Sean Mallory has survived to walk another day.
Well we had a lie in this morning until 8 … I know … but when you are usually up from 06.30 – 07.00 and finishing off your breakfast at 8 and heading off to walk, 8 is a lie in of sorts. You wake wondering what to do. The task is finished and you feel a kind of emptiness, something is missing. Apparently loads of people suffer from this. My feet are manageable today as we are not walking very far at all.
Anyway, the Old Town of Santiago is really beautiful and quite big. The streets are narrow and enclosed by tall stone buildings that block out the sun but not the rain. It is raining again but we are not bothered today with the rain. The layout and structure, especially the architecture, remind me of the old quarters in the Italian cities, especially the Tuscan cities … beautiful. Our hotel is just outside the Old Town walls and is absolutely stunning and quaint.
The staff are very attentive and as per usual the barman has good English. One of the hotel’s features is an old well in the bar. It is flush with the floor with a plate of glass covering it. Glass strong enough to allow you to stagger across it! The barman tells me the hotel was originally a merchant’s house and the well was his. It is approximately 18 metres deep and in the winter it still fills to a mark around about 5 or 6 metres below the top. With water from the street … tasty I’m sure. Water was taxed back in those days so he used to allow the locals to come and fill from it … for a small stipend of course!
We walked across the road and climbed a few steps (not the main steps) and headed off to get our Camino certificate around 10.00 from the Pilgrim’s Office. Searching for the office we passed our friendly Spanish couple who had their certificate in their hands and seemed quite sober. A quick wave, a Buen Camino, and they were gone. I was glad that they made it.
There were plenty of ‘pilgrims’ around and we found the office, got our ticket and waited almost 1.5 hours in a queue. Some familiar faces were sitting around with us. When called there was a great feeling of achievement. The staff were lovely and talked away while issuing it. I had Carlos who addressed me as ‘Pilgrim’. The first person to do so and I never thought of myself as such until that moment. He asked what brought us on the Camino and was genuinely delighted when I told him our reason for doing so. As he handed over the certificate the religious / spiritual aspect of the walk came through and for a moment we felt different. Seriously, it was quite moving. After that it all went pear shaped!
Normally your name is readout at a Pilgrim’s mass on Sunday morning at 12.00am mass in San Francisco Church but we were in the ticketing queue and so we didn’t make that one but Carlos informed us that if we wished our names would be read out at 7.00pm mass this evening in another mass for pilgrims so we said yes to that one.
The weather turned to thunder storms and rivers of rain water flowed down through the streets so we sheltered in cafes and bars as we walked around … drinking beers and gin & tonics and the emptiness was soon forgotten and the sore feet. In between the showers we people watched and toured around the shops and …
Like the rain people were still flooding in to the Old town finishing off their Camino and looking for the cathedral. On one occasion across from the fountain as we sat out of the rain underneath a colonnade, drinking tea / coffee we noticed a family standing about looking at their map, checking to see if there are any directions to the cathedral. I waved over at them and pointed down the street in its direction and they understood immediately, waved a thanks and headed off.
Later we just missed a downpour while queuing to get in to the cathedral. A small group of men are queuing in front of us and one has patches on his jacket with one of those being a symbol of a horned devil and the words ‘Satan is watching’ below. He also has witchcraft type symbols on his jacket.
The cathedral is a huge behemoth of a structure. Large vaulted ceilings overhang the cavernous crucifix shaped nave. Held up on broad pillars of carved stone, reaching up to the heavens.
Scaffolding hid most of the interior as the cathedral was being refurbished but the height and splendour was there to admire. Somewhat denuded of the great art works associated with the churches of the Renaissance, it still, like the Romanesque churches on our walk, displayed its own art mostly isolated to the alter area with a few offshoots to the side chapels hidden under the pillars and dedicated to past servants of the church … Her Saints. What art there was to behold was more Byzantine rather than Renaissance. We didn’t join the queue to view the relics of St James as the queue was too long and wasn’t moving very fast at all. Besides there is doubt that it is actually him!
The Botafumeiro and its pulley system was on view. It is only swung on important religious days or whenever St James’ day falls on a Sunday. Normally it is swung at the Pilgrim’s masses but as the Cathedral was under-going refurbishment it was out of action and hence why the mass was held in the Church of San Francisco. That was something we would like to have seen.
But the torrential rain took its toll and we retreated back to the hotel where we, feet up, continued on with the beers and Rioja. The gin just didn't seem appropriate for the occasion to my wife. Irrespective of the rain we are enjoying the day off.
At about 6.30pm we dash around to the Church de San Franciso … dashing being a euphemism as we hadn’t a clue where it was but we eventually find it and take our seats. By 7.10 we realise that something is amiss as there is very few here and head to the Pilgrim’s office to check out the information we were given. To our annoyance Carlos forgot to inform us that the 7.00pm mass, is in fact the 07.30pm in the Church of Santa María a Real do Sar at 7.30pm. After talking to an Irish priest - there are priests from all over the world here, and they are here for ecumenical reasons and educational reasons - he points us in the right direction but by the time we get there we miss the calling out of the Pilgrim’s names. Well at least we tried.
Note to Carlos – get your information updated mate!
In concluding … I still think about the Camino and try and fathom its meaning. There is an emptiness, a sense that I should be doing something but what I cannot say. Despite the pain of my feet I enjoyed every moment of it.
It is a walk through your life. A walk through all that you have experienced - the ups, the downs, the joy and the pain. It makes you reflect and contemplate what is important in your life. It has a quite profound effect on you. I’m still trying to come to terms with it. Would I walk another stage of it … Damn right I would and if I could I’d be there at the drop of a hat.
As for the Galicians, at least the ones we encountered are really kind and considerate peoples. They are Celts first and Spanish second.
But I leave you with what I consider to be the quote of the Camino for me:
On one of our days we met an Australian guy from Melbourne who was also walking with his wife. His wife was really struggling and she was about 20 to 30 feet behind him. As we drew level with him the usual pleasantries of Buen Camino was exchanged and I knew he was an Aussie right away by his accent.
So he and I struck up a conversation and my wife not interested in it had dropped a few feet behind. Towards the end of the end of our conversation he asked who I was with and I turned and pointed out my wife as there were quite a few walkers about at this point. He looked back over his should at her and stated very casually and matter-of- factually:
Yeah, just like moine, dragging the chain!
Who says romance is dead?