Day 25, Oct 23: A day in Santiago!

I slept in today after going to bed around 1am.  It was so nice to have my comfy hotel room.  I went downstairs to the cafe attached to the hotel and purchased a big slab of pumpkin break (er, cake; let’s be honest), brought it back up to my room and made tea.  (Please can I have this life forever?!)  Then I sat and poured over the maps for Muxia/Finisterre, coastal towns I will walk to next, that I had gotten yesterday in the Tourism Office.  I wasn’t at all familiar with the routes and wanted to get a good plan for the 4 days of walking I’d have after Santiago.

I checked the forecast, and mapped out possible routes as best I could to avoid walking long miles in the rain and capitalize on the 1.5 day days of sun it looked like I’d have.  I am excited to get to keep walking, and to see the coast!
I wrapped that up and got dressed for the day.  Today was mostly sunny with a few clouds and a breeze; lucky me!  I went out without a big plan; I wanted to wander.  I ended up at a big indoor/outdoor market that reminded me of the Pike market in Seattle.  I wanted to buy so many things!  But I couldn’t carry them or use them…so I just looked, and took some photos.  I bought two small items.  What fun to happen upon this; there were many local there and it was fun to wander around and observe.
Meats and cheeses in just one of the hundreds of vendor stations in the Mercado de Plaza de Abastos.  I wanted to buy everything!!

Meats and cheeses in just one of the hundreds of vendor stations in the Mercado de Plaza de Abastos. I wanted to buy everything!!

I walked into an adjacent block and up to the largest albergue in town, the Seminario Menor.  It was a very old, huge building.  I don’t know its history, but I imagine it’s housed pilgrims in Santiago for many years.  There was good view overlooking part of the city, where I paused and took a couple photos.
A view from the main and one of the oldest albergues in Santiago, Seminario Menor/Convento.  It is up on a hill and not as close to the Cathedral and historic squares where I stayed, but is much less expensive and has great views!

A view from the main and one of the oldest albergues in Santiago, Seminario Menor/Convento. It is up on a hill and not as close to the Cathedral and historic squares where I stayed, but is much less expensive and has great views!

Leaving there, I just kind of wandered about some neighborhoods.  I happened upon a unique building that was some museum, but didn’t care to go in.  I headed back towards the Cathedral, whose museum I did want to visit.  But first, wine and cheese, please!
I found a cafe where I liked the setting, made sure they had wifi, ordered a couple things and posted a blog.  After that I walked around a bit more, and found another restaurant attached to a hotel, with a lovely garden.  I ordered one glass of white wine and some cheese.  I read my book a bit, and enjoyed the garden setting and some people-watching.  This is so much fun!
I thought I better get over to the Cathedral museum to spend some time there.  The price was very discounted for Pilgrims, only 4 euros.  I really enjoyed the contemporary display they had up in a few big rooms; it was regarding the restoration of the Cathedral.  It explained how the weather in Santiago – very rainy and humid – causes much destruction of the building over time.  There is a 30-million-euro project in place right now to clean up and repair the entire building, down to minute details.  It’s amazing, really.  I started to pay more attention to the quality of the stone on the outside of the building; it’s true, there is a lot of moss, flora, and bacteria growth on the stone which over time really degrades the building.  It would be such a shame and a huge loss to let go such a historic and religiously-sentimental monument that holds so much significance to the country, and to the millions of pilgrims that visit each year.
A view from the 2nd floor of the Museo de Catedral, looking out over part of the plaza and Parado (on the right) at almost-sunset.

A view from the 2nd floor of the Museo de Catedral, looking out over part of the plaza and Parado (on the right) at almost-sunset.

 

 

Looking straight out onto the square and building of the seat of the Galacian Government from the 2nd floor of the Museo de Catedral (in part of the actual Cathedral)

Looking straight out onto the square and building of the seat of the Galacian Government from the 2nd floor of the Museo de Catedral (in part of the actual Cathedral)

Next, I visited the older part of the museum- many rooms full of historic artifacts from the Cathedral and the Camino.  I was just about finished touring it; I walked into an internal courtyard and smelled smoke, like from a fireplace.  I looked around and saw something burning over in the corner; it didn’t look like it was a problem, it was contained.  For some reason, my curiosities went up and I wondered if MAYBE that was a starter for the incense of the Botafumeiro….I decided I would go into the 7:30 mass (it was just about 7:40pm), though I hadn’t planned to attend again this evening.  The place was packed.  There were many more attendees than last night; standing room only!  I saw 5-6 men in red robes at the front who weren’t there for last night’s mass….I thought maybe they were going to perform the incense ceremony tonight!  So I stayed, and they did!  It was very unique and I’m so glad I got to witness it.
While the burner swung to and fro above all our heads from huge ropes, the organ played loudly and it was quite captivating.  I tried to get some photos but was unable to get anything very good; they will just be reminders of being there in person.
Look carefully and you can see an object swinging on a rope in the air.  It was crowded and I could not get in a good place to take a decent photo, but this will remind me of the unique Botafumeiro event I got to witness!

Look carefully and you can see an object swinging on a rope in the air. It was crowded and I could not get in a good place to take a decent photo, but this will remind me of the unique Botafumeiro event I got to witness!

 

At the mass, I ran into a lady named Julie from Park City, Utah.  Afterwards, we decided to get dinner together.  We decided to get paella.  Most places advertise it to be sold to serve at least 2 people, because it’s a dish that takes time to prepare and quite a few (expensive) ingredients.  I had been advised not to even bother with paella that cost less than 20 euros.  The one we chose did not have lobster (more expensive), but had about 6 different seafood items amongst its saffron-yellow rice.  Bread, and a bottle of wine to share, and we were very happy.  Our dish cost 40 euros for the 2 of us, and I thought it was well worth it.  We also had a lot of fun eating and chatting.  So glad to have gotten to share this experience with someone.  It’s just not as fun to pick up a shrimp head and make it talk when you are eating solo!  It also makes you look really questionable.  For some  reason it is not as questionable if you have an eating partner, though :)
First-time paella dinner for me!  Shared with new Camino-friend Julie, from Park City, UT.  We re-met at mass and then went to dinner together - very fun experience!

First-time paella dinner for me! Shared with new Camino-friend Julie, from Park City, UT. We re-met at mass and then went to dinner together – very fun experience!

We left dinner around 10:15pm, went outside and the city was hoppin’!  There were SO many people out and about, of all ages!  We both commented on all the older folks out with wine glasses and tapas in hand.  Here, the night life is for everyone!  Julie and I decided to visit one tapas bar, for fun.  We got a great seat right up at the bar after two people had just left.  One of the servers spoke good English (Julie didn’t speak any Spanish), and it was helpful to have him explain some of the fancy tapas dishes they had there.  The were like little works of food-art, each one of them.
This tapas/vino bar served dozens of beautifully-crafted small-plate dishes.  Julie and I sampled 3-4 even after our huge paella dinner, we couldn't resist!  Many bars give 1-2 small tapas when you buy a drink.  Others, like this one, you order per plate.  They were about 2-3 euros each.

This tapas/vino bar served dozens of beautifully-crafted small-plate dishes. Julie and I sampled 3-4 even after our huge paella dinner, we couldn’t resist! Many bars give 1-2 small tapas when you buy a drink. Others, like this one, you order per plate. They were about 2-3 euros each.

We ordered:
1.  brie cheese on a stick covered in chopped almonds which was then FRIED and drizzled with blueberry compote
2.  liver pate with a sardine, bleu cheese and dates
3.  some kind of soft white cheese combined with chopped bacon, covered in bread crumbs that was FRIED as well.
One of my favorites, brie cheese covered in crushed almonds, fried, then topped with a blueberry reduction drizzle.

One of my favorites, brie cheese covered in crushed almonds, fried, then topped with a blueberry reduction drizzle.

Ahhhh, so delicious and fun!  Fortunately these were small and we shared them, because we had just come from a big dinner!  It was 11:30pm when we left there, so full, tired and content.  Julie and I exchanged contact info and said goodnight.
I was wired when I got back to my hotel, even though I was tired.  I did a few things and fell into bed around 1am.  Good thing I move on to a few more days of walking tomorrow, so I can get more sleep!

 

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