I wanted to do something special for my 50th year, and this three-part trip is what I came up with. First, my mom and I enjoyed our 8th annual mother-daughter trip; this time we chose a tour of Sicily and Malta. Second, I had a free week before meeting up with my Camino buddies in Oviedo, so I visited Bay Area friends who retired in Ponferrada, Spain. I also served as a part-time Hospitalera and taught yoga for pilgrims at the Albergue San Nicolás de Flüe. And last, but certainly not least, I spent two weeks walking the Camino Primitivo with a wonderful group of pilgrims from Malta.
Continued from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Santiago.
This post covers some of the fascinating aspects of the cathedral, including the rooftop tour, holy doors, botafumeiro, crypt, as well as the rites of embracing the apostle, and attending a pilgrim mass.
Rooftop tour of the Cathedral
If you enjoy great views, I recommend the Santiago cathedral rooftop tour. I did the Spanish tour because that was the only tour available on my last day. When I return to Santiago in June, I will book the English-speaking version of the tour.
Continued from Santiago Highlights: Pilgrim Lunch at the Parador.
Plaza del Obradoiro is where pilgrims gather to celebrate the completion of their Camino journey. The cathedral looms large on one side of the plaza and serves as the backdrop for pilgrim celebrations, victory poses, and tourist group photos.
This sacred space marks the end of the pilgrimage that people have walked for more than 1,000 years. Pilgrims from all over the world have walked between 100 and 1,000 kilometers or more to get to this point. The entire place is steeped in history, and there is a feeling of celebration in the air. It is no wonder pilgrims enjoy hanging out in this vast plaza, laying on their backpacks and gazing up at the sky.
Continued from Santiago Highlights: Free Walking Tour and Secretos de Galicia.
I have a thing for Paradores, a network of luxury hotels in Spain, usually located in a converted historic building such as a monastery or castle. My husband and I first discovered Paradores in 2007 when we spent a month in Andalucia, in Southern Spain. It was winter, and we took advantage of their lower rates and a special Amigos offer of the fifth night free. This allowed us to stay in Paradores in Málaga, Ronda, Nerja, Cádiz, and Granada for surprisingly reasonable rates. In 2014 my mom and I stayed at a Parador in Santo Domingo de la Calzada on a tour of Northern Spain for our annual mother-daughter trip. Paradores are all unique and have different degrees of luxury, but every Parador I have visited, even if just for a coffee break, had an understated elegance and historical significance. Needless to say, when I heard that Paradores offer pilgrim rates for rooms and meals, I was excited!
What’s a girl to do when she no longer needs to walk 20 km a day with a backpack? Go on a walking tour, of course! I decided to explore Santiago on a walking tour I read about. Santiago D.C. Free Tours offers guided tours in English at 11 am and in Spanish at 6 pm. No need to sign up in advance, just show up in front of the cathedral and look for someone holding a sign or umbrella.
Our guide was born and raised in Santiago, and she showed us all her favorite places. Below are some highlights of the tour.
Continued from Friday night in Santiago.
When I woke the next morning in my bunk at the crowded albergue, I could not wait to pack up and move to the room I reserved at the Hospedería San Martín Pinario. You never know how a place will be when you book online without seeing the rooms in person, but this place is listed in the Camino guidebooks, and all the reviews on booking.com were glowing (ranking: Fabulous 8.6, Location 9.7). They had me at fabulous!
When I got there, I knew I made the right choice. It is adjacent to the cathedral’s side entrance, just around the corner from the stairwell that the opera singer performed in the day before. Location is everything! There is also something to be said for that feeling you get when you get to stay in a very special place—in this case a sixteenth-century monastery!
Continued from Walking Day 6: Padrón to Santiago.
On May 27th, when I arrived in Santiago after the longest walking day yet, I wrote this on my Facebook timeline, “Friends and family. I made it to Santiago around 2:30 today. I have a heart full of gratitude and a credential full of stamps. Lots of memories. . .”
It was surreal to finally arrive! I kept a lookout for a “Camino de Santiago” sign to signify the achievement with a photo op, but the Portugués route does not have a landmark sign like the Camino Francés has. If I were not so exhausted, I would have stopped in Plaza del Obradoiro and taken a victory shot in front of the Cathedral, holding my backpack high. Alas, the skies were getting darker, and it was starting to rain. All I could think about was finding a bed for the night. I did not book an albergue in advance because I had no problems finding a bed over the past week (now I know better!). Yes, Santiago has many accommodations for pilgrims and tourists, but it was a Friday, and pilgrims were pouring into town to attend the Friday pilgrim mass at the Cathedral.
I stopped in the tourist information center, which was buzzing with excitement. A friendly attendant said that almost every albergue was booked, but she checked and found that there were two private albergues with available beds. She called the closest one, they confirmed they still had one bed left, so she gave them my name and handed me a map to navigate to albergue La Estrella de Santiago. It was about a fifteen-minute walk from the center, north-east of the Parque Alameda. Looking at the bronze shell markers in the stone pavers, that was my victory moment. They read, “Europe was made on the pilgrim road to Compostela.” I have heard this saying before, but it was amazing to see this etched in different languages on my walk to the albergue.
This was my official “Welcome to Santiago” landmark. Finally, I arrived. And even though I was exhausted and wet, I was so grateful that I made my 100+ mile journey without injury or incident.
Introduction: The Pomeranian Camino
When people talk about the Way of St. James, the more traditional walks in and around Galicia tend to spring to mind. But the fact is that Santiago de Compostela used to be one of the most popular pilgrimage sites and was visited by pilgrims from all Catholic kingdoms, princedoms, and bishopric states of the old world. This meant that travelers were journeying to Santiago de Compostela not only from, say, Le Puy (France), Salzburg (Austria), or Regensburg (Germany) but also from farther afield.