24 June: Santiago

Official business today. Like getting our compostelas and returning to the cathedral to see if we could find someone to take a non-blurry picture of all of us that included the cathedral.
Official business like farewelling Vincent (who we started walking with the day The Men joined us – so it is no small miracle that we are still together at the end – but he zipped up to Astorga before coming back to join the Camino Sanabres where he caught up with us again) and Sofia, who joined us the day after we met Vincent (she spent a number of days in bed recovering from various ailments so even on days we didn’t cover many miles, it was still more than she managed). What better way to say farewell than over churros and chocolate?

 (By the way, in the bar a television was broadcasting David Cameron speaking from Number 10 and while there was no soundtrack running we pieced together the story from his facial expressions alone – this would be a very interesting activity for a language class…or even relationship skills, but I digress).

Official business like attending mass at the cathedral, where we heard those special words spoken: Desde Sevilla peregrinos de nueva zelanda (from Seville pilgrims from New Zealand) – “that’s us” the kids grinned at each other. The first time we sat through a mass we were delighted to have picked out a handful of words that we almost recognized, but it was really next to nothing and we didn’t have a clue what was going on. I noticed such a difference today. We are still beginners at Spanish, but we are able to follow the gist of bits and even completely understand some strings of words. For not having tried particularly hard <blush>, we have made encouraging progress. It’s gratifying that the kids are returning home with a stronger desire to study Spanish (last time their attitude was more along the lines of: well, now that we’ve finished our Camino, there’s no need to learn any more).

 We went in to the service hoping the botufumeiro would be swung. For some people it’s a spectacle of Disney proportions, for others it’s a deeply spiritual experience, for some it raises goosebumps, others it reduces to tears….for us, it has become part of our tradition of being in Santiago, and we hoped those ropes would be released. 

 Today I joined the throngs filming the swinging. There was still awe. I was still aware of the gasps as it rose higher and higher through the air. I still heard the angelic soprano filling the vast space. I followed every movement. But somehow it was different watching through a screen instead of just watching The Real Thing. If I’m ever back here again, I’ll just watch, and maybe snap one picture. And even though I do not do much camera-work in the rest of my life, I will take with me a heightened awareness of how a camera can sometimes be intrusive rather than enhancing.

 And sometimes it can be the opposite. This simple photo of a shell on the end of the pew is a reminder to me that there is always something new to learn. I have sat in this cathedral a number of times now and never until today noticed these carvings. 

More official business.

 I made the kids endure to the very end of the organ piece being played after the service. It was cacophonous, it was immense, it was even awful, but it is not every day we get (or want!) the opportunity to hear an organ booming like this one did! And so we listened. Just like we listened to the Galician bagpiper later. 

After the service there was more Official Business to attend to. We had to climb the steps and look down on the square, then go and sit in the square and watch the world go by.

 It was pretty busy. We hoped some of our friends might wander by, maybe Digger who finished before us, or Kyoko and Mikio, the Japanese couple, who we thought might arrive today. We did see some, but not these ones. And we made a new friend. He wears a sign around his neck asking for money for food. He limps around, hand outstretched. We were having lunch as he approached us. I smiled. 

“Would you like an orange,?” I enquired. He took it eagerly.

“Do you have any bread?”

“Only this,” I explained, showing him the end of the baguette I was finishing. With some difficulty, he hoisted himself onto the stone seat beside us, arranged his leg comfortably and rested his crutch between us while he proceeded to peel the orange. When we had all finished eating, we tidied up and I offered to take his peelings. As we started to walk away he called out, “Senora, over there. Look, there’s a rubbish bin over there.” We thanked him, changed direction and deposited our bag of rubbish in the bin hidden behind a wall.

 We settled ourselves down to draw (that’s Levi’s picture above) and after some time our new acquaintance hobbled by and stopped to chat and look at our work. He was no longer “a beggar”, but just as much one of the positive encounters as the guys who asked us to take their photo, or the ones who talked for a few minutes with us about where we were from and where we had walked, or the ones who asked directions to the Pilgrim Office, or the one who wanted to know where he could stay for three nights.

Having whiled away a good portion of the day by now we started to head slowly for home. We dredged up memories as we walked and I let the kids in on secrets from my time here alone with Rob after our Portuguese walk last year (just quietly, wandering around a city and sitting at bars with a spouse beats doing it with kids any day!!) Now the kids want to go to the bakery I went to with Rob, they know not to bother asking about the expensive ice creams we ate, they are not so interested in Padron peppers. I suggested we walk home a different way. I showed them a street I had walked up and down twice with Rob looking for a particular bar.

“But it’s our tradition to go this way Mum.” I realised that just like they pack their backpacks the same way every day or get their sleeping bags out as soon as we arrive in an albergue, they wanted a little familiarity. Walking the same road and not having to be inquisitive about what was round the corner was important to them today. So a couple of streets into our traditional walk I started to take photos of “our route”:

 (Big kids, do you remember eating our final lunch on your Camino outside that little church on the right? Empanada and cheesecake if I remember correctly)

 Past my wool shop 😉

 Churreria San Pedro where the breakfast pictures were taken.

 Shortcut (with yarn bombing)

 Through the enormous courtyard where every child and its mother and grandparents hang out from 5pm til late – we are there too early today and it’s empty. 

 Up the last street to…

 …our albergue.

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11 thoughts on “24 June: Santiago

  1. Thanks for sharing your heart(s) in this post. Loved ‘walking’ the route of familiarity with you. Enjoy the last days pondering all that you have seen and experienced. What an amazing journey! Looking forward to seeing you soon 💕

  2. Your good times have come to an end, but you’ve built up an impressive bank of new memories. Sorry not to be able to keep reading about your travels each day. We’re off with Dad this morning to Slovenia.

  3. Congratulations on your mammoth effort! Every day you walked about twice as much as I could have done. A new thread on the Forum regarding “smuggling hams back to the US” reminded me of your plans to take Spanish cheeses back to NZ. Is this allowed? I am often tempted to take stuff back to Australia, but I know that the Customs would catch me out!

  4. Oh thank you. You walked right past where I stayed. It was almost in one of your pictures. You make me want to do it again.

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