Day 24, Oct 22: Pedrouzo Arca to Santiago de Compostela, 12mi

I had lots of dreams last night; starting to think about re-entry to my real life.  Ahhh, not yet!!

Took my time this morning, going to get breakfast and read a little before heading out. Only 12 miles and will be in Santiago.  I am excited to see this big destination, but kind of want to draw it out..
Weather was great today.  It can be so rainy here in Galacia so much of the year, so to be able to come into the city with sunshine is a gift!  I can find my way and look around/explore so much more easily.  I had a very pleasant walk this morning, not fast and not slow.  Several times took a few minutes to stop and look at something, and sit and reflect at a little stream.  I asked myself if I was dragging my feet – I want to get to this big city and look around, but it also signifies me nearing the end of this amazing walking-every-day experience.  Not completely, since I will continue on to the coast, but Santiago has its own Final-Destination feel.
It felt like it took a while to get into the heart of the city; maybe it was the anticipation.  I thought the Cathedral would be right there up-front, but it was deeper in and you can’t see it until you’re almost at its feet.  And then, THERE IT IS.  It’s huge, and has quite a presence.  The square where it resides is called Praza do Obradoiro, and also houses the Galacian government town hall and a beautiful Renaissance Parador. I inquired there about prices of rooms, just to see if I could swing it – about 180 euros per night for a single room.  Not really that bad, but I didn’t need to stay there that badly either!
There were many pilgrims and people milling about the square, or lying on the ground just soaking up the sun and the atmosphere.  I just stood there and smiled, and tried to take it all in.  Tried to take a mental picture of the view, the feeling, the smell, the sun and the slight breeze – these are some moments I will treasure always!  It is a little mind-blowing to think that I WALKED here.  Almost 500 miles!
Me in front of the Cathedral in Santiago on Thursday afternoon, just after arriving in the city.  It is undergoing some major reconstruction, which I learned about when visiting the museum the next day.

Me in front of the Cathedral in Santiago on Thursday afternoon, just after arriving in the city. It is undergoing some major reconstruction, which I learned about when visiting the museum the next day.

Next I went to the Pilgrim’s Office, to get my “Compostela” which is the official certificate of completion for walking the Camino.  You can actually get it if you have walked the final 100k into Santiago; you needn’t have done the entire way.  You also earn it if you’ve biked or ridden horseback the final 200km.  (For the record, I didn’t see anyone on horseback.)
I waited in line about an hour.  Someone told me that in the summer you can wait up to 6 hours!
Waiting in line at the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago.  Anyone who has walked at least the last 100km into the city gets a certificate of completion of the Camino.  I feel GREAT having walked here all the way from St. Jean Pied d' Port, France!!

Waiting in line at the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago. Anyone who has walked at least the last 100km into the city gets a certificate of completion of the Camino. I feel GREAT having walked here all the way from St. Jean Pied d’ Port, France!!

After that, I went looking for a hotel.  I decided not to stay in an Albergue because I wanted to stay 2 nights and it would be nice to have a place to myself.  I found one that was really quite lovely, though only rated “2 stars” and the price was right, for me, at 60 euros per night.  I checked in, unloaded my bag, and sent a quick email to Lucas and my family letting them all know I’d arrived.
I headed out to explore; it was about 4pm by now, and the sun was still pretty high in the sky with lovely warm temperatures.  I wandered around, and found a really pretty, peaceful park that I walked through and took some photos.
I went back into the historic part of the city, the area all around the Cathedral, and found a cafe/bar that had seats outside in the sun where I could people-watch.  So fun!  I ordered wine and Galacian cheese with bread.  It was very busy at the restaurant and on the street, pilgrims, tourists, and locals.
Typical Galacian cheese served and sold everywhere here; a mild cow's milk cheese that is brilliant with any kind of wine.  Galacia is known for its cheese, meats, and seafood.

Typical Galacian cheese served and sold everywhere here; a mild cow’s milk cheese that is brilliant with any kind of wine. Galacia is known for its cheese, meats, and seafood.

Next I went back to my hotel and showered, then headed to the 7:30 Pilgrim’s mass at the Cathedral.  Every day they hold mass at 8am12:00 noon, and 7:30pm.  There is a very well-known “event” during some of the masses called the Botafumeiro.  It’s a gian incense-burner that swings from the ceiling (on VERY long ropes).  The history is that it was originally used to actually fumigate the sweaty and stinky pilgrims attending the mass – after all those days of walking, without the modern albergues and showers, their odors were probably difficult to bear!  The ritual of the Botafumeiro requires 5-6 attendants to perform it, so it became infrequent in modern days.  They will perform it now if a person/group pays for it to be done (I hear it’s upwards of 300 euros; I don’t really know!), and I think they do it occasionally for tradition, and on holidays.
It was not done at the mass I attended, but the service was lovely and it just felt special to be there.  I got to sit with a Camino-acquaintance/friend who I met a couple nights ago in the Ribadiso albergue, and that was nice.
The inside of the Cathedral, right after the mass finished.  They turned off all the lights except for up front, and asked everyone to file out in silence.  It was very beautiful.

The inside of the Cathedral, right after the mass finished. They turned off all the lights except for up front, and asked everyone to file out in silence. It was very beautiful.

After the mass, I went back to my hotel to change and check my email.  Earlier, I had run into a few gals I had met earlier on the Camino in various ways, then some of them had met each other later on. This is so common on this route.  One of them, Yadira, a girl from Mexico who I had walked with for some time about 5 days ago, turned 30 years old today.  It was her goal to walk into Santiago on her birthday, and she had made it.   She asked me to join her and 3-4 other gals for a drink or dinner to celebrate and I told her I’d love to!  I checked my messages and she had let me know where they would be.  It was close-by, fortunately, so I quickly walked there to join up.
We all wandered around to find the next tapas bar to attend – the group was indecisive and finally I said “I’m hungry, let’s go… HERE!” to the next restaurant we wandered across (there are hundreds in this city; it’s not hard to find one, it’s hard to decide which one!)  Everyone in the group spoke Spanish, except Yow-Yow who is a young woman from China who lives in (and speaks) Portuguese.  I met her a few days ago and mentioned her in that blogpost.  She and I were fairly quiet, we tried to participate in conversation but couldn’t really keep up!  I could understand most of what was being said, but wasn’t quick enough to participate much.  It was so much fun, no matter!
Spanish night life barely begins at 8/8:30pm.  That’s when you start to see people in restaurants, though they get more full between 9-10pm.  We ate around 10pm tonight, and I got back to my hotel around 12:15am!
Large, lovely park I walked around after arriving in Santiago; after visiting the Cathedral square and Pilgrim's Office.  Walking through this park was peaceful amongst the busy-ness and excitement of being in this big and important city.

Large, lovely park I walked around after arriving in Santiago; after visiting the Cathedral square and Pilgrim’s Office. Walking through this park was peaceful amongst the busy-ness and excitement of being in this big and important city.

Part of my hotel room in Santigo; I opted for a hotel for the 2 nights I'd be there instead of staying in an albergue.  It was a nice break and a lovely hotel for 60 euros/night in a GREAT location near the Cathedral and historic district.

Part of my hotel room in Santigo; I opted for a hotel for the 2 nights I’d be there instead of staying in an albergue. It was a nice break and a lovely hotel for 60 euros/night in a GREAT location near the Cathedral and historic district.

 

Praza (Plaza) das Praterias at night; it is just outside the door you enter and exit for the mass services, and just up the street from where I got a hotel.

Praza (Plaza) das Praterias at night; it is just outside the door you enter and exit for the mass services, and just up the street from where I got a hotel.

 

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