CAMINO FRANCES – Big Cities (7) – Final

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA (Spain)

From Sarria it was only 5 days of walking (118km) to reach our final destination, Santiago de Compostela. But for the first time really, I knew it was not about the destination … but much more about the journey.

These last five days were filled with emotion: Tiredness, sadness, happiness … it’s actually quite difficult to describe. But whatever we felt, the road to Santiago was still beautiful and we are going to take you on a quick tour of our last five days of the Camino Frances.

Just a reminder, in case you have missed the other six cities:

  • Pamplona – we would like to say (like Ernest Hemingway), that this beautiful city was our first love of Spanish cities. The place where we started to walk our Camino Frances and a city we have fond memories of. You can read about Pamplona here.
  • Logroño – this was definitely the most fun city we visited on the way … yes probably because of all those tapas bars in one street! You can read about Logroño here.
  • Burgos – the city where I had to stay an extra two days to recover from aches and pains. Therefore, Burgos will always have a special place in my heart … and don’t forget about their beautiful cathedral. You can read about Burgos here.
  • León – as it is the case with Pamplona, this city has the most beautiful architecture and we’re happy we had some energy left in us to explore the old city center of León. We also had a full evening of watching amazing Easter processions. You can read about León here.
  • Astorga – not a big city, but there are some beautiful buildings in the Plaza Mayor. For us, Astorga is a bit of a sad memory … we had to say goodbye to new pilgrim friends here and we missed the Chocolate Museum. But at least we saw more Easter processions to celebrate Good Friday. You can read about Astorga here.
  • Sarria – we reached Sarria after we have walked more than 600km and we were sort of tired when we got here. So unfortunately, we did not really explore this little city. But we did enjoy one of the best bottles of red wine with a lovely view over Sarria’s famous church, Church of Saint Marina. You can read about Sarria here.

So, without further ado, let’s cover the last 5 days of walking on the Camino Frances:

Day 25: Portomarin (22.4km)

This day will be remembered for two significant reasons. We reached the 100km mark to Santiago and my beloved hiking sandals finally came to the end of their lifetime! Portomarin is a beautiful town with stunning views over the Minho River.

We saw yet another beautiful sunrise as we left Sarria

Only 100km to Santiago

To reach Portomarin, we had to cross the bridge over the Minho River

New vs Old. I was lucky to find almost exactly the same hiking sandals in Portomarin … but that meant more blisters

(You can read about the hiking of Day 25 here)

Day 26: San Xulian (28.3km)

We stretched this day with an extra 3km because we wanted to overnight in a (very) small village rather than the bigger town. It sounded like a great idea early in the morning, but towards the end of the day those extra kilometers can become quite challenging!

A misty morning in the woods

Horreo (typical from Galicia) – used to store and dry granary during earlier years

After a long and hot day, we were treated with a spectacular sunset in San Xulian

 (You can read about the hiking of Day 26 here)

Day 27: Arzua (28.5km)

We had the opportunity to watch an amazing sunrise, crossed many bridges and eventually tasted Spanish churros!

Leaving San Xulian early morning

Another beautiful sunrise (that brought promises of a very HOT day)

Berto crossing a medieval bridge

Heavenly sweet churros

Hot and humid – another 4km to Arzua

(You can read about the hiking of Day 27 here)

Day 28: O Pedrouzo (19.0km)

I was filled with immense sadness on this day. My body was protesting against one more kilometer, I woke up with a cold and just felt terrible. After a pep talk from Berto I rose up to the occasion of walking one more day. But my sadness was also due to the fact that I realised our journey was almost over … though my body welcomed this thought, I did not want it to end! The good news was that we ‘teamed up’ with our pilgrim friends Carl (USA) and John (Ireland) … it was such a privilege to walk the last few kilometres with these two guys.

Walking in nature for the second last day on our Camino

I’m (literally) hanging on to finish this Camino

One more night on the bunk beds in O Pedrouzo

(You can read about the hiking of Day 28 here)

Day 29: Santiago de Compostela (20.1km)

If anyone told me a few years ago that I would walk 729km in 29 days, I would have probably had a good laugh! But yet, here we were … on the last day of our Camino Frances. Between the two of us, we probably only took 10 photos on our way to Santiago – we were just so overwhelmed by the occasion.

Reality kicks in … we’re finally here!

(You can read about the hiking of Day 29 – our last day – here)

Santiago de Compostela:

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of northwest Spain’s Galicia region. It’s known as the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route and the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James. His remains reputedly lie within the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela (Google).

Of course this means that our Camino Frances officially came to an end when we finally stood in front of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. And may I just add, the cathedral was under heavy renovation when we were there in 2017 …

The Cathedral, covered with scaffolding

The Cathedral in its full glory (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we walked through the tunnel to the open plaza where we could see the Cathedral, I felt a lump in my throat. And then … as I turned around, saw the Cathedral (although ‘dressed’ in blue net) and looked at Berto, I started crying. This was a moment I will never forget as long as I live.

We have done it!

And we were so happy to share this moment with Carl and John

All I wanted to do, was to just sit right there until I could get up without feeling any pain. But the rain (which we have not seen for weeks), started to come down … I said to Berto this must be a blessing on our journey. And we wanted to attend the pilgrim mass that starts every day at 12 noon, so we took a couple of photos before finding our way to the inside of the Cathedral.

Pilgrims entering the Cathedral for mass

The Botafumeiro:

Sometimes, during the pilgrims mass, the Botafumeiro are in action. This is the largest censer in the world and eight tiraboleiros are needed to pull the ropes to bring it into a swinging motion almost to the roof of the transept. This did not happen while we were there, but if you like, you can watch this in action during the movie ‘The Way’ … it’s quite something to see.

The Botafumeiro

When we left the Cathedral, it was still raining. The dark clouds above the cathedral were quite dramatic and we could hardly believe that we had been walking in hot weather for weeks.

Leaving the Cathedral

As it was the norm the past 29 days, we walked over to our accommodation. Only this time, it was not an albergue, but a hotel! When we walked into our room at the Lux Santiago Hotel, I almost cried again when I saw the bed (and our own bathroom). How I missed soft linen – something so simple for which I’m very grateful for!

Our room at the Lux Santiago Hotel – no more bunk beds

Although it was raining and very cold, we decided to take a walk around the old city of Santiago.

Back at the Cathedral in rainy weather

But ironically, after weeks seeing some of the most beautiful places in Spain, we now had no desire to explore any more streets or sights. Instead, we met some of our pilgrim friends for a few drinks and special last stories.

Berto with Carl and John

Berto and I went out for a proper dinner on our first night in Santiago. We were served by a very friendly waiter who suggested Galicia’s best bottle of red wine and steak (it probably cost the same as all our meals combined on the Camino). But it was an evening we enjoyed immensely, reliving our memories of the Camino.

We stayed for two more days just to soak up the atmosphere in Santiago. We enjoyed more of Spain’s wonderful food before we packed our backpacks once more … this time, to head back home.

We also received our Compostelas (pilgrim certificates) … maybe it is just a piece of paper, but it definitely tells a story!

After more than five weeks in Spain it was time to say goodbye. We saw so many beautiful places, met amazing friends and had more than our fair share of good food and beer (and wine). As our plane left the runway in Santiago, I looked out the window … the Camino and Spain taught me so much about myself (and also reminded me what a wonderful partner I have in Berto).

We leave Santiago as the sun rises

Thank you, dear blogger friends, for walking with us to see the beautiful cities in Spain and also to relive our Camino Frances with us.

47 thoughts on “CAMINO FRANCES – Big Cities (7) – Final

    1. It was really nice to look back on such a great adventure. It was a shame about the renovation work at the cathedral, but it didn’t really matter in the end. The mere fact that we reached Santiago was enough! Thank you that you followed our Camino Frances Maggie, it is much appreciated.

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  1. This has been so nice to follow such a special journey. You describe everything so well, I have been able to almost feel it, though not the blisters, thank goodness. I think you are incredibly brave to keep going the way you did, and manage to smile as well. Yes, it is wonderful to have a partner who enjoys the same things and who is so supportive. I could feel your emotion on that last day. My travels were never as challenging, but Tibet was very special to me and the day we left, as we flew over those dramatic mountains, tears fell freely down my face. Then something silly happened and I was laughing. Thank you for letting me enjoy your journey!

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    1. I’m so happy you joined in to (virtually) walk the Camino Frances with us Carolyn (and you’re still without blisters 😉)! It was a wonderful opportunity for me as well to look back on such an amazing adventure. I think I would have thrown in the towel if it wasn’t for the encouragement from Berto (like you said, it’s good to have someone with you that you can trust). Oh, Tibet sounds like a place that will have me in tears as well … sometimes, the occasion is just so unexpectedly big that it’s hard to control emotions. Once again, thank you for reading – I know you have read every day and that must have taken some valuable time from you.

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  2. I know quite a few people who’ve completed the Camino, and did think at one point that I’d do it myself, one variation or another. All have found it highly emotional and an unforgettable experience. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind- or feet!- to it. Happy to read your personal account.

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    1. That is so true what you’re saying Jo … about what you can do when you put your mind to something (and yes, your feet as well 😉). Thank you for reading about our long walk on the Camino Frances – definitely an unforgettable experience and it was so nice to relive it again … I’m now sort of tired!

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  3. What a truly incredible adventure and good for you for completing such a large portion of the route! I have thought of doing the last portion from Sarria to Santiago and so it was great to read this post. Perhaps one day with the right travel buddies I will make it happen. Thanks for taking us along with you for this experience!

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    1. If you have limited time (or just want to be part of an amazing experience), the stretch from Sarria to Santiago is a great option! And although it’s great fun to do the Camino with a buddy, you can also do it on your own … I can promise you that you will have many new friends by the time you reach Santiago 😄. Thank you for reading about our Camino, it’s much appreciated.

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  4. Nee wat, dit het miskien nie so gevoel nie maar mens sou nooit raai julle het 29 dae aaneen gestap as mens na julle op die foto’s kyk nie! Wat n wonderlike ervaring. Ek glo jy gaan baie mense met hierdie reeks inspireer om ook n Camino aan te pak!

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    1. Baie dankie. Dit was sekerlik een van die beste aaneenlopende 29 dae van my lewe … soveel emosies (soos net ‘n vrou kan he 😀). Na die tyd dink ‘n mens mos altyd hoeveel meer foto’s jy kon neem, maar ons was sommige dae net eenvoudig te moeg om ‘n ekstra meter te stap nadat ons by ons akkommodasie aangekom het. Ek hoop regtig ons inspireer mense om die Camino te stap (hopenlik kyk hulle verby die seer voete en uitdagende dae), behalwe dat dit so ongelooflik mooi is, leer ‘n mens so baie van jouself. Dankie dat jy gelees het, jy weet ons waardeer dit baie.

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  5. I’ll catch up on your cities eventually but meanwhile I’m in awe of your achievement in completing the Camino. I’m not surprised you found your arrival in Santiago so moving, and probably you were all the more affected for being so tired. You certainly earned that steak and soft bed!

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    1. Thank you for reading about our final city on the Camino Frances … and for your lovely comments. You’re absolutely right, I think when you are tired, the emotions just show so much easier! Maybe I have said it before (I know I have 😉), but that steak was the best steak ever and that bed was the most comfortable ever!

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  6. I’m sure the final stretch of your Camino Frances felt bittersweet. It’s pretty amazing how we’re so much stronger than we think. Your certificates look pretty legit. You definitely have lots of stories and memories from your hiking adventure. Thanks for sharing many of them with us.

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    1. That’s exactly what it was Linda … bittersweet. We were waiting in a very long queue for those certificates, so it better be legit 😀. Thank you for reading all about our Camino Frances, we enjoyed every moment of putting these posts together … like you said, we have some pretty amazing memories of this adventure!

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  7. What an amazing feat to walk so far and it must have been such a momentous occasion to arrive in the central square of Santiago. I’m pleased you opted for a luxurious hotel and special dinner to mark the end of this epic journey. Well done to both of you!

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  8. What an amazing achievement and a such a wonderful, meaningful experience. I completely understand your bittersweet tears upon reaching the end of the journey. It must have been such a poignant moment seeing the cathedral despite the reconstruction work. I cannot imagine the feeling of walking into that hotel room with your own bathroom and soft linens. Trip of a lifetime, thanks for sharing it with us.

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    1. Thank you very much Leighton for all your lovely comments during this series. I was so overwhelmed when we stood in front of the cathedral that I didn’t notice at first it was being renovated. Just the fact that we got there (in one piece 😉) was a miracle for me and very special. Oh, that hotel room (it wasn’t really that fancy, but it felt like 5 star to me) … that’s when I realised I needed to be more thankful for the little things in life that I take so easily for granted . Thanks for following our Camino Frances big city tour – which actually turned out to be less about cities and much more about walking!

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    1. Thanks so much Tricia. I received both your other comments (WP is sometimes so unpredictable). I deleted those, but thanks for keep on trying (nobody can accuse you of a lack of determination 😉). This makes me think you will be a great walker on the Camino! And thank you for reading all about our Camino Frances – it was quite long posts, but so close to our hearts. Definitely memories that will last a lifetime!

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    1. Yes, we saw lovely places (which I doubt we would have had the opportunity to if we had travelled by car). Between you and me … if you and your partner are still together after walking such a long way together, the chances of you ever breaking up are slim … this is a true test of marriages 😉!

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    1. It is really difficult to describe how we felt on this last day … but I’m happy to read you could feel the mixed emotions! Ah, the bed and bathroom – simple things in life really, but for me that was the ultimate after 29 days of hard walking!

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      1. People always say bittersweet, but I like to think of things as more of a ‘sweet with a splash of it was hard but I’m not ready for it to end just yet.’ ❤️

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  9. Congratulations on completing your walk and receiving your pilgrim certificates! Thank you for sharing the trip and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about all the adventures, stunning views, beautiful places in Spain and it was such a pleasure to relive the Camino Frances with you.

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    1. I’m so happy you ‘walked’ with us Henrietta! To have reached Santiago was such a wonderful moment and when the pilgrim certificate was handed over to me, I really felt I achieved something very special. Spain is such a beautiful country and to explore it on foot for 29 days were awesome … I think I wouldn’t mind doing it all over again 😉.

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