Penultimate Day before Santiago

Today we walked to the last small town before the Cathedral and the end of our pilgrimage, some 300 km ( I will have to add them up). Tom asked our pension owner if she could tell us when the big celebration at the Cathedral in Santiago would take place. At 3pm she knocked on our door to say that the mass for All Saints Day was tonight at 7:30 and if we wanted to attend and see the giant swinging censor which is the sight to witness, we had to catch the 4pm bus. We did and had a bite in the huge city of Santiago. Rain was falling but we found the cathedral and waited. Crowds gathered and the mass began. Like our first one in Le Puy all those weeks ago, this mass was again aimed at pilgrims from all over the world. The prayers celebrated our efforts, the lessons included references to sacrifice and the homily was all about pilgrimage. Of the three priests presiding: one was from Spain, one from Italy and one from Ireland. Tom received communion. Then six red robed men swung the censor. It was a treat. I have a photo of the censor and the men and a movie I will try to upload later.
We returned to the pension by taxi. tomorrow we will walk into Santiago. I hope it isn’t raining.

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Evening of Luxury

On Oct. 30 we straggled into Arsua, a small town short of Santiago. The first thing I noticed was it had great lunch places. Tom and I had Spanish bacon and eggs and fresh squeezed orange juice. Then I found the shoe store…fabulous boots, soft leather inside and out for reasonable prices. No room in the lugage, but I did get a scarf farther in town. We found a tourist information booth in the town square and our hotel was another mile or so down the road. No problem, it was a beautiful day and we were early.
Our hotel was a reconstructed grand Spanish hacienda complete with patio, gardens and cows in a nearby field, very idyllic. Another of Claire’s triumphs! The best thing was we were the only guests. We had a waiter, a dining room, four salons, we were upgraded to the best rooms. Drinks were in front of a TV with BBC and local olives. I had basked in the garden all afternoon, it was hot and sunny. Jose informed me that the weather was unusually warm for this time of year. It may change soon.
Dinner was wonderful, asparagas, veal, salad, cheese, pasteries and wines. Breakfast featured gluten free bread baked for me. A real treate.
By 8:52 we were on our way again on foot through wide sandy avenues bordering pastures.
Tom met a Japanese gentleman who taught him to say “hello and have a good Camino” in Japanese which delighted his Japanese tour group once we caught up to them. We were given handfuls of Japanese candy.

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Walking the Final 60km to Santiago

The walking is getting harder in that it is more on pavement or very hard packed gravel, paralleling the highway. At times we walk behind shopping centers the way the rail trail does in Hadley but some villages are still appealing and it is still Spain, great food. So far we have had sun. Yesterday I walked without my camera but today I took it out again. More pilgrims and also obvious ads for taxi services which is funny. Many pilgrims seems to be from Madrid but we have met retired Australians, Brits, Irish and a few Americans. We hope to arrive in Santiago to see big celebrations in honor of All Saints Day but we may be a day late. Anyway, it will be a celebration for us.
I can’t see how the previous blogs I have read about the Camino fit what I have experienced. It isn’t all paved, it isn’t all flat. Many of the services seem to be closing down at the end of October but the temperature is fine for walking.

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Walking from Portomarin to Palas de Rei on El Camino 25 km – 6.5 hrs

We are now marching with throngs of pligrims, unlike our solitary walks in France and in Spain before Pamplona. Last night the tiny square was full of pilgrims drinking, eating, resting. We ate at a small restaurant, many of them are closing now or will close in a few days, the Camino is winding down. But in the first light of morning, under cloudy skies, I put my camera into my pack and joined the walkers and bikers streaming across the second bridge out of the village.
The walk today was through hill and dale, up country roads. Not quite as many cute trail side stops as yesterday but we managed to find cafe con leche and sports drinks. Some people had delicious looking salads and sandwiches but I feel better with a large breakfast.
Farms workers were raking up chestnuts, picking apples, not quite as colorful as yesterday but rural. We did cross a major highway on an overpass and one of the tiny villages had a taxi service. Strangely, I was not nearly as tired as on the first day, not too many steep hills or valleys.
The major thing today is our pension has a laundry! and a foot message machine! But we will have to explore the town for dinner.
Still lots of flowers blooming here: roses, hollyhocks, crocus, dalhias, daisies, it’s incredible along with huge pumpkins and all the traditional fall crops.
The wine is terrific and last night Claire had a regional soup of cabbage, white beans and broth that looked terrific. (Some pictures from the day before)

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Walking from Sarria to Portomarin 21.5k

Our first day back on the Camino was a beautiful one. The countryside was scenic, small stone farms reminiscent of France, farmers working, cattle, sheep, fruit trees, wind mills high on the mountain ridges. The difference was many more pilgrims and lots of fancy rest stops with restaurants, lavish bathrooms, trail angels, even a taxi went by at one point. Most of the ‘trail’ is on country roads accessible by vehicles. At one farm a bread truck called the “Bothersome Bread Company” rolled up and honked its horn for about two minutes, true to its name.
The one 9th century church we tried was open and had a lavish altar obviously from a later century. Tom lit another candle. We met a couple of couples from the States: one from Danbury, Conn. and one from Nevada. That had not happened before.
The day was long but we made it before 3pm.

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Last Day in Pamplona and a Long Train Ride

For our last morning in Pamplona Tom and I went to the fort then walked the wall back to our hotel. On the way we encountered a 6000 person run to fight breast cancer. After that we jumped a train for a nine hour hop to Sarria where we start the last leg of our pilgrimage. Many people start here as it is the last 100+ K and with that you earn a certificate. So we feel superior as we walked 5 days in France and 5 days across the French/Spanish border through the Pyrenees.
Some people do the whole darned thing. We met a biker from Belgium who was doing it from his home.

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Pamplona by Day and by Night

Sunny plaza

Sunny plaza

Children playing soccer

Children playing soccer

Hemingway's favorite bar/cafe

Hemingway’s favorite bar/cafe

Our first impression of the old part of the walled city was dark and rather dreary. The buildings rise steeply along the narrow streets shutting out the sunlight. But on further exploration the streets run into surprisingly open, sunlit plazas and stunning meandering parks. Traffic is not a problem as cars are not allowed in the old part of the city unless the resident has a permit. So the narrow streets are perfect places to stroll, or for children on Saturdays to play ball, ride a bicycle.

This morning we grabbed breakfast at a bookstore, cum bakery and then meandered up to the cathedral where we found a mass. We stayed for the service in a small group of church goers, about 20 and a large number of bishops and priests, about 6. The service was impress with incense and communion, chanting and prayers that we finally understood. A little disconcerting to be standing right next to a crypt with life size alabaster carvings of the 11 century king and queen who lay below, felt like they were partaking as well.

At noon we found the train station where Claire was booking the rest of our Camino trip. She has been amazingly good and gracious about planning and booking all our connections. This last part we will do by train to Serria, then spend six days walking into Santiago, a 125 kilometer hike.

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Catheral

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life size alabaster king and queen

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Tom on narrow street

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Antiques dealer on cell phone

Tonight we found tapas on a crowded Saturday night street, then ice cream. Watching the couples and families is half the fun, everyone is out at night.