Well…what can I say. I have arrived to Santiago for the fifth time. The magic remains, but is tempered a bit by the increasing number of tour groups and beggars one has to negotiate. I had high hopes that the cathedral might be ‘unwrapped’ this year, but alas, it remains swaddled in scaffolding and plastic netting. I am so very pleased that when I arrived the first time in 2013 the restoration work had not yet begun and I could admire it (her) in all her glory. I feel sorry for pilgrims arriving for the first time and not having that beautiful treat. But I’ve not heard anyone complain about it so perhaps it’s not such a big deal for others.
I was successful in securing a bed at the Hospidaria San Martin Pinerio for my night in Santiago – what was once a monastery and is now a posh hotel with the top floor given over to inexpensive accommodation for pilgrims. It is in an extremely central position, opposite the east? (could be any direction, – I’m sure someone reading this will know and advise me…please) door of the cathedral, but as I knew it would be, the accommodation is extremely basic. A twin room with ensuite, shared with Marilyn, is 40 euros. There are beautiful spaces on the ground floor, cloisters, common areas and restaurant and the receptionists are extremely pleasant and helpful. But I think I would have preferred my usual albergue ‘The Last Stamp’ which is designed with pilgrims in mind, rather than designed for the very meagre needs of monks many centuries ago. But I am very pleased that I have been there and done it and can make an informed decision next time.
I caught up with Marilyn this morning, and it was lovely to exchange notes on the last few days, but having walked at my own pace for three days I soon felt the need to stride ahead. As I passed a bar I heard my name called and turned back to find the lovely spanish guy Antolino waving at me, so I stopped for an orange juice. And then when at the outskirts of Santiago I met a Canadian guy I first came across on his first day walking out of Oviedo.
I spent some time after arriving organising a proxy vote for the forthcoming general election in the UK and am crossing my fingers that the form will arrive on time (I will have no right to complain about UK politics if I haven’t voted – and I am sure there will be plenty to complain about in the coming months/years). I attended the noon pilgrims’ mass at the cathedral and then set about finding liquid sustenance as befits a pilgrim who has just walked 870 km up and down and around Spain.
Tonight and tomorrow is party time in Santiago. I’m not sure what the party is in aid of, but there is an absolutely huge stage set up in Praza da Quintana de Morton (the square behind the cathedral) and the guy in the post office told me that tomorrow was a fiesta day (so don’t expect any mail to get mailed!)
And today has been extremely hot. When I arrived in Santiago at 10:30 the sun had already been at full strength for an hour, and humidity was high. I wandered around the city for a while and bought a few supplies for the next day all the time trying to keep in the shade. The doors of the cathedral beckoned and I was lured into a deep and cool space. I sat once again on a pew, but this time without all the pushing and shoving that surrounds the pilgrims’ mass. It felt like heaven, but an unpure thought crept into my mind – that a bottle of cava and a fine champagne flute would have raised the game a few notches. As I sat there, it seemed a bit wrong that the wide open double doors from the Praza de Quintana funnelled the racket of the band’s sound check into the space where a couple of hours earlier the nun with the perfect voice had been singing during the mass.
There were arrangements to meet our camigos at 18:00 and we were a group of Spanish, Peruvian, French, German, South African and English who gathered in front of the cathedral for a photo opportunity, before moving on to find a drink and then a bite to eat. I led the charge to Casa Manolo, where there is offered a quick and very plentiful service. To be honest this place more suits a male appetite, being very quick, very plentiful and a bit greasy for my taste. I found that the weight of the food was having a bad effect on my system and felt suddenly very tired and a little sickly. I bade final farewells to some very special friends and returned to the hospidaria, thinking that I would get a couple of hours sleep and then perhaps go out and join the party for a while. But that didn’t happen. Instead I inserted the ear plugs against the music and zonked!
So, apologies that this post didn’t get posted on the right day. This peregrina was totally exhausted.
Today’s distance 19.5 km
Accumulated uphill elevation 198 m
Accumulated downhill elevation 224 m
Total distance 866.5 km
Average per day 27 km