It had been a cold night in Lavacolla – there was no heat in our room. Undaunted we set out early at 7:30 AM. We walked for 2 hours before stopping for breakfast. Dave, his usual impatient self wanted to race. Marie was more patient as usual. The suburbs of Santiago were rather uninspiring – just another busy city (pop. 90,000). Then we rounded a corner and there in the distance we saw the spire of the Santiago Cathedral built over the tomb of the Apostle St. James.
We found our hotel on the edge of the old city overlooking a monastery. It was huge, old and interesting. Our other bags were already there (cruise suitcase and Marie’s backpack we had shipped from Burgos). We then walked 10 minutes to the cathedral. There was lot’s of hugging and congratulations going on with everyone. We were hoping to hear Stephanie the opera singer from Germany sing the Ave Maria in the church. Dave got us our Compostella certificates at the little office nearby. We went to the noon pilgrim Mass and confession. Later that afternoon we went shopping for some new clothes. Wow, that felt good!
Words fail to capture the exhilaration we were feeling! Dave remembers feeling so excited and racing ahead for that first glimpse of the cathedral spire! When we finally walked into our hotel lobby on the edge of the old city, he remembers saying to himself, “Holy cow, we walked across Spain to get here!” When we went to Mass with the hundreds of other pilgrims it was a special moment we will not soon forget. There was a collective feeling of pride and accomplishment but also of remembrance for those who had to turn back along the way for health or other reason. We were taking part in a sacred tradition that had been going on for 1200 years!
Words fail to capture our emotions and feelings at that moment: we wanted the Camino to end and we didn’t want it to end! We were happy it was over yet we were sad the journey was at its end. We’d had enough, but we wanted more. We were exhausted yet energized. How could we ever go back to “normal” after this experience? It was a singular moment – we felt connected – to each other, to everyone else, to creation, to God in a deeper way than before. We did not want this feeling to ever end.
We celebrated with a menu del dia and white wine. The old city is very interesting with plenty of restaurants and shops. It was thronged with fellow pilgrims. Next day we went back to the pilgrim Mass again. This time we saw a few more people we knew and exchanged contact info. The Koreans Kim and Mr. “O” were there, Ainsley from Edmonton, Henning and Randi from Denmark – all smiles.
During Mass they call out the individual names and nationality of those pilgrims who were issued their Compostella the previous day. So we heard our names called out. And today they hauled up the famous botafumeiro – one of the largest incense burners in the world. We were amazed at the speed and height it soared to.
And that ends our beautiful journey on the Camino de Santiago de Compostella. Stay tuned for the lessons learned. Thanks for your accompaniment along the way.