Saturday, October 06, 2007

None of us can believe that our walks are over

We are now in Pamplona and have just walked down the street where the bulls run during the St Fermin running of the bulls. At Santo Domingo do Silos, we attended the 13h45 session of the Gregorian chants and Finn was a little disappointed because it only lasted 15 minutes. However, we went to Vespers at 19h30 and heard a full session of prayers in Gregorian chants. Now we know why the monks at Silos are famous for their chants - it was absolutely beautiful. We decided to stay for the 9am mass as well and that too was a special treat. The Benedictine church has amazing acoustics and the gentle chanting echos through the aisle into the vault of the church. There is no ornamentation at all in the church. One large wooden Christ on the cross behind the altar is all that breaks the stonewalls. The altar is a grey granite with a simple white cloth cover. There were no chalices, cups or jugs on the altar. During the mass one of the monks collected the cups used for mass from a side granite server and these were returned straight after communion. There were about 24 monks at mass - 12 in white robes and 11 in black robes with one ‘new recruit’ in civvies. Finn and I decided to visit the museum and the cloisters - the most amazing 'narrative pillars' with biblical stories in stone on every pillar. One set of pillars are curved and when I asked the guy in the museum why he could not answer. The floors are a mosaci of pebbles and the ceilings beautifully pained. It is also a double storied cloister with a later structure built over the earlier one. We left Santo Domingo at about 10h15 and drove mostly along the N120 - the Camino road route - towards Pamplona. It was quite exciting to see peregrinos walking alongside the road on the asphalt trail and also when we stopped at Los Arcos we felt quite envious of the pilgrims walking through. We then followed the main roads up to Roncesvalles where we spent the night at the Casa Sabina Inn. The sun was shining, there were only 19 pilgrims registered at the albergue when we visited it to show Finn where we had slept the first night. The Dutch hospitalera told us that the refuge is closed from the end of October until May. We had a pilgrim menu at the Inn and then attended the pilgrim mass. We all went up to the altar for the peregrino blessing. It rained during the night and was very misty when we awoke this morning. We felt quite sorry for the pilgrims that were setting off down the trail in the rain. By the time we left the mist had cleared and the sun broke through. We drove over the Ibenta Pass to St Jean Pied de Port where we walked up a rather quiet and deserted Rue da Citadelle, visiting the pilgrim centre and having coffee at a restaurant next to the river. We did some sightseeing and left St Jean at mid-day.

We stopped once more in Roncesvalles (Finn can’t pronounce it properly so he calls it Rondebosch!) before driving on to Pamplona where we dropped off the car and checked into our hotel in San Nicolas, just around the corner from Plaza del Castillo. We walked around Pamplona for a couple of hours before having a picnic dinner in the hotel’s sitting room. We have tomorrow and Sunday free in Pamplona before we head off for the airport at about 6pm. None of us can believe that our walks are over - the last 7 weeks seem to have flown by so quickly. We will return to this internet cafe before we leave to give you the ‘last post’ from Spain.

Love to all,
S A M & Finn

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