Cathedral – Santiago de Compostela

 May 24, 2016
This was my last day in Santiago and even though I took a day off to go to the coast yesterday, today felt like the final completion to my pilgrimage, my journey from St.Jean Pied de Port in France, over the Pyrenees, through the rolling hills of Basque country, ancient villages and medieval churches and monasteries, the wheat fields and canola flower fields, the ups and downs and winding cobbled stoned streets of the hill towns, the vineyards, the very wide open flat plains, the mountains into green plush Galicia . . . .ended as I attended the mass at Santiago de Compostela Catherdral.
I am not Catholic, I am a Protestant Christian so I had no attachment to the pomp and circumstance of the service. It was all in Spanish and I recognized no words that sounded like scripture. I attended another pilgrim mass or blessing in a small village in the mountains a couple of weeks ago and I was given a paper with the English translation of the service which made it very enjoyable, personal and meaningful as the priest read the scriptures. Today in Santiago there was a woman singing and a backup choir and I absolutely loved the music. I loved the gold above the altar and the red vestments of the priests against the background of the white altar. It was so beautiful, but for me, not “spiritually” meaningful. Just beautiful and I knew they were talking about my Jesus.
However, at the end of the mass, when everyone that went forward had received communion and were seated, a hush came across the crowd as men in maroon vestments came forward and the large incense burners started swinging. This tradition was originally started in medieval times because the cathedral was filled with pilgrims that smelled from weeks or months of walking. Today it is a tradition that for me was magical and really completed my six week journey across Spain. We had heard that they weren’t doing it every day, they did it only on Fridays; so we weren’t expecting it. We heard wrong.
You had to be there to to know what I am talking about. I don’t know if you had to be a pilgrim to feel what I felt, but it ended my journey on an upbeat, surreal, magical tone.

Turn your sound up to enjoy this little snippet of a video (you can also enlarge the video by clicking the marks in the lower right):

Come share the time with me in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral:

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North Side

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North side

We entered through a door on the east side and found a seat as we knew seating for the mass was at a premium.

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The view above where we were sitting

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The beautiful altar – look at the detail and the statue of St. James

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Another view of the altar

There were no photographs allowed during the service, but before the mass started, I took some photos of the columns which really fascinated me.
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After the mass we stayed in the Cathedral wandering around, looking into every little crook and cranny. Other than the ornate altar, it was quite simple and plain.

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A statue of Jesus in a small side chapel (I am not sure if that is what they are called-the little rooms on the side of the cathedral)

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Statue of St. James based on a legend that he returned (came back to life) to fight the Moors in the Battle of Clavijo,

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 In the crypt, below the altar:
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The remains of St. James

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Also in the crypt, appeared to be empty, but I don’t know what was in there – it was not accessible.

The long line to touch the statue of St. James.
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Coming out on the other side after touching the statue of St. James.

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An altar in one of the side chapels

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I could not read who was buried here.

After the mass I was able to get up closer to the altar to take these.

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A better view?

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Western view of the Cathedral from the Plaza del Obradoiro,

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We left the cathedral and went to a four-level museum within the western face of the cathedral. As we walked up the stairs we were treated with reaching the roof on the top level. We walked out on the ancient stones and imagined how it might look when the present day restoration is completed.

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We looked at our watches and knew it was time to leave the Cathedral, it was almost 3 pm and we had an early flight in the morning  to return to San Diego; we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We left silently so filled with the awe and the extent of knowledge we had received in the cathedral and in the museum. We had lunch again in our favorite restaurant in Santiago, Casa Manolo. As we walked back to our hotel, La Salle, I felt complete and satisfied with my journey. I am blessed that I was able to complete it. I am still processing it all, but I turned around and took my last view of ancient streets of old Santiago and snapped this picture:

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Good bye Santiago de Compostela

May 27, 2016

I am home now, shaking off the jet lag, processing this wonderful experience and looking at the wonderful photos that are a part of the journey. I have shared on this blog just a few of the hundreds of photos I took. When I get a little more settled I will come up with a way to share all the photos that will be easy and entertaining. So, for those interested, you can keep following the blog and look forward to hearing from me again. Thank you for your interest, your comments and your encouragement in sharing this journey with me.

 

Day 39      Lavacolla to Santiago

May 22, 2016             Sunday    6.2 miles         Left at 9:30 am arrived at the Cathedral at 3:00 (after one hour lunch)
I decided before the day began that I was going to “go with the flow.” I had some preconceived expectations of what I wanted to do and I let go of all of that just to experience the day as it happened.

We started our day with a pilgrim breakfast in our lovely pension by Martha.

Before we got to the suburbs of Santiago we walked through some rural areas and saw a young boy driving a tractor with his mother behind him shouting directions.

Mother and son doing farm work

Pilgrims all heading to Santiago, finishing their pilgrimage today.






And then we enter Santiago. It is still probably two miles until we get to the Cathedral.

Is this the same donkey I saw leaving Cacabelos?

We have heard that the line to get your certificate of completion, so to speak can be two hours long so we stop for lunch before going to the Cathedral. Several days ago a pilgrim told us we MUST go to this particular restaurant in Plaza Cervantes, and there it was, right in front of us. It was indeed a good lunch – now off we go to the Cathedral.

Lee and I in front of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral




It took us quite awhile to actually find “where” to get our Compostelas but once we did, the wait was about one hour for us.  We had to show our Pilgrim Passports to prove where we started and how long it took.

I have two passports because I filled up the first one


And then . . . It is official – I walked the 500 miles (with a few exceptions) across northern Spain!

Holding my certificates


This has been such a dramatic journey and it is too soon to process it all; that will come later. There are so many photos and stories I have not shared, but this may be my last blog until I  get home. I still, as I write this, have not been inside the Cathedral. There is more to experience.

Day 38 Salceda to Lavacolla

May 21, 2016            Saturday             11.2 miles         Left at 8:30 Arrived at 3:30 with several breaks 
This was my and our last long walk of the Camino. Rain was forecasted in the late afternoon, and if we hurried we could possibly make it to Lavacolla before the rain started. Optimism prevailed and we left without our rain gear on – but we couldn’t seem to hurry; still too much to see and enjoy.

The Alberque Turistico was hard to leave Saturday morning. We kept waiting for the dining room to open for our free breakfast; it was supposed to open at 7:00 and here it was after 7:30 and no sign of life in the gorgeous glass dining room. Lee and I walked out to check on things one more time and noticed someone had a cup of coffee. Ahhh- coffee alert, where did he get it? We discovered breakfast had started without us just fine in another part of the facility. Joke was on us. It was the typical peregrinos breakfast, juice, toast, coffee.

As we left we felt the chill of the moist air and wanted to walk quickly to warm up. This was going to be a day of little towns every coupleof miles. Our route was close to a highway most of the time but also was cloistered in country lanes sheltered by trees. Early in the day we passed pilgrims having coffee with a group of Italians signing opera.

Opera singers on the right

Note the sign to Santiago


Walter’s flower

And then we met Walter and Flan. Walter is one of these people you meet and instantly know he is a gentle soul, a good person and would love to spend more time with him. He was from Argentina but has been in Spain 10 years ago. His van was parked near a little pavilion. The doors were open to the van and we looked inside as we passed – it was clean and neat and colorful, hippie beads tied to one side.  It was definitely a view from the 60’s. Walter himself was a throw back, wearing colorful loose clothes, clean and neat with his hair tied in a short pony tail. Five years ago he did the Camino with Flan, his dog and wrote a memoir, “My Solidary Companion,” or something close to that in Spanish. He gave Lee and I flowers and hugs and kisses when we left – that is Lee wearing the flower above. 

The groves of trees that we entered looked different to me today – I felt like I was in the redwoods, but they were actually eucalyptus trees, perhaps a different variety than we have inSo. California.

A cyclist whips right by us

And then we catch up with him as he stops for something


I see a Galician lady weed whacking with a cythe and I ask and she lets me take her picture, my confidence is building for people pictures.



Coming down a hill we see an older lady  in the distance near a Camino marker walking  with two canes,, struggling up a slight incline. I wanted to take a picture as it was such a contrast – the Camino marker and this person walking with such difficulty, swaying back and forth as she leaned from one cane to the other,right to left , bearing her weight as she could to keep her balance – but I was too far away to photograph the moment. Instead I said a silent prayer for her and thanked God again for the healing of my shin splints and the fact that I have not had a MAJOR injury on the Camino. As we got closer we waved and greeted her and she called out “Buen Camino” to us. I took this as I walked away:


I hid behind a tree to get this one. AmI becoming a paparazzi?


These flowers were everywhere!


I come around a corner and what do I see but California poppies for the first time:

The wind is starting to feel like rain, but we are still dry. Even though we are ten or twelvemilesfromSantiago, we are close to the Santiago airport. A plane flies overhead and it is so close we think we are on the landing strip, til we look to our leftand see we practically are!

Near the airport we are again in a little tree-covered area and come across a waterfall.

Lee, Brian and I



No siesta forthem – they are tending the garden


We were so lucky. We had a little trouble finding our pension for the night, but our hostess came and picked us up and drove us to the best pension yet – so classy!

Tomorrow is Day 39 and God willing I will walk into Santiago with my two friends, Lee and Brian. Thank you for sharing the journey with me also.

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music

All is going.well with my journey on the Camino de Santiago, but I have a lot of catching up up do.The sound of music in the Pyrennes is not from musc being streamed as WIFI (the Spanish pronounce it WEE-FEE). has been very sparse. I left off with me sitting in the airport in Madrid, waiting for a connecting flight to Pamplona.

The flight to Pamplona was on a small little plane, landing in a small little airport. From the air the joy of travel won over  sleep deprivation as I saw Pamplona from the air; seeing the green hills and getting excited to have my journey begin. I was seeing Spain for the first time. The flight attendant announced everything in Spanish and English, but  I could understand his Spanish better than his English. My instructions from my B&B host (curazonpuro.es) were to take a taxi and go to the bus station in Pamplona where he would pick me up and take me to his place and transport me to France the following day. I had met Hugo in the Madrid airport, a fellow pilgrim, and we shared the taxi ride and the cost. Hugo is from Miami and a retired American Airline employee that flies for free and is planning to be on the Camino for several months if needed. He did not need to fly on a round-trip ticket. Being bilingual in Spanish and English, Hugo did all the talking to the taxi driver as he spoke no English. Driving through this section of Pamplona, it looked like any other modern city, clean, industrial and busy. Once at the airport Hugo went his way to catch a bus toFrance and I located the spot where I was to meet my host, I had 1 1/2 hours to wait. I tried to start conversation in Spanish to the well dressed urbanites hanging around in the same waiting area but it was quite awkward. They couldn’t understand my Spanish and no one in that hour and a half spoke Enlish. The Pamplona bus station is clean and modern and bustling with well dressed people. When I wasn’t fumbling with talking, I spent the time walking and stretching on a large green grassy area attached to a school next to the bus station.

My stay at the B & B was delightful. Istvan and his wife,Barbara, are Hungarians who have immigrated to Spain. Their love for the Camino and their own experiences on the Camino caused them to buy a big house with extra bedrooms and host pilgrims on their was to St.Jean Piedde Port. Stayng in their place at the same time was an American couple, Joette and Ed from St.Louis;  and another couple and their teenage daughter from Seattle. Everyone was delightful, warm and engaged. My hostesses were willing to accommodate me as a vegetarian, but my vegan status was left in San Dego. I knew it would be difficult to remain a vegan before I left, but Isoon learned it would be impossible, zi went with the flow, eating moderately ad carefully.

Day 37 Ribadisco to Salceda

May 20,2016               Friday                           9 miles-left at 9:30, arrived at 3:30
Today we had an easy walk along farms and dairies and through one little modern town. We started with a light breakfast provided by our generous host at Casa Vaamonde. (Pilgrim breakfast is often toast and coffee)

We had an easy climb out of the valley that Ribadisco is in – similar to other days, shaded tree-lined paths, close to farms and it seemed like I saw more chickens today. We didn’t have to worry about mud or rain – once the fog lifted, we had 70 degree weather and sunshine.


We came out of the shaded area into this lovely pastoral scene of freshly harvested hay. Many of the pilgrims were stopping to take off their jackets and a few thei shirts.

Pilgrim from Poland


We passed several more Galicians working that let me take their photo, were actually proud to have been asked.

And then while we were stopping for lunch,  who did I run into but Joette  from St. Louis- who I met on Day 0  -my housemate at the first pension I stayed at just outside Pamplona, my first night in Spain. She had spent some extra days in Pamplona and I was ahead of her and didn’t think I would see her again.  It was so wonderful seeing her and catching up on her stories, and boy did she have some good stories.

The day continued to get wonderfully warm and when we arrived about home for the night,we were so pleased with a spacious room,spacious outdoor  sitting area and a clothesline.  The simple life of a pilgrim. We will enjoy the warm summer-like evening, as rain is forecast for tomorrow and we will have our last long walk -11.2 miles.