October 22, 2013…..
All night the wind and rain sounded like a freight train running over our heads. I woke up a half dozen times thinking “How will we ever be able to walk the 8 kilometres to the Cathedral in Santiago in this? My poncho is certainly not designed to withstand such a violent assault.” We’ll just have to see how bad it is in the morning.
Sure enough the worst of the storm has past by dawn, and all of the pilgrims staying in the hostel appeared to be in a very upbeat mood. Juan served us breakfast and once we packed up for the final time bade us a farewell right around 9:00am.
The rain appears to have exhausted the storm over night.
We had walked less than 15 minutes when it became apparent ‘exhausted’ wasn’t the appropriate word…..the rain had been resting, building up energy to give us all it had. It was flat out pouring again. As the high winds were missing it was only the deluge of rain we needed to contend with. After an hour we could hear someone yelling our names from behind. We spun around to see Zeb running toward us. A flurry of hugs and excited “we are so glad to see you, we didn’t think you’d make it today, where have you been……” bursts out of us all. Mark was walking with Bret, from New Zealand, and they shortly caught up. They were following the blog and knew when we were planning to walk into Santiago. They had pulled a number of long days to catch up with us.
To say we were excited to see Mark and Zeb is a profound understatement. We floated down the road toward Santiago with our family and friends by our side.
We could see the signs of a town between the trees as we crested a small hill. Despite the rain we were all stepping lightly. Several people told me they would be watching the webcam on the Internet so I sent messages saying when we expected to arrive.
Winding through the old streets of Santiago we could barely contain ourselves. Mark needed stop at a small supermercado to get something and we headed on. The approach to the Cathedral is from the back, and the entry to the square is through an arched passageway. Many people were seeking refuge from the heavy rain in this area.
We walked into the square and Bene, Susan, and I suddenly stopped about 1/3 the way across, the Cathedral square and mooned the webcam. Mark and Zeb laughed and the construction crew working on the Cathedral facade above us cheered and clapped their approval.
Now for the disclaimer….. we didn’t ‘actually’ moon the camera, we more or less went through the motions, and flipped up our rain gear. We turned around to see about 100 people looking at us from the porticos of a building across the square. Of course as far as they were concerned we had just mooned them. In actual fact we had agreed to moon my sister Nancy during a call with her. We were laughing, and hugging each other…. just absorbing a feeling of overwhelming emotions together.
We headed over to the portico area and Mark pulled out 6 mini bottles of champagne he had stopped to purchase as we came into town. We toasted our experience and accomplishment together as a family.
During this toast Angela appeared. She had arrived yesterday and immediately joined us in our welcoming celebration.
We went back into the square and danced around a bit more, then all kissed the centre stone completing our journey in style.
We were told by someone we could not enter the Cathedral with our packs so we quickly went to a higher class hostel just to the side the Cathedral and got a room. We immediately left our bags with the bell boy and ran back to the Cathedral for Mass beginning at 12:00 noon. Odd, me hurrying to get to Mass.
The Cathedral is less impressive than some we had seen. The Cathedral in Burgos had definitely been much larger, but this felt much more intimate. We took a seat and saw our friend Eena sitting close to us. She had come in this morning as well.
Yesterday they had the big smoldering incense pot swinging around….but not today. We hear they will have this going again on Friday….
After the Mass we headed back to the room. Exploring the inside of the Cathedral would have to wait. We desperately need to do laundry.
This part is crazy. We are told by the hostel there is nowhere to do laundry in the old city. We had to walk 15 minutes away. When we arrived with our bag of wet, dirty laundry we were informed we could have it done by 3pm …..tomorrow.
The owner of ‘The Pilgrim Laundry’ explained the city of Santiago refused to give a permit for anyone to operate laundry machines in the old city. He takes the clothes out of the old city and returns them the next day……
We take our dirty laundry back with us and grab a bite to eat…much to the chagrin of the people seated around us I am sure. Quickly, back to the room, drop off the stinky package of laundry, wash my essentials with ivory soap, (socks, shirt and underwear) hang it up to dry…and head out again.
We now head back to the Cathedral and walk throughout the building. It is possible to walk up and behind the main alter, looking down on the main floor of the Cathedral. Looking down from behind this intimately carved and gold leaf sculpture offers quite a unique vantage point. I am told this is possibly the place were the devoted kiss the feet of the Vigil Mary. My apologies if I have any of this wrong, this is all information I am being told in whispers….and my hearing isn’t great.
Under the alter a very small door leads down into a dark passage. This is where St. James’s remains are said to be interred. A tiny silver casket is located behind bars and is softly lit. Pilgrims and the devout spend a minute or two looking, praying, or contemplating their journey in this place.
All-in-all very impressive when you consider so many people make this journey to come to this very spot. Please remember, I am probably one of the people furthest describe as being a religious Pilgrim….or even religious for that matter.
After leaving the Cathedral we met up with Kate, Pete, Tom, and Pat. They have arrived today and are not very happy with their accommodations. Not all accommodations are the same in Santiago. We have a drink with them and explain we have an appointment. It is so good to see them once again and bid them a fond farewell as we head off. (They know where we are heading)
In the main square is a Parador Hotel. Part of the hotel’s charter is to provide 10 free meals each day to pilgrims. Mark has had this meal before and tells us to get to the side entrance by 6 at the latest. Susan, Bene and had left our credentials in the room, so I offered to run there while they headed to the side entrance. When coming back to the meeting point Bene and Susan are yelling at me to hurry. My plastic ‘Croc’s’ were not giving me much traction as I try to hustle down the slope to discover I was the 10th and last person to arrive in line. Had I been 1 minute later I would be eating elsewhere. Many pilgrims came after me….unfortunate for them.
When I picked up the compostellas I grabbed my ukulele. We were waiting in a covered side entrance or garage so I took it out of my bag. We started singing songs and passed the instrument around, having a good time. We had an hour here…may as well have a good time.
We met Jean-Charles and Carole from France. They had met last year on the Camino and had become good friends. Carole met up with Jean-Charles at Leon and they have been walking together for a couple of weeks.
An American girl from Nashville, as well as 2 other young men filled out the 10 spots.
Finally an official from the Parador came to see us. (more or less to count to 10) We followed him in through the front entrance, through the lobby, an open courtyard and into a back stairwell. We ended up in the back kitchen and were instructed to take a glass, cup, and silverware. The chef gave us each a bowl of soup, and a plate of french fries and sauteed squid. We were given a couple of bottles of water and a bottle of white wine for the group. Our Pilgrim dining room is a dedicated room below the kitchen. It’s easy to appreciate why only 10 pilgrims are offered this free meal….there is definitely no room for an 11th person.
We enjoy our meal, make way too much noise, and finally return our trays to the kitchen.
Jean-Charles, Carole, Susan, Bene, Mark, Zeb and I decide we are not finished celebrating. We set off down one of the narrow streets in ‘old Santiago’. We find a small bar and take over a small room in the lower level. We are constantly singing songs and drinking. During the balance of the evening we somehow were joined by 2 young Spanish women; they had completed their Camino yesterday.
I send a message to Ebbe and Jytte. I can’t tell them where we are, and can only tell them the name of the bar we are in. Hopefully they can get someone to give them directions.
We bring the house down twice with ‘Wild Rover’ and Jean-Charles brought many drinking songs with him as well. Again the ukulele made it’s rounds once again. Mark is obviously a budding uke player….. and quite good at it.
It was close to 11 when we said goodbye.
The rain was falling again……. this is after all, Galicia.
I admit to being emotionally at odds…… I will really miss those I have been lucky enough to call my Family.
And I need to be out of the room, heading to the airport at 7 tomorrow morning.