When we arrived in Santiago we had planned to stay at an apartment we had booked on AirBnB.
We had no idea where this apartment actually was. As it happened it was quite a bit out of the main city centre. In fact it was beside the very large Albergue Seminario Menor which is over 1 km from the Cathedral.
“1 km” I hear you say, “that’s not far”. It was far enough considering we had just walked in to the Cathedral and then had to make our way in and out again to this apartment for the two days we had booked it.
Anyway, we went out to check it out and it wasn’t suitable. I could not have stayed in it so we let the owner know by text message and found another pension in the centre, beside the cathedral, for not much more money.
Our rucksack had been sent on to the Seminario Menor albergue so we walked round to it and collected our bag and ordered a taxi to take us back to our new accommodation.
While waiting for the taxi Susie, the lovely German girl who I had met at El Beso, bounced over to us, I threw my arms around her and we hugged like old friends. I introduced her to AM and we talked about our plans for Santiago. It was lovely to see her there and was sad again to say goodbye when our taxi came.
When we arrived at our pension I couldn’t have been happier. It was in a little square about 100 metres from the Cathedral. This square had a fountain in it and had cafés on two sides of it – perfect.
The pension was lovely and the staff were fantastic, helping us settle in for the two-day break. After these 2 days we would be moving to AMs surprise accommodation for me.
We settled in to the pension and then went across the road to the café opposite – Gin and Tonics were called for – lovely.
We had been into the cathedral when we had arrived at first so we just had to actually go and get our Compostelas, the certificate you get from the official pilgrims office in Santiago.
We walked around to the office and, as it was very busy, decided to sit at a table in front of a hotel right opposite.
We sat watching the new peregrinos queue and come out with their little coloured tubes containing their Compostelas.
Peregrinos kept arriving, seeing others they had met along the way, hug and relate their stories to each other before collecting their certificates.
As we sat we were just relaxing, smiling at all the warmth and enjoying a glass of wine and a C&L when AM realised that this was the hotel where she had booked our final two days. It was beautiful, I could hardly wait.
We had arranged to hire a car for the next day to go to Muxia and Finisterre where I had planned the final part of our Camino task and, when we had finished our drinks, we headed back to the pension before heading out for a meal.
We walked through some of the maze of old streets in the city and found a superb tapas bar. We sat at the bar and drooled at the mouth-watering choice of tapas and pinxos. Crab salad, Pulpo (octopus), small chorizo sausages, peppers de padron (tiny deep-fried peppers) and a bottle of Albariño wine – a Galician feast.
An Australian couple were trying to decide what to have while behind us at the bar and they then joined us while we gave them our opinion of the things they had to try. We talked while we ate and discussed our journeys.
Meal over, friends met and left and back to the pension. We stopped for one last drink in the café opposite our pension and then retired for the night, the taste of the food and wine still on our lips and the glow of the alcohol made it easy to drift off to sleep that night.
Up for breakfast the next morning and bagged up some laundry to leave in for cleaning as the laundrette was in the same direction as the train station where I had to pick up the hire-car.
When we found the launderette we realised we had to do the washing and drying ourselves, this was ok as we had plenty of time before picking up the car.
AM used this opportunity to record some sounds for her package that she was hoping to produce for Radio Ulster.
I haven’t really spoken about this before but she was trying to record sounds and interviews along the way which would give people a flavour of the Camino.
In the towns and villages we had stopped at along the way AM had been recording the sound of our footsteps in the gravel, peregrinos wishing “Buen Camino” and interviews with people who had some sort of insight into the Camino. They would tell their own personal stories and the stories which we had all heard on the Camino Radio – the fictional radio station which would travel as fast as the peregrinos along the way. These stories, most factual, some pure myth were transmitted via peregrinos from one group to the next at the evening meals and lunch breaks as friendships were being formed.
There was the woman with the donkey and three kids, 4, 6 and 8 years of age, who had walked from Belgium and then across the Camino Frances (fact – I had met her myself).
I had heard about the guy who was running the full length of this route.
There was, apparently, a mad Irishman in a kilt called “El Sopa” (The Soup) – that’s the man, not the kilt.
The one person I had been told about by Peter in Sarria was the saddest story I had heard and my heart went out to him.
This guy had lost his daughter in a car-crash, she was 8 years old, don’t know the circumstances but according to Peter he had met him on one of his many journeys on the Camino.
He had done 24 journeys one way and 25 the other, he just kept walking, turning round and walking back the path he had just come.
I wished that man peace. I hoped that on some day, at some random place along the way, he would stop dead in his tracks and forgive himself or whoever had caused such grief in his life.
Mind you that may be his comfort, not his punishment. I know that meeting peregrinos every day of your life would be such a wonderful experience you could forget everything else.
I remember walking one day with AM and a woman walking past us. She got level with me and, in her Irish accent, said “Are you El Sopa?” I was gob-smacked and I looked at her and said “yes”, but how did she know me? She said she had been talking to someone who had met me further back along the route and had described me with my kilt.
I think I’ll get a tee-shirt with “El Sopa” on it someday.
Back to the recordings. AM would interview these peregrinos anywhere she came across them. She could maybe find an unusual angle in their story which could enhance the piece.
In the launderette (remember that part of the story) we had met an Irish guy with his collie dog which had a jacket on it with “Therapy Dog” on it.
AM asked him to explain what this meant and she recorded what he said. I won’t go into what he said as, hopefully, the package she is doing will be on radio soon and, when it is, I will record or direct people to the podcast.
As the time was coming close for my appointment I left AM waiting for our laundry and interviewing the Irish guy and also an older Swiss lady in her 80s who was also on the Camino.
Picked up the car and arranged for AM to meet me close to the launderette so I could stop briefly to pick her up. Managed to navigate the one-way systems of the city and pulled over to wait for her.
When she came she jumped in and we were off. Off to Muxia and Finisterre. The day was beautiful, the sun was shining brightly and the sky was cloudless. I couldn’t have painted a better picture of a day, let alone plan it.
The journey to Muxia was around one and a half hours. The roads were easy, though I wouldn’t like to have to walk them, which is what a lot of peregrinos do to finish their Caminos.
As we neared Muxia I could smell the sea. I hadn’t realised how much I had missed this smell or the sight of the sea. I kept rounding corners expecting to see it only to be disappointed over and over again and then …… there it was. I could see it. I don’t really need to tell you how I reacted, do I? Yep. I was a wreck at the sea.
Muxia is a beautiful town\village with a beach and a harbour. Picture postcard beauty. Cafès lined the seafront and in the parallel street behind.
We picked our lunchtime seats in the shade of an umbrella at a table outside one of these establishments and ordered razor clams and peppers de padron – AM really liked the clams and she always likes the peppers.
We chilled with a glass of Albariño with our food and, when finished, climbed back into the car for our last task.
We wound our way through the roads to Finisterre. On the outskirts we stopped for some photos of the incredible views across the bays and on to the golden sands of the beaches leading the Finisterre.
We drove on through the little town of Finisterre and out along the coast road to the lighthouse on the cliffs which was our destination.
I had lots of emotion going on here. My stomach was turning over and over, and it is doing it again as I type.
AM and I walked, slowly towards to lighthouse, past the tourist shops and past the “0.0” marker which denotes the very end of the Camino. Some peregrinos, not us, would argue that you have to walk to here to finish the Camino, not Santiago.
I looked around, waited for some sort of sign, something which would mean I didn’t have to choose and make the wrong decision.
In a place like this the signs are everywhere. We walked on past the lighthouse and, after a bit of a climb down to find a suitably private spot I prepared for the only part of the whole trip that seemed to matter at that moment.
That’s not to say all the other stuff was not spectacular and AM being with me was not the most wonderful thing but I had to do this thing right.
How do you return to the real world after a trip like this!!!!!
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This was the real world. I’ll just have to make this one every bit as good. Thanks Paddy, you’re a good friend.