Sunday & Monday, October 2 & 3
We arrived in Santiago, walking through the tunnel to the sounds of bagpipes, on a beautiful, sunny day. We rejoiced in the camaraderie of the hundreds of people in Plaza Obradoiro all enjoying their first few minutes in front of the Cathedral, all of us finally reaching our destination. Some of our Camino friends had hoped to make it in time to attend the Pilgrims Mass at noon, but we heard later that the queue was very long. We were still basking in the wonderment of my mother’s reassurance that she was right there with us, and we wanted to cherish the moment.
We finally checked into the absolutely gorgeous Hostal dos Reis Católicos Parador. I’d been in touch with our friend Garrett, who was leaving for Ireland that afternoon, to let him know when we arrived, and before we settled in, we met him for a glass (or two) of Champagne to celebrate seeing each other again, and completing another journey. Afterwards, we bid him a fond farewell, and went into “business” mode: unpacking and sorting our clothing and gear, showers, laundry, and packing a “Camino” suitcase to be shipped back to Park City while we extend our trip in Europe.
As we were heading to the lavandería (laundromat), we ran into our Irish Camino friends Sean and Erin, and invited them to join us for dinner that evening. We quickly changed our reservation from 2 people to 4, and went happily on our way. Everybody in town was in good spirits, all talking about their experiences on their various Caminos, sharing stories, many talking about their “next” Camino. I put the kibosh on any discussion about THAT with Mike. Too soon? I think so.
This was such a tough month for me. Mike had lost quite a bit of weight before our Camino; I lost ZERO. My husband the stats guy was his usual focused self, clocking at least 40k steps (~20 miles) every day for the previous 4 months.
It took me a ridiculous amount of time to find a pair of shoes that worked for me. As it was, my feet were never happy. The North Face trail runners that worked 5 years ago were discontinued, and I spent months trialing 9 different pairs of shoes. I settled on Brooks Cascadia 16 trail runners, which were “okay”, but after 10 miles, my feet hurt. A lot. The orthotics that I finally got didn’t work with the Brooks shoes, and I wasn’t about to start my search again 1 month before our Camino. I consulted a web site on how to tie hiking shoes based on your feet’s specific needs, and that did help a bit. My training also took a dip a few times, but I don’t think that had a huge impact.
My heart was heavy, my emotions were just below the surface at all times, and yet, I was grateful that we were able to make this journey without an emergency flight back to NJ. I felt that my first “Camino miracle” was from my mother. If she’d been alive, she may have been in and out of hospitals, as she had been for 6 weeks in July and August. I would have been worried sick, would have been on the phone with my sisters, and I wouldn’t have experienced the gift of having my mom “along for the ride” with me. Never one for subtlety, my mom kept giving me signs that she was right there. When we were served the first bottle of cold red wine, I laughed and sent my sisters a text that Mom was still driving us crazy. What’s with the refrigerated red wine? During the next weeks, we were served a few MORE bottles of cold red wine. Then there was the salt in a bowl on the table in a restaurant. No spoon. My mom always put a bowl of salt on the table. Not a salt shaker or a salt grinder. A bowl. “Just use your fingers.” We’d get up, pour another bowl of salt in a small cup, and bring it to the table with a spoon.
Our short stay in Santiago was fun. After getting our official Certificate of Completion on Monday, we went to the Pilgrims Mass, lit candles for my parents and our friend’s mother, and walked through the “Holy Door” (Porta Santa) in the Cathedral. The door is only opened during Holy Years. 2021 was one of those years, but due to COVID, Pope Francis extended the Jubilee Year and its blessings for an additional year.
We bought some Camino pins that Mike put on his hat, a pair of earrings to replace the pair that I wore every day on both of our Caminos and somehow misplaced a day before arriving in Santiago, and a Tarte de Santiago (a delicious almond tart) to bring to our friends in Rocchetta Palafea, Italy, and afterwards we had a lovely dinner with Sean and Erin.
I’ve been to Spain 5 times:
1973, when my parents, a few Aunts, a few cousins, and I went to meet our Basque family
2003, when Mike and I went for a delayed Honeymoon
2017, our 1st Camino
2018, after my sisters, nieces, and Mom went to Lithuania where my Grandmother was born
2022, our 2nd Camino
I’ve cried each time I leave this beautiful country, and this time was no different. I am certain that we’ll be back, but it’s always hard leaving. Until next time.