Santiago de Compostela
Thursday 4 December
A nice sleep in. A leisurely breakfast. Then I had to check out of my luxury palace. Thanks again to my Brother, great birthday present. I didn’t have far to carry my backpack today, as recommended by my older American friend, I checked into the San Martin Pinaro Monastery, next door. Equally as historic as my five star hotel, first built in the ninth century, however my monks cell was a little more austere. I did have my own very modern bathroom, and a comfortable bed. Several other pilgrims I had met were also staying there, including my Dutch friend. He was leaving for Finisterre today, so we had a final coffee before he left.
I then rushed off to the Pilgrim’s mass at the cathedral where they announce all the pilgrims who have arrived in the last twenty four hours, well your country anyway. I believe they also say where you start and by what method (walking, cycling, horse, other.) but it was all in Spanish, so I don’t know. I did hear ‘Australia’. A lot of the mass was sung and it was lovely.
Santiago de Compostella Cathedral is famous for the Botafumerio, a huge incense burner that is swung high across the cathedral on Fridays (I had also heard the day was Sunday) and special occasions. It was neither Friday, nor Sunday, nor as I was aware a special occasion. As the mass was finishing there was a kerfuffle in the aisles down the front, and I realised the famous ‘fumigation of the pilgrims’ had begun. The weighty
Botafumerio swung high and low, driven by a series of wheels and pulleys propelled by a large group of men in crimson robes. The smokey incense filled the air. It was quite a spectacle as it swung higher and higher, the crowds gathering around to try and capture the moment on film. I felt very privileged to have witnessed it, as I really wasn’t expecting to see it. Apparently you can pay a large sum of Euros to have it swung on non allotted days. Perhaps my brother added an extra birthday present? Yet another wonderful Camino moment.
I had planned to have a wander around the city, and visit some museums, but first I had to book a flight back to Paris. I visited the contemporary art museum, and a museum next door to that that had an amazing Escher like staircase. Three intertwining spiral staircases that you could step from one to another between floors. The museum had exhibitions of early Spanish technology and a platform that lead into an ancient church that was being renovated where you could view the process from high. It was interesting, if not a rather eclectic museum. I then visited the cathedral museum that housed many treasures, but soon tired. I’d had enough for the day.
I had arranged to meet my Camino angel for dinner, and we ran into German friend of hers on the way who joined us. Her friend had a resturant in mind, that when we arrived seemed more like a wine bar. There was no ‘menu’ with ‘free wine’, so we ordered a bottle. I order the pulpo (octopus), the ubiquitous dish in this region. This was a rather upmarket version, with prices to match. Instead of the usual boiled octopus with chunks of boiled potatoes, oil, salt and smoked paprika, this had a potato purée to which the spices and oil had been added. It was nice, but I think I prefer the more rustic version. The German woman had arranged to meet her French friends, so said goodbye. We had arranged to meet the other group at nine thirty, so also departed, however, when we arrived a little late they were not there. We thought they may have gone to another bar, so decide to wander the town to find them. We passed a bar with the German woman, and her French friends were also people we had met, and hadn’t seen since Pamplona! We joined them for more wine, and another lovely long night with new friends.