In summary

Romanesque church, Finisterra

Finisterra to Santiago 91kms (57m)

As I crept out of the albergue in Finisterra, where people were sleeping on bunkbeds ‘cheek by jowl’, there was a massive crowd waiting at the bus stop. Finisterra had truly been the end of their journeys, and they weren’t tempted by the 90 kms trek back to town. As I set off, the friendly 30mph wind of yesterday blowing me southwards, was now directly in my face……and there was a lot of uphill to boot! Half way to Santiago I stopped at the same bar as on the way out, because the lady owner had fed me jamón and chorizo without charging me. She was delighted to see a return customer, chatted incessantly and added a little cake to my coffee (again without charging). Such are the little kindnesses of people. She was full of interesting tales about passing pilgrims.

Along the way, I chanced by other pilgrims, some already friends of the Camino, but others new faces.

Chatting with Ole, from Denmark

Ole, from Denmark, was struggling up the hill out of Finisterra, and when he saw me, he started extolling the merits of the flatness of Denmark, and tried to persuade me that it would be a good cycling destination for me. When he revealed that Denmark had only one mountain, and that was only 200 metres high,  I quietly told him I was never likely to go to Denmark for a cyling holiday. He smiled wryly and took my point.

Antonio from Cádiz

Antonio, a walker, and I had coincided in Lourenzá (he’s from Cádiz) and I said if we were to meet again on this trip, then something was seriously wrong…..! We did meet again…………and he coyly admitted he had caught a bus. I said to him “Qué más da?” (so what?). Everybody should do the bits of the Camino that suit them. He wasn’t chasing a

Irek from Poland

“Compostela” just for the sake of proving he’d completed the journey.

Irek, from Poland, had a serious language problem. His only other language was Russian, and he knew so little English that we resorted to sign language and common international words to get by. I gathered he had done the whole of the Camino francés and was about to return by bike to Lourdes. He certainly understood my farewell greeting of “buen camino”. But he must have spent several weeks communicating his way across Spain with minimal language.

José and Lucía

José and Lucía had cycled the Camino portugués from Lisbon, and we had met in a restaurant in Finisterra as I was tackling a plate of chipirrones en su tinta (cuttlefish in its own ink). José turned out to be a fan of Barcelona, and he was trying to convince me that Man U had no chance in the Champions Final. He realized quickly that he didn’t have to try too hard. Like many Spanish men,

Cuttlefish in its ink!

he was utterly puzzled as to why I had no interest in football nor in supporting a team. The next day, we met by chance in Cathedral Square (Plaza do Obradoiro), and marked the occasion with this photo, and an invitation to visit them at their home in Tenerife.

Marc (from Tarragona) turned out to be one of those larger than life characters

Marc from Tarragona

who was bubbling all the time, and you never needed to find a topic to keep the conversation going. We met at the pilgrim’s free meal at the 5* Hostal Los Reyes Católicos, where we went for breakfast this morning. This is a fringe benefit of being a “Compostela-holding” pilgrim. For three meals each day, this luxury hotel opens its doors to ten pilgrims (and no more) and you make your

The free 5* breakfast!

way through the refinement of the hotel to a staircase that takes you down to the basement. Entering the kitchen, a waiter will serve you, and you take your food to a small dining room to dine with your fellow pilgrims. This morning we enjoyed a huge tray of pastries and churros, with as much coffee and colacao as you wanted. This time, there were only five of us: a Brazilian, German, Argentinian, Spaniard and me, and the common language had to be Spanish. The poor German was reduced to sign-language! Even his English amounted to only five words. This tradition of giving free meals to pilgrims dates back to medieval times when the Hostal had formerly been a hospital for arriving pilgrims, and food and clothing had been dispensed, as well as being a place for recovery from the trials and tribulations of the journey.

As I draw the line under this final post, having a few non-cycling days in Santiago is a huge attraction. It is such a monumental city that you need a quiet time of contemplation to absorb it. But before I sign off, for those who live in or near Kimbolton in the UK, where Catherine of Aragón died, I heard a very interesting story from one of the Cathedral guides this morning. When Catherine came on pilgrimage to Santiago, before heading north to marry Prince Arthur, the huge censer (botafumeiro) fell from its moorings as it was being swung during the pilgrim mass. Remember, this is a huge 95 kilo weight! Enough to kill a few people. Apparently it has fallen only twice in its 1000 year history. The people at the time thought this was an evil omen for their Princess. Mmn…..now that’s an interesting thought.

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About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on May 28, 2011, in Santiago de Compostela 2000kms: a Celtic route and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. mike gurski

    Dear Frank

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your posts from the Camino. You brought back fond memories or our trip two years ago and have re-kindled my desire to bike the northern route.

    Thanks again.

    • Thanks Mike for your kind comments. As an experienced pilgrim, a lot will be familiar to you……the ups and downs, the equals periods of frustration and elation…………….
      I look forward to hearing your tales!
      Buen Camino!
      Frank

  2. Graham Peace

    Hi Frank,
    Congratulations on your monumental Camino. Your blog was inspirational and it bought back some very happy memories.I am a little ashamed that this pilgrim stayed in the 5 star hotel (where they lost our bikes).I’m sure your pilgrim’s breakfast was all the more enjoyable.

    Look forward to seeing you safely back in Kimbolton.

    Cheers for now,
    Graham

    • Great to hear from you Graham! I’m not surprised they lost your bikes in such a big place…………… I am also ashamed to say that I have enjoyed four meals as the guest of the Hostal de los Reyes Católicos, down in their basement where the serving staff eat. They not only make the pilgrim so welcome, but the convivial atmosphere with other pilgrims is the biggest draw. Today’s lunch had five of us: an Italian, Spaniard, Brasilian, hotel waiter and me. The language used at table was a curious mix of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese…………….. it not only worked, but the conversation was continuous and often animated. If you go back, do try the “pauper’s” option downstairs. It is a lot of fun! Frank

  3. Paco-
    Enjoyed your trip! You got a lot out of your trip that was interesting and educational.
    Hopefully, I’ll be able to do it next year. Its a toss-up: El Camino de Plata, Camino francés [again] or the Northern route with all the hills. Did the Frances a few years ago but was in such a rush [time problems] I missed a lot of the “good” stuff. Not so this next time.
    Buen Canino y bueno suerte !
    Lee –

    • Thanks Lee! Good to hear from you. Everybody I have met has agreed that the Camino del Norte has so much going for it. A very different experience to the Francés, and not so popular amongst first-time pilgrims. You are more likely to meet people, like yourself, who have done the Francés, and are looking for a fresh challenge. A comment a local Gallego made to me recently is that the local people you encounter on the Norte are much less used to pilgrims, and their attitude is fresher and much more welcoming. There is also much less competition for beds, and people are not getting up in the small hours to rush to the next albergue.
      I wish you a Buen Camino through life!
      Frank

  4. I have really looked forward to reading your posts! It has been great to vicariously follow the Camino! don’t miss the Pilgrim’s museum in S de C. look forward to your next journey – jo

    • Thank you Jo! Having had three full days in Santiago this time, I have had time to do a lot of visiting, and one of my priorities was the Museo de Peregrinación. Absolutely fascinating! Especially the room of photographs band the iconography. Santiago is full of museums, most of them free entry, and totally absorbing. Like the Galician Museum of Contemporary Art, which at the moment is dedicated to TV and the moving image.
      I wish you a Buen Camino for the future, Jo.
      Frank

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