THE DAY SPENT IN SANTIAGO – JULY 4TH

What a wonderful day.

We slept in until nearly 9:00, took our time getting ready. No need to pack up our packs and load them onto our backs. No need for wool socks or boots. I had a new, clean shirt to wear that I had bought yesterday and so did Mom and Karis. We smelled good and looked a little better.

Mom’s toe is pretty sore still. She kept it bandaged well all day. We stopped in at a Farmacia and she purchased some more gauze. She has the bandaging off for the night, and will wrap it again in the morning.

We spent some time people watching today. Sat at a couple of outdoor cafés and watched pilgrims arriving. Some with a bounce in their step, and others limping badly. The line at the pilgrims office to receive compestellas was much longer today, weaving a bit down the street.

We shopped for some souvenirs. So many shops. Most selling the same thing, for slightly different prices. We happened upon a large farmers market and bought bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and nectarines. We then brought them back to the room to rest for a bit.

Mom had caused some chaos throughout the previous night. About a week ago, our duel cell phone charger/European adapter had an aggressive power surge attack and by the time I ripped it from the wall, it was dead. We are now down to a single charger. Last night, mom either dreamt she heard it surging/sparking again… Or maybe really did… And thought with the way the light had hit the first aid kit, it had started a fire. She woke me and we scrambled around trying to figure things out… No fire. Cell phone charger is good. Then laughed. And laughed. And are still laughing.

So, when we came back to the room to rest after our distributive night, I went down the hall to the washroom. Karis and Mom thought they’d play a joke on me. They went into our room and locked the door on me. The joke was on them. The key then wouldn’t work. No matter how much they tried. They tried to pass me the key under the door. It wouldn’t fit. They tried pushing the door differently. That didn’t work. Karis tried slamming her shoulder into if. No luck. Karis yelled to me through the door, “do you give me permission to use my escape plan??” Her escape plan she had mapped out with a video earlier that day. It consisted of jumping out of the 3rd story window, sliding down a pole, shimmying along a pipe and then jumping off the roof of a restaurant. “NO!” I yelled back through the door.

In the hall of the pension there was a sign detailing where to find Maria and Ramon (the owners). They live at #80 down the street. I ran down the street to their house. They happen to also own a vegetable store on their main floor and their son was working there. Thankfully he spoke perfect English. I told him what had happened. That my Mom and daughter were locked in one of the rooms. Right away he knew which room. Obviously has happened before :/ He said that he would try to phone his father and if there was no answer, he would leave me in charge of the vegetable store and go himself. Thankfully his father answered and said he would be right there. I thanked the son and ran back to the pension. By the time I got there, Ramon had freed Mom and Karis from the outside. Karis was huddled on the other side of the room waiting for Ramon to leave. She is sure he is a zombie. He makes weird grunting noises constantly.

After that fiasco, we napped before church. We wanted to take in mass at the Cathedral at least once. We had heard that if we are lucky, the Friday night 7:30 service is the most likely option to see the Botafumeiro in action. This is a giant, swinging, incense burner that is swung by 8 men using ropes and pulleys. It sores throughout the cathedral, above all if the worshipers. Our luck paid off! After a beautiful service (that we didn’t understand a word of – although we did pick out that the priests talked of perigrinos A LOT) they brought out the burning incense and loaded it into the Botafumeiro. I was able to video most of this. It was beautiful. That was the perfect way to finish off our pilgrimage. So thankful for that!

Tomorrow afternoon we will fly to Barcelona, then to Paris for the night. The next day, we will have 8 hours in a London before flying home to Vancouver. Looking forward to some sights in London – and to trying their fish and chips!

Thank you to all who followed this blog! Each and every one of you! And thank you to those who supported us through the replies on here, email, text and Facebook!! I’m amazed that so many people were truly interested in our experience on the Camino De Santiago. I’m excited to spend some time reflecting back upon this last month. For those of you who had told me before we came, that you too wanted to do the camino… and to those of you who have messaged/facebooked me within the last few weeks saying you now want to do it – DO IT! Why not? There will always be a few reasons that you can’t, but many reasons that you should. :)

BUEN CAMINO!!

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TO MONTE DEL GOZO – JULY 2ND

As I type this, I am laying in a top bunk of an albergue overlooking Santiago. We can see it. It’s right there. After all this time. Tomorrow, we will earn our Compestella. We estimate that we are approximately 5km from the cathedral. We need to be out of our albergue by 8:00, and will head DOWN the hill. I truly think there will be no more uphill climbs!!! Hallelujah!

Today, walking the 25km that we did, was very inspiring. Thinking of the thousands and thousands of people from all around the world who have walked this exact same trail before us – amazing. So many markers, memorials and inspiring words to finish the walk off. You can see how this has touched people from all around the globe. So many things I wanted to remember, so many things to take pictures of.

We thought of finishing the walk tonight. Of going right into Santiago. But there is something to be said about seeing it within reach, from atop a hill. Coming this far, there is no need to rush it now. Tomorrow, we will take our time and enjoy. This I suppose is what we’ve been walking for, but as every camino pilgrim truly knows, it’s just as much about the journey to this point as it is about the ending.

To be at this stage is both exhilarating and sad all at once. A year of planning has gone into this. I wonder if this will be our last camino? Or just the beginning? It is well known in the camino community that the first is never your last. It becomes an addiction. Something that continues to call to you even after you have left. We shall see. Our albergue host last night told us that he has completed the camino SEVEN times. Wow. He sure understands sore feet.

We are all excited for the morning. I hope we can sleep tonight.

Buen Camino :)

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TO SANTIAGO – JULY 3RD

Today was the day!

Just like every other morning we awoke in our albergue and packed our sleeping bags and liners. We sorted through our clothes, smelling them all to find the least stinky ones to wear for the day.

The only noticeable difference for Karis and I up until this point, was putting on our flip flops, and packing our boots. Mom hung on to wearing her boots for one more day. She has a nasty sore toe. The whole end fell off this morning and she has a terrible, deep crack on the underside.

We had five kilometres to walk until we reached the cathedral. Such an easy morning stroll. We stopped for breakfast after 4.5km and then continued in. The cathedral is breathtaking. Even though they are doing construction on it now, it is unbelievable to see.

It was neat to see the many pilgrims rejoicing in front of the cathedral. People that we have seen along the way. Three men that were in our albergue room last night had met up with some pilgrims that they obviously had met throughout the previous weeks and were cheering and taking pictures together. Great to see the excitement.

We continued on towards the pilgrim office – a short walk past the cathedral. We were very happy and relieved to see that the line to obtain our Compestella was quite short. We filled out a form stating our name, country, city and province, starting location and reason for completing the camino. (Religious, spiritual or other) at first, when I was passed my Compestella, I thought she had written my name wrong. Right as I was about to ask her to correct it, I realized that it was written in Latin. I shall now be called Joannam Catharinam. 😉

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Once we received our Compestella, we made our way to Saint Frances church which houses monks. There we were able to collect a second Compestella. Having completed our walk on a holy year, this was a rare gift.

Karis had been wanting to stay in a Pension throughout our camino. (A room in a house) Today we decided to stay in one. We found it while walking downtown by the cathedral. An almost unnoticeable staircase leading up between two stores. As Karis and I were looking in a store window, Mom disappeared up the staircase. We followed and found her talking with a Spanish lady who spoke with a flurry of words we could not understand. She showed us to a room with three single beds. Mom and I were happy (enough). The price and location were fabulous and compared to some of the places we have stayed this last month – it was great! Karis wasn’t as impressed as us, but it’s growing on her!

After cleaning up and leaving our packs, we set out to wander the streets. So many camino gift shops. Beautiful gifts and Spanish crafts. We had lunch in a very good restaurant and wandered some more. We watched what we assumed was a Spanish music group filming their music video. That was fun!

So many churches, monasteries, old beautiful buildings. As we walked through a side door of a church, we were surprised to find that it was the cathedral. We hadn’t been in yet. Absolutely exciting to see this. We plan to go to mass tomorrow evening so we will have a better experience then, but we did see/do all of the “pilgrim rituals” while we were in there. We walked past the pillar with the worn hand print (pilgrims are no longer permitted to touch it), observed the stone statue of where you collect your wisdom by taping your forehead three times against the statues forehead, hugged the Saint James statue and walked down underground to see Saint James’ shrine (saint James was one of Jesus’ apostles)

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After many more hours of walking throughout the streets, people (pilgrim) watching and snacking on fruit and ice cream, we are settled back in at our pension. Mom and Karis are asleep as I blog, and I can hear the many people below us in the streets through our open window. Excited for tomorrow, which will probably be my last blog day. Almost time to head home. What a journey.

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