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Goodbye Santiago……

A few final goodbye photographs…

Looking like A Lowry painting, and one small person with Holly crossing the square….

There were over a thousand pilgrims registering at the Camino office last week, it was a Spanish bank holiday weekend, so many Spaniards took to the Way, making Santiago very busy…..

And now the boots are off…..

They do not smell good but have served me well…..

Home…..

My friend described herself as being shell-shocked when she arrived home. It’s a perfect description. I live in paradise, the most perfect place, there is beauty all around me, my house is packed with memories. Yet there is nothing for me here. I have a longing to rid myself of all my possessions, just have what I need and no more. All that is important to me is what is in my heart. The people I met along the way, each one with their own tale to tell, each with his or her own thoughts, hopes and fears. Each pilgrim becoming one with nature and with their fellow pilgrims…….

At the airport on Monday morning, one could so easily pick out fellow Pilgrims, walking boots are too heavy to be carried so at least half the plane was suited and booted for walking. The back-packs were there and the walking poles, yet the camaraderie was sadly missing, there wasn’t any pushing and shoving, but there were no smiles, no giving way, no “you go first”……

What happened? Why did we no longer belong to this amazing family of pilgrims? The family that put each other first. Why were we back to the ‘every man for himself’ mentality?

This morning, I walked the dog, the sun was shining although there was a chill in the air….

The grass is lush and we have quite a few (camera shy) lambs….

The Japonica is blossoming……

Cedar meadow is looking glorious…..

The trees on the half moon lawn near the Ha-ha are in full leaf…..

The cherry tree at the Hall is in blossom…

And the cherry tree near The Theatre is just about to blossom, I love this tree it’s flowers begin white then they slowly turn to pink then almost to maroon…..

The Judas tree which is only a few years old is also blossoming profusely. This tree blossoms from its bark, and legend has it that it’s on this tree Judas Iscariot chose to hang himself. It’s said that the tree weeps for Judas’s sorrow……

And here’s a Camino memory, I’m in the middle of nowhere, and I hear music. Naturally I investigate, as I’ve said before, the Camino throws odd things in one way. Why he was there, I don’t know, it seemed to me that he was playing his music just for the love of it. Okay, his wife may have chucked him out……..

Love Susan.

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Day 46 + 4

Another day spent wandering around this beautiful city, and still at every turn there is another sight to to see.

This the Santiago university campus…….

And this a lovely mosaic in the dining room of our hotel…..

And this a wonderful display of sweet chestnuts on a stall in the street….

A view of one of the courtyards of the monastery at night…..

And some snaps here of the courtyards in the daytime…..

It’s the most beautiful, peaceful environment imaginable, but has had a chequered history…..

Built in 1499 to provide shelter and restore the battered bodies of the Pilgrims arriving in Santiago who had survived the dangerous journey on the Way of St James. Over the years it took on more functions, it was a hospital for the poor and was also a home for foundlings.

The building was a miniature city, with its own corps of Priests, health workers, apothecaries, accountants and servants, all answerable to one administrator. It had animal pens, storerooms, a jail, wine cellar, stables, medical garden and a large number of attached dwellings where the staff were housed.

Over the centuries, generations of physicians were trained in its rooms, and its thick walls bore witness to the art of pharmacy and chemistry, always with the aim of providing greater wellbeing for the sick;in this place both the body and the soul were nurtured….

Pilgrimage in the 15th century and for many centuries beyond was a dangerous undertaking, often pilgrims were set upon by bandits, attacked by wild animals or became embroiled in bloody brawls with other travellers, the hospital was there to care for their many wounds, both physical and spiritual.

There are almost one hundred corbels supporting the wooden roofs over the arcades. They represent the vices that most tempt sinners and the virtues that were to govern their existence….

At the entrance to the foundling door, there was a window with a bell and a revolving compartment like those in cloistered convents. A mother would ring the bell and wait to hear “Ave Maria, gratis plena” and then leave her newborn child to the care of the orphanage…….

One of the pictures that hangs in the cloisters…..

And last, but by no means least, Miss Eva Rose Jesse Campbell. Light of my life, posing with her new doll in the monastery garden….

And as you see the weather has again been kind, the sun shone, even though there was a chill in the air……

Love Susan x

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Day 46 + 3

We spent the morning wandering around Santiago, mainly in the old town. I am still dreadfully tired and slept a total of 12 hours yesterday and last night. Eva is sharing a room with me and seems equally as exhausted, so we have no complaints with each other……

Here are some photos of our roam around the town……

Eva making a new friend in the park…

Eva showing off the blossoms that fall from the trees…..

A huge Eucalyptus tree and a dove coot……

A handsome black swan and an equally handsome brown duck…..

This is the doorway to the old monastery, now the rather swanky Paradore Hotel. Note the carved figures each side of the door: beginning at the bottom we have Adam on the left and Eve on the right, above them various prophets and saints, then the twelve apostles above the arch. Then we have some more saints, and to the left of the window is Jesus of Nazareth and to the right of the window we have Mary, the mother of Jesus…….

God himself used to sit between the two, but for some reason, not specified, the statue of God was removed to make way for the window! Wonder how the person that made that decision got on at the pearly gates?…..

The weather has been pleasantly warm today, but rain is forecast for the rest of our stay here, thankfully all my walking clothes are washed and dried so I will at least keep warm and dry…….

It’s strange for me to be spending time with “couples” Charlie and Holly and Jan and Trevor, Holly’s parents…… this is one of the things I so need to get used to. I so long to turn to B and make a comment or remind him of some little thing we shared together. On the Pilgrimage there was just me, and then strangers becoming friends. A new situation, a new foundation. Without B, I am just half of a whole. Walking, I was whole, it’s terribly difficult to explain and I don’t really understand it myself …….. it’s like having the stabilisers taken off your bike and managing for miles without them, only to feel suddenly wobbly without them once back on solid ground…….

Love Susan x

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Day 46 + 2

This picture says everything that needs to be said…….

And it is exactly the way I feel, after walking, mile after mile, it’s a unforgettable moment when my whole mind and being no longer belongs to me, I have in each and every step, made a commitment. “Here am I, send me”.

The material world at the moment seems slightly ridiculous, the cars, the clothes, the trinkets, have I changed then? I never was a particularly materialistic person. We only need one bed, car, home, life isn’t about collecting “stuff”, worshipping fashion or following the latest trend or owning the latest technology; losing the person one loves most in the world makes one very, very, aware of these facts….

We, the family and I, have been wandering around Santiago. This morning the weather was very cold and overcast and my thin 3/4 length leggings, topped with every layer not in the wash, complete with open toed sandals was completely inadequate. It was improved when I replaced the sandals with socks and walking boots. In this city where half the people you meet are dressed in similar mode I did not feel one bit out of place, rather the reverse…….

We went off to the city fish, meat and vegetable market, Eva loved looking at all the different fishes and there certainly was an impressive display……

There were lovely little glimpses of city life, like this small garden tucked between the narrow streets…..

The hotel we are staying is reputed to be the oldest hotel in the world. It was originally a monastery where pilgrims were given warmth and shelter, and a place where sick pilgrims could rest and recuperated (or die being loved and cared for – the original hospice). It has four lovely inner courtyards, a chapel, now used for weddings, and endless rooms and numerous stone staircases……

The chapel….

I have four days left in this beautiful city. Not enough time to walk to Finisterre but time enough to catch the bus, it would seem like an appropriate end to this part of my life’s journey……

Love Susan x

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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…..

Z

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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