Walking the Camino de Santiago from Leon to Santiago
And 200 miles later we made it to Santiago! We woke up early that morning to make sure that we would finish in time for the 12:00 pilgrim’s mass in the cathedral. I spent the majority of the morning walking with Kirstin, Nikos and Craig. We skipped the first cafe we saw because, according to Craig, “there would definitely be something a little further up.” Lies. We walked for awhile and saw a sign for a restaurant 100 meter off the road. At this point we really wanted to stop and get coffee so we decided to check it out. We were directed to a legitimate hotel (not hostal or albergue, a hotel with a bar and lobby and breakfast buffet). We showed up and weren’t really sure what to do so Nikos stood in the line of bus pilgrims who were checking out to try to find out more. While he was waiting Kirstin and Craig felt extremely uncomfortable because all of the people in the lobby were showered and wearing fresh clothes and had spotless suitcases and daypacks. The two of them felt that we did not belong with our smelly clothes and giant packs. Kirstin even went so far as to say that “we did not belong with the real humans.” At this point we gave up and continued walking through a town and eventually found a bar/cafe that was more our style. You could definitely feel the excitement as we got closer to Santiago. There was a massive statue about 5k outside the cathedral where people were taking a break and everyone was laughing and having a great time, excited to be able to see the city. We had to walk through a fair amount of the city before we reached the cathedral. The city is decently large (compared to the other towns and villages we visited) with a population of 95000. We made it through the city and to the Praza do Obradoiro where the cathedral was and Dr. Gyug was waiting for us with open arms. The feeling of walking into that main square is indescribable. I think we would all agree that at the most basic level it was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
We dropped our packs off at the albergue and hurried back to the cathedral to go to mass. The cathedral was crammed with people and there were workers walking around to make sure that there continued to be walkways for people to get through. The cathedral was beautiful. All of the side chapels were gorgeous, there was lots of baroque, and we got to see the botafumeiro in action. The cathedral has a pretty great website that you all can check out if you want more info and to see a map. They read the different groups of people from the various countries who had completed the camino. We did not get to hear our group being called because we did not arrive by 10am to register so our name was called the next day. The botafumeiro was incredible. It is a silver plated thurible that weighs 80kg and can reach speeds of 68km/hr. It costs 250 Euro each time it is lit.
After mass we went to lunch and then it was time to shop. The girls went to buy new clothes and everyone was getting souvenirs and compostelas. We met at 5:30 for the presentation when we got to explore the cathedral in more depth and with fewer people there. The portico de la gloria was amazing as was the bejeweled statue of Santiago. We walked around the outside to see the four facades: platerias, azabacheria, quintana and obradoiro. These four facades exemplified the various styles of the building. We could see romanesque, baroque, renaissance and gothic influences.
Before going to dinner, several of us joined Dr. Myers for a post Camino celebratory glass of Cava (Spanish champagne) in the super fancy Parador. It was a great way to end the camino…until Dr. Myers knocked over Suzanne’s glass which broke and spilled all over her. It was probably the sign that we should stick to the roadside bars instead of swanky hotel ones. Shortly after that, we all met for dinner at one of Dr. Gyug’s favorite restaurants in Santiago. We ordered a large variety of seafood which was all delicious, including the squid cooked in its own ink. At the end of dinner, the professors gave our their famous camino awards and we gave them two awards as well. It was sooo much fun!
After dinner, we went to a bar to get a Galician favorite, the queimada. Before we ordered the quiemada though, I got most of the group drinking caipirinhas, my favorite. If you haven’t had one, go get one and thank me later! When we were ready to do the queimada, we all sat outside and said the incantation over a flaming cauldron of alcohol which burned for about 15 minutes. We sat around talking about our camino experiences: what did we learn, what are some overall themes, what did we think about while we walked etc. It was really a bonding moment. I really liked the quiemada – it was warm and kind of spicy with a slight fruity hint. It wasn’t very strong since the alcohol had pretty much burned off. We stayed there for awhile after. I returned to the albergue around 12:30 after we sang to Craig for his birthday but the party continued until almost 4 am. Kirstin gave her walking stick (Templeton) a nice goodbye/funeral before leaving him outside the cathedral.
A few of us woke up at 6:30 to see off the first group to leave (Cristina, Suzanne and Dr. M). We had a cute little breakfast of churros, chocolate, OJ and coffee. It was really sad to start having people leave! I’m really glad I wasn’t the last one left. I went on a small but surprisingly difficult excursion to the post office to try to mail most of my camino stuff home before I continued by Euro-trip.
This was an unforgettable experience that I loved every minute of and I’m sure the rest of the group would agree.