Yesterday, Showers and wonders

I had an early coffee get-together with friends from my shirt stretch on the Portuguese Camino. Then I felt overwhelmed by the crowds in the centre of town and spend a little time in a park close to my lodgings. The skies were mixed as is so often the case in Galicia. The owner of my Alberge seems to have tapped into my mood. He thrust an umbrella into my hand and encouraged me to take a short hike up a nearby hill.

An apple tree in bloom
Holly in bloom

See the little white fuzzy things. I had never thought about it but the berries come from somewhere!

No idea! A fur tree with red blooms. What is this?
I got a bit lost in a wood but here was the fairy tale gate to get out
From the top of the hill
Someone got his compostella!

This is not the first pup I have seen who accompanied his master or mistress and was accorded his certificate!

Lucas from Portugal!

As I was chatting with a friend in the alberge in the evening a familiar voice called out “ Isobel”! Lucas and I worked together in the alberge in Porto. What were the chances that he would be spending the night here before moving on to his next assignment outside of Pamplona. A real “ soul” – it was a joy to talk with him again and to wish him all the best for the rest of the summer and in his academic future, now secured with a place in a Dutch university. What a happy surprise!

Last day in Santiago today!

Coincidence ? Camino Magic?

Friends from Casa Fernanda

There is a famous alberge on the Portuguese Camino. It’s famous to me because that’s where I bailed from my Camino. The lovely lady in pink was already an acquaintance from the Porto Alberge, Alexandra. When she arrived in Santiago we arranged to meet for coffee. It was quite early ( for Spaniards) and so we had to walk a little to find a place that was open.

After a chat and a cup of coffee, Alexandra waved and called over… Charlie, another alumnus from the Casa. Before long Alexandra got a call from two other walkers who had shared the wonderful supper that is part of the Casa Fernanda tradition. We settled down for a second cup and a chat. What a coincidence that the five of us had been able to meet up! And there he was! A sixth member of the group, David from England! By this time there was hardly any room at the table and one by one we departed, one to the bus station, two to the alberge to rest, one to start the walk to Finisterre, one to visit the cathedral and I to my walk on the green hill in the middle of town.

In the middle of town

Somehow Santiago retains a touch of the country and beside the stream, this poem about washerwomen’s I believe… in Gallego… Duolingo here I come again!

More sights from Santiago

This is how you start to plan a day

Santiago is an old town. Even Google maps has the little arrow going round and round. There are many squares and the address of some buildings you might want to visit are simply the names of the squares. I spent a good half an hour circling a church ( lots of those) looking for a monastery on one site of it. There is a famous museum on there. When I found it….. it was closed. Ah well!

The end of camellia season
They are big trees!

At the top of a hill that is a

A statue of the poet Lorca

At the top of a hill that is a lovely park, a favorite of mine appeared. This was just below the little church of St Suzanna ( a martyr who refused to marry her betrothed). A very kind female Anglican minister had a long chat with me. I seem to be hanging out with a lot of clergy lately…wonder where it will lead!

First nuns in habits I’d seen

Knock and it shall be opened unto you”

Now here’s a challenge. Look up St Peter’s second letter and see what you make of it. It will turn into a surprise before I leave Santiago! Promise!

Images of Santiago

A group savours the arrival
No backpacks in the cathedral!
Outside the Pilgrims’ Office where certificates are issued

I loved the look of this little fountain and the many camellia petals on the white stones.

A happy peligrina in line for a well-deserved credential.

Today was a calm happy day. I went to liturgy, enjoyed the warm temperatures, walked on a park far from the bustle of town. I had a conversation in Spanish with the Colombian lady who owns the restaurant next door. All is well today, thank God.

Off to Finisterre

At the cape

This looks to me so much like a beloved island in New Brunswick, Grand Manan. However it is the point the Romans believed was the westernmost point of land in the whole known world. It isn’t of course but it is very impressive and beautiful. I had hoped to walk the trip I took today by bus. It’s fine that I didn’t. I sat in a comfortable bus and had commentary in Spanish and English by an intelligent and knowledgeable person.

At Muxia pretending to be a good pilgrim!

We went to several lovely places. The sandy colored monument behind commemorates a terrible oil spill about 20 years ago. The local population rushed to the site and spent months helping the pros clean the shore. Thank God it is now pristine.

A famous beauty spot whose name I have forgotten!

There is a little hydro plant here that supplies the local population. Beauty and practicality. Magic too as the mountain behind was the site of pagan Celtic rites.

Another new friend

The guide wanted to tell me about this huge horreo- a sort of grain storage thing-it’s the longest one in Spain…. I was more interested in this nice horse

Two parishes had a rivalry

I had a very nice and full day. I could never have walked it so good thing there are companies to drive us around and young hopeful people explaining things!

I’ll sleep like a top tonight!

At the Cathedral museum

The butofumaro in the cathedral

When this swings it is a spectacle. Today in the library, where exceptionally photos are not allowed, I asked an attendant why another similar huge incense burner was stored there. Why had it been retired? She was tactful and evasive at first but then it was revealed that it’s particular butofumaro was decorated with insignia from Franco’s regime. Around the circumference of this one you can see blank silver plaques. Insignia of Franco’s elite regiments ran around the old one. We had a very interesting conversation about dealing with past wrongs. I was reminded of our own Canadian struggles with a colonial past and our own “ Truth and Reconciliation “ attempts.

Cathedral square from a balcony

The cathedral museum houses many treasures. I had a look at some today.

Christos Pantocrator
Ste Anne, Mary and Jesus

I admit to jumping in as three British tourists scratched their heads over this one. Too many years as a museum guide! There is a wonderful St Michael too with his scales to weigh our souls

St Michael figures out who’s who
A nativity with a very “ together “ Mary!

These early pieces appealed to me more than the St James narrative of stone boats and slaying Moors. Once we got into the super/flashy gold and silver ( South America colonial period) I had a hard time subduing my Methodist Grandmother’s voice” A long way from Bethlehem “

Off to Muxia tomorrow in a commercial bus tour. I had hoped to walk but…,

A little tea and sympathy

Starting to green up again.

I took few pictures today because I was busy making friends. It seems the cosmos noticed that I needed a little encouragement. I managed to have a nice conversation over breakfast tea with a charming Estonian who knew about fifty words of English. Breakfast was enlivened by a slide show on his computer of how he built his house on land he inherited from his grandfather. I once took a winter course in Russian … 26 years ago to be exact but when , frustrated, he resorted to that I could catch the gist of it. I sloped off to get assurances about trains and busses. A plan to spend three days at the coast was scuttled by a bus strike looming on Thursday and Friday. I was in a panic because I must go to Madrid by bus on next Monday and I had visions of the whole system grinding to a halt. However, everyone from TV ticket agents to the station manager assured me May 1 would be “ safe”.

One of many squares

I went looking for company and I found it. Pilgrim House welcomed me and proudly showed off the fridge donated by the Canadian Company of Pilgrims. They gave me a set of debriefing journaling questions which will serve me particularly well this time.

It is al very well to bask in triumph like last time, but a more difficult Camino has given me more to reflect upon. Resolutions loom.

I got lost on the street and asked a woman about my age the way. To my surprise, she gripped me tightly on the forearm and led me along for several blocks, finally giving me clear instructions to turn at the next corner. To my astonishment she turned around and walked off in the opposite direction. I had assumed she was going my way, but no! I wondered if I would have been as helpful in my own town!

Window shopping

Jet is a great item of jewelry here. Coral and silver are big favories too. As I wandered along I had plenty of opportunity to window shop.

Finally I arrived at the office of Sister Alicia and Connie – the ones who hosted at Mass on Saturday. The kettle was on and another Irish volunteer, Betty, chatted with me in such an encouraging way that I began to feel this whole endeavour was not a complete loss. Another Irish volunteer appeared and encouraged me to walk part of the way to Finisterre. “ Just go 10 Km. There’s a good bar there !”

On my return, who should be eating a simple supper in the albergue but Victor, the Estonian. So, we compared pictures of our grandchildren. We even managed quite a deep conversation about politics and religion! Turns out his great grandfather had been banished by the Tsar as he was an Old Believer. Then, with a gallant kiss of my hand which reminded me of my days in Poland we said goodbye. He will cycle off to Vigo tomorrow.

My final triumph in the “ let’s be friends “ department was an invitation by Lilianna, a Dominican lady who lives in Italy to join her on her guided tour of Muxia and Finisterre on Wednesday. Suits me! Liliana twisted her ankle on her Camino and so is laid up here in the Alberge, like me!

The man in yellow pipes the pilgrims into the square and a pilgrim left her shoes at her destination!

Dealing with things

This is the “ you tried” version

This certificate is issued by the Franciscan order just because you ask for it. A sort of – you got blisters getting here – you deserve it. They make you fill it in yourself too. I was wretchedly tired having woken up several times in the night and worried. Tonight I have fished out an abbreviated rosary I bought and have resolved to follow the advice of a kind and articulate priest who suggested praying as a good substitute for worrying.

My anti worry beads

I went to mass at the cathedral and was treated to a great choir, a magnificent organ and the famous butafumeto. This incense burner is a famous feature of some, not all, ceremonies at the cathedral. The whole thing did me good.

The men in red are pulling on the rope

You can see through smoke the silver incense- burner on the left size. It just whizzes along and the congregation, finally allowed to use their phone cameras have a great time.

I found out the public busses are on a wildcat strike so now I have something new to worry about- getting to Madrid in time for my plane. Trusty rosary to the rescue!

The pipes at a strange angle!

Twists and Turns

Cathedral Picture

When I did my last Camino I never got a picture like this . As I was walking across the square someone called me. It was a lady whom I met in the Montreal airport as we were both setting off on our Caminos. We struck up a conversation for a few minutes and she recognized me as I walked across this famous square. I took the opportunity to ask her to take the classic picture and … here it is! My feet are not elegant but they are happy!

Our Lady the pilgrim

I think only here does this image of Our Lady exist. I like her hat with the shell! Well, she was a pilgrim and a wanderer too. And she ran into her problems! I should take her as a model!

Candles for my grandchildren

How surprised I was to be asked to read the epistle in a chapel where an English mass was being said! Thanks to lots of practice in my home church it held few terrors for me. It made me smile to see that the text was from the Acts of the Apostles. Some Greeks were complaining about treatment given to their widows versus to Hebrew widows! Plus ca change …..I was happy to help but unfortunately this happy moment followed by a nice coffee hour did not turn into the volunteer post I had hoped for. Not surprisingly everything was already arranged. The prayer did me good however as the Mass was adapted to pilgrims and the sermon offered some sound advice.

At the Pilgrim Museum
Delicious lunch at the Dominican Restaurant next door

I also managed to have a halting conversation in Spanish with a Dominican lady of great self control. How she contained her laughter I cannot tell. Greek kept popping out and at one point she answered me in that language! It seems she has spent many vacations there!

It is pouring with rain and I pity any walkers. We are cosy in the alberge just un-jumbling the common fridge to make our modest suppers. Until tomorrow!

Thank heavens for busses

First sight of the cathedral

And no! I did not get here by walking. I will write a whole post about the last alberge I was in, Casa Fernanda, but one of the decisions I came to there was that I was not going to walk the Portuguese Camino any more . The main reason was that my titanium hip was not going to take any nonsense from me as in carrying a backpack. It was really difficult to find places that were open early enough for transport to pick up the pack and I simply did not have a place booked for the next night! Another reason was that, to me, the route simply was not as beautiful as the Camino Frances. I know, I know comparisons and all that. However, walking along national roads for hours with huge trucks and busses whizzing by is not my idea of a spiritual experience. So I asked Fernanda’s advice. She gave me a reasonable-sounding plan involving two busses and a train. When I got to the train station about half way to Santiago I was advised by the ticket agent that yrs, there was a train leaving the next day at 9 am! It was raining. The town looked dreary and I had already booked a place ( ahah) in Santiago so I hiked over the train tracks and checked out the bus schedule. Well, schedule…Rome2Rio told me how to book because no one behind any counter seemed able to enlighten me. Most were eating something slathered with cream cheese… even the one who spoke some English through a mouthful early in the day and hustled me onto the second bus.

Pictures from vehicles are never great. This is around Vigo-oyster beds?

I love Santiago and I love Hostal Blanco. It is even better than I remember it. The little individual pods are like train sleepers with a soft light and a charging station. The pillows are miraculously soft and the lockers open and close with a magnetic card. 57 euros for 3 nights! Next door to a supermarket and 5 min walk to the cathedral. I am a happy gal.

Next task … rest this weekend and figure out a trip to the coast! Ps I walk in the street with hiking socks and heavy sandals and no one turns a hair!