Day 28 Oct 11th Santiago de Compostela
Hi from Santiago, about 4 hours after my breakfast earlier today at my alberge in Arzua, a large - ish, and very depressed looking town about 40 km from Santiago (I recall the well known Camino travel writer, John Brierley speaking of one town with a 'delightful down-at-heal ambience '). Well that describes many of the larger towns for me, and you can omit the word 'delightful' if you want. Many large housing complexes stand empty and neglected, as well as factories and industrial sites, and many hotels seem to have been hurriedly and cheaply built. These observations reflect in no way on the friendliness and kindness of the Spanish whom I have found go out of their way to assist.
I've just arrived at my hotel in Santiago De Compostela, a former De La Salle boarding and day school, and now a school with the boarding part converted to an alberge and very nice hotel, highly recommended by a woman from Adelaide who saw me looking at a map in the street near the bus station. I'd met a German woman on the bus from Arzua and was planning to go with her to the tourist office when I realised my hotel (where I also had to collect my trolley case) was not far from the bus station. So I came directly here, shown to the door by my new friend from Adelaide. She's an interesting lady, speaks Spanish and seems to be an expert on all you want to know about the Camino, Spain, Santiago De Compostela and this hotel in particular. She told me where to eat and get the best tapas, and when I mentioned the brothers (there was a portrait of De La Salle on the wall of the foyer) and that I was a Marist Brother, she confessed ignorance on Brothers and things Catholic generally.
So I might find this bar, and try the tapas and a glass of wine. They said my room won't be ready until 2pm. Caroline (the lady from Adelaide) also said that said this is Spain's national holiday weekend and that tomorrow at mass they will swing the censor, which they don't do often so I'm lucky.
As I looked out of my bus window this morning at the pilgrims walking into Santiago, I was filled with admiration for them and indeed felt a bit envious. It really is an achievement to have walked all the way from St Jean Pied de Port and even places beyond, something I can't claim to have achieved. (this time!!!) I hope Br.Jeff, my provincial is reading this!
All the best then from Michael in Santiago De Compostela. Know that tomorrow at mass I'll be remembering you all. God bless, Michael