I started the morning early, with a vending machine café con leche from the albergue kitchen (Camino rule: never pass up an opportunity for coffee first thing in the morning!). I headed out in the dark, leaving before sunrise, though the sky began to lighten soon after I started walking. This last stage was quick- just 10km- and easy, too. Other pilgrims were on the way but not too many, and despite the short distance, I could feel myself wanting to move faster and faster, wanting to speed up my arrival to the city and to the cathedral. Arriving in Santiago is always exciting!
And then there I was, navigating through the city, walking under the arch and into the plaza and standing beneath the great cathedral. Santiago de Compostela, I’d arrived once more! My next order of business was to find another cup of coffee and why does it seem to be so difficult to find an open bar in Santiago in the morning hours? I went to a place not far from the cathedral after wandering around for 20 minutes, one of the only open places I could find. I ordered- you guessed it!- a café con leche and some breakfast and while I was standing at the bar, waiting to order, a pilgrim who’d just walked from Tui on the Camino Portugués struck up a conversation with me. He joined me at my table, and before long a friend of his arrived as well. We only sat together for about 20 minutes but even in that short amount of time, I felt as though I had several more pilgrim friends. We exchanged contact info, Anne said- “If you’re ever in Porto, please let me know!”
I walked back to the square and settled down, my back against a stone column, my face turned up towards the sun, my feet pointing to the cathedral, and a pilgrim from Lithuania walked by. I caught his eye and we smiled and he raised his fist in the air, in victory. He took a seat near me and we both sat there in the sun, letting Santiago sink in.
Later I saw a Spanish pilgrim. “Team Primitivo!” he exclaimed, after saying how happy he was to see me in the city. There were others I didn’t see, but even these few encounters warmed my heart, reminded me that even as I go my own way and often stay alone, I’m truly never alone out here. And then, onto my hotel, a little place in this city that I know, the place where I always stay (if I can get a bed!), and I love that I have a place here, a tiny room with a single bed and wooden desk and shared bathrooms on the half-floors with maybe some of the best views in the city.
And then lunch down the street, this central but quiet street in Santiago, and I arrive just as a table is clearing and the owner is so kind- really, everyone has been so kind here- and I sit back with a glass of Ribeiro and watch as the pigeons peck at crumbs on the ground, and listen to the voices in the streets and feel so grateful, so content, so happy to be back here.