Camino Inglés: Arrival in Santiago

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.

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Santiago Highlights: The Cathedral, from Roof to Crypt

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

Model of the cathedral

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Santiago

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

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30 Years of Pilgrim Statistics

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.

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Santiago Highlights: Plaza del Obradoiro

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.

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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.

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Santiago Highlights: Pilgrim Lunch at the Parador

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!

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Santiago Highlights: Free Walking Tour and Secretos de Galicia

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.

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Santiago Highlights: Hospedería San Martín Pinario, a Pilgrim’s Paradise

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!

img_8157When 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!

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Friday night in Santiago

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.

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Europe was made on the pilgrim road to Compostela.

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.

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