(Three days ago) I am in a hotel room in the dense resto and bar heart of Madrid. I am here for a layover before stage 2 of this trip, Vietnam and Cambodia. After tonight, the next time I will lay my head on a pillow, I will be in Hanoi. Hard to believe.
Before I turn my attention West, since I will be traveling through Moscow, I have a few more thoughts on the Camino.
Yesterday, our first day without walking (although Maureen clocked us in at about 13,000 steps), I dedicated to those who are alone or lonely. This was requested my be great amiga back in Toronto, Lisa, who is responsible for compiling my hasty email notes and scattered photos into a form and location where you can read them. MUCHAS GRACIAS, LISA! We are all acquainted with loneliness. I certainly felt it for stretches when I walked the Camino by myself in 2010.
Yesterday was also a day of abundance, perhaps slipping over into gluttony. Four of us got up early to go in the dark to the wonderful Santiago market. We started with deadly chocolate (more like hot pudding) y churros (fried corrugated tubes of dough dipped in sugar).
We then had an exuberant and knowledgeable local guide to wander the back streets and to tour the even more exuberant cathedral, planting us in perfect transept seats for the noonday pilgrim mass. The cathedral was full of recently arrived pilgrims with their loads and walking sticks and groups of bus tourists. A long litany is read in multiple languages at the beginning of number of pilgrims from various countries starting from different starting points. Perhaps twenty countries were represented.
We had an unexpected and glorious surprise. The botafumiero, the largest incense burner in the world, installed in this cathedral to clear the stinky air from earlier pilgrims without access to hot showers takes eight gowned men to get the swinging in motion. The botafumiero is rigged from the dome in the centre and goes 66 miles/hour from one side, up by the ceiling, down across the front of the altar and up the other side. Well, it is normally swung only on Sundays, feast days and everyday during Holy Years. But Santiago was with us and we had a wonderful show, to the loud accompaniment of the organ.
After this feast for the senses, most of us carried on to Marcello’s, a 1-start Michelin resto. We chose the ‘small’ four-course menu. Time doesn’t permit description other than to say we were uncharacteristically quiet as we savoured each bite.
Next, most of us carried on to the Martin Codax albarino winery on the coast for a tour and tasting.
And our last supper was sumptuous.
I said adios to all and went to bed. Most carried on today to visit Finistere (literally, Land’s End), where it is customary to dip your feet in the ocean, throw off your old clothes, and put on news ones. I will have to get a secondary report from others. They were then walking along the beach to a town called Muxia.
My experiences are still swirling around. I may decide to insert an occasional thought or two as I report from Vietnam next week. I must say that I could not face Madrid. It is a terrific city, but the bustle and noise were sensory overload for me. I took a wee walk, had a sandwich and then came to my room for a long bath and a siesta. I am heading out now for an unfashionably early dinner with Adrienne McNicholas and her partner Miguel/Mike. They live here and Adrienne is the daughter of Tim McN, who you may know from Toronto Pursuits.
Thanks for keeping me company along the way.