Camino del Norte Days 43-45: Arzua to Santiago de Compostela

We made it! We arrived yesterday morning in Santiago de Compostela along with my mom and received our Compostela certificates.

After a night with very little sleep in the Arzua Xunta albergue, we took the bus back to Palas del Rei and checked into Albergue Buen Camino. We were among the first to check in, so were able to get a three-bed room just for us. The facilities were very nice and we were able to combine our dirty clothes to do a big load of laundry. It felt great to have clean and dry clothes!

We utilized the little kitchen to make a delicious dinner of pumpkin soup, spinach salad and hamburgers with fried red peppers and cheese. A bottle of red wine and a pint of chocolate ice cream finished off the meal perfectly. We slept well in our little room with no snoring, though we were right next to a bathroom which shared a window with our room so the light shone into our room whenever someone went to the bathroom.

The next morning we were using the wifi downstairs to Skype call my dad, when the owner came in and told us we had to leave! She pointed to the door and said “closed.” The sign on the door said it closed at 8:30, and it was only 8:15, but they  made us leave and then cut off the wifi when we tried to use it outside!

Dave used the day to get some work done while my mom and I walked to Melide. We had a beautiful walk of about 15 km. I was glad to learn there was a new albergue in Melide, since I have never been a fan of the huge Xunta albergue there and the one private albergue has pretty bad reviews. The new albergue, O Cruceiro, costs €12 and is only about 1 month old. The installations are new and quite nice. We were given a room for 4 to ourselves. There is a nice laundry room, big clean bathrooms, and a dining room with a microwave.

My mom and I went for a stroll around town and soon after returning discovered that my mom’s camera was missing. She remember laying it down on the counter at a shop we went to, so we went sprinting back. I asked the fellow behind the counter if he had happened to see a camera lately, and he happily produced my mom’s camera with a smile. Crisis averted!

We went to Pulperia Ezequiel for dinner for the obligatory octopus meal. We enjoyed two hearty raciones of Pulpo Gallego, some Galician soup and a bottle of chilled Ribeiro wine. Delicious!

The next day, my mom and I walked from Melide to Salceda, about 26 km, while Dave took the bus to Boimorto to walk the final alternate stage of the Camino del Norte for our book research. The trails come back together near Salceda, so we reserved 3 beds in the small 8-bed albergue the is part of a rural tourism complex. It’s a heavenly little place with a grassy lawn and reclining lawn chairs by the fish pond. We had a pilgrim menu that was quite tasty, with cream of vegetable soup for a starter and a grilled hake fillet with vegetables followed by flan. We had a good night, though some of our bunkmates didn’t come to their beds until 3am… None of them were up by 8am when we finally turned on the lights…

The next day we walked about 23 kilometers to Monte de Gozo. These final days to Santiago have some pleasant scenery, but overall I find them rather boring, so this day took some perseverence. The cloudy sky threatened rain, but held back until just as we arrived at the massive Xunta albergue in Monte de Gozo. This complex resembles a military barracks, with rows of pilgrim accommodations and its own cafeteria, self-service laundromat, gift shop, hotel and camping area. In spite of the utilitarian building, I rather like staying here. The rooms are small with only 8 beds, the bathrooms are separated by gender and have doors, and the kitchen is well-equipped.

We carried food from Arca to cook our own dinner in the albergue. With the windy rain raging outside we were glad not to have to venture our for our meal. Dave made our pasta with garbanzo bean sauce, which was delicious and filling. Mom and I ventured out to the cafeteria to check our email on the wifi.

Yesterday morning we prepared our coffee in the albergue kitchen and began our triumphal entry (only 4.7km) to the city of Santiago! We headed straight for the cathedral and then went to the Pilgrim Office. Usually I have had to wait in line quite a while to get my certificate of completion, but this time we didn’t have to wait at all. We had a celebratory second breakfast at a cozy cafe, then went to the cathedral for the pilgrim mass. We arrived around 11:30 for the noon mass, but all the seats were already taken! We managed to find one seat and sat through the rather long Mass. We got up to leave at the end, as it didn’t seem they were going to swing the huge censor (called a Botofumeiro, or smoke-belcher). So we left and took a look around the Cathedral gift shop. We decided to poke our heads back in, just in case they did use the botofumeiro afterall, and saw it just as it was losing momentum and coming to a stop! We were a bit sad to miss the whole show, but were also glad to get away from the crowds of people.

We slept that first night in Santiago in the Seminario Mayor San Martin Pinario. Dave stayed here five years ago with a group, and remembers it being quite rustic, with nuns serving bowls of coffee for breakfast. Apparently, the hotel has been privatized as it’s a rather slick operation nowadays, but they still offer simple pilgrim rooms for €23 (single), €40 (double) or €60 (quad) including a large breakfast buffet. Our little room was not the cleanest with a rather moldy bathroom, but it was still a treat to have our own room and we really enjoyed the buffet breakfast with unlimited coffee!

This morning we asked if we could book another night, but it was already booked full so we went around the block to Pension Santa Cristina, which has rooms with shared bath for €30 for a double, €25 for a single. Much of today we have spent working on our research and other upcoming projects, as well as purchasing our train tickets to Madrid for tomorrow night. We had intended to travel to Finisterre for a night or two, but the weather has been so dreary that the seaside doesn’t sound all that appealing.

I’m proud of my mom, who walked over 250 kilometers from Astorga to Santiago!