Apologies for a skip in the blog -- we have reached Santiago!! And though that usually means the journey has ended, for us it is only the middle ... more on that in a minute.
On Saturday morning, we rose around seven to eat breakfast and begin our walk into Santiago. With about seventeen kilometers ahead of us, we knew we would not reach Santiago in time to attend mass at noon, so instead we decided to take our time, enjoy the decent into the city, and attend the pilgrim mass on Sunday. The weather was (thankfully) a bit cooler thanks to the rain the day before which made the walk more enjoyable. About one kilometer before the city, we could see the spires of the cathedral -- a welcomed site after so much walking. We reached the front of the cathedral around one o'clock and joined the pilgrims from all the routes celebrating their arrival. I'm always in awe when we enter Santiago: the history of the city, the significance of the pilgrimage, the majesty of the cathedral, the celebration of the pilgrims, and the sense of accomplishment overtake me. Even more special is arriving in Santiago with my husband at my side.
After asking in the shadow of the cathedral for a while, we made our way to our albergue where we dropped off our packs before walking to the pilgrim office to receive our compostelas. The line was long, but no one complains or seems to be in a hurry -- everyone is just so happy to have reached the goal! Many pilgrims in line recount their journey to the pilgrims around them, comparing stamps, comparing blisters, comparing routes and albergues and hills, all convinced that their experience was best. Finally the line that has been inching forward rounds the corner so that the front desk is visible and you can watch as pilgrims are awarded their compostelas. Soon it was my turn, then CJ's -- and just like that, we had completed our third (second for CJ) pilgrimage. Inside the pilgrim office is a chapel where we sat for a few quiet moments and prayed in thanksgiving for the journey completed and for safety in the journey yet to come. Once we had finished, we walked back to our albergue. By this time it was nearly five o'clock -- restaurants were not yet serving dinner, so we decided to take a well deserved nap.
As we walked to dinner, music and pilgrims and tourists filled the streets -- but there was something a little funny about the tourists ... first, we saw a little girl dressed as darth Vader; next some child storm troopers; then adults in Jedi robes with light sabers and even a baby yoda -- that's right, ladies and gentlemen: Santiago was hosting a Star Wars convention. Even the street musicians playing bagpipes and wooden flutes played the familiar star wars tunes. We observed the happenings while we ate dinner but then retired to our albergue (after some gelato of course) -- we were very tired.
We slept in late this morning -- almost ten! Then got up, ate breakfast at a cafe, and went to the cathedral for the main event: the Pilgrim Mass. It is amazing the amount of people who pack into the cathedral to attend the mass (or at least to watch the Thurber swing). CJ and I were waiting outside the door twenty minutes before they opened and ninety minutes before mass started and still we did not get a seat, though we did get a spot at the base of one of the pillars so that we could sit on a ledge rather than the ground. Because this was a Sunday mass, they swung the Thurber before mass started resulting in the exodus of the majority of people prior to the actual start of mass -- a welcomed occurrence: now we could move a little! Many priests were there to concelebrate, including a priest from the United States. I thought the gospel was appropriate: Jesus told the disciples to go out and make disciples of all nations. Is that not what St. James was doing on the very land we have been crossing? Is that not what this pilgrimage, the Way of St. James, commemorates? After mass was over, we fulfilled the remaining "duties" that accompany the reception of our compostelas: we prayed in the crypt of the relics of St. James for the intentions of the holy father and attended confession. We also partook in the tradition of climbing the marble stairs into the space behind the main alter and placed our hands on the shoulders of the larger than life golden St. James, thanking him for a safe journey.
Following mass we walked around Santiago for a while before returning to our albergue for ... a nap. All the walking catches up with you after a day or so and exhaustion sets in! Around three we set out again for the cathedral plaza, this time in search of an old friend who also completed the Camino this weekend: Collie. You may remember that we walked the Camino Portuguese with Collie last year -- when we discovered that we would all be in Santiago at the same time, him completing a portion of the Camino Frances and is completing the Camino Inglés, we decided to meet up to say hello. We reunited and spent the next couple hours having drinks and walking around Santiago, window shopping and catching up. It was so good to see Collie! I wish all my Camino friends could be waiting at the cathedral every time I enter Santiago. After saying good bye to Collie, CJ and I grabbed a bite for dinner (pasta!) and are now back at our albergue planning and preparing for tomorrow -- when the journey continues. Tomorrow we begin walking again, to Finnesterre. It should take us four days to reach the light house, the true end of the journey. I cannot wait!!
A few pictures from the last few days:
And now for a good night's rest before starting out again tomorrow.