Tag Archives: San Martin Pinaro Monastery

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.

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!


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.