©Sally Arnold

The Way Home

Muxia to Santiago de Compostela
Tuesday 9 December

We took our time packing up this morning. There was a bus back to Santiago, but it was either too early; or too late to fit in some last minute souvenir shopping.  We had booked a taxi. We left in search of breakfast, and our most important task for the day, to procure our final Compostela. As the tourist office was closed when we arrived, we ate breakfast; but it was still closed on our return. We had been informed that the Compostela was also available from the municipal office. Off we went. Unfortunately the actual certificate wasn’t really worth all the fuss. It was an ugly, non-design with (Oh MY God) Brush Script (horror of horrors, typography blasphemy), and not at all like the beautiful medieval looking latin one we had been issued in Santiago. There is a design project in the making.

Returning to the alburgue, our taxi was ready and waiting. It had taken us four days to walk to Muxia from Santiago de Compostela, but only a couple of hours to return. It was the first time for more than three months that my friend had been on any form of transport other than his own two feet. He had walked from Amsterdam. I had cycled and walked from Paris, but had a couple of days detour off my Camino several weeks prior. The world sped by. It felt odd. We were cheating, a little.

When we arrived in Santiago, we didn’t want to be caught not walking, and asked the driver to drop us in the backstreets so we could walk into the old city. We both checked into San Martin Pinaro Monastery again, then went shopping for some Camino souvenirs. We were later than planned. I only managed to buy a couple of Santiago cakes as gifts to take to my friends in Paris, and nothing for myself before the shops closed. Next time.

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Parador Hostal de Los Reyes Catolicos, Santiago de Compostela.
©Sally Arnold
The Kitchen deep in the bowels of the Parador Hotel. Santiago de Compostela.

My older American friend had now reached Santiago de Compostela. She was also staying at San Martin Pinaro. I knocked on her door to invite her to join us for dinner, but she was unwell, and said she would join me for an early breakfast before I caught my plane. My Dutch friend and I had arrange to try to go to the free pilgrims’ meal provided by the Parador Hostal de Los Reyes Catolicos. It has been a tradition for centuries for the hostel to provide free meals for pilgrims, and since it has turned into a five star hotel, they have kept the tradition; albeit on a small scale, with only ten places available. We rushed to the appointed meeting place – the green gate on the left of the main entrance, at the appointed time. There were only three other pilgrims waiting. There were not many pilgrims on the road at this time of year. On cue, we were  escorted through the main entrance hall of the grand hotel, then back into the bowels to a tiny pilgrims’ dining room. There was no five star table service here – we had to go to the kitchen and collect our meal ourselves. It wasn’t a five star meal either, although it wasn’t bad. I did, however, love the sentiment and tradition of providing pilgrims with a free meal. And, it did also include free wine. So, with this, our final meal of our pilgrimage, we raised our glasses and wished each other Buen Camino!

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