Saturday, 6 July 2013

Day 36: Santiago

For the first time in 950km I actually had a proper rest day - no walking, aside from padding around the city centre in my jandals. 

First things first, the unlimited breakfast. This was pretty epic, and our four person table hosted all of us (as well as Tae-Hyum) over the three hour period. Seven people eating like there is no tomorrow creates quite a mess - as you can see below. 

The problem with having a rest day is that none of us felt like doing anything cultural. We knew that the Pilgrims' Mass at noon would be well attended, so we arrived at the cathedral at 11am, and had the pick of the seats - the Somerholters sat in the nave, while Rupert and I sat in one of the transepts, on the off chance that the botafumerio would be in action []. This is a huge incense holder that is swung the length of the church, as historically the pilgrims smelt so terrible it was something of a necessity. But we'd heard it wasn't always brought out for the noon Mass, and didn't want to get our hopes up. 

The service kicked off with a man reading all the places the pilgrims arriving in the last 24 hours had come from, along with each of the pilgrims' nationalities at every starting location. This was done in Spanish at machine-gun speed, so I wasn't certain that I heard Lourdes being called out. Some of the places were a very long way away - Manu, who we'd met at the top of the cathedral's main steps, had walked from his home in Zurich, and had destroyed some expensive hiking gear that clearly wasn't designed to do the 2000km he'd covered. Otherwise it was a standard Mass, with no botafumerio. Never mind. I had a couple of minutes in thought about the journey, and when I looked up again I saw eight men in deep red robes preparing the ropes and incense. It is a bit silly, but I was ridiculously excited, as was Rupert. Emma - sitting next to me - seemed rather amused at our reaction. Eventually the botafumerio was hoisted up, and with increasingly large arcs it was swung across the church - passing about a couple of metres from me, and reaching 20 metres up into the heights of the roof. Take that Lourdes - Santiago has you game, set and match when it comes to smells and bells!

Manu from Zurich

After Mass we sat down in one I the street bars and slowly whiled away the afternoon drinking sangria and saying hello to the random people we'd met on the Camino who'd ended up in Santiago the same time. Nicole the Aussie had stayed in town to celebrate her 19th birthday, and one of her friends had bought her a hunting knife, which she tested out when harvesting Connor's hair for her Camino souvenir. On reflection, hunting knives and drinking probably don't mix too well...

I forgot to mention that last night we saw Brenda and Laurel from Austin - they'd stayed on in Santiago fora few extra days so getting to have a couple of glasses of wine with them was an unexpected treat. Likewise Nick, the recently retired lawyer. And Werner joined us for supper, so along with Helga and Emma it was a rather Teutonic affair, particularly given that Kurt loves tapping into his German ancestry - Helga told him off at one point and gave him a very stern, grandmotherly 'Kurt!' (but pronounced 'Court') that had us laughing. As did Rupert's pronouncement on his favourite food - we were discussing what meal we were most looking forward when we got home, after weeks of suffering the random quality of the €10 pilgrims' menu - sometimes dire, usually passable, and occasionally fantastic. Rather than identifying any specific favourite cuisine, Rupert simply announced with a mischievous grin that 'I like left overs' - which is true, as no half-eaten sandwich is safe around him. The drinking continued late into the night - far later than is wise given that Rupert and I needed to carry on with our walk to Finisterre in the morning. 

Is that cream-filled baking product, Private?