Santiago de Compostela
My father always mentioned how beautiful the North of Spain is. He has never been able to experience it, but my family and I have entered Galicia, and our first stop was Santiago de Compostela. Of course, we had to visit this legendary town which is the destination for so many pilgrims. Our days hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are reaching Santiago de Compostela yearly. You see the pilgrims everywhere, and they are easily spotted even without their backpack and walking stick. All of them have either walking pants or (go figure) training pants, the tight version for running. I can't imagine walking in them, getting warm, sweaty or wet.
With or without tights, all pilgrims seemed very happy to have reached Santiago, even if many were limping. Some pilgrims have only walked for a few days or as a German guy we met walked for two months. He said it had been an incredible journey and he had made friends for life. That many new friendships formed along the pilgrimage, one can see in all the bars and restaurants. They are filled with groups that unmistakenly have formed during their respective journey.
People from many different cultures who came together and found common ground for their story about their El Camino de Santiago. Many feelings get expressed in Santiago. There is a mixture of excitement to have completed a big journey but also sadness that it is all over. Leaving new friends and leaving the Camino to go back to their daily life somewhere in the world. All this creates an extraordinary atmosphere that you see and sense if you take the time to observe it.
We made a little pilgrimage from the campground to the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, in total four kilometres;-). On the way, Milo got a walking stick, and that made the walk much more fun for him. Even the rain could not stop us now. Then at the cathedral, Ronja could of course not come in. Hardy went with the kids, and I waited with Ronja.
Ronja waiting in front of the church
Ronja relaxing after the pilgrimage walk
The next day we returned to join a “misa”. We had read that it was a major service where they might even swing the famous Botafumerio filling the cathedral with a heavenly smell.
The Botafumerio hanging from the roof
Since the weather was cloudy, we could leave Ronja in the Caravan, and we could all go. However, pretty soon we discovered that it was not a big service. We had mixed up the days. A proof that we are in vacation mode and oblivious to the day of the week.
The service which took place was the daily pilgrim service in a side chapel of the cathedral. Since we in some way (the smallest) also have done parts of Camino de Santiago and Milo wanted to attend a service we went in. We got a disapproving glance from the lady helping the priest when we came in with the kids. She asked if we knew this was a service. Well, in the end, she was maybe right to give us this look since we left after ten minutes. We did not succeed this evening attending a service, but we found a bar afterwards serving heavenly good tapas.
We can for sure recommend A Taberna do Bispo. Make sure to try the scallops and the Pimientos de Padrón, small green peppers. The beautiful scallop shell they can clean for you making your kids super happy. It is the same shell that you see hanging on so many pilgrim backpacks.
We concluded the evening with a stroll through the old town. We missed having Ronja with us, but we got to cuddle a lovely dog belonging to a street seller.
During our five days in Santiago we had mostly rain, but with rain clothes and a warm caravan to get back to we still had a great time. It also helped to have a shopping centre within walking distance of the campground. I could even make it to a movie once. I had not been for a movie for over a year. Also, on this trip, I have not watched TV for over two months. I saw Han Solo even though I am not a Star Wars fan. For a long time, I did not know the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek until I met Hardy and he was terrified when he figured out that “weakness” of mine. Still, I enjoyed Han Solo and not only because I had some alone time, but also the actor playing Han was so cute.
Cidade da Cultura de Galicia
One day we went to a very peculiar place the Cidade da Cultura de Galicia where, as I had read, a great playground could be found. We were almost alone in that big area, and Ronja was loose joining the kids' play. The buildings were impressive and beautiful, but somehow felt uncomplete and unused. As I learned later contruction was indeed not complete and had stopped for good in 2013. I guess seeing kids having fun playing is worth a few millions ;-)
Another day we did an excursion to Fisterra. That was a fantastic experience of the "end of the world", stunning views included. As Hardy wrote, we walked the three kilometres from Fisterra to Cape Fisterra with the kids on a path next to the main road. We wanted to do some pilgriming again. Milo had his walking stick, and Kira had Hardy's shoulders, so we did pretty well.
If you also take the walk and feel the urge to pee, let me tell you that there are bathrooms at the end. You don't have to use the nature toilet on the way up. There is also a nice cafe for refreshments and even a little hotel if you don't have the strength to walk back the same day. It was a great excursion that I would recommend to anyone.
Amazing views from the cafe
On the way back we met a white-bearded man who gave Kira and Milo a postcard of a peace dove. He had been walking for five years and will walk for another five. Afterwards, he plans to sail to Canada to live in a hut in the mountains and write a book. His book will be about how the world can live in peace in a different kind of economy. I wish him good luck. We need more of these kind people in the world that want to share love and spread kind words.
Our days in Santiago were filled with meeting people and feeling the fantastic, friendly atmosphere created by all the pilgrims. I am very excited to explore more about Galicia to be able to share pictures and stories with my father.
What to do in Santiago de Compostela
- Visiting Catedral de Santiago de Compostela (entrance is free).
- Have some great tapas, for example at A Taberna do Bispo
- Buy a Tarta de Santiago cake at Rúa de San Fransisco 36
and eat it with delight at the little Praza de Fonseca near the cathedral.
- Go to the playground at Cidade da Cultura de Galicia and bring a picknick.
- Take a day excursion to Fisterra. Have lunch in town and then walk up to the lighthouse and have well-deserved ice cream and coffee at the cafe.
- On a rainy day visit the As Cancelas shopping mall where the kids can play at the indoor playground near the food court. There is also a movie theatre, but movies are dubbed in Spanish. There are some days when they show movies in the original language. Have a look at their website.
To see more pictures from Santiago de Compostela and it's surroundings please click here
To read more about Fisterra click here