Day 46 + one Santiago

I came here with my husband, Bernard, about 15 years ago. Has it changed? Probably not, but ones memories do tend to be embroider a bit here and erase a bit there.

The cathedral is being cleaned and restored and the front of the building is covered in scaffolding; one can no longer enter via the main door, but by the back door at the side if this magnificent edifice……

I attended the Pilgrims mass at midday, every seat was taken. It was announced no less than five times in both Spanish and English that all phones should be turned off and that no photos, videos or recordings were allowed during the service….. even so when the huge incense burner was swung at least a hundred phones a video cameras were recording the event. I felt ashamed of my fellow pilgrims, were they unable to remember this moment in their hearts? After the long, long walk, when everything was committed to our hearts could not this have also have rested there?

The Pilgrims Mass was the same as most I have attended along the Way, quite easy to follow, absolutely similar to the C of E service, one can just go by the rhythm of the words, the Lord’s Prayer easily recognised just by the order of words, like a universal song.

I quite expected to cry, but didn’t, but did rather take the pilgrims blessing to heart. Go home and continue your Pilgrimage of life, take with you all you have learned along the way…….

Here is Eva and me standing on the spot that marks the finish of the Camino in the middle of the square in front of the Cathedral…..

and here is the alter with St James’ relics behind…..

Poor Charlie is really suffering with blistered feet, and has been forced into what he considers very uncool sandals! I actually took this photo especially for him, it’s called Pilgrim’s feet…..

Tonight we sat in the square and enjoyed a really nice bottle of wine, and could see the moon above the Cathedral….

And last but by no means least, my girls, Holly and Eva at supper tonight……

A perfect end to a perfect day…….

I still have a few more days left here, and am constantly meeting up with Pilgrims that I have met along the Way, which is lovely, I am still holding onto remnants of my life-changing pilgrimage. I really don’t want to go home and be the sad widow, but rather go home and rejoice for the love I had and the love I have to give in the future…..

I realise more and more that I grieve for myself and not for Bernard. Bernard is okay, he has gone home and is at peace, he is a soul set free. When I cry, I cry for myself, for my loss, for my loneliness. For why cry for a soul set free…..

Love Susan x

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Day 46: Rua to Santiago de Compostela

We were a little latter leaving today and ate eggs a bacon before getting on our way. It was quite cool and foggy when we left, so extra layers were needed, but once again the Way was a delight…

With the usual landmarks and the usual babbling brooks….

I loved this stand of trees just as we left O Pino……

And once more an amazing show provided by Mother Nature…..

We stopped to admire the sculptures at Mount Gonzo, but happened to arrive at the same time as three busloads of Japanese tourists, I can’t think what they thought of us, we were there tourist attraction…..

And from here we could look over the valley toward Santiago……

it was a good 3 or 4 kilometres into Santiago itself, and a hard slog through urban sprawl. I needed one more stamp today in order to fill my Pilgrims passport, we decided to stop at a bar just on the outskirts of Santiago to get the final stamp. I had ordered and paid for the beers before asking for a stamp, only to find that he didn’t have one, luckily a bar just up the street did and I was able to complete my Pilgrims passport…..

Then suddenly we saw what we had been hoping for, the official Santiago de Compostela sign…..

Followed by the city sign….

For some reason best know to himself Charlie thought this sign much more ‘him’…….

And on we went until we reached the cathedral, this is the side view, at the moment the lovely facade is coved in Scaffolding……

And down through the gate which leads to the square…..

And there stood a representation of my family, Eva, Holly, Jan and Trevor (Holly’s parents) complete with a lovely banner welcoming me back from my Pilgrimage…..

How amazing is that?

We had lunch and then I went off to the Camino office to present my Pilgrims passport… after it being scrutinised and answering some questions, I was granted my Compostela, which, because I was walking in Bernard’s memory has his name in it too, which I love…..

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I was also given this certificate which shows exactly how many kilometres I have walked (not counting the times got lost……)

It was lovely meeting up with fellow Pilgrims that I have met along the way. There were lots of smiles, hugs and congratulations. The sun was shinning and all seemed very well in the world…..

Now I am in my room, admittedly shedding a few tears and wondering “what now?”

I need sleep and recovery, I need contemplation and peace, I need to step forward into the rest of my life. Taking the good with me and leaving the rest, all the weighty emotional baggage that I have collected during my 70 years behind……

I send you all love, peace, joy, courage, hope, and confidence…..

Love Susan x

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Day 45: Arzúa to O Pedrouzo

We awoke this morning to fog and with it, cold and damp, after breakfast we set off, I wore an extra layer, sure that it would get hot before the day was out, but not prepared to shiver until that happened…..

The view from my window despite the fog was still perfect…..

We were on the road about 8;30 ish, it was a lovely walk again today, Charlie has a few aches and pains but not enough to make him less than cheerful, which it good, there’s no pleasure in a walking companion (or a life companion for that matter) that moans about his or her lot…..

There are wild flowers everywhere… and it does seem that the seasons have got a little mixed, there are violets by the side of bluebells, daisies, butter cups, king cups….. nature giving its own personal Chelsea……

Even the walls along the Way are brimming with life, how can even the most jaded pilgrim not rejoice at the sight…..

The path once again took in shaded woodlands…..

And dark plantations with light at the end of every tunnel…

And wayside drinking fountains…..

And sad shrines to those who never reached Santiago……

Then a sudden jolt from past to present as we cross a brand new road, cutting through all that beauty, progress at it ugliest…..

Once again, on arrival in the town, Charlie and I settled on fine cuisine, this time pizza, beer and a healthy green salad.

It was so hot that we had to ask for a parasol to shade us. We were so tired and the pizza place was the nearest, after 20 or so kilometres every step counts. Now after such a beautiful sunny day it is raining…….

But yet again I have a room with a view……

And how about this……

Only kidding, it’s a picture in the corridor….. sorry……

And now I have just re-labelled my pack and used the very last label, ready for tomorrow. Last day? It really hasn’t yet sunk in. I can’t begin to imagine how I will feel, will I feel that I am standing at the end, or will I feel that I am standing at the beginning. I’m told that life after the Camino can never be the same, that the Camino changes one….

Am I surprised that I managed to do it? It never for one moment occurred to me that I wouldn’t, I was driven……

The Camino has given me an extra, much needed, dimension to my life, it was something I was meant to do……

I have left something’s behind on the Camino and more importantly I am taking some things with me, the love and companionship of my fellow Pilgrims, that basic human need we all have, to share, our food, our experiences, our love, our compassion……

love Susan x

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Da 44: Melide to Arzúa

Another short but taxing 15km day but today I am tired. I didn’t sleep so well last night and was woken by very noisy Pilgrims leaving the hostel at the crack of dawn, shouting to each other and doors slamming….

It was a surprisingly hard walk today, the ups very steeply up, and the downs unforgiving, Charlie much preferred the ups to the downs as the steep downs are so hard on the knees, he has a theory that it helps to step out in the ups, like drinking a nasty medicine as quickly as possible will leave a less nasty taste…..

I think I’ve probably taken today a bit too fast, my shins are now complaining bitterly and are threatening to make me hobble/stagger into Santiago in two days time….

However today, once again, has been magical, a lovely day, from the moment I opened my widow and saw the sunrise…….

We set off a little earlier this morning and were in the road by 8:30……

Passing our first statue of the day…..

Here’s Charlie in his brand new hat admiring the village drinking font and the village laundry…….

Here’s a miniature “Corn on the cob” house, almost every rural house has a full size one of these, some very plain and others very ornate. I don’t know if they are for drying the cobs or just storing them, or indeed both…. and why has everyone got one? Even the humblest of houses can have a well preserved and well maintained one…..

The path today once more went through forests….

And the weather has continued to be fine and sunny…..

This was a magical spot, with sturdy stepping stones to cross the river…..

Of course, there’s always someone willing to pose……

Yup, it’s that Charlie, popularly know as the chap in the blue hat……

A village drinking font with wonderful cold water…..

The pretty hamlet of Font de Prata with its painted houses……

The big feature of today has been the endless kilometres of Eucalyptus trees……

I liked this tree on the out skirts of Arzúa……

My room in Arzúa really does have a view…….

CC and I had a lovely lunch, and then wondered into the square where once again the trees are holding hands….

And there is a a fountain with a statue of a boy and a girl wrestling two bull calves, note the determined looks on the children’s faces….

They make the bread lady look a little tame……..

I am definitely beginning to feel tired, my body is beginning to scream, “enough is enough!”…..

My physical self is definitely ready to rest. Whether my spiritual self has reached that stage, I just don’t know. I still feel that I have a great deal of thinking to do, but I also feel sure that the Way hasn’t quite finished with me yet and will still furnish me with the answers I need….

I have two longish days walking left of this journey. As Charlie’s wife and daughter are meeting him in Santiago and he has missed them both dreadfully, I think he will rush toward the city with a new lease of life, his love for them gladdens my heart and brings back sweet memories….

Love Susan x

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Day 43: Part 2

After another supper of high cuisine ( pizza and bottle of red wine) Charlie and I have retreated to our rooms……

Some rathe frivolous and some sincere conclusions…..

why is it that when I put my boots on in the mornings, it feels that the boots have either shrunk or my feet have grown at least 2 inches? It takes time for my feet to accept that for yet another day they are to be bound and constricted. A few days ago I was walking my first kilometre of the day and I thought of the days when, in China, little girls’ feet were bound to stop them growing as small feet were thought to be very desirable; and I thought of the pain that they must have suffered at the hands of parents that loved them and were actually binding their feet to make them a more marriageable (and therefore happier) proposition….. in other words doing bad, and thinking they were doing good. Do I ever do that? My dog would love me to double or treble her food rations, but that would not be kind to her, a case of having to be cruel to be kind? I shall reflect on this tomorrow with Charlie….

Thought for the day:-

I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.

Pietro Aretino, satirist and dramatist, 1492 – 1556

Does this apply to “does my bum look big in this?”….

My friend, Jan, wrote to give me an update on home, we have lots of lambs ‘gambling’ around the park. The trees are in bud. My dog is well and happy…..

Home seems a long way away, and all the realities and responsibilities that go with my “normal” life. I began my journey on the anniversary of my husband’s death and I don’t intend to return until after his birthday on April 29th, so I shall stay in Santiago for a few extra days…

The Camino has acted almost like a fire-break for my emotions. I put the brakes on and did not spend time brooding over the year I have been without him or the day he died. Instead of brooding I walked, I walked alone, making myself take full responsibility for myself. And in three days, God willing, I will have seen it through…. all 800km (500 miles) of the Camino; that is not to say I have not thought of him every hour of every day. I think of him when I go to sleep at night, and I wake still with that split second of thought that all is well before the knowledge that things will never be quite well ever again hits me, sometimes harder than at other times….

Then what? After I finish in three days time? After I fly home to England and watch the lambs in the park and enjoy the trees awakening. That it the such a huge and frightening question…..

At times I have felt happiness. Maybe when wandering along a country lane or talking to a fellow Pilgrim I have felt “happiness” quite acutely. We all seem to be well aware of when we are unhappy, it’s harder to actually take note of when we are filled with joy and peace.

I wish you all, joy, peace, hope, courage, contentment and confidence, and the ability to know, recognise and hold onto those moments when these things creep into your hearts….

Love Susan x

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Day 43: Palas de Rei to Melide. Part 1

Another beautiful summers day, and today was a short stage only 15km through rural countryside and country lanes…..

A9B8D294-AFD3-4148-8687-1FDB5620D3A6Here’s son Charlie, my now fellow Pilgrim, whom, I know, is enjoying the journey. Being half my age, his pace is impressively lively…..

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A farewell from the statues at Pals de Rei……..

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A beautiful scallop shell marker arrow….

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An interesting well cover…..

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Charlie, not posing of course…..

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The bridge into Melide….

0F3089D3-81B3-4627-A9E9-EA365E77325AAnd the little Church at Melide, which was both open and giving Pilgrim stamps, I lit a candle here for my husband Bernard and one for his sister Eliza who died just seven weeks after Bernard….

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Melide is a very modern town, it’s speciality, octopus 🐙 which both Charlie and I decided against, we were both craving salad. Vegetables and salad are not big on the menu here in this part of Spain so it was a treat to have a side salad with our lunch, but why add the tuna to the salad? And why not mention it on the menu……

Once again our two star hotel is really nice, at 30€ a night for a double room with single occupancy, it’s an absolute bargain, our rooms are clean and fresh with a brand new shower rooms and piping hot water…..

My corner room could not be called “a room with a view”….

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i have just relabelled my pack for tomorrow and see with almost a sense of horror that I have only three labels left and so only three more walking days. How do I feel about that? Really, really sad…..

Part 2 to follow later this evening…..

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Day 42: Portomarin to Palas de Rei

AS I SET OUT ONE MIDSUMMER MORNING; that title by Laurie Lee has quite often accompanied my thoughts on my first kilometre or so in the mornings, except I shortened it and dropped the midsummer bit. But today the phase was perfect as it really did feel like high summer. Butterfly’s, sunshine, a gentle breeze, flowers everywhere, and everywhere smelt and tasted of the best of days…..

Charlie arrived at Portomarin about 5:30pm last night and we sipped a few beers on the patio overlooking the reservoir, a perfect end to a perfect day….. last evening we met up with Mark, Pat, Mike and Graham, collectively known as the Irish boys, and we had dinner with them, and laughed a lot, and CC and I agreed that it was an evening that would live on with us for a long time yet. Thank you boys, for a most delicious supper and most delightful company…..

We haven’t seen the gang of 4 today, we think they might have been in front of us, but there is no way of knowing….

Charlie swears that the weather can’t possibly have been wintery along my way as my face is tanned, he’s not convinced that it’s wind-burn, but insists that it’s sun-burn……

It was a lovely walk again today, some hills, but not impossible ones and some lovely walks down tracks and leafy lanes……

We came across a part of the forest that had been decimated by fire; it must have been a terrible sight, even the road hadn’t acted as a firebreak and the destruction could be seen fir a very long way…..

And here’s Charlie posing by the burned out forest….

The creatures were all out in force, and Charlie spotted this and many other “lines” of caterpillars trying to cross the road, there was quite a low survival rate and quite a lot of squashed caterpillars …….

I think this is a type of heather, certainly both the foliage and the flowers looked like heather, but they could only be described as heather bushes, or heather trees even ….

Of course everything is extra large here, especially the ants! ……

Neither Charlie nor I ever tired of the views…….

And the little gentian glittered like sapphires by the side of the Way…..very much one of B’s most loved plants……

Lovely Friesian cattle , grazed lazily, and at peace, I hope they are treated with respect and kindness……

Wayside churches…….

Mouth-watering , beautiful lichen on slabs of stone……

B would have told me the name in both Latin and English, but a rose by any other name …… etc……etc….

There is a notice in my hotel room telling me that I must not hang wasting out of the window….. probably,y in case it upsets the cat across the way……

CC and I have had a lovely companionably day, after six weeks there was quite a bit of catching up to do, and still yet more to say…..

Tonight I am extremely tired, so think I might grab a small nap………

Nap over!,

I have decided to go to the Church for the Pilgrim’s blessing, some in Spanish but some in English, maybe I am becoming more religious, I can only say that the service really resonated with me and reminded me why I am doing this. I am walking the Way, and the Way has given me, peace, joy, courage, confidence and love ……

love Susan x

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