34 Looking for Santiago

Last night was uneventful, assuming the rain didn’t keep you awake. In my case the rain did not keep me awake. I decided to get to bed at 7pm, I just felt tired…. no other reason. Of course the down side becomes apparent at 2:30am when I wake up to hear the wind blowing and the rain against the window in my bedroom.

So what does someone in this situation do….pretend to sleep and solve the world’s problems and turn over, and turn over, and turn over. I must have turned over trying to find the perfect position. The position I was looking for would be so comfortable I would immediately fall back to sleep. So I kept looking and looking. At some point I must have found it because I eventually did fall back asleep.

I woke up (again) at 6:30am and slowly started putting my day in order. Ever so slowly. I don’t want to head out too early, 8:00 am will be perfect.

I pack for another, or should I say the last day on the road.

As I leave my apartment the sun is still almost an hour from rising, it’s dark but the rain has stopped. I left my walking poles in a container at the front door yesterday and went to retrieve them for my walk.

There they were…….Gone!

I looked everywhere for them, around the restaurant, in the hotel reception area, even back in my apartment…..gone. The owner was trying to help me and even offered me a pole from the lost and found. I felt it a bit silly to spend so much time for such a simple thing. Heck, I’m not climbing the Pyrenees today, or even the mountains in Galicia. I decide not to spend any more time looking for these. They have my name and my Toronto phone number on them….really I was actually planning to give these away when I arrive in Santiago. There is a Pilgrim Center in Santiago and they take donations of all sorts.

So I’m on my way….feeling like I have forgotten something. Really nagging on me.

There are very few pilgrims out. I can see a couple of headlights every now and then, but they are at least a half kilometer back. This is walking alone to be sure.

After an hour of walking past sporadic commercial buildings I come to a small town called Gozo. A tiny bar is open and I decide to finally have some breakfast. Toast and fresh squeezed orange juice. After about 15 minutes I am back on my way.

I can see some of the buildings in Santiago between the hills. This is all familiar to me, but at one point the markings point to a direction I do not know. Why did they change the Camino entrance to Santiago? And who gets to decide where the path is? I’m pretty sure someone has an interest to have all these pilgrims come by their shops or businesses.

The new route takes pilgrims through a park system, past a Camino/Galicia museum and avoid a number of dangerous roundabouts. All-in-all I’m guessing it adds another kilometer to the day….. not that anyone would have noticed. This change will probably save a few lives avoiding the nasty traffic stuff.

At long last I walk up to the back of the Cathedral and duck into the Hotel I want to stay in. No luck. There’s some sort of religious convention in town and there will be a difficulty finding a room in the city.

I decide to go and get into the lineup for my compostela. This is the document they provide at the end of your Camino as proof of your completion. I walk up to the new location….and see a security guard. (There are a lot of police thoughout the city, especially the main square in front of the Cathedral) As I walk up the guard says “Compostela?”, and I reply “Si”. He motions me through the door and points to a hallway. I can hear voices, and try to bolster myself for the predicted sea of humanity.

As I turned the corner I see a crowd. But these people all have fancy tubes in their hand and are chattting away in a hundred languages. I make my way past this throng and see the real lineup. There have to be, and I am not kidding, four people in the line. What gives? My cousin Doug was warning me about 2 hour waits just 3 weeks ago.

I basically have no time to figure all of this out…..and I am in front of a volunteer asking for my credential and passport. Pay for your distance certificate over there…..and I was back out on the street. Done.

Well, that was anti-climatic. I decided it is now best to turn my attention to the housing situation and made my way to another hotel, deeper in the old city. When I got there I was told the same story…..convention, religion, no rooms…. but try going to the Tourist Information Centre. They know what hotels have rooms.

OK, at least I have a lead on something. I make my way through a spider’s nest of streets to the TIC. They kindly inform me the closest room, with a shared bathroom, is 1.4 km outside of the old city. They only show two rooms remaining, and recommend not trying to get there. The rooms will likely be gone but the time I make it there. The next hotel is 4 km away.

In a word “Crap!”.

In a desperate move I ask about the Parador. Unfortunately the Parador does not share their rooming information with the TIC…….so off I go. Here’s the kernel of my thinking. Religious fanatics….OK, sorry about that one…. probably can’t afford the Parador. If you aren’t aware, this is a chain of hotels run by the Spanish Government. They purchased old monateries and converted them into truly 5 star hotels.

I walk across the main square once again, straight into the hotel, and up to the registration desk. “Have you a room for this evening?” I ask. “Do you have a reservation?” The lady attending me asks politely.

”No” says I.

The registration check looks up at me and says “Well then, the best rate we have available is 200 Euros for the night”.

I may have made an involuntary noise from some part of me…..after all I have been on a Room budget of 10 Euros a night for the past 5 weeks….The I hear myself say “That will be fine”. I may have whimpered that last line….I’m not quite sure.

After signing the necessary paperwork, a gentleman offers to carry my bag….I refuse saying I am really quite accustomed to carrying this, and shows me to a gorgeous, drop-dead, magnificent room…..complete with a shower, and a bath. Absolutely astounding.

Slam dunk for Cam!

Now….I’m hungry. It’s about 2:00pm and my orange juice, toast breakfast has worn off. Nothing like a 10 km walk first thing in the morning to burn off a few calories.

I finally find an Italian restaurant claiming to be “authentico” and plant myself down. I order a glass of red Mencia to go with minestrone soup, and vegetarian lasagna. (I am so predictable) The wine is an exceptional Mencia….my favorite. I was certainly hungry, and the meal was fabulous. Highly recommended if you find yourself in Santiago….

Now back to my room for another 30 minutes hot shower, and to pack all the shampoo, tooth brushes, soaps, lotions, and ball point pens into my pack. At the rate I’m paying for this room I like to think of it as a wee bit of free souvenir shopping.

I know….. I’m a little cheap.