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.