Our final day, day five on the Camino Inglés takes us to our destination - Santiago de Compostela! Our spirits were high as we started our day. Not even the glistening rain could dampen our spirits.
Travel Light... Live Light... Spread the Light... BE the Light! ~ Author Unknown
The spiritual journey on day five of the Camino Inglés was a short and sweet 16 kilometers. We wanted to arrive in Santiago before noon to take part in the pilgrim's mass at the cathedral.
If all went according to plan, this could be a possibility. I figured that with an 8:00 a.m. start, we could do the 16k in just over 3 hours and arrive in plenty of time for the noon pilgrim's mass and hopefully see the botafumerio swing!
Here are the elevation map and the route map of day five on the English Way, from Gronze.com. You can see that it is very straightforward with very little elevation change. And it would prove to feel that way, as this day of walking seemed to whiz right on by. The journey was definitely sped up by great conversation, with my Camino "family" members. Because of all my yacking, I forgot to take a lot of photos! We were all in very high spirits, enjoying the journey and one another's company.
Our day started out with drizzle, as was the usual, now that we were farther from the north coast and deeper into Galicia. We ran into three of the gentlemen from our Camino de Santiago family, as we were crossing the River Tambre in Sigüeiro. We walked with the guys for a short while as we climbed up and out of town.
My Camino partner, Shelly, and I soon needed to stop to peel off our rain jackets, as we were too warm and it really wasn't raining. The guys were able to keep going and quickly were out of sight.
Several kilometers along the Way of St. James, we were walking down a hill, with a long view ahead and we noticed the guys were now walking just a short distance in front of us, heading our way. Apparently they took a wrong turn and were doubling back. We were able to stay with them for the remainder of fifth day on the English Way.
At about 5 kilometers, we arrived at this picturesque church, the Nosa Señora da Agualda. We took turns taking different photos of one another. Holger, from Germany is 70 years young and Antonio, from Spain is 73! We could barely keep up to them! Amazing!
For the last 6 kilometer or so of day five on the Camino Inglés, we had to walk through an industrial area. Not so nice. I did not take any photos.
Unlike the other Caminos de Santiago, we did not get an amazing view of the Cathedral a distance up ahead. We were only able to catch a quick glimpse of the towers as they loomed over the rooftops. They are the blue towers wrapped in scaffolding. The clock tower of the cathedral is on the left.
As we entered into the outskirts of Santiago, we walked through this lovely little park, the Parque Pablo Iglesias. I was unable to discover any historical information about this old wall that was left intact, but it made a lovely backdrop for some photos.
Unbeknownst to me, at the time, Fernando, pictured below, walking toward the Church of San Francisco, had veered us off the actual English Way. He had stopped and asked for directions from the locals, which I had not understood. Our first destination was to be the San Francisco Church, which I came to understand was issuing their own Compostela to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the church to St. Frances of Assisi.
In retrospect, as I write this, I wish I had known that we were not exactly following the traditional ending for pilgrimage route on the fifth day of the Camino Inglés. Had I known while I was in Santiago, I would have retraced the final steps of the English Way. I would have had a more authentic experience of walking through the Porta Poennae, the gate to the medieval walled city, where the pilgrims would have traditionally entered. (click on this link to see the official, final steps that I retraced, one year later!)
But the way of the pilgrim necessitates both joy, disappointment and struggle, so this too, I would include as part of my spiritual journey! This is the Way of St. James, after all!
In the photo below, you see Fernando heading to the church of San Francisco, beautiful and worthy in its own right! I remember feeling surprised, however, that the English Way would walk along this strange tin-roofed walkway. Not very aesthetic in my opinion! It did turn out that this was not the intended English Way after all!
There was no line for the Compostela at the Convento San Francisco, so we quickly obtained it. As I waited for Shelly to get hers, I paused a moment or two to also admire the altar here. I felt very fortunate to be receiving the special Compostela from this magnificent place.
Up until now, most of day five on the English Way, Shelly and I had been blindly following the Spanish speakers, to make our way into the city. When we exited the steps of the San Francisco cathedral to join our friends, they were no where to be found! What?? Where were our friends and more importantly, where were our guides?
Suddenly, I felt a panic! Santiago is a BIG city and I had absolutely no idea where we were in the city, nor where we were in relation to the cathedral of Santiago! My vision of sauntering up to the cathedral with the aide of my guides, filled with nothing but sheer joy, came quickly crashing down!
We hung around the outdoor steps of the San Francisco church for about five minutes, disbelieving the truth that our Camino "family" had abandoned us, without a word! As the truth slowly sank in, I felt betrayed. Suddenly, I had to scramble for my digitally downloaded maps and guides on my cell phone. Once again, we were on our own. I hadn't fully realized how much I was enjoying and resting in the guidance and safety of our Camino friends!
I think the excitement and relief of being in the city, combined with our hurt feelings at that moment, left us both completely immobilized. Shelly just looked at me with a blank stare, waiting for me to do something! Egads! I had been our guide all along, but now I had turned into a stumbling, bumbling idiot. The best I could come up with was to stumble forward in the direction we had been traveling.
In my confusion, I didn't even notice the sign on the building in the photo, below, leading us to the Cathedral of Santiago! We were standing in front of the San Francisco Church, and without our knowledge, were only steps away from the cathedral. Can you spot the sign in the photo below that I missed?
Here is the sign, enlarged, below. And just around the corner was the San Francisco Street sign. If I had had my wits, under normal circumstances, I would have had no problem seeing these signs. But these were not normal circumstances, were they?
We did actually make our way down the Street (Rúa) of San Francisco, towards the cathedral. This beautiful street is shown below.
We were only just steps away, (I documented the place in the photo below), when I asked a local woman where the cathedral was! Unbelievable! Delirium does strange things to a person. The cathedral was just ahead on the left, by the tourist trolley in the picture below! The woman I asked looked at me in astonishment, then pointed up and to the left! Ha ha! We really were disoriented, ungrounded and out of ourselves!
We stumbled into the famous Obradoiro Square which I had failed to recognize, despite gazing at photos of it many times before in anticipation of the actual event. This was the first building that we saw:
We turned around to see the cathedral looming above us. We snapped selfies and just looked at amazement at the place! Pilgrims were milling about. The cathedral itself was covered in scaffolding, which I had not been aware would be so. That was rather disconcerting as well.
My head was still whirling with the all the emotions I seemed to be experiencing all at once on day five of our Camino Inglés:
I was swimming in a sea of discomfort...
We had pushed so hard to be at the cathedral in time for the noon pilgrim's mass and was this to be a disappointment too??
We glanced at our phones for the time. It was only 15 minutes before noon, and I still had no idea where our hotel was! We knew that we could not take our backpacks into the cathedral, so we had to find our hotel to drop off our packs if we were going to make the mass. I did not want our fifth day on the English Way to prove to be a "failure." The pressure was back on.
We left the square and walked back the way we came, totally lost. In my panic, I was unsuccessful at pulling up a decent digital map. I asked a local where was the Seminario Mayor? I knew it was right beside the cathedral, but where? The cathedral and its surroundings were enormous and we had no time to spare. The men I asked were arguing which was the best way to go. One pointed one way, the other, another way! We thanked them and kept on walking!
As we were walking around, and I finally started to find my grounding, I finally realized that I could enable Google maps on my cell phone, and use the international data plan I had purchased for just such situations! Very quickly, following Google maps, we found the hotel. We had been so close to the hotel without knowing it! We arrived at the hotel at precisely noon. The pilgrim's mass was beginning. The hotel sat on the Plaza Azabachería, directly across from the Cathedral.
We asked the hotel staff if the cathedral would let us in late. They said "Yes!" We asked if we could stash our packs somewhere and check in later. They said "Yes!" We dropped our packs off and rushed across the Plaza to the Puerta Azabachería and through the door.
We entered the cathedral to find standing room only crowds. The place was packed! We wiggled our way around the side of the pews, toward the tomb of St. James entrance, and were able to sit on the floor, next to the ropes, cordoning off the main altar. We had made it! Our push on day five of the English Way would be a success after all. We were here. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. We were very lucky.
After the amazing pilgrim's mass, seeing the botafumerio swing, and with the experience's healing aura still in my soul, I suddenly realized that I could text our Camino friends to see where they were. We had discussed having lunch together when we all reached Santiago. I texted Fernando and he responded. We agreed to come together once again at Obradoiro Square!
Here we are, taking photographs of one another. We were reunited again, and my feelings had all but dissipated. A pilgrim is much comforted by the presence of all her friends.
The second time to the square, I had gotten accustomed to the scaffolding. I now realized what a nice job the city had done, in erecting the photo images of the parts of the cathedral that were being restored. I came to understand that it would be years before the restoration project was to be completed. The sight was still incredibly and inspiringly beautiful.
After shooting our photographs, we followed Fernando, once again, through the streets of Santiago, looking for a recommended restaurant. I easily slipped back into my role as the follower! It was such a sweet place to be!
We found the restaurant on the hill behind the cathedral, to the North, the Casa Manolo. We shared in a most delightful meal. I had a chance to try the local soup, the Caldo Gallego, with cabbage, potatoes and meat. I had flounder for my main course. It was all delicious and incredibly economical, at 12 Euro each, for a full course meal.
As the afternoon came to a close, we all new that our experience together was coming to a close. There were trains to catch, other friends to meet, and normal life was to be resumed for the rest of our Camino family. The fifth day on the Camino Inglés was everyone's last but ours. Only Shelly and I were heading on to the End of the World, to Finisterre.
We were able to say a proper good-bye, as well wishes and emails were exchanged.
Shelly and I now turned to the task of finding the Pilgrim Office so that we could obtain our Compostela. Our pilgrims' passports were stamped with the sufficient number of stamps to document our spiritual journey.
The last stamp on the page, of the shepherd, dated 16 SEP, 2014, is the special stamp we received from the church in San Francisco. I fondly looked at it, my favorite of the stamps. It represented my ability to prevail, despite the total shocks to my system! On this day, I was both a sheep and a shepherd. My Camino had called me to be both in alternating moments.
We had made the pilgrim's mass, had a fantastic experience with the swinging of the botafumerio, reconnected with our Camino family and had brought proper closure to day five on the Camino Inglés!
Fortunately, my head was back straight on my shoulders, and I was able to guide Shelly and I to the Pilgrim's Office without difficulty. The line at 5:00 p.m. was unbelievably long! A group of us near the back of the line were shuffled to another office.
The official sello (stamp) from the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was affixed to my Credential and I received my Compostela after a long wait. It was my new favorite stamp.
As our fifth day on the Camino Inglés came to a close, and we were sufficiently oriented to the lay of the central part of town, we wandered back into the Praza do Obradoiro. The rain had blessed us once again, and the cathedral glistened in the evening light.
My heart was full of gratitude for having been able to complete our journey without any major obstacles. I was sad to say goodbye to our Camino family, but I knew our spiritual journey was only half done. We were going onward to Finisterre and Muxía, the "Ends of the World," if all went according to plan. Much more of our spiritual journey lie ahead, upon completing our fifth day on the English Way. More trials and tribulations lie in wait for us.
The first Camino lesson learned on this fifth day on the Camino Inglés , was this; without stepping into the discomfort and the fear, what is one able to learn? Nothing, really! The wild emotional ride that I experienced was to assist me in learning to abide in the discomfort of the situation. I remember standing in the Obradoiro Square feeling totally helpless and disoriented. It was not a comforting feeling for one who was always the responsible one.
But there was nothing else to do, but abide in this discomfort and be present to the experience of it. I came to peace with it, breathing deeply and standing there in the shadow of the cathedral. Only then was I able to mobilize and figure my way through the situation. I still guided us to our goal, albeit in a different manner than I anticipated. Isn't that what pilgrimage traveling is all about?
The second lesson I learned is that everyone's Camino is an individual one, and an individual spiritual journey. Each and every person on the Camino has their own objectives and their own agenda. My Camino can never be the same as yours and vice versa. This was a hard lesson for me and I was to learn it even more strongly in my days ahead.
I did learn later that the reason we were abandoned at the San Francisco Church was because one of my Camino family members had to catch a train and he needed to quickly get to the Pilgrim's Office to get his Compostela if he were to get to the Pilgrim's Mass and still meet us all for lunch. His time was severely limited. It would just have been nice to have known at the time!
The pilgrimage traveler is indeed on a spiritual journey to a new way of being, and Day five on the Camino Inglés was no exception! Please journey with me, as I travel onward to Finisterre.
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