Today is the Feast of the Ascension, which aside from being a holy day is a festival here in Santiago (maybe in all of Spain? I don't know.) so the church was filled with priests, the bishop, military carrying banners and flags, choirs, and many tourists and pilgrims. At the start of mass, they welcome the pilgrims and announce the names of the countries from which pilgrims have arrived since the last mass and from which point they started: the first countries they read were "Arriving from St. Jean Pied de Port are pilgrims from the United States and Holland" -- that's Vera and me!! We heard yesterday that the incense burner they used wasn't the real one and that they would use the real one today since it was a feast day -- lies. It was the real one yesterday. So we watched again today as the team of men lifted and swung the giant incense burner across the church. I think they had a little more umph today, because that incense burner really flew!!!
After mass Vera and I headed back to the Albergue. It was still raining, and I really REALLY needed to do some laundry. After all my clothes was washed and dried and I had rested a bit, we went back into the cathedral so that Vera could touch the shoulders of St. James (she wasn't with us yesterday when we had done it). We stayed there for a bit, and I had the chance to pray quietly in some of the beautiful side chapels. And when we had had enough of the cathedral, we headed out into the city to the street with all the souvenir shops -- to be fair you have to look inside every one!! haha We spent a couple hours looking through t shirts and trinkets and jewelry and shot glasses, but let's be honest: the best "souvenir" is one that money can't buy, because you pay with your feet -- my compestella. (Note: I still spent too much money buying things I didn't really need ...) And guess who we ran into while we were shopping? Olivier!!! It was so good to see him!! He leaves Santiago tomorrow, so there was not much time for visiting; but it was so nice to know that he made it to Santiago.
At seven we headed back to the cathedral plaza to meet the ladies from the UK -- we ran into them yesterday and had arranged to have dinner tonight. We are dinner at a really great restaurant: lentils for course one, pork cordon blue with salad and chips for course two, tarts de Santiago for desert (though I ordered ice cream ... the waiter had a mix up. haha) and plenty of vino y pan. It was really nice to catch up with the UK ladies and share our Camino experiences. They are so sweet to us (they bought our dinner) -- it is sad to say good bye to them, too!
And now I am back in my Albergue, all tucked into bed.
Here are a few pictures from today (though I didn't take too many!!):
Tomorrow will be a leisurely day: we have every intention of sleeping in followed by attending mass and visiting both the Cathedral Museum and the Pilgrim Museum. Hopefully it will be sunny tomorrow so that we can also visit the really beautiful park! Tomorrow evening Vera's parents are flying into Santiago to join her, so I will join them for dinner.
I have such mixed emotions at the end if today: I am joyous for completing my journey, crushed to see fellow pilgrims leave, excited for new adventures tomorrow, and (slowly) ready to travel back home for the journey that awaits me there. But for now: sleep. Not walking all day has worn me out!