Sunday, September 30, 2007

We are no longer peregrinos - Just tourists

We are no longer peregrinos - just tourists - and we had our first tourist upset this morning. When we arrived at Santiago’s airport none of our credit cards (all four of us tried the Visa Cards and I tried a Visa and a Master Card) would not work as the banks would not accept any of them. This meant that we could not pay for our hired car. As you know, car hire companies don’t accept cash (in case you crash the car and they need to charge you). Then an ‘angel moment’ when Marion B and Fran, who were waiting for their flight to London, saw us in the airport lobby and came to say goodbye. We explained our predicament and Fran very kindly offered to use her credit card and we were able to complete the hire process. (We have an automatic, diesel Citroen with a great big boot for all our baggage.)
But back to Santiago. Yesterday morning we spent a couple of hours in the cathedral museum, the Bishop’s Palace and the cloisters - very beautiful - whilst Anneliese attended the pilgrim’s mass in the cathedral. In the evening, after a good meal with Marion B and Fran, we did a ‘nocturnal walking tour’ of the city which started at 10:30pm and finished at 12:30am. The rain held off and it was a lovely evening for walking through the old city of Santiago including a visit to the cloisters and inner courtyards of the old pilgrim hospice which is now a Parador - a 5 star hotel. The evening ended with a ‘quemada’ (fire water ceremony) at a local bar. Very strong stuff - 50% alcohol - orange and lemon rinds, sugar and coffee beans all set alight until blue flames leap up the ladle. We all had to sample the fire water and the fumes got up Fran’s nose so much so that she had to leave the bar and catch her breathe outside!

We could hear the rain during the early hours of the morning and decided to get a taxi to the airport. After the initial hassles with our credit cards we drove off in our beige Citroen, heading west to Finisterre - the ‘End of the World’. The weather improved and the mist cleared so that we had a beautiful view of the ocean (our first sighting of the sea for 7 weeks) and a gorgeous view of the headland which is very similar to Cape Point in South Africa. We had lunch in the restaurant at the top of the hill and after having our photographs taken at the very last camino bollard - it reads 0.00kms - we headed east towards Lugo, a city with the best-preserved Roman walls in all of Spain. It was entering the city that we had our second 'angel moment'. Finn decided in Santiago that I should drive first as I had an idea of where we should be heading. So I had to drive a left-hand drive car on the right (wrong) side of the road with Finn cringing every time a vehicle overtook us and I edged away from the centre lane. (Okay Joy - now I know what it was like for you!!) By the time we got to Lugo I was whizzing around the round-abouts like an old pro but I whizzed the wrong way and took us away from the old city. We stopped and an old fellow told us to go back up the hill. I drove back up the hill, decided to take a right turn at the last minute and ended up driving through one of the 10 puertas – ‘gates’ - into the walled city. There in front of us was a sign for our hotel and about 200m later we pulled up outside. What luck! Any other entrance and we would have been driving around all afternoon trying to find the hotel.
We checked in and then took a walk along the top of the over 2km wall that was built in the 3rd C by the Romans. Greg, you would love it! Many of the buildings inside the walls resemble Dickens-like crofts, with ramshackle walls, shingle roofs, dormer windows and two or three chimneys squashed between modern, high-rise apartments and offices. Some of the houses can only be 2 or 2 ½ m wide but go up three floors so they appear to be squashed into tall structures. Very quaint and medieval. We had dinner in the main square and marvelled at how smartly dressed the locals were who took their walks around the square dressed in their Sunday best with ties and jackets, ladies in high heels - many with designer doggies tripling alongside them! Tomorrow we will drive back down to Sarria (where Finn started his walk) and drive as closely to the camino as possible all the way to Hospital dÓrbigo (the place with the longest bridge in Spain) before turning north to Oviedo where we will spend the night. Oviedo is famous for a very old relic, a shroud that covered Christ’s face before the Turin shroud was used to cover him completely. Recent tests have shown that the blood type on both shrouds are the same. There is a Spanish saying that says one should not visit the servant (Sant’Iago) without visiting the Master (meaning the relic of the shroud.) So, having visited the servant at his resting place in Compostela we will now visit the Master in Oviedo. Will let you know more about that in our next post.

Love to all,
S A M & Finn


  1. I am not sure I find the peregrino/ tourist division all that helpful really. I have stayed in one hostel where some pilgims only mixed with other pilgrims and not with the 'rest of us'. Seemed a bit odd really. But it was one 'pilgrim' I spoke with there, (in Cahors on the Le Puy route), a French woman walking on her own who was absolutely radiant with joy about her walk, who is probably most responsible for my own decision to walk some of the Camino next year. I was a 'tourist' but an accidental 'pilgrim' who kept coming across saints in the landscape that have challenged my 'lapsed Catholic" status. I was a cyclist pleasing myself in the Loire, and I kept banging into St Martin sharing his cloak. So in the end I was seeking St Martin out a little. Whether I was a little bit of a pilgrim at that point seems kind of irrelevant. St Martin has me thinking about whether I am Catholic or not still, all these months after I have returned home!

    Whether we are 'pilgrims' or 'tourists', we are all on our own journeys.

  2. Hola Amawalker,
    Thank you so very much for leaving that devine message for me on my blog today. Really, so much help and so much information! You don´t know how much I appreciate it. I really feel that I´ll be able to go and will use them all and remember that nice lady from South Africa and all her thoughtfulness. Take care....
    Buen Camino!