It was Saturday and we had a short walk that took us through residential areas and wooded paths as we came within sight of Santiago.
We stopped just short of our final destination. Five kilometers from the Cathedral of Santiago at an interesting spot called Monte de Gozo. We could have walked in and then back out to our accommodations but we didn’t. We stopped and took pictures, had showers, did laundry one last time, visited with fellow peregrinos and spent an afternoon in a pub on the property.
Overall the walk was an easy 14 kilometers and my feet didn’t start to register any pain until we’d gone 9 of them. Weather was great for walking and before we knew it, we were there by 12:30 pm. We took a pile of photos of the monument and from the monument back towards Santiago. We could see the Cathedral gleaming in the distance. Pilgrims and tourists and vendors milled around on the sidewalk around the monument and in the parking area by the monument while other pilgrims kept walking on by, too close to Santiago to stop.
Eventually we took to the road again but only for a short walk down to our “albergue.” I use quote marks because it turned out to be less hostel and more hotel. Block building after block building with spaces that looked made for conferences and special meetings plus a very hipster vibing gastro-pub. The property was unusual but nice and we had landed too early to check in. So we just had to hang around before we could get into our room at 3 pm and we did what you do on the Camino de Santiago, we found a quiet spot and enjoyed a café con leche.
Unfortunately, or fortunately – it’s all about perspective – something got lost in translation and we were given two decaf coffees. They still tasted great.
When we finally got to our room, I took a top bunk on one side and Bill was on a bottom bunk on the other side. We could see we would have two other pilgrims staying the night with us. One of them had not arrived yet but the other had arrived, left his things and gone out again. Perhaps he’d even gone all the way in to Santiago and would come back out to spend the night.
As we did our laundry in a nearby building, some older pilgrims joined us to get their clothes washed as well. They were from Canada and specifically from the city where my oldest son and his family lived. We talked all things Camino and Canada for a bit as we waited on our clothes. It was always a gift to talk to other pilgrims and hear about the Camino from their perspective and experiences along the way. Trading our stories made the whole experience richer for all of us.
We ate supper at the pub and then walked up to the statue of the pilgrims at the top of the hill, looking down into Santiago. It was an amazing evening and I took more pictures in that spot that I had on any normal day on the Camino. As we stood there, the end literally in sight, I was full of emotion and awe. It had been a journey that caused me to question my sanity in the early days and now here we were, on the doorstep, one sleep and a very short walk away from the end.
That night, as we turned in, we met one of our roommates and fellow pilgrims: Francesco. I recognized him from a previous pilgrim’s mass we had attended when he had been recruited from our small crowd to be a reader. We talked for a little bit about his own journey and he told us he would be up very early in the morning as he intended to be the very first in line at the pilgrim’s office in Santiago to receive his Compostela. Again, another gift from the Camino, these unexpected connections that made the entire journey that much more meaningful.