NOTE: My apologies for getting this last segment finished a month after I actually arrived in Santiago. My time away is paid for dearly with piles of work once I get back home. So here it is, finally.
Saturday, September 29. Right on schedule, today is the day our reservation at the Seminario Major begins in Santiago. The beautiful former seminary is now called Hospidaje San Martin Pinario, or perhaps it was always called that, but this is the place I have stayed at the end of every Camino. I look forward to some down time by mid-day in this stately sanctuary, formerly a real seminary. But first, the journey from the Albergue in Faramallo.
In Faramello we all rise and shine, and head downstairs for the uncomplicated breakfast, coffee and toast, no croissants. Of course, Beatrice, who has been dubbed “The Angel” by former peregrinos, is bustling around, still greeting, cooking, delivering breakfast, taking money, and smiling all the while. Gabriella and Ria are getting better acquainted in one corner of the breakfast room, and I join them, preparing for the day, when all of us who slept here last night will be in Santiago de Compostela by afternoon.
After a short breakfast, Gabriella and I load our packs on our backs, grab our sticks and say goodbye to Ria, hug our Angel, and head for the bus stop. Gabriella has a course of antibiotics for her infected feet, and I hope she will heal quickly. But she is still full of remorse and disappointment because she has to travel into Santiago on four wheels, not her own two feet.
The morning is again misty and beautiful, promising a good day of walking, but I’ve already made my decision. When the bus arrives, we load our packs underneath in the luggage compartment and I ask the driver if he stops at the Praza Galicia. He does not, but another passenger, speaking perfect English, says she will show us where to get off.
The bus ride takes about 40 minutes, and we disembark at the train station, along with the helpful passenger. She spent a year in the US midwest getting her Master’s Degree, and is back in Santiago working. From the train station, it is a mile to the Praza Galicia, and another half mile to my Hospidaje San Martin Pinario, and I know the way. This is familiar territory. But Gabriella is frantically trying to get one more stamp in her Peregrino passport, worried that if she doesn’t, she won’t get her compostela, the certificate that says she completed the Camino. I try to soothe her, telling her she doesn’t need to collect one more stamp before she gets to the Pilgrim’s office, but she can’t seem to hear what I’m saying. She runs from one café to another, one shop to another, hobbling on her bandaged feet, and none of these places has a stamp. We are no longer ON the Camino, and the stores aren’t required to supply us with a stamp.
Gabriella also has no reservation to stay at an albergue or hotel for the next few days, so I point her in a direction toward the Pilgrim’s headquarters and the Information Center, but after she gets a street map of the old section, she turns 180 degrees, saying she will search for a room at a hotel nearby. I’m sure she will settle down by the end of the day, but there is nothing more I can do for her. Since it’s clear she is going to need to find her own way, I walk toward the old section, past the Cathedral, and on to my lodging.
This time, of course, Ria will not be here ahead of me, through no heroism of mine. I check in, pay my five days’ lodging and head up the elevator to the fourth floor, reserved for the pilgrims, where Euro 25 gets one a private room, private bath, and full breakfast every day.
Breathing a sigh of calm in such a familiar place, I open my pack, throw all my clothes, but for what’s on my back, into a large bag and begin to google a nearby laundromat. Easy walking, and I stroll past familiar buildings for 15 minutes, finding the tiny laundry tucked between two larger establishments. Here I find a sign that makes me laugh:
I guess socks get lost in the dryer no matter what country they’re in.
When the laundry is finished and folded, I make my way back toward the Cathedral, and passing through the Praza Cervantes, I stop to enjoy a festival and the participants of a conference being held this weekend.
The festival celebrates María Rosalía Rita de Castro, who was a Galician romanticist writer and poet. Writing in Galego, the Galician language, after the period known as the Séculos Escuros, she became an important figure of the Galician Romantic movement, circa mid-1800’s. I had no awareness of this woman, but the poster and activities surrounding the event suggested a joyous honoring of this Galecian woman born nearly 200 years ago.
Ria will arrive later this afternoon and she will be much more in need of a rest than I am at this point. I need food, and walk through the old part of the city, back to my room, unload the laundry and head for my favorite SDC bakery, for a sandwich and something sweet. I sit on the steps of the Cathedral, with no urgency to head for the next Mass.
This is a very different Camino for me, and will probably be my last. I will spend a few days in this city, before Ria and I fly to Barcelona for five nights. I’ve been reflecting on many things on my walk, in a different tone from my last two Caminos. Once I gather my thoughts, I’ll write them here. In the meantime, peregrinos surge in toward the Cathedral from several directions, depending on which part of the Camino they are coming from.
I sit on the steps, finish my sandwich, and am grateful that I can be invisible among the throngs. Life inside me and outside, in this city, goes on.