Saturday, May 11, 2013 -- Padrón to Santiago de Compostela
Well I guess it is time to finish up these postings on my Camino that I took in May. I’m sorry for not writing more often but I no longer seem to feel up to the task of keeping The Baguette going on a regular basis. I wish I knew why but I can’t figure it out myself—it has nothing to do with the material but perhaps I’ve been spending too much time writing about things that few people are really interested in. Maybe I should just try posting very small articles with very little text. In retrospect, I think I only started this blog because I thought it would be nice to look back on my many adventures someday in the future. I guess only time will tell if that was a good idea. Anyway… Woke up early to several people in the room of the albergue snoring loudly. What actually woke most of us up during the night was a dog barking very loudly near one of the windows. It took most of us very little time to get ready in the morning and some of us but we all wanted to make this last stage in the Camino a meaningful one by starting off together as a group and so none of us headed out without the others. Walking out of Padrón took us past the Colegiata de Santa María de Iria Flavia, the first cathedral in Galicia dating from Medieval times. Ransacked in 997, it was later reconstructed and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The adjacent cemetery is where Rosalia de Castro was buried, according to her wishes, in 1885. Although her body was later removed and interred in the Pantheon in Santo Domingo de Bonaval in Santiago, her gravestone still remains along the wall adjoining the main road. Despite this being the last day on the Camino, everyone seems a bit reserved and quiet. Perhaps we are all a bit tired of not sleeping well. Perhaps we are all beginning to realize that our hike is coming to an end and we won’t be able to enjoy one another’s company for much longer. Personally, I think some spiritual guidance has been missing from this trip—it just doesn’t feel like the Camino we all did last year. That’s not to say we are all unhappy with the Camino experience—it’s just that there seems to be a different feeling this time around, a feeling that although we’ve conquered the bad roads and uncomfortable lodgings, the “joy” in accomplishment has yet to hit us full on. Of course I could be wrong but that’s the general sense I have. The number of horreos has also increased since we entered Spain a few days ago. Now, every time I see one I count it like the the Sesame Street Count: “One horreo ! Mwhaa haa haa! Two horreo! Mwhaa haa haa!” I think I ended up with a total of seventeen. It didn’t take long and we found ourselves walking along a busy road that led into the town of A Escravitude. We stopped at a café that was absolutely deserted in order to have our regular cup of café con leche and a ham and egg sandwich. The owner was quite happy to oblige but for some reason, he took FOREVER to serve our drinks and even longer to get our sandwiches ready. It wasn’t until later we found out that he was waiting for his wife to arrive so she could cook for us. While we waited we watched a program on his Hi-Def television about what it is like to walk the Camino in winter. It was quite fascinating and full of extraordinary images—the kind of documentary you wish you could purchase on DVD but sadly do not exist in any of the souvenir shops in Santiago. After leaving, we explored the nearby shrine and church built over a fountain, site of a miracle that took place in 1732. Picking up the pace on this beautiful Saturday morning, we found ourselves passing more horreos and wayside crosses marking the pilgrim path into Santiago. In the small village of Teo we came across one of the oldest wayside crosses in Galicia called the cruceiro do Francos. It was here that some of us decided to stop and have our photo taken in front of the 10km marker just before crossing the rio Tinto. From here on there was a section of road that was not paved over and we welcomed it under our weary feet. The scenery was quite amazing with old farms on every side and colourful bushes everywhere ablaze with yellow blooms. We all stopped at the Agro dos Monteiros, the high point of the Camino Portugués, to take our first look at Santiago in the distance. It was a good feeling to see our final destination just within reach. Before long we were making our way through the busy streets of Santiago heading directly to the cathedral and the shell marker in the center of Praza Obradoiro—the photo ending of our long walk—five sets of feet of five good friends who despite all odds, made it to Portugal and Spain just to walk with one another’s company once again. Although our arrival in Santiago wasn’t as uplifting and joyous as our first time last year, I am certain we all felt a great deal of relief that the journey was now behind us and that we could spend the next few days in Santiago doing some of the things that we failed to do last year. As for this moment, I think we all wanted to just sit and relax and take it all in. The Praza Obradoiro was full of pilgrims arriving from all corners of the country—mostly from the Camino Frances. Instead of heading to the Pilgrim Office to collect our Compostela we walked across town to the Seminario Menor where Santiago has its largest albergue and checked ourselves in. Charly was the only one staying somewhere else—he booked a room in the city center and planned on staying in Santiago in a bit more style than the rest of us. The albergue is a former seminary which not only has communal areas where pilgrims sleep in beds crowded next to one another but it also has individual rooms for the small price of 15 Euros per night. Not a bad investment if you are looking for a quiet room to catch up on a few Zs after many sleepless nights in other cities. Plus, many of the wings surround elegant boxwood gardens. Once we all settled in, it was time to go back into town and have ourselves some lunch. We found a cozy table in a small café across from the Fonseca Collegia and had several cups of coffee and multiple slices of tarte de Santiago. I guess we could have spent the rest of the afternoon exploring town but we all thought it would be a good idea to head to the Pilgrim Office and get our Compostela. Once we did that, we went to a grocery store and bought a few beers and some snacks to take with us to the Praza Obradoiro where we sat on the ground the rest of the day gazing up at the cathedral and watching other pilgrims arrive. It was a relaxing way to spend the day. The traditional pilgrim rituals could wait until tomorrow. For now, we were all grateful for our arrival. For dinner we headed to a restaurant that we really liked from last year's Camino called the Restaurante Central. Just like the other restaurants in town, the many varieties of seafood are displayed in large windows that open up to the street. It makes for an interesting menu to say the least. Once again, the Restaurante Central was absolutely delicious. Some of the dishes that we had were Caldo Galego soup, huge plates of paella, tuna salads, pulpo, squid and chicken with fries. The best part was that the price was right and we were able to fill our bellies.