Day Fifty Three:Santiago de Compostella: HEY EVERYONE, TRIP IS ONLY 1/2 DONE! - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze

May 19, 2017

Day Fifty Three:Santiago de Compostella: HEY EVERYONE, TRIP IS ONLY 1/2 DONE!

We got some Guestbook messages and emails congratulating us on reaching Santiago. These were great. But somehow we have the impression that people are assuming the trip is now over. No way. Santiago was a great destination, but it comes at only the mid point of our circle tour!

Among the various options of where to go from here, we have chosen to continue up the Atlantic coast of France, using the Velodysee cycle route. That will take us to the Loire, and La Loire a Velo. There is much cycling fun still to come!

Today will feature fun of another kind, as we struggle with Spanish trains, busses, and or mail to actually get out of this darn place. Now at 8:00 a.m. we are heading to the post office to see if we can mail ourselves away (or at least the bikes, to or near France.) Stay tuned, it figures to be another Grampies epic battle!

It seems that most people who arrive here by bicycle use the post office to ship it home. It seems a little strange compared to the norms in other countries, but people here seem to accept that this is the way to do it. We did go to the post office, and it would have worked except for one detail: No postal service is instant, so we would only be picking up our bikes at or near France sometime next week. It's not posible to keep Grampies of their bikes that long!

So we fired up the GPS and stopped by the bus station. They sold us two sturdy bike bags and two tickets to Irun (on the Atlantic, at the French border). It will take over 12 hours to get there, but we and our bikes leave at 6 (in three hours from when this is being written).

With the transport question resolved, at least for now, we were free to atend another pilgrims' mass. Why another? We had received a message from Marcal and Sara (Spanish/Swedish couple we met on the road) saying that they are still in town and would be there. Moreover, they had heard that the bottifumeiro would be swung today.

This time, if anythng, the crowd was thicker. It is hard to estimate the percentage of actual pilgrims, because many are cleaned up and without their packs, but a tourist seems like a fairly easy item to spot. Our guess is that the congregation (audience) today was over 1000, and of these half were tourists. It seems unfair - seats are at a premium, starting over an hour before, and individuals grab bench space and then hold it with purses and jackets for others arriving later. The whole effect is that many, who have walked 1000 kms or more, or less to be there, are left to stand on the edges, while tour groups or other low life elements use and reserve the seats.

I was impressed again by the "singing nun" who Marcal labelled the star of the show. She changed up her repertoire just a little today, adding interest for me. I surreptitiously tried recording the sound with my camera, but as yet do not know if it worked. It will have to wait until we get home, to extract the audio and post it here. I found the singing added immensely to the mystical feel of the place and the ceremony.

Also today, the lineup of multilingual priests included some new languages, including one Asian one that we did not recognize. The English one also was not only a different person from yesterday, but had a different message.

The theatrical highlight of the whole thing was reserved for the end. This is the swinging of the botafumeiro through a high arc down the length of the church. A special team of eight handled the swinging. There was something in the smell of the incense and in the swinging that gave an eery medieval feel.

Interestingly, as others have noted before, the uneasily suppressed use of smartphone cameras fell completely apart when the botafumeiro swung. Then suddenly dozens of the little devils (that clearly had only been pretending to be turned off) emerged and were held high to capture the scene.

As a pilgrim that had cycled 2200 km, I was standing on the sidelines, 4 people deep, and only got a glimpse of what was going on, capturing that glimpse nonetheless, with my equally illegal Canon camera!

After the service we stood with Marcal and Sara in the courtyard behind the cathedral, trying to absorb some time with this sweet young couple who we may never see again. Others were doing the same, and we got to briefly meet a German couple that had met on the Camino and who had now returned to successfully do it again, with their 8 month old baby girl.

Our final Camino activity was a visit to the pilgrimage museum, that stands just beside the cathedral. Admission is half price for pilgrims, but our creanciales are packed and the man would not believe us. I would have thought that sun faded dirty clothes and blotchy tans only where straps and short fingered gloves don't cover would have been sufficient. No matter though, Dodie noticed that admission is free for "over 65 or retired", and we were able to prove our age. I asked the man if to prove "retired" we would have to show a bankbook wth no income. I think this little joke was lost on him.

The museum was fascinating, though of course it filled our heads with too much information. Some general themes were the role of pilgrimage in various cultures and religions, the story and development of the St James pilgrimage, the development of the city of Santiago and the cathedral, plus Camino art, music, souvenirs, and crafts such as silversmithing and the carving of jet.

From an old Camino guidebook at the museum
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I would not say that we are Caminoed out just yet. In fact, the experience seemed a little richer today, what with the botafumeiro, the singing nun's new songs, the museum, and remeeting our new friends. Reluctantly, then, I am putting away this keyboard, and we are throwing our bags onto the bikes for the brief trek to the bus station. Tomorrow will bring a new day, on the Atlantic Coast of France!

We bought bike bags at the bus station.
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The congregation today, more than overflowing the seating.
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The botafumiero swings
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And the cameras come out
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Camino baby
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Sara and Marcal - goodbye for now
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Aerial view of tangled streets near cathedral
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St James in the square by our hotel, 1937
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The gothic cathedral through the modern windows of the pilgrims' museum
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A selection of St James statues at the museum. We had seen many on the Camino
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Last look at our favourite square by the cathedral
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Packing up at the station
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The (front) wheels came off the bikes.
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Today's ride: 6 km (4 miles)
Total: 2,290 km (1,422 miles)

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