Monday, February 7, 2011

Travelogue of Sandy's 2010 Camino to Santiago

(While we're awaiting results of last week's miles, here's a travelogue of Sandy's camino from last year, when he walked the last 166 miles of the Camino Via de la Plata to Santiago de Compostela, beginning at Puebla de Sanabria in order to arrive at Santiago on the Feast Day of St. James in the Holy Year, July 25, 2011. While we're relaxing in the comforts of home on our Cyber Pilgrimage, Rev. Sandy thought it'd be good to hear what a real pilgrimage sounds like in real time. Notes are taken from his e-mails to Gail sent via iPhone each night.)
View Via de la Plata in a larger map

Day One - Puebla de Sanabria to Lubian (18 miles)
This first day I crossed a mountain pass and went much farther than planned-- from Puebla Sanabria to Lubian. Theoretically 30 kms, but I took a longer way and suspect it was at least 35 kms. I'm exhausted, though at least no blisters. Met Artur, a man of Estonia, with whom I walked much of this camino. Am sleeping tonight with 11 other people in a room smaller than our bedroom at home. A 20-something couple across from me is making kissing noises while people talk loudly downstairs. I'm tired enough, though, that I don't expect any trouble sleeping.

Day Two - Lubian to Vilavella (7.5 miles)

Puebla de Sanabria, starting point for this 166 mile camino
to Santiago for Holy Year festivities
Not much happening here except endless walking. The albergue last night was a challenge. Only one bathroom for all the pilgrims and no place to wash clothes. A Spanish kid must've spent an hour in the bathroom first showering then washing his clothes. Then he wanted to brush his teeth too so I just went in, disrobed, and started taking my shower. I slept ok, but at about 06:00 people started stirring which meant nobody could sleep. I left with Arthur at about 07:00.

No open store or bar in the town so no breakfast. Next town was a three hour walk, but at least it was nice weather. We walked up a single track path in an elevation gain of about 1000 feet in perhaps 3 kms through forest with occasional vistas looking out over a deep valley with a freeway near the valley floor. We crossed the ridge at the border between Zamora province in Castille y Leon and  province in Galicia. Immediately the familiar Galician camino mile markers appeared, each with distance remaining to Santiago. This first one showed 244 kms.

Arthur and I talked most of the day about Catholic theology and I learned he's quite the conservative Catholic. He's thrilled with Pope Benedict and not a fan of modern attempts to reform the church.

We had a steep descent, missing the town of Portela O Canda. Here my legs started to wear out and I was glad to know Vilavella would be a short distance away. Sure enough it appeared and the only bar/cafe in town is at my hotel. Arthur and I met Dick and Annika of Netherlands there, then sat for lunch with a Spaniard, an Italian and a Dutch woman now living in Australia. Soon Arthur was done with his lunch and I relaxed into the hotel. Dinner in the restaurant of cod and salad. Bed at 23:30.

Day Three - Vilavella to As Eiras (25.5 miles)
This very challenging and frustrating day began with a nice breakfast at the Vilavella Hotel. Along with ordering a few croissants I had the waitress make a bocadillo to go. She made an enormous one of turkey, cheese and tomatoes. This would come in very handy later.
Vast uninhabited stretches, here above a reservoir after
A Gudina and before Campobecerros.

I left the hotel at 07:30, walked downhill through town and caught the camino at the base of the village. The next 14 kms were a delight as I passed farm after farm, nestled between creeks, with ancient stone walls separating them and huge, light brown cows watching my every move until I passed by. After 14 kms the path veered out of the verdant area and joined the highway.

In about a km the town of A Gudina came into view. Since it was only 11:00 I was torn as to whether I'd continue on or stay in A Gudina as planned. I sat on the sidewalk and considered my options as I ate half my bocadillo. The next village with services would be Campobecerros, 23 kms away. It would take me 5-6 hours to walk and I'd be gambling that the town's one hotel would have a room available. Still, it was only 11:00. Finally I decided to go for it, and I entered the town to get extra food and water. By noon I was on the road with fruit, more water, and two nice looking chocolate croissants.

After leaving A Gudina the camino joined a secondary road following a high ridge at 1000 meters +/- elevation. It would follow this road for about the next 12 kms, crossing tiny hamlets one by one. A gravel road then cut across a ridge and soon began a quick descent on loose shale to Campobecerros where I arrived at 18:00. Exhausted, I stopped for a beer at a tiny bar, then found the hotel. I asked for a room and was told to sit and wait for a few minutes. Twenty minutes later, still no room. I asked what was going on and was told they had no rooms. By this time - 18:45 - I was getting concerned. I knew it was 14 kms to the next town with services, Laza. That would take over 3 hours to walk, and I knew it would be too dark to walk by 22:00. I asked if they could call a taxi to take me to Laza, and they agreed. No answer from the taxi driver. Just wait a few more minutes they said. Got hold of the driver. He'll be here in maybe 20 minutes. By now it was 19:15 and, frustrated, I decided to hit the road and use what little outdoor camping gear I had with me if I couldn't get to Laza before nightfall.

I made it 8 kms before my body just could not go farther. At the nearly deserted town of As Eiras, 44.6 kms and 14 hrs after I began I found a camino rest area with three covered picnic tables. I'm sleeping tonight on the westernmost table with the sun's last glow on the horizon and a crescent moon in the southwestern sky, typing this note in my sleeping bag atop my sleeping pad at 22:36 in the evening. Beautiful pine forest is around me here, with the tiny village seemingly deserted, at least from the vantage point of this tiny picnic area on the outskirts of town. Next village, Laza, is 6kms away. Too far tonight for this tired body.

Day Four -- As Eiras to Vilar do Barrio (26 miles)
Bad planning meant sleeping the night outside at this
picnic shelter in As Eiras after a 25 mile walk. 
Norwegian friends, lovely people but had to disagree
on sexuality issues.
 Rather than being eaten by wild dogs In As Eiras last night I slept soundly through the evening and woke up first at 4:45, then at 6:30. It seemed incredibly cold and I dressed in extra layers, then headed down the hill at 07:00 toward Lasa, the place I'd hoped to reach last night. The 6.5 kms were all on pavement and I made it there by a little after 09:00.

Lots of teenaged pilgrims with tiny backpacks were leaving town at this cushy hour. I realized then it was Saturday, one week before Santiago Day and I was seeing the first of the fiesta crowds.

After a cafe con leche I began looking for bottled water and food for the day's journey. A lesson from the Via de la Plata: stock up the night before because when you wake up everything will be closed. Sure enough the tienda was closed (no water or actual food), but the panaderia was open. They gave me tap water and sold me two chocolate covered, cream filled croissants. These would be my provisions for the 423 meter/8 km climb the morning had in store -- the climb the guidebook says is hardest of the VDLP.

I walked through two tiny towns, covering 6.7 kms of fairly flat ground, then began the ascent at Tamicelas. Of course neither town had stores of any kind.

Immediately I felt the effects of yesterday's 41 kms. Every step was a slog, with my feet tired and sore and the morning mist having been replaced by a blazing sun. The climb was relentless and sweaty and the morning's croissant was a brick in my stomach. I arrived at the town of Albergueria, famous on the VDLP for its pilgrim bar and my best hope for a real lunch today, only to find it closed. A nice man assured me in Gallego that the owner would be back in a half hour. And hour and a half later still no owner. Fortunately, though, the grocery truck (tienda on wheels) arrived, allowing me a lunch of nectarines and cheese. One of the bar's customs is to hang a scallop shell from the ceiling with the name of each pilgrim who stops there. I was also hoping for a sello for my credentiale with the bar's name. No luck. Armed with carbs and protein but no memorial shell or sello I set off at 14:30 for the day's final walk -- 7.3 kms downhill to Vilar do Barrio.The wait at the bar had given me a chance to rest my feet and even catch a short snooze on the bench across the street. The rest allowed me to push through this challenging phase without a pause, and I arrived at Vilar do Barrio at 17:00. My first stop was the albergue, which I was told was full because of the arrival of a busload of young pilgrims with small backpacks. The kind hospitalera set me up in a casa rural for 40E that offers all the comforts of home.. Manuel, son of the owner, did my laundry (no charge), which was very smelly and wet with sweat. No answer from Manuel or his mom yet on a bar of soap, but I did get a restaurant suggestion and I'll head there at the traditional Spanish dinner hour of 21:00.

Day Five -- Vila do Barrio to Xunqueira de Ambia (15.6 miles)I'm at the albergue in the little farm town of Xunquiera de Ambia. Not many services here, but at least there are some bars and restaurants on this cute little town.

Before dinner last night I stocked up on fruit, water, and cheese for today's walk. On the recommendation of Manuel, son of the owner at the casa rural where I stayed, I ate at a tiny restaurant without even a sign outside. The owner/cook/waitress was a 70ish year old woman who made a very nice enselada mixta and a big bowl of caldo gallego, my first time trying this Galician classic. It's made simply of potatoes, greens from a peculiar Galician plant, and various spices. Simple but tasty. She was disappointed I didn't eat the entire bowl, but I was just too full. For that plus bread and wine she wanted to charge me 8E, but I insisted on 10.

After a good sleep at the casa rural that night I packed and headed out the door for a short day's walk. I had debated pressing on to Ourense, but given it is Sunday I decided a shorter day and potential church mass would be best.

The day alternated between sunny farm roads and shady pathways, punctuated by sleepy towns. Sheep in the meadows talked loudly to each other while their shepherd looked on. Cows, dogs and cats walked the roads, the dogs and cats being nice enough to use private toilets.

Just after I set out I was passed by a group of seven Spanish boys of 18-25ish with small backpacks. After a bit I passed them while they stopped to talk, rest, and smoke. After a time they passed me again, and I caught up again during their break. We all arrived at the Xunqueira albergue at the same time, 11:00 -- they the hare and I the ancient sea turtle.

Although the albergue was not supposed to open until 12:30 the hospitalera of this modern albergue allowed me to leave my backpack and head to the 12th c. church for mass.

The church is a gem of Romanesque architecture, dark but simple and beautiful. Filling the walls are several ornately carved reredos, including two with mi hermano Santiago. There's also a balcony organ that, according to the secretary who gave me my sello, is 300 years old.

I enjoyed the service, but also had one of those church moments that will certainly make it into a sermon. I sat down in a pew, thirty minutes early for the mass, one of six people among the 40-odd pews. A thirty- something woman comes in and, among all the available seats chooses to sit in my pew, about three feet to my left. In a few minutes another much older woman comes in and sits to my right, then another woman joins our merry group between me and the woman on my left. I count perhaps 20 people in church now, with 20% of us in one pew and ten minutes left until the service begins. Clearly I had sat in "their" pew, but rather than get up and move to another pew I decided to become one of "them." we worshiped, shared the sacrament, and mumbled our ancient prayers together (in two languages). I smelled their perfume, my first in a week.   I halfway expected a lunch invitation, but suspect they had caught a whiff of Eau de Pelerin (no shower yet after 14kms in the hot sun) and left in dismay.

Met a québécois gentleman name Andre on the return from church. He's walked all the French camino routes over the years and once all the way to Santiago. Like most long distance pilgrims on the VDLP he's now slowing down to time his arrival for July 24 in Santiago.

Shower followed by update writing. Laundry later. Cervesa very soon. Hot day outside. Windows closed to keep out the hot air. The kissy young couple from Seville are taking their siestas on (blessedly) two bunks on the other side of the room. At 14:45 time to explore the town and prep for tomorrow's walk into Ourense.

Day Six -- Xunqueira de Ambia to Ourense (18 miles)
Ancient pipe organ at the beautiful monastery church at
Xunqueira de Ambia.
I had dinner last night with Andre of Montreal and we had a tender discussion about angels and saints. He told me about his family and divorce and the 1000s of kms he's walked on caminos. Afterwards it was off to the albergue for a good sleep.

As usual in albergue people start to stir and head out at the ridiculous hour of 05:00. It's not light here until 07:00, so clearly their reason is to get a jump on albergue beds in the next town.

At 06:30 I gave up trying to sleep and was next to last out of the albergue. Today's walk to Ourense, largest town in my camino, had three main stages -- a) tiny bedroom villages, b) industrial zones, c) dense urban areas leading to the old city.

I walked through the tiny bedroom villages with Kjell and Oddbjorge of Norway. Kjell's English is quite good and he told me the story of how his 1998 camino changed his life. After the camino he came home, simplified his lifestyle, and retired so he'd have more time to volunteer at church. Then he complained bitterly about the Norwegian government forcing the Norwegian Lutheran church to accept homosexual clergy.

Kjell and Oddbjorg walked slowly, so I walked mostly alone through the industrial zone. Here I nearly flipped my first bird (yes, nearly) when a driver missed me by inches from behind as he passed a truck on a narrow road. I jumped as his car whizzed by.

As I started into the urban section I caught up with the kissy Spaniards and their friend, who's hobbling now with an injury. I tried to help them find the albergue, but I wasn't that committed given I had my heart set on a cheap hotel somewhere in the center city.

In the urban areas the yellow arrows always seem to disappear, so I had to ask directions several times to get to the Plaza Meyor. I finally found it then was about to sit down for the day's first beer when I was stopped by a camera crew. A man in a rainbow tank top asked me if I'd be interviewed. I told him I didn't speak Spanish that well, so he did the first part of the interview in English. He asked me how I liked Ourense (me lo gusta) and where I was from. I told him and also volunteered that I'd just walked 22kms and was very tired and was looking for a hotel. He asked me how many stars, one, two, or three? I told him 2-3 and, off camera now, he sent me to a hotel about a block off the Plaza Meyor.

Which is where I'm typing from right now. I checked in, went across the street for a great enselada mixta, then sat to type this note and strategize about laundry (do it now) and dinner (do it after the blazing sun goes down).

From left: Polish Margarita, Italian Francesco, Portugese
Francisco, French Pascal, and Italian Corrado at Oseiras.
Day Seven - Ourense to Cea (14 miles)
Interior of monastery church at Oseiras.
Day Seven began by asking directions at the hotel's front desk about how to get out of Ourense. The answer was fairly easy -- left, then right, then left until the Roman bridge -- the follow through was much more difficult. After the bridge and the endless suburbs there was a steep vertical climb up a cobblestone drive for 1000 ft elevation gain. The uphill climb was very tough, mostly because whenever it seemed to be ending it was in reality just taking a break before another steep slope. The first 7.5 kms took over twohours, much slower than normal. Worse, the result was a feeling of exhaustion all daylong.

The climb led to a long stretch of vacation chalets, each sitting, it seemed, on 5-10 acre parcels. These are large house, built of 6'x18"x6" slabs of rough hewn granite. While the materials should make these houses blend into their context of ancient stone buildings, just the opposite is true. Unlike the ancient homes, these stand out because they are nearly identical, symmetrical, but most of all, they are separated from their neighbors. All of the ancient houses are clustered together-- sometimes walls touching while surrounded by miles of farms -- for community and protection. Each of the homes has a barking German Shepherd tied in the yard for protection and a satellite dish attached to the house for community. The result was not an unpleasant feeling, just a disconnected one.

After a time the vacation chalets melted into the normal Galician pattern of scattered villages. At one of these villages I took a lunch of cheese omelette in baguette. The TV was on and I found myself entranced by the Spanish-dubbed version of Minority Report with Tom Cruise. After days of tranquility I was easily lured into the fast pace of this American movie and I had a hard time dragging myself away.

Within a half hour the heavy lunch required a break from walking. So in a grassy spot with shade I laid down for 20 mins with my shoes off to rest. This gave me a chance to watch the trickle of pilgrims who were behind me. In 20 mins only three -- a single Spanish woman was walking with the cigar-smoking older Spanish man. The solo Spaniard with the soccer flag still by himself. Each shared a buen camino as they passed.

After an hour I met Ramon from Madrid, a man who carries the party with him wherever he goes. His personality blends the jocular and the pushy. He was clearly frustrated with my Spanish, but clearly still wanted to communicate. At one point he asked me, "do you know what color was Santiago's white horse?" I knew he was playing with me and I told him it was the same color as George Washington's white horse. He also told me about some of the people he'd been walking with from A Gudina. A Polish woman who lives in Madrid. A Polish woman who is walking from Lourdes to Fatima to Santiago.

This was all with only 3 kms to go before the albergue in Cea. Once we arrived there after our 22km walk we found our beds, took our showers, washed our clothes, and at Ramon's suggestion headed straight to dinner -- with Magdalena, the Polish Spaniard.

It was a lively and delicious dinner, with Ramon the life of the fiesta. Rumor has it that the town's free pool is open. Several pilgrims plan to swim, and I may join them.

Otherwise it was a quiet day here on the Via de la Plata, unless you include the fact that there are now at least 5 times the number of pilgrims as before.  But only one Americano.

Day Eight -- Cea to Oseira to A Laxe (25.5 miles)
Medieval bridge before Ponte Ulla
Doing fine here, but had one of the toughest days yet. The day started at the delightful little town of Cea. I'd had dinner last night with Ramon and Magdalena. Then an English speaking Spaniard wanted to have a beer. So I got back in around 10:30 and settled down in my top bunk.

I slept fine, but as usual too short because of the mass exodus from the albergue at 05:30. I finally dragged myself out of bed at 06:30 and hit the road 1/2 hour later.

I soon caught up with Kristina, an older Polish woman, and Francisco from Portugal. Although they don't share a common language somehow they're stuck together like glue. Fracisco has what the Bible would call a "withered arm" which means he can't carry a backpack. Instead he has a suitcase on wheels - which must be an enormous challenge in these very rough paths. I also soon met Pascal and the two Italians. We arrived together at the incredible monastery of Oseira. I attended 10:30 prayer office with the monks. If I were a multimillionaire I would buy them a new pipe organ to replace their cheap electronic. The service was a half hour in length and afterward Brother Thomas gave me a tiny painting of the face of Jesus.

Kristina, Francisco and I soon took off for the day's destination, Castro do Dozon, about 10 kms beyond the 9km we'd already walked. I soon left behind the two of them and got in my walking groove, with this stretch pretty deserted since it's a longer option to go via the monastery from Cea.

After a bit I saw the two Germans ahead. They were clearly struggling on the rough path with their baby, Jacob, and his stroller. I helped them through the worst of it but left thinking they'd made a huge mistake to try this with the baby.

Given the extra time for the monastery I arrived fairly late at the day's goal, only to learn that the albergue was full. Next albergue: 19 kms away in A Laxe. So I set out at 15:00 to walk the extra miles for what I believed to be a total of 37kms.

As the distance dragged on I was clearly flirting with my endurance boundary. Every step was painful and the goal seemed only slowly to get closer. I stopped to rest every hour, then every half hour. As I approached the albergue a van full of kids pulled up - the same kids from Lasa with the small backpacks. I couldn't believe it. They were going to beat me to the last bed at the albergue. Sure enough, I headed to the door and a sign was already posted, "Completo." I was stunned. I asked the hospitalera if she had any beds at all. She said no, though there were beds another five kms away.  But as we were talking the kids and their leaders from the van were listening. They invited me to stay with them in a backroom with mats on the floor. I enthusiastically said yes and they showed me the room, laid out my mat, and put the sheet on for me. Some of the kids tried out their English a little on me to be friendly. End result, they get Saint of the Day in my book.

Since it was already 8:30 and the doors lock at 22:00 I set down my stuff and walked the .5 km to the restaurant. As I was finishing, who should appear but Artur of Estonia. We briefly chatted before I headed to the Albergue for bed. The hospitalera insists that my mileage today was actually 42 kms, and I believe her.

Tomorrow Artur and I will head out at a reasonable hour to Ponte Ulla, an 18 km walk. I'm two day's ahead of plan so I need to cool my jets in order not to arrive early in Santiago.

Day Nine -- A Laxe to Ponte Ulla (17.8 miles)
Arrival at Santiago cathedral with Artur.
After my super long day yesterday I was certain today would be a total drag. I woke up with the kids from the van saying "good morning" to me in order to practice their English. I thanked one of their leaders once again for helping make a place for me at the albergue and he told me, in Spanish, that he could tell I really needed one. I asked him how he could tell and he pointed to his eyes and drew his fingers down his cheeks then pointed at me. I hadn't realized I'd looked so desperate, or that my tears had been obvious. Yes, I'd shed some tears, mostly after my place at the albergue was assured. I've learned about myself that after 25-26 miles of walking I tend to get weepy. Oh well.

Soon Artur hunted me down and after some vending machine coffee we set out. We would walk together all 26 kms to our evening destination of Ponte Ulla.

The walk was through farmlands as well as one small city -- Silleda. Not much to say about the walk except that we met about 40 Spanish kids who're walking together, and Artur
Told me his battle story.

Artur is a Lt Colonel in the Estonian army and is the most decorated soldier from Estonia during his army's participation in the War in Iraq. His medals include the American bronze star, which was awarded to him for valor in combat. Because of his medals he was asked to speak to a huge government meeting that included the Pres and PM.of his country.

I learned a few day's ago that if I could find the right question I could get Artur talking for hours as we walked. So we(he) talked about women priests, American, CS Lewis, great military campaigns, transubstantiation, etc. And before I knew it we were in Ponte Ulla, our goal for the night.

Here with us in a simple pensione are an English/ Turkish father and daughter and Kjell and Oddbjorg of Norway. We had a cervesa together then dinner separately. Then off to bed for the remaining 20 kms to Santiago. I'm arriving 2 day's ahead of schedule after a great Via de la Plata.

Can't believe this stage is just about over. I'll see how I feel Sunday before making a decision about walking to Finisterre starting. I'm already feeling a good sense of accomplishment and am  not sure I want to fight the inevitable crowds going to Finisterre. But we'll see.

Day Ten -- Ponte Ulla to Santiago de Compostela (12.5 miles)
Gigantes at Santiago during Holy Year festivities. An
inspiration for gigantes at First Church on Epiphany.
July 23, and here I am in Santiago de Compostela. The weather is perfect, the streets are crowded with pilgrims, and my legs are tired and sore from walking 266 kms.

I overslept this morning and knocked on Artur's door at 8:00 -- an hour after our planned departure from Ponte Ulla. The nice restaurant owner made us toast, then we donned our mochilas and were off for a 22 km final stage to Santiago.

The day was perfectly uneventful. We dutifully followed the yellow arrows as they snaked us up and down farmland and forest hills, then finally through the suburbs of Santiago. The Via de la Plata brings pilgrims into Santiago from the south, and sure enough our first vista of the cathedral was its southern face. As we wound through the city, though, somehow we ended up approaching the cathedral from its northwest side.

Because he immediately wanted his compostela I showed Artur to the pilgrim office then left him there to check into my hotel, arranged at the last minute (since I wasn't certain the day of my arrival) by our friends at the Altair. Once I realized my room hadtwo twin beds I returned to the pilgrim office (after lunch) and waited for Artur so I could offer him to stay in my room.  Since he had no room arranged he was happy to accept, so we dumped his stuff in my room, headed to the pilgrim mass, then had a nice dinner at one of the restaurants you and I ate at in 2008. Afterward we walked the city and enjoyed taking photos of street minstrels and magicians who seem to be in most every plaza.

As always, the mass was emotional for me. I thought about and prayed for the various pilgrims I'd met and celebrated with gratitude and relief that I'd safely completed this long and challenging endeavor.

Some statistics:

  • Days walked: 10
  • Kilometers walked: 266
  • Avg kms per day: 26.6
  • Miles walked: 166.25
  • Avg miles per day: 16.6
At this point I'm not sure about walking to Finisterre. I expect it will be very crowded, and I'll know very few pilgrims. If I do I will leave most likely on Monday, but a Sunday start is also possible. I'll think and plan more over the next days.

Meantime, tomorrow is festival day and thanks to you I have a room here! The festival organizers have mounted a huge framework for lights, fireworks and lasers on the cathedral facade. If I can I'll get a seat in the main plaza. If not, apparently there are also goods seats at a few nearby parks.

Santiago de Compostela - FestivalOn Day Eleven (July 24) I had a nice breakfast with Artur then packed and went to the hotel. It was a nice suite in a hotel with a big atrium and only about 3/4 mile from central Santiago.

After checking in I wandered the streets, watching the various street characters, including giants, fire breathing dragons and grotesques. There also marching bands and many street musicians. I took a break in a cafe, plotted my week's strategy over a late lunch, then headed to Plaza Obradoiro to wait for the Fuego (fireworks).

Lucky I did. I got there at about 19:00 for the 23:30 show, and at about 20:00 they closed the square. There were perhaps 10,000 people in the square and I lucked into a group from Seville sitting next to a Uruguayan mother-daughter pair who live in Vigo. The leader of the Sevillians is an Internist named Javier. The Uruguayan daughter just graduated med school.

Then the fireworks started. I have never ever seen anything like these. The entire facade of the cathedral had been planted with lasers and rockets and strobe lights. At times I worried for the cathedral building itself, which sometimes seemed to be exploding. My seat was spectacular-- too close possibly-- and we were showered many times by falling ash and debris. Truly an overwhelming experience.

After all 10,000 of us pushed our way through the narrow streets I headed to the hotel for a few hours' sleep in advance of an early assault on the pilgrims' office for my compostele. I got to the office at 07:00 on Day Twelve (July 25) to find 75 people already there. By the 09:00 opening I would estimate there were at least 500 pilgrims in a line stretching more than 3 blocks. Still, the cathedral was well organized, with many stations. I had my Holy Year/Holy Day compostele by 09:30.

I checked my festival schedule just then and realized that the grand procession to the solemn cathedral mass would begin at 10:00. I headed back to the plaza and stood in a group of thousands to enjoy a procession of soldiers, clergy, nobility, governmental leaders, and finally the King and Queen of Spain. People around me shouted "Vive el Rey!"

Knowing the cathedral was already packed (the line was even longer than for the pilgrim office) I pushed through the crowd once again, got breakfast, got my backpack, and headed to my home for the next three nights, the Altair.

People seemed to be enthralled by my film of the fireworks, so I'm going to put together a YouTube video of them today. Should be fun.

On the way to the Altair I saw Magdalena of Poland and the Italian from Modena who walked with Corrado and Pascal. He said they've both now gone home. Our thin stream of Via de la Plata pilgrims is quickly emptying into the ocean.
I'm now laying low at the Altair and will venture out when the crowded streets have emptied. Beautiful, clear day, slight breeze, probably 20c degrees. 

1 comment:

  1. I am really enjoying hearing about your journey. It is making me want to take a trip to spain.