I just returned home from another relatively short Camino. Two travel days, one night in Rabanal, one night in Ponferrada, ten days of walking, and two days in Santiago.
I was craving a less crowded walk, so decided to do the Camino Invierno, aka Winter Way, from Ponferrada. This is definitely a less-trodden Camino, but little did I know that I wouldn’t see a pilgrim until the third day! This was by far the most challenging Camino for me because some of the stages were very long, and a few days there were no places to stop. But, I walked through incredibly beautiful landscapes, connected with some locals, and survived some unforeseen challenges. In short, it was a Camino of solitude at the beginning, a test of my fortitude in the middle, but throughout it all, left me with a feeling of extreme gratitude. I will write more about it later. I did some posts on Instagram and Facebook if you want a sneak preview of my adventures and a few pilgrim hacks, see:
Hola from Ponferrada, España.
I just started walking the Camino Invierno! I will write a detailed route report upon my return. For now, I am excited to share a cause that I am supporting and ask for your help pitching in. During my Camino, between May 17-28, $2 from every patch sale will be donated to Egeria House in Santiago to support the work of Sybille Yates and the volunteers who help pilgrims in need. My patches can be ordered for $4 each at: Etsy.com/shop/caminoprovides
I met Sybille in Santiago after my last two Caminos and witnessed how she has helped many pilgrims. Sybille is a busy woman! After seeing her at the 10 am mass, handing out hymn sheets and helping pilgrims to find a seat, I saw her again at the hospital visiting a friend of mine from the Bay Area who became critically ill while walking the Camino. Because I have seen her kindness in action, I want to show support for what she is doing in Santiago with Egeria House. She is one of those Camino angels I will write about when I get back home.
Learn more at: Egeria.House
My patches can be ordered at: Etsy.com/shop/caminoprovides
I will give Egeria House the patch sale contributions when I get to Santiago on May 27th or 28th.
Thank you for sharing the Camino love!
Continued from Sigüeiro to Santiago.
When I started my walk from Sigüeiro, it was sunny and warm, but by the time I reached Santiago, the sky was grey and it felt like it would rain at any moment. This was exactly like my arrival in Santiago last year after walking the Camino Portugués. However, I was in a completely different state of mind this time, having learned a great lesson. I had prebooked a room so I wasn’t desperately trying to find a bed for the night. This time around, I didn’t care if it poured; I was going straight to Praza do Obradoiro by the Cathedral.
I headed right for the center of Praza Obradoiro and felt a euphoric sense of joy rush over me. I made it. My second Camino. And I was so high on life! Below is a video of my arrival.
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.
Model of the cathedral
I found God.
Well, maybe that is not so funny. However, it is what I least expected to get out of my experience on the Camino. So now here I am, two weeks away from being confirmed as a Catholic. How did that happen? Confirmation was never something I felt I needed. In fact, I resented the Catholic church most of my life, and I still have some issues with it. If you recall from a previous post, My Rekindled Faith, our family stopped going to church after my parents’ divorce. I completely lost trust in the church until my mom busted a myth that I held since childhood.
I will discuss what I’m doing for the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) in another post. For now, I just want to reassure my blog readers that I did not join a cult and nobody persuaded me to be “saved.” I was not preached to by any pilgrims, and I will not preach to anyone else. I just followed my vibe and realized that now is the right time, and my local parish is the right place. A year ago I would have never thought I would be blogging about God, but this is part of my Camino. Now I see that the Camino really does provide, in more ways than I ever imagined.
Entrance to the Santiago Cathedral through the Holy Doors
Every January, the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos (Pilgrims’ Welcome Office) in Santiago, Spain and the American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) publish the pilgrim statistics for the previous year. Among the various data is a chart showing numbers of pilgrims receiving Compostelas for each year dating back to 1986. When I first started to learn about the Camino, I was intrigued by the dramatic spikes for some years.
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!
Continued from Santiago Highlights: Hospedería San Martín Pinario, A Pilgrim’s Paradise.
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!