We're in Santiago de Compostela at the end of our two week, 320-kilometre, walking adventure. We covered 20km and we did the distance in around six hours, including stops.
Our final day on the trail was perfect. We enjoyed what was possibly the warmest and sunniest weather that we've had in over a week and a route that was enjoyable, despite being so close to the city.
Letting mom and Ashala have coffee before we set off worked a treat. They shot out of the café and charged up the first hill, making excellent time on the wooded tracks. With trees on either side, there wasn't much in the way of scenice views and little to photograph. But it is pretty walking on tracks through trees and enjoying the greenery and mosses. These tracks are also softer underfoot than walking on sidewalks and tar roads.
We passed through San Payo and then stopped in Lavacolla for a sandwich. We got enormous baguettes! One would have been enough for all three of us! We all ate a third of our rolls and had the other two thirds wrapped to take away. They were crazy big - like for three meals. We gave them away tonight to a pilgrim with a dog asking for money and another beggar in the city.
As we neared the city we were more on tar and could all feel it in our feet. We stopped past the big monument in San Marcos, which was built to commemorate the visit of Pope John Paul II. The monument didn't do much for me but I did like the huge metal plaque/sculptures on each of the four sides.
From the top of the hill where the monument stands, "medieval pilgrims first espied the cathedral towers". I looked but didn't see them.
We continued down, dropping into the outskirts of the city and into sidewalks and roads and crossings and traffic lights and cars and people.
The newer parts are neat and tidy and we stopped for a quick drink near the start of the old city before making our way through.
And then, we saw it... one of the towers of the catedral peeking out between buildings.
It took us a few minutes to get through to the plaza where we admired the cathedral, posed for photos and greeted Camino friends.
At the Camino office we collected our Camino certificates. They translate your name into Latin and, interestingly, mom and I have the same name on our certificates - Elisabetham. My name, Lisa, is now a stand-alone name but it is actually derived from Elizabeth and is a diminutive or nickname of Elizabeth, much like the name Beth. My parents didn't know this when they named me and it wasn't until I was a few years old that someone commented on this. In any event, my name has the same root as my mom's and thus we have the same name on our certificates. I didn't expect this at all. Very funny. Her certificate is the one with the neater handwriting.
We're staying at a really nice private albergue that is a five-minute walk from the cathedral. Being Santiago, we're paying 16€ per night (usually 10€ for a private hostel) but this is still a better deal than 50€ for a room (35-37€ for a single person) at a simple hotel. This albergue, Roots&Boots, seems really organised and our dorm, with 6 bunks, is pleasant. I can see the upper parts of the cathedral clearly from our first floor window - directly in line with my top bunk.
We hooked up with Ashala's friend, Dawn, for a walk about town and a light dinner. They met on the route earlier - before we even started. Dawn has been here for a few days so she knows the good spots.
This is our last night with our new friend, Ashala. She is heading off to visit Finisterre ("end of the earth") and zero kilometre point tomorrow (by bus). She has been on the route for a few weeks more (around 45 days), having started in St Jean. She has walked the full 790km traditional French Route.
We have had such fun together and it has been a pleasure to have her company and to build a friendship. I have no doubt our paths will cross again and with Facebook, the world is a small place.
On Wednesday, Mom and I will explore Santiago and its buildings that date back to the 17th and 18th century. We'll go to the noon mass in the cathedral, which should be interesting (all in Spanish) and we're hoping to see the big ball thing swing (I'll explain about this tomorrow). Parts of the cathedral date back as early as 1188!
We return to Madrid by train on Thursday and look forward to seeing our friend Jeremy and his family. We'll explore Madrid on Friday, enjoy the Prado Museum on Saturday and start flying home on Sunday morning. Whoosh!
For now, a good and long sleep.