October 16 – 18, Santiago de Compostela
We finished off the Cava and in a light drizzle walked over to the Pilgrim’s Reception Office to see about getting our certificates. As it was late in the day the line was pretty long, likely a 30-minute wait and knowing we had all of the next day to take care of it, we walked towards the cathedral. The rain started to come down a bit heavier so we ducked into a small bar for a glass of wine apiece to wait out the passing storm, then walked back to hotel.
Dinner at most restaurants in Spain doesn’t start until 7pm or later and in search of a bit of food before our meal, we stopped in at a place recommended by St. Steves and just a couple of blocks away from the La Salle, Bodeguilla de San Roque. We sat downstairs in the bar area and ordered a glass of wine apiece, which was accompanied by a small metal bowl of peanuts, one of olives and a plate with cheese and sausage slices.
This light food and another glass of wine took us up to the bewitching hour of dinner time and so we continued to sit at our table, this time with menus in our hands. We ordered some garlic toast, Sautéed mushrooms, prawns and seaweed, and the Sirloin with Porto sauce, which turned out to be pork nicely done in a semi sweet glaze. We found it hard going to finish everything, a disappointment as the dessert menu was tempting.
After a good night’s sleep, we were up early the next morning so that we could get to the Pilgrim’s Reception Office when they opened at 8am. We stopped on the way for a coffee apiece and some toast, arriving about fifteen minutes after the opening bell to find a line as long as the one we’d witnessed the day before. So much for our grand strategy. The line moved quickly though and soon we stood at the counter while the clerk reviewed our credentials, certified we’d accomplished the required distances and issued us our certificates. When we walked out around 9am we discovered that the line was only three or four people long. So much for our strategy.
From there we spent the rest of the day roaming the city, shopping for souvenirs, stopping in at noon for the Pilgrim’s mass in the cathedral (offered only in Spanish so we’re not sure what we witnessed), and walking over to the beauty salon for haircuts for the both of us.
While Joanna was getting hers done I ducked into a small market nearby to pick up a 2-euro bottle of a local white wine which we enjoyed as the beautification process played out.
We also returned to the Pilgrim’s office to pay a visit to the Renfe (Spain’s train system) office to take care of our transportation needs for following week. Using the trains, we’d return to Astorga for one night, and Leon, Burgos, and Bilbao for two nights’ apiece. For dinner that night we returned to Bodeguilla, this time a little closer to 7pm and picked up where we had left off the night before.
Starting with glasses of wine we enjoyed the nut, olive, cheese and meat snack and then we ordered our meal, just one thing this time around, the Galacian Beef Entrecote Steak, a huge piece of meat that would prove to be so filling that we would again find that we would not be able to order dessert. Our train the next morning was scheduled for 9:30 and so we returned to our room to prepare for the next phase of our journey, leaving our status as pilgrims behind us and resuming our more familiar roles as tourists.
As we prepared to take our leave of Santiago, it was a good time to reflect on our journey, the lessons we learned and how our outcome matched up with our initial expectations. We started this quest a number of years ago, prior to our long trip to Europe in 2014, first catching the Camino bug at an information session at our local REI Coop. I rode a section of the route out of Pamplona during our 2014 trip and in the ensuring years we would become regular participants at the monthly meeting of the Charlotte Camino Pilgrims, those sessions helping to fuel our desire to take on this popular challenge.
For me, deep down inside, I think it was a belief that I could be 28 again, living out of a backpack as I hitchhiked through Europe. On the go independently, your existence stripped down to a few essentials, each day an adventure in and of itself was something I hoped to recapture. We did train for the Camino with many day hikes and the two-night trek along the Rogue River last year with Heir Angst, carrying the weight we thought we’d have to contend with. So, we felt we were ready.
And for the first week or more we were ready until that damnable arthritic back reared its ugly head. For a day or so the thought of abandoning depressed me to no end until the option to rent bikes became apparent to us and after that it all fell into place. As I would discover in time, the burden I left behind at Cruz Ferro, along with those wood chips and the guilt about riding instead of walking, was that ghost of me at 28 that I’d been living with all of these years.
I realized that the wisest thing one can do as they age is to let go of who they were and instead accept who they can be, to grab the remaining years left to any of us and live them to the fullest given the capacity you have left. I now understand I’ll not ever again be that young vagabond, but I can be an older one in whatever way I can navigate the voyage.
When you apply for your pilgrim credential, both at the beginning when you receive the card to be stamped and at the end when interviewed for the certificate, you are given three choices as to why you want to make the pilgrimage, those being religious, spiritual, or cultural.
When I started the journey, it was certainly about the cultural but in the end, it became more spiritual as I said goodbye to my ghost and embraced who I am now and who I can still be. And thus, I became a true pilgrim, one whose journey begins in one place or state of mind and ends in another. I think that many who make the journey, regardless of the time walked or the distance traveled would say the same thing.
In the next post, I’ll cover logistics, costs, and the impressions that came to us as we made the journey. Be sure to check that one out so you can begin planning your own Camino.
Pilgrim’s Reception Office: https://oficinadelperegrino.com/en/pilgrims-reception-office/
Bodeguilla de San Roque: https://www.labodeguilla.gal/san-roque/
Charlotte Camino Pilgrims: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1418344158467833/