I had every intention of going to Finisterre today but I was feeling a bit delicate to say the least. After 5 weeks of 10.30pm curfews , sometimes earlier , we were like a bunch of teenagers let out on the town for the first time. I will update the blog later when the fog clears from my brain.
After getting our Compostelas yesterday we booked into a hotel just around the corner from the Cathedral , the San Martin Pinario . All the rooms on the fourth floor of the hotel are available to Pilgrims at a special rate of 23 euros per night. Forrest decided to treat himself to a couple of nights in the very posh Parador Hotel , the Hotel Hostal dos Reis Catolicos , and was given a special Pilgrim rate of half the usual cost. This hotel also provides free meals to the first 15 Pilgrims who turn up at mealtimes every day as long as you have a copy of your Compostela to show you’ve completed the pilgrimage.
We met up for Dinner later that evening and afterwards found a bar that contained a bunch of other Pilgrims celebrating the completion of their Camino. There was a lady from the US named Therese who was also celebrating her 40th birthday and , as luck would have it , in walked two Chilean lads who turned out to be trained Opera singers. When they found out it was Therese’s birthday they serenaded her for a good hour or so with every famous Aria in the book of famous Arias. These lads were fabulous singers and it was a joy to hear them belting out the songs , not least for Therese who looked thrilled to bits. I took a video of them singing and will upload it to the blog when I get home.
This splendid hour of entertainment put us all in an even better and thirstier mood and the craic carried on well into the early hours. I retired early at around 3.30am but party animals Forrest and double Felix carried on until 5.30am. I surfaced briefly for a coffee-only breakfast , took some paracetamol and returned to bed until Midday.
I spent the afternoon having a look around the Cathedral. It has four facades overlooking four squares.It is in the shape of a crucifix and each of the extremities of the crucifix has an entrance. The main entrance is via the Western facade which was built in the 18th Century. This was built to protect the original 12th Century Romanesque facade , the Portico de Gloria , from the elements. You see this original facade as you walk in the main door but today quite a bit of it was covered up as some restoration is going on. It was the creation of Maestro Mateo , the architect of the cathedral and is regarded as his masterpiece. Pilgrims arriving here traditionally touched the foot of the central column which became worn away by centuries of hands and is now behind a protective barrier . The only good photos I was able to take were of the central column which shows the worn area at the bottom. I’ve posted a photo of the statute carved into the column to the rear of the worn bit which a representation of Maestro Mateo himself. It’s another tradition that Pilgrims touch this statue three times with their heads hoping that some part of his genius will rub off on them. I didn’t get the chance to do this as this area was roped off too. It was probably just as well as , in my hungover state , I would likely have accidentally
head-butted the Maestro , rendering me even more senseless.
I then walked up to the main alter where there is a statue of Santiago and it is another tradition for Pilgrims to walk up a stairway behind the alter and embrace the mantel of the apostle . There is usually a queue for this and it was going on throughout the Mass yesterday. On the far side of this stairway is another set of steps that lead down to the crypt and the reliquary chapel where the relics of Santiago are kept in a casket. No photos were allowed in either of these areas.
After that I had an audio tour of the Cathedral and took a few more photos , including one of another statue of our old friend Santiago Matamoros. In this case the dead and dying Moors were discreetly obscured by bouquets of flowers. I was then delighted to see John walk in , having just arrived in Santiago. I hadn’t seen him since Sahagun so we spent a bit of time catching up and then I showed him the way to the Pilgrims Office where he got his Compostela ( see photo ). I also saw Martha in the Cathedral ( the nurse from North Carolina ) who was another I hadn’t seen for a few weeks. There were other Pilgrims I would have liked to have seen again but I guess they’d reached Santiago a day or two before me and either set off for Finisterre or already travelled home.
Later in the evening I had a wander around the narrow medieval streets of the old city. There is a real buzz about the place as there seems to be a lot of visitors , quite aside from all the Pilgrims. The city also has a large student population.
I met up for Dinner with Lou , the Felices and some other Pilgrims including a Father and Son from Dorset , Columba and Johannes , who I’d not crossed paths with on The Camino itself but were known to Lou and the others. I was sorry I hadn’t met them on the Camino as they were both great guys. Columba told us that he’d first walked The Camino seven years previously and said there had been a tenfold increase in the number of Pilgrims since then.