugal.  The streets of Santiago de Compostela were filled with street performers and there seemed to be something to watch each day I spent there.  The tourist office opened and I got information about the walk to Fisterra including a list of albergues along the way.

As we wandered around the city, we ran into people we'd met along the Camino.  Each meeting ended with hugs, kisses on the cheek, and congratulations all around.  We ran into the Spaniard and his friends who were leaving later that day.  They were all aglow with huge smiles as we said our farewells.  I guess this is the fanfare and cheering crowds I'd been expecting.  Every meeting made me feel warm inside but was also a little bittersweet.

We met RT and HT in front of the cathedral  (there is a big square in front of the cathedral and not one place to sit - a travesty in my opinion - they've had over a thousand years to get this right and ...).  We decided to go back to the Galeón for dinner.  We had a great time reminiscing about the Camino.  Old stories about old friends, laughing at all the good times (On the Camino 'old' usually meant a few days old).  HT's story about losing his underwear and just how long it takes for underwear to dry ... hilarious!

After dinner HT led us to some of the best ice cream I'd had in Spain and we ate it in a nearby park.  The Dulce de Leche was awesome.  It was my second ice cream of the day.

We ended the day asking a reporter, who had interviewed GV earlier that day, to take our pictures in front of the cathedral with all of our cameras. (my Facebook friends have seen this picture, I'm sure).  We then went to our separate albergues for the night.

At the end of each day since Triacastela I would ask Gto tell me a story and she would take out her Camino guidebook and would tell me what I could expect the next day on the Camino.  Tonight GV said it was my turn to tell her a story so I pulled out the Fisterra material and she helped me plan out my route.  I originally broke it into five stages but, like my original Camino plan, I was too conservative and, while I was trying to sleep that first night in Santiago de Compostela, I decided to combine two short stages and do the walk in four days instead.

----------

The next day, Sunday, was GV's last day.  We stopped at a bakery and bought from a nice old lady some awesome chocolate cake which we ate for breakfast in front of the cathedral.  RT and HT took a bus this day to Fisterra.  Turns out the rest of the gang ... all but  GV and I ... were there celebrating GU's birthday.

I followed GV around as she souvenir shopped.  Since I had more walking to do I didn't buy anything but I was taking note of where things were for when I got back from Fisterra.  I took a picture of a street performer, a man dress like a statue of Gandhi.  I dropped a coin in his cup and he gave me a tiny scroll with a saying of Gandhi:
"La verdadera educación consiste en sacarlo mejor de cada uno."
"True education is getting the best out of everyone." - Mahatma Gandhi
The Square in front of the cathedral is defined by the cathedral, the Corona de Galicia, Hostal La Estela, and the Parador.  The Parador is a five star deluxe motel.  It used to be a hospital for pilgrims and now it's a place that only wealthy pilgrims can afford.  We walked through it and I decided it didn't feel like a place for me.  A little too frou-frou.  One nice thing about the hotel is they give free meals (breakfast and lunch) to the first ten pilgrims who line up there each morning and noon.  The sad thing is that the pilgrims do not eat these meals in the nice restaurant but in a room near the kitchen.

We spent most of the morning just walking around Santiago.  It was more crowded today with more pilgrims and more tourists wandering about.  Yesterday we were entertained by the Portuguese parade.  Today the special entertainment was a black tie symphony orchestra in the middle of a narrow street.

We ate lunch at the second Galeón restaurant.  GV and I reminisced some more.  On the Camino there is always something to reminisce about.  So many memories are made along the Camino.

After lunch we had some time to kill before GV had to leave so we went back to the cathedral to people watch.  Then we saw a tourist tram.  It had three cars with the first looking like a train locomotive.  It was touristy.  It was cheesy.  We looked at each other and said what the heck and rode around Santiago de Compostela.  It was cheesy fun and, frankly, I saw parts of Santiago that I might not have taken the time to walk to so it was worth it I think.  It was also fun to yell Buen Camino to the pilgrims as we passed them.

We went back to the albergue, GV picked up her bag that she'd stashed in my room, and I walked her to the bus station.  We said our goodbyes and I watched as the bus left for the airport.  (It turns out GV ended up sitting with the couple we had helped the day before who had called us pilgrim angels.)  As I walked back to the albergue a feeling of melancholy settled over my thoughts.  I felt like the last guy at a party, after everyone had gone home.  I was walking across the lit gymnasium floor with streamers and confetti swirling at my feet, my footsteps echoing in the empty space.

I did some laundry in preparation for next days walk and took a shower.  I headed back to the cathedral area and wandered around aimlessly.  I stopped in a restaurant and had a huge piece of tortilla followed by some ice cream.

I didn't know what to do with myself.  I headed back to the albergue lost in thought.  All of a sudden I stopped and looked around.  I had no idea where I was.  I was so deep in random thoughts that I'd missed a turn.  I retraced my steps for a couple blocks before I reached a familiar street and took the correct corner and returned to the albergue.  It was 6:00 PM.

I hadn't written in my journal since I arrived in Santiago so I sat down and wrote down everything about the last two days.  It was now just after 7:00 PM and I was feeling a little down.  I repacked my bag in preparation for walking the next day.  I seriously thought about going to bed but it was too early so I decided to go check email one last time.

I walked down the four flights of stairs to the basement where the computers were.  When I got there all the computers were full and there were a couple people waiting.  I sat down at a table (The computers were in a large common room/kitchen/laundromat).  As I waited I kept looking at a couple sitting at one of the computers.  She looked familiar.  I couldn't see his face.  I got up and walked around trying not to look like a stalker while I tried to get a better look.  Finally I just blurted out "KV".  It was KV and MC !!!  I met them way back in Bayonne before my Camino even started thirty-seven days ago.  I'd seen them briefly in Puente La Reina and I'd seen their names in the Grañon registry book.

I spent the next hour and a half or so talking with MC (KV was on the computer trying in vain to find a cheap place to stay in Paris).  They'd had as many adventures as I'd had and we were all incredibly happy with our respective Caminos.  Meeting KV and MC here was exactly what I needed.  They nicely bookended the Santiago de Compostela part of my Camino.  My mood was lifted.  I was not alone.  The Camino had provided me with the perfect distraction right when I needed it most.

Days thirty-five and thirty-six were a roller coaster of emotions for me but it ended in a high note.  My adventure was far from being over and I was ready to head for the End of the World.

Total Distance: 3.12 Miles (5.02 km)
Total Time: 1 hours 10 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 418 ft (127.41 m)
Total Elevation Down: 749 ft (228.30 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

5 comments:

  1. What were the dates you were in Santiago .. the first time?

    ReplyDelete
  2. KSam: I was there the 18th and 19th of June (Saturday and Sunday).

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm sorry to see your walk end, I have enjoyed your entries, you are a very good writer I am looking forward to Route 66.

    MiL

    ReplyDelete
  4. MiL: Thanks!

    I still have a few mores to go (about six more text posts with another six picture posts). Route 66 won't be as long - a lot of driving in the car and only a few adventures along the way.

    ReplyDelete
  5. OMG!! We must have just missed each other...I arrived on the 19th!! :-(

    ReplyDelete