Camino Diary: Walking The Camino Francais Day Forty

DAY FORTY: 17 November 2012 Santiago


Cafe Bar La Flore

Arriving in Santiago had the fullness of a job well done and the low rumble of purposeful achievement.  I felt the paradox of silent exhilaration; an embodied energy that filled my cup to overflowth.  I am not the only one.  Santiago’s old heart of windy cobbled streets is full of grinning pilgrims, my phone is popping with text messages to rendevouz and reconnaitre. I joined J in the Hostal Campanas de San Juan, a haven in the shadow of the Cathedral with seven rooms named after the bells of the Cathedral, and checked in for an extravagant two nights.  Lovingly restored, sympathically modernised it had the quiet personality of it’s careful proprietor.  I had been feeling a subliminal undercurrent of panic and anxiety coming to the end of The Way and this was the place to hold me as the rush of ending met the bubble of beginning.  Myself & J joined Co for an unprepossing supper rather than a sparkling celebration.  Somehow that felt right and fitting.


The Compostela

It is de rigeur to attend Mass at 12 noon in the Cathedral.  The pilgrim Mass is a place of reconnection, no hushed silences in this place of God, and every cursory encounter on The Way becomes a deep and holy communion here.  There are a variety of rituals associated with arriving as a pilgrim in the Cathedral.  Pilgrims are no longer permitted to place our hands in the Tree of Jesse in the Portico de Gloria due to touch erosion we can head butt Maestro Mateo carved into the central column facing the alter and hug the Apostle at the high alter and kneel and pray before the casket containing the relics of the great saint.  I am reminded somewhat of my teenage OCD rituals; realising when writing this blog that I had failed to head butt Maestro Mateo or pray to the relics I have to shake away the notion that I must go back and start again to get the ending right.  But at the time I was floating in a warm fuge of the ritual of my own completion, receiving the joy and the bliss of it and allowing myself to be without the tension of a destination to walk towards.


Kevin (Switzerland), Anne (Me), Co (Netherlands), Heather (Canada) Pippi (Italy), Roberto (Italy)

I am an untethered balloon being gently jostled from Cathedral to Cafe, from Cafe to Hostal Campanas and back to the Cathedral again.  Along the way I pick up my Compestala, enscribed with an arbitary Latin version of my name it confirms that I have indeed completed the pilgrimmage, sup at retro Cafe Bar La Flor and discover a 6pm reconvening in Praza  Obradoiro in front of the Cathedral.  I am not sure who will be there or how I heard about but it; it had the feeling of a recurring event in the diary of Santiago that magnetises attendees to itself. In the chill gloaming of this mid November evening there is a buoyant feeling of celebration.  Kevin had a date with Zara the night before and is kitted out in jacket and collared shirt the rest of us in cleaned up versions of our pilgrim garb.  We head down into the seductive babble of Rua Franco for communal paella, sustenance for a long night of blathering and supping on wine.  I remember cheerily being swept out of a trendy bar of old stone, chrome and glass with the cigarette butts and James from the West Country by way of Finsbury Park in the early hours.  They are used to pilgrims in this town.

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