Monday, May 22, 2023

Day 15 - 21 May - Aldea Picaraña to Santiago de Compostela

As Elton John famously sang:

Hey chaps, hold it tight together
We’re on the verge of something
And it’s gonna last forever
We'll kill the fatted calf tonight of the caliphate
Replace it with the way of St James and it’ll be reyt

Drink a bene, bene, bene ‘n hot
Bene, bene, bene, bene, bene, bene, bene ‘n hot

A chilly start with a beautiful, slightly misty blue sky was beckoning as I was unpegging and folding up the team laundry that had been drying overnight. I am always first up in the mornings. Andrea says that my shuffling about is like a gradual wake-up call whereas Mick reckons that I’m a coughing, spluttering, noisy old git.

A rare treat; the ability to make oneself a cup of tea when staying in accommodation in Spain.

Our last day on Camino was starting well and we weren’t even out of the door yet. That particular moment arrived at just after eight o’clock and we were off. A mere ten miles of walking ahead of us.

We were soon on woodland paths, pleasant options to keep us hidden from the converging transport arteries one would expect when nearing any large city. The initial chill of the day enabled us to make good progress, despite all being mainly uphill, and we didn’t stop for coffee until reaching dormitory town Milladoiro around two hours later. That was it, journey pretty much broken by ten o’clock. We set off once more. Across the road. Short downhill path. Short uphill path and…………there it was, the city of Santiago de Compostela with the spires of its cathedral prominent amongst the city sprawl before us. Only around two miles away for a crow but four miles for us passing under and over, through and around. With two of these last four miles under our belt, we then caught up with Tim and Laurence and with whom we then walked into the city itself. 

Santiago, like many Spanish cities, can be a bit of a maze at the centre. Throw in a big cycling event which leads to entrance roads being closed and that adds to the fun. Despite having entered the city from the south, we arrived at Praza do Obradoiro, to gaze up at the cathedral, via the same entrance, same beggar woman and same bagpiper as last year. It is a delight to witness the excitement of the new arrivals as they reach the square and soak it all in.

This time round, it hadn’t been our intention to queue for our Compostela (official certificate of completion) so, after taking the usual pictures we made arrangements to meet up later with Tim and Laurence and the four of us set forth to find a nice location for drinks which we did, via several hundred steps (sorry about that team), in the garden of the Hotel Costa Vella. Mick and I treated ourselves to bottles of 1906 and the girls vino tinto and blanco. It was nice and comfortable there so we didn’t bother moving and, hey presto, another two rounds of drinks later it was time to go find our accommodation. When booking said accommodation, I knew that it was going to be close to the cathedral but I hadn’t realised quite how close. As it transpired, we were staying almost opposite the Michelin restaurant Casa Marcelo where Mrs C and I had dined with Michael from Switzerland, upon completing our Camino, last year. It also happens to be our Mick’s favourite street in Santiago (something to do with the Hortas Lavanderia laundry - he’s strange) so everyone was happy. 

St James, as he would look today

Later on, at around six o’clock, we ventured out. Mick and I had a beer sat outside Agarimo bar whilst the girls did a bit of window shopping and then we all set up at Sala Riquela, where Tim and Laurence joined us, sitting outside in the sunshine. My first beer of choice was the 1906 Red but at 8% it’s definitely not one for a session so, in another throwback to last year, I then partook of a bottle of Estrella Galicia’s sin gluten beer which I last enjoyed when at Casa Marcelo. From there we moved on to find food which we did in a delightfully tatty little place (definitely not Casa Marcelo) which was very busy and very much in the spirit of the Camino with groups of friends breaking bread together, some perhaps for the last time. It was vino tinto time and we spent a last hour in the company of Tim and Laurence before bidding our fond farewells.

The four of us - the four musketeers - had to finish the night properly. Restaurant and cafe bar Casa Paredes is a bar that most pilgrims will recognise, it being situated down the steps from the cathedral and Parador hotel and where you turn right to head to the Pilgrims’ Office. It also happens to be at the top of our street, about seventy yards up from our apartment. We entered. It wasn’t overly busy but we didn’t want food so we weren’t priority punters. I had a word. Immediately, some poor schmuck on his own was relocated mid-drink to make room for us. The ceremony began. Four cafe con leches. Two tarta santiagos. And two Benedictines.

Many of you reading this will not be aware of the history between Burnley (our home town) and Benedictine, a herbal liquor made in France. Just google Benedictine with Burnley Miners to find out more. In Burnley it is typically taken with hot water, a combination known locally as Bene 'n' hotHowever, few if any are aware of the history of this drink as it relates to our St James. If you have read my book (who hasn’t?), you will know that following the verification of his remains some eight hundred years after his death, our hero appeared on a milk white charger to lead the outnumbered christian forces to victory against the muslim caliphate in the Battle of Clavijo. Initially confused and terrified by the appearance of the apparition, St James ordered that every man be served with a “Bene 'n' hot” to steady their nerves, with the promise of more of the same once they had driven their foe “down the road”. This gave rise to the original version of the immortal Musketeer cry, and still heard in Burnley to this day, of “all for one and one for t’road”.

A wonderful way to finish our Camino. Tomorrow we say goodbye to Mick and Andrea. We have loved their company and grateful, on this occasion, not to have walked just the two of us. That’s it folks. Buen Camino!

No comments:

Post a Comment