....To Santiago

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We are all pilgrims

On October 30th, late in the afternoon, we staggered up the Mount of Joy overlooking Santiago, filled with disappointment that all we could see were sprawling modern buildings with the great cathedral completely obscured from our gaze.  We had envisioned arriving at the crest and seeing the original medieval city in all its splendor, cathedral spires flashing like a beacon, laying invitingly before us in the valley.  Not the case.  Nonetheless, we wended our way down the final two kilometers of a thirty-two kilometer day through the suburban scree which jumbles around the outskirts of modern Santiago.

Finally, we found the great cathedral in view and we made our way immediately, not to the Pilgrim's Office to get our Compostelas, but directly to our new hostel quarters at the Seminario Mayor de Hospedaria, an arm's length from the cathedral.  This is a massive two-city-block building housing several hundred simple rooms for dead-tired pilgrims at reasonable cost.  It was a wonderful place to decompress and debrief with other pilgrims.  We collapsed in a heap of dirty clothes in our tiny cell, which, though it be small and spartan, had a private bathroom with a hot shower--bliss!

Stuart made himself at home immediately in pilgrim-style:

The next day, All Hallows Eve, we made our way to the Pilgrim's Office, and stood for the obligatory photo in front of the Cathedral:

With great joy we met up with our loosely affiliated camino family as they one-by-one entered the city through the square in front of the Seminario Mayor...What a great location with the Camino wending its way right past us so that we were privileged to witness every pilgrim arriving in the city for the first time, heading doggedly to the Pilgrim's Office!

We spent the next two days exploring Santiago and
meeting up with our camino friends for a farewell dinner.  Many of them were planning their walk to Finisterre or Muxia in the following days, but we had decided to forgo those final kilometers leading to the Atlantic Ocean in favor of returning home a few days early. Somehow we knew that we were done with our walking, and Hurricane Sandy hitting the East Coast of the U.S. made our return home more urgent since everyone we knew and loved was being affected by the storm.

"We are all pilgrims -- grateful for the harvest and yet longing for home."
                                                                        --Margaret Scott

Lastly, we attended the All Saint's Day Mass at  Santiago Cathedral, a very grand service full of processions with pilgrims flowing in and filling the aisles with their mochillas as they arrived, the Archbishop of Santiago presiding, and the famous butofumeiro which was swung through the transepts right above our heads.

On a journey filled with rituals--pilgrim Masses, leaving stones on pilgrim-built cairns and memorials along the Way, embracing the statue of St. James in the cathedral, the foot-preparation rituals for each day's walk--I think the rituals that touched me most deeply were the ones I shared with the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who have come before me as well as those who will come after.  I am thinking of the most profound ritual of standing with pilgrims in the dark corner of the Cathedral at the Gate of Glory below the column depicting the Tree of Jesse, where atop St. James sits serenely holding a scroll, with each of us silently holding out our hand to "touch" the column in that place where the impression of a million pilgrims' hands has worn a one-inch deep impression of a human hand on the Tree of Jesse.  Pilgrims are no longer allowed to touch the column; it is surrounded by scaffolding to keep us at a distance, but every pilgrim stands near it, and instinctively holds out their hand in the air to line up with that impression as if to touch that place, that place of arrival.  It is, I think, a pilgrim ritual with great power; the sense of solidarity with so many other souls in marking the moment of the end of a pilgrimage is inexpressible in words.

Buen Camino!

Stuart and I walked 600 km of the total distance of 800 km from St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France  to Santiago, Spain.  We skipped a 200 km section in the Meseta region.  We are happy to report that we had a blister-free Camino!

For anyone interested in how we progressed daily, here is the data:

September 27    7.50 km   St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France  >>> Orrison Albergue, France
September 28   20.0 km   Orrison  >>>  Monastery at Roncevalles, Spain

September 29   21.0 km   Roncevalles   >>>  Zubiri, El Palo de Avellano Albergue

September 30   15.0 km     Zubiri  >>>  Pamplona (Villava) Trinidad de Arre Monastery

October 1        9.7 km      Pamplona   >>>  Cizur Menor, Albergue Roncal

October 2       18.0 km     Cizur Menor  >>>  Eunate Church, Eunate Albergue

October 3       23.0 km     Eunate  >>>  Villatuarte, Casa de Magica Albergue

October 4        4.5  km    Villatuarte  >>>  Estella,  San Miguel Albergue

October 5       21.0 km     Estella  >>>  Los Arcos, Casa de Austria II Albergue

October 6       19.5 km     Los Arcos  >>>  Viana,  Monastery (municipal) Albergue

October 7      21.5 km     Viana  >>> Logrono  >>>  Navarette, La Casa del Peregrino Albergue

October 8      16.5 km     Navarette  >>>  Najera, La Juderia Albergue

October 9      21.0 km     Najera  >>>  Santo Domingo de Calzada, Monastery (municipal) Albergue

October 10    17.9 km     Santo Domingo  >>> Villamayor del Rio (Burgos) El Camino eres Tu Alb.

October 11      5.0 km     Villamayor del Rio  >>>  Belorado

October 11      45 km      Belorado  >>>  Burgos (by bus),  Municipal Albergue

October 12    180 km      Burgos  >>>>  Leon (by bus), Monastery (municipal) Albergue

October 13    28.0 km     Leon  >>>  Villar de Mazarife,  Tio Pepe Albergue

October 14   15.5 km      Mazarife  >>> Hospital de Orbigo, Albergue Verde

October 15   18.0 km      Hospital de Orbigo  >>>  Astorga, Plaza Azur Hotel

October 18   22.0 km      Astorga  >>>  Rabanal, Confraternity of St. James Albergue

October 19   16.5 km      Rabanal  >>>  Acebo  (Monte Irago), La Trucha del Arco Iris casa rural

October 20   15.0 km      Acebo  >>>  Ponferrada,  Bierzo Plaza Hotel

October 21   21.0 km      Ponferrada  >>>  Villafranca del Bierzo, De La Piedra Albergue

October 22   19.5 km      Villafranca  >>>  Herrerias, Casa do Ferreiro Albergue

October 23   16.3 km      Herrerias  >>>  Alto de Poio (O'Cebreiro), Santa Maria Albergue

October 24   24.0 km      Alto de Poio  >>>  Samos, (monastic city) Hostal Victoria

October 25    15.6 km     Samos  >>>  Sarria, Escalinata Hostal

October 26    23.9 km      Sarria  >>>  Portomarin,  Posada del Camino Hostal

October 27    15.5 km      Portomarin  >>>  Ventas de Naron,  Albergue Turistico

October 28    27.5 km      Ventas de Naron  >>>  Melide, O Apalpador Albergue

October 29    26.0 km      Melide  >>>  Salcade, Pousade de Salcade  (municipal) Albergue

October 30   32.0 km       Salcade  >>>  Santiago, Seminario Mayor Hospederia (Hostal)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Video Clips

It is difficult to share the experience of a pilgrimage with others, so when I found this video, I thought I should post it here: it expresses so beautifully the Camino experience!

And this ancient pilgrim song:


Tous les matins nous prenons le chemin

tous les matins nous allons plus loin.

Jour après jour la route nous appelle

c'est la voix de Compostelle

Ultreia, ultreia
Et suseia
Deus adjuva nos!

Chemin de terre et chemin de foi,

voie millénaire de l'Europe,

la voie lactée de Charlemagne, ces le chemin de tous les jacquets.


Et tout là-bas au bout du continent,

messire Jacques nous attend

depuis toujours son sourire fixe

le soleil qui meurt au Finistère.

(letra y música: Jean Claude Bénazet)


Every morning we take the Camino,

Every morning we go farther,

Day after day the road calls us,

It’s the voice of Compostela!

Onward! Onward!
And upward!
God assist us!

Way of earth and way of faith,

Ancient road of Europe,

The Milky Way of Charlemagne,

It’s the Chemin of all the Santiago pilgrims!


And over there at the end of the continent,

Santiago waits for us,

His smile always fixed

On the sun that dies at Finisterre.