Angels Sing

Day 33

So it’s early evening after completing the walk and I’m still processing both the day and the previous 32 days.  And more.

I awoke a bit early this morning and intended to be out by about 7:15.  But the folks in the room next to me (remember that the pensione was a converted apartment) were up even earlier and out the door by 5 AM.  I couldn’t get up that early, but I really didn’t get any more sleep.  Add in the noise until about 10 PM from an apartment upstairs and I got 6 hours of sleep, maybe a tad more. More than my first night on the Camino, but at this point I’m not concerned at all. Fortunately, the owners had provided enough stuff in the kitchen that I could fashion a breakfast.

So I was ready to go by 7 and out the door pretty much on the nose. One of my friends had texted me at about 6:45 indicating that they were leaving and they’d stop for coffee.  And that’s where I met them: a cafe along the trail.  

As we set off, they introduced me to a woman from DC that they’d met a few days before.  Nice lady, and very smart.  She and I walked together and talked for the next 3+ hours, all the way into the Santiago Cathedral Plaza – we tagged up with the Nashville friends a couple of times. She and I will likely meet up back in DC.

At 7 AM, it’s barely light and the sun hasn’t risen so it was early morning light (immortalized as “the dawns early light”).  There is something ethereal about walking through forests and across fields at that hour with the dew still glistening.  Still spectacular when the sun rose, but there’s something special about the early dawn hours.

The path into Santiago goes from rural to more-urban as we proceeded into the city.  Of course, the hawkers and trinket sellers were out early, but I pay them no mind – they are almost all unaggressive.

A quick stop for water and bio-relief as we entered Santiago and then it was a straight shot to the cathedral and square.  My friends from Nashville arrived less than 5 minutes before us and one of them filmed my arrival.  It was so good to be greeted by them and by one of the members of the original group of 6 that had gone on ahead.  We celebrated together along with the compulsory photos.  

We soon saw other friends – quite a few – that had walked long stretches of the Camino on the same schedule.  Germany, France, Finland, the US, Australia, the U.K., and several other places were all homes to some of the friends.  Even the Dalmatian arrived with her “mom” in short order – they had walked from Pamplona.  We did miss the various friends that we made who couldn’t be there today. Then off to the Camino office to get our Compostela and distance certificates.

The plaza in front of the Cathedral was/is a chaotic scene, what with arriving pilgrims, folks there to greet them, friends that met on the Camino searching each other out, hugs, celebrations, and oh yeah,  a few  tourists soaking up the spectacle.  A wedding in one of the buildings garnered cheers as the couple walked out on the balcony.

The process of getting the certificates was fast and efficient.  Fill out an online form, get in line, and move through.  It took about 15-20 minutes end-to-end.  

We went back to the square and awaited a couple of last minute arrivals, then 12 of us headed out for a late lunch.  Stories, laughs, and learning a bit more about the folks made it a memorable occasion.

Then off to our hotels.

I’m in a pensione tonight and tomorrow that’s a couple hundred meters from the main square.  I’m planning on going to the Pilgrim Mass tomorrow at noon and otherwise explore the city.  I’m still rethinking plans for Monday as the trains to Madrid are quite full, meaning I’ll go Tuesday instead of Wednesday and cut short the time I had available to take a bus to the coast.  I’ll decide that tomorrow.  And I’ll figure out hotels in Madrid tonight and tomorrow as first glance pricing for my favourite place in Madrid is as much for a night as I’d spend for 7 nights on the Camino.  Not in my budget.

Probably a later dinner tonight, but we’ll see.  

And now to go process the experience.