First full day in Santiago.
The rain eased off overnight, and the streets and back lanes of Santiago were glistening as Jennifer and I made our way to our favourite brekkie spot, Cafe Agarimo – not far from the hotel.
The hotel by the way – the Literario San Bieito – was wonderful. We’ll be staying there when we return at the end of the tour. The hotelier, Amadeo, could not have been more helpful – and the room we had was simply beautiful.
Breakfast was coffee and ham/cheese/tomato toast, done the way only the Spanish can do it –
We then did a quick sortie to the Pilgrim’s Office, to pick up the Credentials for our group – plus we bought some goodies for the Pilgrim’s Pack. Then we walked a brisk 5kms to the outskirts of town to the Cortez Ingles – the big department store. I needed to get a bracket for my Garmin GPS – I’d forgotten to bring it from Australia.
Back then to the Cathedral. We hadn’t had a chance to go inside the previous evening. It was almost empty when we walked in – and after a contemplative time, allowing the energies of that extraordinary place to seep into me, I began to take some shots of the Botafumeiro all trussed up.
Then off to lunch with Johnnie Walker – the doyen of the Camino.
A beautiful restaurant, San Clemente – but what made it special was getting to know John a little more. He’s a fascinating man. I asked him how many Caminos he’d walked and he looked at me blankly and smiled – he genuinely didn’t know, he’d walked so many!
He very kindly picked up the tab – insisting – so I insisted on reciprocating after the tour. We plan a big lunch after Easter, at a special place he knows out of town that does steaks that are reputedly the best in the world.
I can’t wait.
After lunch we drove off to Padron.
I noticed the name of a town – Valga. I chirped to Jennifer that the town was like me. She said it was very sad I would say such a thing.
The next sign for a town appeared. The town was called Cuntis. I chirped to Jennifer that I would not make a comment on that one. She replied dryly that I just had…
We stopped at Padron and walked into the old quarter. A man appeared at the door of a bar. He yelled out: Are you pilgrims?
I hesitated, not sure how to reply. Was I a pilgrim yet, even though the walk hadn’t started? Or was I still a pilgrim from my last Camino? I really wasn’t sure. So I kind of nodded meekly.
That was enough for this man. Come in, come in – he said, gesticulating wildly for us to step inside into his bar.
We did – and immediately I realised the bar was a shrine to the Camino, with photos and Camino memorabilia all over the walls. The man – his name was Peepe (yes, correct spelling) – asked me to sign a book. He raced into a back room, and rushed back out flourishing a book full of comments from past pilgrims.
While I was figuring out what to write, he raced back into the back room and returned with about ten more such books, each of them filled with comments from passing pilgrims.
After I wrote my little missive, he then insisted on taking photos – first Jennifer and myself behind the bar, then photos of me with him, then Jennifer with him. Photos done, he then began to dance wildly around the bar, punching the air with excitement and laughing.
Saying we had to go, he went to kiss me on the lips but I quickly moved my head and he grazed my cheek, thankfully. We managed to escape, and took refuge in a cute little restaurant and had a plate of home grown (and very famous) Pimentos de Padron. Washed down with a beautiful glass of Rioja, it was sublime.
Off then to Caldas de Rais, and the hotel with the thermal baths. The baths are at water level (the hotel stands right over the thermal waters) and are truly spectacular. Hot, steaming, pressurised – I’d believe they’d cure the incurable.
The day ended with the all too familiar ordeal of trying to get SIM cards with well meaning Movistar staff who can’t speak English.
I think I might have taken out a data contract for two years…