Today was our last day together as a group.
It was Easter Sunday, and some of the group went to Mass. Marie volunteered as a helper for the English Mass, and at the end of the service the Botafumerio was swung. Marie has a problem with crowds, which has kept her out of packed services, but today she overcame that fear and witnessed something she never thought she would ever see.
She was delighted.
We then walked to lunch, and we shot a group photo – this time with Steve included. (He wasn’t in the group shot yesterday.) The group showed their best side…
And then their not-so-best side…
We had a terrific lunch at one of Santiago’s top restaurants, away from the tourist crowds and frequented by locals in the know.
Afterwards the girls wanted a shot just of themselves, which I objected to because I thought it was sexist, so I did my darnedest to mess the photo up.
(Glass half empty or glass half full?)
Begrudgingly, I then took a more considered photo.
After lunch we said our farewells to Catarina. We gave her a group hug – she has been fantastic, and everyone adored her.
She felt very teary as she walked away, back to the van which she would then drive back to Mercedes in Porto.
If ever we do another Portuguese tour, (and we’re considering another one in October,) then Catarina will be a part of it.
Tomorrow pretty much everyone leaves, except for Steve and Arlene, who are staying on an extra week. Jennifer and I fly out Tuesday for 10 days in Ireland.
I’ill write a series of posts over the next week or so, reflecting on the time we’ve had together. But just to say it’s been an extraordinary two weeks. We’ve formed friendships that will last a very long time, we’ve laughed so hard that we’ve almost needed resuscitation, we’ve stayed in some beautiful hotels in some gorgeous towns and eaten some truly wonderful meals, we’ve walked through some spectacular countryside, and some have had profound revelations about their lives.
They will go back home with a vastly different view of life.
This has not been a decadent five star jaunt – this has definitely been a spiritual journey. Yes we’ve stayed in some nice digs, and yes the van has been there for support when needed, but this has been a very real pilgrimage for everyone involved.
It hasn’t been an easy walk, and when we got our Compostelas yesterday there was a very real sense that we’d damn well earned it. There wasn’t one of us didn’t appreciate what it meant. We’d walked the Camino Portuguese.
From a personal point of view, I’ve had an extraordinary time. I’ve learnt so much from this wonderful bunch of people, and I’ve been humbled by them and inspired by them. I will remember these last two weeks as being a very very special part of my life.
To all those in the group – thank you so much. Thank you for taking the risk of coming along, thank you for trusting Jennifer and me, and most importantly thank you for being the wonderful human beings that you are.
You are the ones that have made this tour something so very memorable.
And we had fun, hey?