Thursday was such a big day for us, not only in terms of the amount of walking, but also emotionally. It was the culmination of a lot of dreaming, a lot of planning, a lot of travel, a lot of walking and a lot of sweat. But it was also emotional as we shared the day with some of our Camino family. As James as I walked arm in arm back to our hotel that night with the Cathedral softly glowing in the background, we both knew it had been a special day.
We closed the shutters on our room at the Altair Hotel so that we could sleep in and not be woken by the sun. Breakfast was booked for 9:00 and we didn’t intend to be early.
After a great breakfast that included coffee, toasted croissant with real fruit jam, cereals and yoghurt, we headed out into the streets of Santiago. We had arranged to meet James and Leo to help the latter choose a guitar. A few potential stores were identified and we got walking. The first store mainly had classical guitars made in Spain by Alhambra. There were some beautiful instruments. Leo liked a couple but wasn’t really sold on any. As we left I saw a more modern style in the window. We had another store to visit so I parked that in my memory. I also saw this lovely instrument, known as a bandurria.
Next we visited a store that was almost exclusively electric guitars, with the exception of a small number of steel string acoustics. It was amazing!
It was too much. So we headed back to the store with the classical guitars. I asked the owner if we could try the more modern cutaway style. We could tell that as soon as Leo played it, this was the one. Even though he had been unwell, he wore a huge smile as he played.
James, James and I headed to KFC for lunch. Not much more to be said here. Then James and I went for a stroll around part of the city and James got to test drive (in his mind) a Cupra.
Then we headed back for a rest. We had arranged to meet Anthony and Simone, Marios, Dazza, James and Leo for drinks before going to the 7:30 service in the Cathedral. In the end we had to slam our drinks down as we were told to be at the Cathedral at 7:00 or risk not getting a spot. We’re pilgrims and this was a service for us, so we duly obliged and hammered our drinks.
The Cathedral is quite beautiful. James and Leo told us that it was closed and the front was covered in scaffolding when they last walked the Camino 3 years ago. This was going to be a special evening for everyone.
On the way in, we paid tribute to what is said to be the remains of Saint James. Do I weigh into the debate about its authenticity? Nah, all good. Call me if you want my opinion.
The service began with some lovely singing by a nun. Then there was some organ music. Then there were tributes to the awesome work of the pilgrims from around the world. Then the crowd grew anxious. Would the botafumeiro swing this evening?
Pilgrims glanced at their watches and phones, noting that the end of the service was fast approaching. A bloke started collecting cash. The organ began to play once more.
“Maybe not this evening,” we said to each other forlornly.
Then suddenly there was action at the rope. A group of men were standing by. Another group had what looked to be ash. A wave of excitement raced through the gathering. The botafumeiro would swing this night.
Our Camino family turned to each other and fist pumped.
It was a sight to behold. In the beautiful, warm evening light, the silver botafumeiro swung, spreading its smoke around like a cloud of joy.
We all agreed that this was a perfect way to end our Camino. The circle was complete. We had resolution. Or did we?
All we could do was to find a restaurant, eat paella, drink Rioja and reminisce about what a great experience this had been. We shared a lovely meal with some of our Camino family – James and Leo, Marios and Dazza and Karin from France and Alex from The Netherlands. The latter were a couple who met on the Camino.
After dinner, we hugged, said our goodbyes and then took our first steps back into our lives as non-pilgrims.
On the way back through the Cathedral square, James and I heard music and singing and laughter. A local band was playing so we joined the crowd of joyful pilgrims.
It was the perfect end to a perfect day in Santiago. But tomorrow held the promise of more Camino magic.
At the start of our Camino, we shared our first pilgrim meal with 5 other pilgrims. Of these, we had the great pleasure of becoming Camino family with 4.
If only we knew back then the experiences we would share. But would we all meet in Santiago de Compostela? Would we perfect yet another circle?
You know from above that we met our English brother Dazza.
From our previous blog these guys need no introduction.
But what of Karin, our Dutch Camino veteran and dear friend?
James and I waited in the square patiently as we knew Karin was arriving. On a glorious morning, our friend arrived. We hugged and then shared a coffee and stories.
As we sat, James wondered about our other friend, Evalina from Estonia. This is so weird, but who should walk by?
As is the way of the way, we had to once more say goodbye. We have shared so many wonderful times with these lovely people.
James and I had a train to catch. We met James and Leo for a last coffee, two Aussie dads with their sons sharing this time. It has been such a privilege to meet and walk with these two. It seemed appropriate that we would share our last coffee in Santiago with them. We’ll miss them but I look forward to hearing Leo’s song that he is writing on his new guitar. I also love that he called his new guitar Grant (joking Leo!). We’ll miss you guys.
They too have a blog from their first walk that I previously shared a link to. James is writing a blog for the current trip and I will share the link. They are also fundraising and I will share that link also.
So, there it is, our time as pilgrims on the Camino is over. Our time as pilgrims on our Camino goes on. Buen Camino!