Day 52, THAT IS IT, Reflections

This trip for me was a chance to take some time to reflect on the next stage of my life as well as take a rest and recharge before my next job.  It has certainly done that, although I could carry on! On the camino I mulled over my priorities for life and aspirations. There were no big revelations but lots of smaller moments of awareness around things which are important to me. I was able to be me, without anyone else to refine or define me. Today I feel more certain of who I am, so now my challenge remains to be true to this once I am back in real life. My motto has become “I am who I am” Exodus 3:14.

Small moments from this trip will always stay with me. The sunrises; amazing people I met along the way; the feeling of sitting in a cafe all alone for a coffee or a beer, and feeling absolutely comfortable in my own skin; the peacefulness of mass and the beauty of the countryside in Spain. I have loved the way people of different nationalities, religions and age come together and genuinely enjoy each other’s company without the need for social props.

I think it will be very hard to really describe the essence of the Camino to people at home, but hopefully I have managed to convey some of it through this blog.

Below are some of my best moments from the Camino as well as my top 10 learnings from the Camino, and some images to try to reflect the essence.

Best Moments:

Best walk – Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca – this was the highest peak of the Camino with La Cruz de Ferris, which was not the highlight, however, passing this and moving onto the next peak which is actually slightly higher, the scenery was breathtaking, incomparable, especially since I had no views over the Pyrenees, I had a picnic up on the mountains just taking in the views before finding Andy and Clive in a coffee bar for lunch.

Best hotel experience – Hostel el Molina de Florin – this hostel was totally quirky, it had a lovely sitting area downstairs, like a lounge, Eric, Andy and I enjoyed a bottle of wine before Senor Florian announces he was off for a drink with friends we could manage the hotel and gave us another bottle!

Best hotel – Monaterio San Zoilo, I had the most amazing suite, and the history and experience of staying in the Monastery was just incredible, we also had a great group dinner.

Best Town experience – Santo Domingo – I loved touring the town and visiting the cathedral (with the cockerel and hen), followed by mass and then a personal tour of the cathedral with my own personal translator Eric!

Best unexpected experience – the Monastery in Najera, I did not even know that it was there. I came across it exploring, but the tour and the experience was fantastic and the amount open and available to see was much more than all others, I loved it.

Best Cathedral – a tie – Burgos and León – both are amazing. Leon is known as the Jewel due to the stained glass which is incredible as Burgos is known as the Jewel Box ( thanks George) due to the size and detail, both are just stunning in different ways. 

Best restaurant meal – A Rua – eating with Morag and Hugh at their hotel in A Rua in the middle of nowhere, the food and presentation was amazing. I had a stunning soup followed by huge langoustines and a salad.

Best spiritual day – Burgos to Hornillos – This was the start of the Meseta stage and after leaving Burgos before the Meseta started there was a small chapel where a Nun blessed each pilgrim and gave us a gift of a metal “mother” to look over us on our journey. There was also some graffiti art with scripture messages one of which included “I am who I am” which has really resonated with me.

Best finish – Muxia – for me without a doubt, my favourite of 3 finishes was Muxia. It felt natural, unspoilt, beautiful and raw. Finesterre was lovely too but a little touristy, and Santiago did not feel like the end although I love the atmosphere in town.

Best Pintxos/Tapas – Logrono – Calle del Laurel was a street of Pintxos bars one after the other each with their own specialty. Eric, Andy and I tested a good few over two nights. I think the consensus favourite was a bar which really just did pork kebabs, two styles, both cooked fresh on the bbq, both were amazing. 

Best Funny moment – just too many (George!) – the one that sums up Spain and the Camino,  was with Dawn in Sahagún, when Dawn pointed out that there was meat in her vegetarian vegetable stew, and she got the Spanish shrug with the comment, it is only a little pork for flavour, the Spanish really do not get vegetarians!!!

Best Sunrise – leaving Villar de Mazarife – George and I had ended up on the alternative route for the night, the sunrise was incredible, with reds, oranges and pinks, I was able to watch the whole process since the landscape was flat and I was out on my own. The whole sky ended up almost luminescent in pink. 

10 things I learned on the Camino:

1. Pork, potatoes, bread and red wine are Spanish staples

2. Every Spanish town and village has a church

3. 9pm is the pilgrims midnight.

4. This is the most sociable walk you will ever do

5. I am not sure that waterproofs exist to keep anyone dry after 6 hours of torrential Spanish rain.

6. I have discovered that I love walking long distances

7. I can have a lovely 10 min conversation with a Spanish man who knows as much English as I know Spanish.

8. Food and drink are very cheap in rural Spain 

9. A heartfelt wish of Buen Camino from a local as yet another stranger tramps through their village will always lift your spirits.

10. Well cushioned comfortable shoes are essential, happy feet, happy pilgrim!

I am ready, I think, to return home. I can’t wait for my own bed, for more than one night, a chance to cook and eat some vegetables, and to see and hug my family. I will however miss this beautiful country which I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to experience in such a unique way.

Buen Camino.

Day 51, Last Day in Santiago and Spain

Today is my last day, I travel back to the UK tomorrow, so today is all about relaxing, final visits and a little shopping.

I had a morning shower today for the first time in 7 weeks!! I am normally a morning shower everyday person, but it just doesn’t work on the Camino. Since I arrived in Spain and starting the Camino I have just rolled out of bed, had breakfast and started walking, knowing that I will need a shower at the end of the day. There is also the logic which says not to take a shower in the morning because it saturates your feet with water and makes them more susceptible to friction and blisters, not my reasoning but it seems sound. Anyway, my morning shower today was the start of returning to a more normal life.

Breakfast at the Parador was a spread as you would expect from a fancy hotel breakfast. I was surprised though that there was no cooked breakfast and everything was buffet. Anyhow it suited me, I stuck to my routine since I have been here of toasted bread and either ham or ham and cheese. Bread in Spain appears to come with everything but it tastes very different to English bread, still that is another thing which is going to change when I get home.

After breakfast I left my bag with the hotel and headed off for a Thai massage which I had booked before I headed off to Finesterre and Muxia. I thought it made sense to try to stretch out all my muscles before heading home. It was different from the last place I went but still very good and I feel totally stretched and released which is great. It is interesting the parts of the body which get tight walking, once again my calves seemed to be very tight, once again the masseuse seemed to have to fight to get my body into the expected positions.

After the massage I had decided to attend mass again as a final thanks after completing the trip and the final walking. I chose the main replacement mass for the Cathedral which is at the Inglesia San Francisco. It is a traditional Spanish mass, but designed for pilgrims. The nun who sings is amazing and it feels very special as a final mass.

Having attended mass I collected my bag and checked into my final hotel of the trip!! There is a lovely patio to sit out and enjoy a drink in but it is pouring with rain again! Obviously time to head home, although I am not sure that it is much better in the UK.

After settling in, I headed back out for shopping, gifts and a final wander round this wonderful and vibrant City. I might not feel that this is the finish of the Camino for me but I do love the City. It is absolutely stunning, full of history, really easy to walk around, and absolutely packed with pilgrims and locals. 

I visited the Park Alameda, it is on a hill and has a stunning view back to the cathedral, Morag and Hugh had recommended it. I enjoyed wandering around in a brief lull in the weather.

I opted not to eat in the hotel but to have tapas out again, different places to last night, the city is so vibrant and busy in the evenings and the people watching is fab. I had intended to hop around a few different places but I found a spot where two other women had the same idea as me. I think we we made an odd combination, a German lady drinking beer, myself with red wine and a lady from Poland who had a large vodka! So I ended up sampling a variety of tapas and had a couple of glasses of wine!

Tomorrow I travel back to the UK. I am ready but also not ready!

Day 50, Sightseeing Muxia and Santiago

Last night I ate on the harbour front, in a small and cozy restaurant. I had dorado and salad again, this and the hake has rapidly become a favourite! It was not as good as the night before but still very nice.

It is clear that October is the end of the Camino season, far fewer places are open and given the small number of pilgrims who walk here, there are very few pilgrims around in the evening, or morning. Numbers peak in the middle of the day as buses arrive travelling through both Finesterre and Muxia. The hotel I had booked was based on a recommendation and was great. Very small and cozy but modern and comfortable. It is supposed to have an amazing restaurant but the restaurant is closed this time of year which is a shame but it was a great recommendation from the chap I met at San Juan de a Ortega. 

I didn’t set an alarm this morning planning a lie in. I was later than usual, but I had to work at this by reading in bed! After a leisurely breakfast I headed back up to the cape before the buses arrived to enjoy the peacefulness and the waves. It is not windy like yesterday and so I was able to wander across with rocks without feeling like I was about to be blown off. This is definitely a favourite spot, totally natural and unspoilt.

I took the time to walk up the hill above the cape, there are amazing views back over Muxia to the town and the port, it is a very pretty town. I am now enjoying a beer, and free lunch snacks, on the port front! However, I have just inadvertently eaten tripe as part of my tapas of chickpea and chorizo stew!

Back to Santiago after lunch. I have booked a celebratory night in the Parador next to the Cathedral. This is one of the most highly regarded of Spain’s network of Paradores,  Paradores are Spain’s government run hotels often located in restored historical sites. This one, also known as Hostal dos Reis Catolicos, was originally built as a royal hospital in 1499 for the sick and weary pilgrims visiting this Galician capital city. It was converted to the hotel/Parador in l958.

After I was checked in and left the busy entrance (many pilgrims who are not staying here like to take a peek inside but are not allowed beyond the front desk and lobby area), the history started to unfold. The place is almost like a museum, with many corridors, sitting areas and four cloistered courtyards and lovely secret gardens set inside. Along with an ancient chapel, there are sculptures and artwork throughout; and many wall plaques (in English and Spanish) helpfully explain the history of some of the construction and objects. I was even given a guide to the Parador Museo and all the floors so that I can explore!! 

My room was not huge, but given that it is a basic single it is pretty amazing! It goes without saying that despite being a basic room it has a double bed, bath and hairdryer, so nothing else required! Later in the afternoon, sitting on the hotel terrace with a glass of the refreshing local Albarino white wine, was very chilled. From this patio, there’s a great view over the Praza do Obradoiro and onto the famous cathedral where all the pilgrims arrive, and the sound of the bagpipes waft over the square.

I decided I was ready to hug St James now, it feels right, I did not want to when I first arrived in Santiago but now I feel differently. So I returned to the cathedral today and joined the queue to hug and thank the Saint for my journey. I also went to the crypt to see the box which contains his bones. Whilst the arrival of St James and his identity might be shrouded in myth. The pilgrimage across Spain is very special regardless of religion.

St James…visitors can hug him from the back…

I have decided to bar hop for tapas this evening instead of sitting for dinner, it seems to be working for me. The Parador restaurants are supposed to be great but I feel underdressed, and I think that is something for another time, perhaps when I come back to see the cathedral fully open for mass.

Today is the first day in 7 weeks where I have not met my 12,000 step target…need to work harder on that!

Day 49, Finesterre to MUXIA (end of the land II)

Last night I had dinner with George, final time. The place right next to his hotel does great fish and George is now on first name terms with Matteo managing the bar and restaurant. So despite George having been there the last couple of evenings he seemed keen to stay there since the food is good. I have to say it was good. I had a vegetable soup followed by fresh dorado, just landed that morning and simply grilled, it was amazing, and it was served with a fresh salad. I really enjoyed it. Said goodbye, again, it has been so great to meet George and who knows, he is thinking of planning a reunion in Scotland for the Edinburgh festival!

It was also not a late night which was good since I want to make sure that I enjoy my final day of walking tomorrow, 29km to Muxia, so an early night for me. A lie in too since breakfast does not start until 8.30am but since I don’t want to leave before 9am (daylight) this is not a problem at all.

The weather was dry and windy with patches of sun, just perfect walking weather. The scenery was lots of forest paths, and farm tracks, almost no road except the final approach to Muxia and often with stunning views of the sea and coast line. Little ascents and descents until Monte Lourido but this was still only a climb of 300m up and down but gave beautiful scenery of eucalyptus forests and wind turbines.

I have never really seen forests to Eucalyptus trees before but they are stunning and I think the sound of The wind blowing through the eucalyptus forests and the smell of the trees will forever bring me back to Northern Spain and the Camino. 

The markings today were a little sparser but still perfectly manageable, this section can be done in either direction as many people stop in Muxia and then go to Finesterre and visa versa. It was odd to see as many people coming to opposite was as with me. This stage is not walked that often so it was very peaceful which was just lovely for my final day. 

I arrived at my hotel around 3.15pm so plenty of time to go and explore. I headed out after locating a map. Muxia is a much smaller and more picturesque town than Finesterre. The Cape is much smaller than Finesterre but more rugged and spectacular, in my view absolutely stunning. I have decided I like the coast. 

Both Finesterre and Muxia have a 0.000km marker and current measurements have Muxia as the final point but both have their interests and features and both are fishing ports. I am pleased I visited both, and pleased that I ended in Muxia, it is really peaceful and a very fitting end. You can go to either first so it was luck I came this way.

Right on the cape in Muxia it is very open, just rugged rocks and the sea. You can find a spot to just sit and contemplate.

The key legend associated with Muxia is the legend of Our Lady of the Boat. The Virgin Mary, the legend claims came here in a boat made of stone to help St. James in his ministry. St James felt that he had failed in his ministry in Finesterre so he travelled to Muxia. As he prayed he saw the boat with the Virgin Mary, she assured him that his ministry had been successful and that he should return to Jerusalem. The legend states that her stone boat became petrified here on the headland.

The sail stone, pedra dos cadris, is the most obvious and is said to have healing powers. 

The rocking hull, pedra da abalar, was cracked in a storm in 1978 but it is still amazing.

The sanctuary to the Virgin, which was restored in 18th century, after the original from the 13th century was destroyed after a lightning hit, stands on the Cape overlooking the coast.

The Guidebook thought of the day today was: “Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time. It is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”

It feels appropriate, I would have regretted not walking this final day. I also would have regretted not taking the trip from Burgos to see the monks at Santo Domingo de Silas. I must remember to listen to myself once back home, make the most of all opportunities that arise.

So many pictures today, beautiful spot. Tomorrow back to Santiago for a final mass, some shopping and a tattoo!

I am finished!!

Day 48, Cee to FINESTERRE (End of the Land)

Well I didn’t stop to get a second stamp today so when the rain had stopped I ventured out. Really not much to see here. The church was shut so no chance of a look or a stamp, my only other option was a bar so I stopped for a glass of wine. Stamp collected, I should be good.

Tomorrow I arrive in Finesterre, literally translated as the end of the land. This marks the end of my second camino, although clearly a far shorter one! The forecast is for dry weather and some sun so all is looking good. I have just had a message that George has taken the bus to Finesterre and is hanging out!! I am to message him when I arrive. It should be quite early as it is only about 12km to the centre of Finesterre. However there is a 10km round trip out to the lighthouse and various other key features to visit tomorrow.

I had dinner with John and Silvia in the hotel again. Silvia did not enjoy the day, she said she was hating it when I went past and it didn’t get any better! They also had not realised that you have to turn in the radiator in the room so were wondering how they would get anything dry. I explained how to get the radiator on, that is pretty essential if you don’t want wet feet tomorrow. It was quiet in the restaurant today, not the atmosphere of last night and the food was not as good either but still a nice quiet evening. Since I didn’t fancy the pilgrim menu I opted for Pizza, I just couldn’t resist, it was a nice change.

I set off shortly after 9am, pretty much as soon as it was light. It is only a short walk into the centre of Finesterre today, but I want to make sure that I have enough time to enjoy the walk out to the lighthouse and the other key areas to see and also get my Compostela.

The walk to Finesterre was a mix of woodland and coastal paths with views of the sea. There were some stretches along the road. I am so pleased that I have walked this final stretch from Santiago it does feel like the final section, at Santiago it felt like something was missing for me, perhaps it is the sea. It is also lovely to have a peaceful end to the trip rather than the busy section with lots of people having joined.

I arrived in Finesterre early at about 11.30am, I checked out where to get my certificate for completing the Camino Finesterre (it feels a bit odd since it is so short), I was too early so I headed to the hotel. I dropped some things off but it felt to early to relax and shower since I wanted to walk onto the lighthouse, there is a circular route round the top of the Coast which I want to walk.

However George has suggested meeting for a celebratory beer so I head over to him to see what he has planned. He has already been to the lighthouse but would like to walk the other side to get the view back from the peak of the lighthouse, that is on the other side of my route so we agree to finish our beers and to walk my route, I promise to walk slowly!

One of the official markers 0.000km to the end!!

This really does feel like the proper end of the camino. It is not considered such due to the pagan history but it feels special and peaceful and like I have finished now. It was nice to have someone to explore with and we took a variety of different unmarked routes but had a really great circular walk, the sun came out and it was a fabulous afternoon. I was surprised to see that we had added another 14km to my 12km into Finesterre so today was not such a short day after all, but it was amazing, lots of great pictures, a proper finish.

I am now doing a quick load of laundry since all my wet stuff is a little unpleasant and I have nothing clean for tomorrow.

Then I will head out and meet George for dinner. He is staying here another day and then heading to Porto for a few days before flying back to LA. Tomorrow morning I have my last official day of walking with a 29km walk to Muxia. It is a bit of an extra but I am looking forward to it.

Day 47, Olveiroa to Cee

Last night I ate with John and Silvia, they live in Canada now but are originally from Scotland, they still have their Scottish accents. They had split the day that I had just done and so had walked 16km today. Last year they walked part of the Portuguese route from above Porto (about a 100km of walking) into Santiago with their teenage kids. They had stayed in the albergue’s and had got bed bugs. Their kids have not forgiven them!! This time they started in Santiago and are walking to Finesterre.

We ate in the hotel, the Pilgrim menu was lovely, I really enjoyed it. I started with Galician soup (potato and cabbage with some chorizo for flavour), and then had grilled fish with salad, followed by creme caramel. It was really beautifully cooked and in a cozy dining room.

When I arrived at breakfast the next morning John and Silvia were there, shocked by the weather, it is pouring again. I had known that this day was forecast and I am just grateful that it is only forecast to be one day and it was not yesterday which was a long day. Mentally therefore I was expecting it and quite relaxed, Silvia looks like she fancies a bus!

Anyway, I am in no rush as I don’t want to leave before 9am when it is light and today is 19km, although a wet 19km!! 

Choice to go to Finesterre or Muxia

Another couple who are staying here have taken one look at the weather this morning and negotiated a second night at the place we are staying!! I guess that is the flexibility of just booking day by day but I am not sure what they are going to do all day, it is a village in the middle of nowhere with an albergue and two small hotels for pilgrims.

I set off shortly after 9am, I layered up from the start in the hope of something remaining dry, so the poncho was out! Today’s walk is supposed to be the most rural of all camino stages, there is a coffee stop after 4km but then nothing until Cee. It is supposed to be lovely and I will see the sea for the first time today from the hills before descending.

The scenery was lots of moorland today, with lots of ferns, the recent rains however have left everywhere water logged so it was like picking a route through a river and lakes in certain sections.

I hate the feeling of water gradually seeping into my shoes until my feet are soggy. That was not an issue at all today, within the first 15 minutes what looked like a grass verge around a lake turned out to be a bog so my feet were instantly swimming pools of cold water! Probably the best way, just like jumping fast into a cold pool, get it over with, now I just have to get on and ignore the squelching for the next 4 hours.

I passed John and Silvia after about 25 minutes, they did not look like they were going to enjoy the day. Then I passed the only cafe and decided that it was too soon for another coffee and I could not face undressing all the layers so I pushed on. Shortly After I plugged my headphones in and decided that today would be a music day. The mist was in so there were no views anyway and trying to peak out from under hoods becomes tedious. So today was an introverted day of my hood full of music, not a bad way to spend 4 hours!

I only stopped a couple of times for pictures as the phone was just too buried and it was too wet.

The route I think would have been stunning if I could see the views, it was very isolated and hilly and with views of the ocean and the autumn colours would have been great. I have imagined it.

Approach to Cee….and the sea…couldn’t see it at all earlier

I caught up with two German lads, they were trying to navigate another very large lake. One asked me, I think in hope, if my feet were dry. He got a fairly incredulous look from me, and I explained that my feet have been soaked for the last couple of hours. His had too, but I think misery likes company, his mate looked to have in wellingtons so I suspect that his feet might have been dry!! It gave me a chuckle.

That was enough to help me keep my sense of humour through the whole process of trying to take a pee in the pouring rain with a number of very soggy clinging layers of plastic. It was a very messy wet process and I am not keen to repeat so my water intake was cut off from that point forward!!

I arrived in Cee just before 1pm, but it was one of these towns/villages that seems to stretch forever, so in seeing a bakery I decided now was the time for coffee. I ordered my coffee and then deliberated on my choice of cake, so much choice. I made my selection and I think the woman behind the counter took pity in me as I tried to extract myself from all my wet plastic layers, my cake was at least enough for 2 people! I didn’t waste it though.

The hotel tonight looks great, small and friendly but great facilities, I have a double bed, a bath and a hairdryer, I don’t know what to do with myself!!! The only thing not offered is laundry but there is a radiator so my shoes are first on. Everything else can wait, but I really don’t want wet feet first thing tomorrow!!

Now for a nap, in the bath.

Day 46, Negreira to Olveiroa

I seem to be the only one in the hostal part of my albergue. There are probably others in the albergue but I don’t know. I met the group of four Spanish guys again and a German lady Corine. We had a pilgrim dinner together. It was a funny evening since I don’t think any of us really understood the detail of what was being said but there was lots of laughter!

At breakfast it was confirmed, I am the only person staying in the hostel part. I ate in the dining room on my own! Good breakfast though if a little odd.

I am waiting for daylight but then I will be off. Today is 34km and with two hills to climb the longest day of the whole camino and certainly this stage. It will be an early night tonight. Overall 635m ascent and 400m descent. Still the weather is dry, not supposed to be as gorgeous as yesterday, but sun and cloud so it should be a good day.

Arrived into Olveiroa at about 4pm. Shattered. I thought by now 34km would be fine, but with the ups and downs, safe to say it is a very very long way!!

It was a good walk though. It started out climbing from the start, with more woodlands to start off. The scenery changed though and it became less wooded and more rolling fields.

The sun was in and out most of the day but it was pretty warm, t shirt for the most part of the day although I did have layers on at the start of the day and after my break for a bit.

I stopped for a coffee after about 12km in Vilaserio. It was a good spot and seemed to be a very popular stop. I recognise a number of the walkers from yesterday and there are already those who I keep passing and they keep passing me.

After my coffee I pushed on, there was still a further 22km to go. 

After I had been walking for about 20km I caught up with a couple of older Spanish guys, and since I was tiring I ended up slowing down and just following at their pace. We both kept stopping at similar spots to take photos. 

After following them for a few km, they were having a discussion together, then one of them turned to wait for me and gave me a full Spanish sentence. After explaining that I only speak a poquito Spanish he slowed down. Turned out he wanted to know what the town he could see was. I had to fish out my map to identify it as Lago. He was delighted, that is where he was staying and in his words today had been quite long enough from Negreira where we had spent last night. I explained that I was heading onto Olveiroa. He looked quite horrified and explained that this was another 10km further. Unfortunately I already knew that!!

5 minutes later, as we arrived into Lago he and his friend both shook my hand and wished me well for the next 10km. They actually said something else too but I have no idea what, probably something along the lines of crazy English woman!! Anyhow as they turned to head into their place the first chap spotted the selection of underpants his mate had hanging on his pack which I had been following for 4km, this appeared to cause great hilarity. Hopefully it was all dry!

The remaining 10km proved very long and I was really pleased to arrive. The positive of having had such a long day today is that tomorrow is only 19km and the village that I am staying in has nothing to see anyway so there is no need for me to walk another step!

Nice room though, unfortunately no bath, these seem to have been absent in Galicia, since O’Cebreiro actually, but I do have a double bed which is a treat and the shower was lovely. Dinner is served here so I don’t think that I am going anywhere this evening.

I still have not worked out what these traditional buildings are for. There have been all kinds of suggestions, I still think k my suggestion of a chicken house is good but I am certain this is not the case. This is a very large version. They are usually 1/3 of the size.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is wet. Looks like my poncho could get another airing!!

Day 45, Santiago to Negreira

George and I met for pre dinner drinks and were joined by Emma and Simon the brother sister from Yorkshire. They had been souvenir shopping properly, lots of gifts! Disappointingly for them the pilgrim museum that I had recommended was closed on Monday but they did seem to enjoy the cathedral more than I did. They queued to go and hug the statue of Saint James and said that the queue moved fast so when I get back to Santiago I might go and make the effort to queue!

George and I tried another place in Santiago for dinner. I have not had a bad meal yet but I also haven’t had a Pilgrim menu either. George and I shared a very large T-bone steak and salad which was really good, and felt like a good celebration meal for George. He now gets to wait and celebrate with Kari as she arrives today and I will have gone. She is the last of our extended group to arrive, so nice that someone is still around. 

After our dinner we wandered back and I had to remind myself of the evening routine for packing up each day. That is one thing I won’t miss when I get back to England and that is a different bed and room each night. I have watched into the wall twice this trip getting confused about the room layout when looking for the bathroom! I am surprised it has not happened more often actually.

Emma, Simon and George were all at breakfast this morning which I was not expecting but it was nice to say final goodbyes as I headed off. 

This time I can see the spires as I leave!

I can’t fully explain why but today I was almost giddy with excitement about this next stage. It doesn’t make sense because by comparison it is a very small stage just 89km to Finisterre and then another 29km to Muxia which compared to the 780km to Santiago is clearly nothing. Perhaps it is because I know the routine now, perhaps it is having had a break of a couple of days, or the fact that the weather is amazing with sun and blue skies again. Probably a combination but I am really excited and pleased to be heading on for this next stage.

The walk today was just stunning. More climbing than I expected, but overall a pretty straightforward day, 22km. The book does say that this is the easiest day of this stage, so I should probably enjoy it. I seemed to leave Santiago very quickly, it was not like Leon where the outskirts went on for ever. Within a couple of km I was back in woodland with a fairly early climb and view back to the spires of the cathedral.

The guidebook said that the marking is not as good as Camino Frances and that there will be 90% less pilgrims. I actually thought that the route was mapped pretty clearly, which was a relief. There were far less people but enough to know that I was not on my own and to say Hi from time to time but it was also a very peaceful walk today. 

There were very few villages on the way and I had just given up in having a mid way coffee when this cafe appeared, which was great. I think I have come to expect a good strong coffee and a rest late morning and the prospect of some water was just not quite the same. 

Just check these colours….autumn

The timing was perfect too as it was about half way and just before the steepest climb of the day, which seemed to go in forever but was actually only about 350m!! It was quite steep in stages though. A group of Spanish guys passed me commenting on the angle of the climb, at least I think thats what they were saying, I agreed anyway! I bumped into them again later at the bridge below and took their picture.

Ponte Maceira was a beautiful spot, with a medieval bridge crossing the river just below the Weir, it was a very pretty spot. It is only once we arrived in Galicia that we have really seen any real rivers, prior to this everywhere was dry. The recent rain may well have helped of course.

I arrived in my first town of the new trip at about 1.45pm. My spot for the day looks nice. There is a cafe and bar but no dinner served so I will need to pop out and find something for dinner. 

The town is quite big but quite sprawling and not very attractive, however it is always tricky to tell during siesta time as so much is closed. I am going to head in and have a shower and then have a proper explore. 

I found about the only bar that seemed to have seats in the sun so I stopped for a glass of red wine. A couple of minutes later the lady popped out with some crisps and nuts, I was delighted since normally I get olives (which I don’t like). So I was feeling very pleased when 2 minutes later she was out with a plate of meat. Just brilliant, I have now had my appetiser for the price of my €1.50 glass of wine!! Have I mentioned that I love it here, so civilised, there is no way you would get these snacks with a glass of wine in London!

Day 44, Sightseeing in Santiago

Yesterday being a Sunday we found that loads of restaurants were closed so it was much harder than expected to find somewhere to eat. It was Morag and Hugh’s last night so we agreed that a Pilgrim menu was not what we wanted. However, we found a great seafood restaurant away from the main pilgrim route. The kitchen did not open until 8pm but we filled the time with a pre dinner drink.

I can’t explain but there was a band with giant chicken parading the streets!

The food was excellent, we are starting to adjust to the massive portions so Morag and I shared the starter salad since it is no huge. I had hake for my main course, I have had really good hake here. Last night was no exception although it was different as it was Galician style with a paprika sauce, with onions and peas, really lovely. To finish we were given some local liqueurs to try, coffee liqueur and a cream liqueur with frozen glasses, they were great!

It was then goodbyes again after dinner as Hugh and Morag head to Porto for a couple of days before heading back to Scotland. 

This morning, I have just enjoyed wandering all round town, both the old and new sections. I did a little shopping this morning so I am now nice and toasty with a puffy jacket and a pair of sketcher shoes since my toes were freezing, tevas might be comfy but it is a little chilly for bare toes right now!!

I headed to the Inglesia de San Francisco for mass at 12pm. This was a proper Spanish mass in the old church, really beautiful.

I just bumped into Emma and Simon from Yorkshire who arrived yesterday. They are doing a tour of Santiago today before heading back home tomorrow. It was uncanny as I had just dropped Emma a note to offer Andy’s services as a career advisor since they live close by in Yorkshire. I think she might take him up on his offer!

I am now waiting for George to arrive, he messages me about 2 hours ago when having coffee about 8km away so he must be close now.

George arrived, it was great to accompany someone into the square and enjoy their arrival. It is strange, since the whole trip is so social, to arrive on your own is a let down it is really nice to share it with someone. 

We had a couple of drinks while waiting for his ticket and then split to have a break and relax before meeting for dinner later in the day. George has decided not to walk to Finesterre but will have a couple of days in Santiago, then bus to Finesterre before a quick trip to Porto before the journey back to LA. Clearly Porto is the place to go, everyone seems to have a couple of days there! Next time.

Today is blue skies, it is a gorgeous day. The weather has changed again and the next 5 days look like they might be a little cooler but with sun. I can’t wait. Tomorrow morning I start on my last 5 days of walking, to Finesterre, (the end of the World) and then into Muxia.

Day 43, Sightseeing in Santiago

Had a lovely dinner last night, although I forgot to take a picture, sorry. There were 6 of us, John and Ann from Canada, they had arrived the day before and leave for Porto today, Andy who had also arrived the day before and again left today, and then Hugh and Morag and myself who reached Santiago yesterday in the rain.

It was fun catching up in experiences over the last few days and also sharing memories of evenings or special days or people we had met. It is amazing how people have met the same people, perhaps at different places and times but often when someone says did you meet this person from here, then another story is shared. 

Later on I also saw Andy and Wendy from Melton Mowbray in the same restaurant. I had met them at Stansted on the way out. It was great to see them again. They seemed to have had a great time too. They made really good progress getting to Santiago a few days before me but they had only stopped in Burgos and León. They are heading back to Stansted today.

It was lots of goodbyes after dinner, which feels odd, but inevitable. It is fair to say though that everyone has had a great experience, all in different ways but no matter what discomfort people had at points during the walk, overall everyone I have met has loved it.

This morning being Sunday I headed out to an English mass. It was a very special experience, quite emotional actually. The chapel was absolutely packed, everyone introduced themselves with name, nationality and where they started their pilgrimage from. The service was very special with thanks for a safe pilgrimage and reflections on lessons and experiences. Even the priest had just finished walking from Sarria. It felt like a very special part of the journey.

Blue sky!

After mass I headed into the cathedral. I had known that due to renovations this year there is no mass at the cathedral but that it was still open for visiting. I must say I did not know just how much renovation was ongoing. It is very hard to see any of the cathedral as it is all under scaffolding or plastic which was a little disappointing. Still I had already told myself that I would come back another year for mass in the cathedral so I will have to see the inside then.

Later on I headed to the Pilgrim museum. This was a great museum, absolutely fascinating. It goes through the history of the pilgrimage to Santiago and the legend around Saint James as well as how the Camino has evolved and been developed. It is amazing the number of different routes available.

I start my next Camino to Finesterre and Muxia on Tuesday, another 120km to the Coast. There are bus tours available out to the Coast which is what most people who want to see the Coast seem to do. I am looking forward to completing this final stage though, for me it feels right to walk.

I thought I would share pictures of my feet, contrary to comments already received, I have not had a pedicure and I can confirm that these are my feet!!! They look remarkably similar to before I did the walk and they certainly don’t look like they have just walked 780km, nor do they look like many of the other painful feet that I have seen. I think I am very lucky to have been blessed with resilient feet and good walking trainers! May this last for my final 5 days of walking.

Yesterday was the 19.10.19 which is the date I completed my first Camino. 1195 pilgrims reached Santiago yesterday and registered. Based on 365 days (it won’t be this exactly) that is 436,175 pilgrims in a year, and last year 57,881 started from St Jean Pied de Port. It is a lot of people walking through Spain, but the journey and the experience is quite incredible.

This is my Compostela (in Latin) as well as my certificate of distance, below. The translation of the Compostela is:

The chapter of this Holy Apostolic and Metropolitan Cathedral of Compostela, custodian of the seal of the Alter of St James, to all the Faithful and pilgrims who arrive from anywhere on the Orb of the Earth with an attitude of devotion or because of a vow or promise make a pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Apostle, our Patron Saint and Protector of Spain, recognises before all who observe this document that: Katie Wade has devotedly visited this most sacred temple with Christian sentiment.In witness thereof, I present this document endorsed with the seal of this same Holy Church. Issued in Santiago de Compostela  on 19.10.19.

Another sightseeing day tomorrow!