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
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.
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.