After the kids left, things seemed very quiet. Mike and I got busy buying another small suitcase and packing up the souvenirs and gifts acquired during our time in Spain. We decided it would be less expensive and more reliable to check an extra bag than to try to ship a big, heavy box.
On August 17, we took a 5-hour train ride northwest to the small city of Santiago de Compostela. This is the capital of the autonomous region of Galicia. It is also where a large network of ancient pilgrim routes, stretching across Europe, come together at the tomb of St. James. Known as the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), these trails bring hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to the city each year. Thousands of other visitors, like Mike and me, enjoy the cool, wet climate, and being present to see people from all over the world reach their goal of completing the Camino. A thumbnail history of the Camino: it began in the early 9th century when, according to Christian belief, the tomb of the apostle James was discovered in the area of Galicia now known as Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims traveled from afar to pay their respects to the remains of the saint. There were centuries during which the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela tapered off, due to wars, the Reformation, and other influences. It regained popularity in the late 1970s.
It was interesting to visit the Pilgrimage Museum to see the network of routes on a map - like a river system, with small brooks joining streams which join rivers, most of which join together to make the Camino Francés. This route starts in a village in France, five miles from Spain’s border, crosses the Pyrenees, and meanders through villages, over hills, along streams across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela, a 500-mile journey. Some pilgrims walk, some ride bikes, some drive, and some do part of the trail…..Mike and I walked about a quarter of a mile on it!
We stayed in Santiago de Compostela for four nights and enjoyed walking through the Cathedral de Santiago, built over several centuries and the heart of the city. There was a long line of believers and/or pilgrims who engaged in the ritual of touching and/or kissing a gilded, gem-encrusted statue of St. James behind the altar. Mike and I waited in line and walked by the statue, which gave us an interesting view from behind the altar, (where the statue is located), into the cathedral. No touching or kissing was involved. We trekked around some parks situated on hills that offered nice views of the cathedral in the distance. We ate the food, enjoyed the street musicians, and took naps. It was especially fun to be out of Madrid’s arid weather and in a place where it rains off and on, and where there are actual clouds in the sky at times!
It was good to return to our home in Madrid. Mike and I have taken to calling the apartment “home”, and referring to our house in Phoenix as “home-home”, just to be clear with each other. We’re thinking about popping in on the last few places in Madrid that we haven’t yet visited (not many!), mentally beginning to pack for Boston, and finally: “home-home”!