Santiago de Compostela: Food, Charm, and “New” Family

Praza do Obradoiro, Cathedral, west facade,Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

I wrote earlier about my arrival in Santiago de Compostela as a Camino pilgrim and the activities related to the end of the pilgrimage (getting the Compostela certificate, Pilgrims’ Mass, etc.).  Though my stay in Santiago was brief (less than 24 hours due to needing to bring the group back to Madrid), there were some noteworthy things to share about my brief second visit to this incredible city in northwest Spain‘s Galicia

Food

As ANYWHERE in Spain, food is spectacular.  In Santiago, I had a quick lunch at a local tapas bar before going to meet relatives.  I love tapas bars.  These are not the unreasonable facsimiles in many U.S. cities that offer tapas.  I loved sitting at the bar and looking at the tapas on display (salivating at, to be more accurate) and then making my choices.  That and an adult beverage made for a quick and delicious lunch.

tapas, food, foodporn, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Galicia, Olympus

A splendid array

tapas, food, foodporn, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Galicia, Olympus

One of many had…

Later that evening, after dinner with my group, a couple of us took off in a chase for some hot chocolate and “churros” (fried sticks of dough and sugar; a favorite of mine from my childhood).  Let me tell you, this hot chocolate is not of the watery style.  It is THICK – and delicious.

churros, hot chocolate, food, foodporn, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Galicia, Samsung Galaxy

Churros and hot chocolate – the real reason the pilgrims came!

Great vibe to the town – charming architecture and streets

The great Cathedral of Santiago is not the only main architectural piece in this city.  I love its side streets with or without arcades and the many small and big plazas all around.  In fact, it is the whole town, not just the Cathedral or the plaza in front of it that is a World Heritage Site!

Plaza de Platerias, south facade, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

Hanging out at Praza de Platerías along the south face of the Cathedral

university, north facade, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

University building facing the north side of the Cathedral

Dakar, Santiago de Compostela, café, architecture, travel, food, photo

I ate at this café called Dakar 20 years before!

Santiago de Compostela, café, architecture, travel, food, photo

Small plaza and cafés near the Cathedral

The grand plaza in front of the Cathedral is named Praza do Obradoiro, which best I know means plaza of the workshop.  It is large and pretty plain except for the buildings around it:  the Cathedral, a palace, and a hostel built by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand, back in 1492!

Plaza do Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, architecture, travel,photo, Canon EOS Rebel, arcade

Entering Praza do Obradoiro from the northeast corner

Plaza do Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, architecture, travel,photo, Catholic Monarchs, inn, Olympus

The inn built by the Catholic Monarchs, now a parador

Plaza del Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, España, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

Looking around the Praza do Obradoiro – Rajoy Palace

From here, once can admire the façade of the Cathedral (which was undergoing repairs/restoration) and then go into town in any number of directions.  The site of the Cathedral has been the site of a church since the 9th century.  Construction of the current church began in 1075 (!) and the church was consecrated in 1211 – THAT is patience!  Of course, it has been added to in the many centuries since.  It looks like a massive complex.

Praza do Obradoiro, Cathedral, façade, west facade,Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

The massive west façade of the Cathedral

Praza do Obradoiro, Cathedral, west facade,Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

Looking closer at the main façade ‘s exposed towers

Praza do Obradoiro, Cathedral, west facade,Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel

Detail of the Cathedral from the side

We stayed at a monastery-seminary called Hospedería San Martín Pinario next to the Cathedral but not within the Praza do Obradoiro – great location!  The rooms, as can be expected, are spartan but clean and functional.  Aside of the massive size of the building, I was surprised at the VERY wide hallways.  I wonder why they made them like that?!

Hospederia San Martin, Santiago de Compostela, hotel, seminary, monastery, travel, photo, Olympus, spartan

Room at the Hospedería

Hospederia San Martin, Santiago de Compostela, hotel, seminary, monastery, travel, photo, Olympus, spartan

One of the massive hallways, this one in the lobby

And the family connection

I mentioned meeting relatives earlier.  The story behind that is that my great-grandfather was born right outside of Santiago in a rural village named Bastavales (made famous in Spain in a song).  I had visited the hamlet 20 years earlier but, unprepared and not having a car, I got to see the church where he likely was baptized and walked past houses in which he and other relatives likely lived.  Years later, I made contact with the parish to see about getting a copy of the records of his baptism, etc. and got some good information, courtesy of the local priest.  I guess he told some of my great-grandfather’s local relatives about my inquiries – years later they reached out to me and we got to meet by letters, email and a phone call.  So, I made it my purpose to go meet them in this trip.  After the tapas lunch, I headed to a house in Bastavales using a taxi.  Back in 1994, I had taken a bus and had taken a while.  Now, with a brand new highway, it took about 15 minutes to get there.  Sweet.

It was really neat to meet one of my grandmother’s younger cousins (only two were alive at this point; my grandmother had been born in Cuba and never got to go to Spain so she never met any of her Spanish relatives), a lovely lady with blue eyes named Flora.

family, Bastavales

My grandmother’s cousin and her granddaughter (my 3rd cousin?)

I also met one of her sons and two of her grandchildren.  She shared some family history and showed me some photos.  Also, she pointed at a distance at the house where my great-grandfather had been born.  I only had a couple of hours to spare and they did not have a car readily available so I had to be satisfied with having seen the house from a distance.  I also saw the church I had visited 20 years earlier and noticed that I had walked in front of the houses she was pointing to after I got off the bus and walked a few kilometers to get to the church…

vines, green, Bastavales, Galicia, Spain, photo, Olympus

The side garden of their house has vines! Beautiful spot

wine press, Bastavales, vineyard, Galicia, Spain, photo, travel, wood, Olympus

Showing me the old wine press they used to use – pretty cool!

This week some other relatives have contacted me and have sent me photos they scanned of my grandmother.  Apparently, she kept in touch with them (though her dad died in Cuba when she was a toddler) and sent them pictures of her as a young woman.  They actually sent me a copy of the little “souvenir” with her baby picture issued when she was baptized; her dad must have sent it to Spain!  I realized with the info they gave me that she had been sending pictures and writing to them because her grandparents were still alive.  I was glad to hear she had some contact with them.

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This was a special way to end the Camino:  a pilgrimage to meet relatives my grandmother never met. I love Santiago de Compostela and now I must return to meet these other relatives that have given me such a wonderful gift.  And this will give me more time to explore Santiago more and keep enjoying tapas, hot chocolate and churros!

On the Camino de Santiago: Day 7 from Lavacolla to Santiago!

sign, Santiago de Compostela, Plaza del Obradeiro, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, trekking, hiking, photo, Olympus

The big day arrived on Day 7.  On this day, we departed on the Camino for the last time as we left lovely Pazo Xan Xordo to enter Santiago de Compostela as many have done over the last 1,000 years on this ancient pilgrimage for the final 2.5 hours of our trek.  We were excited but were also on a schedule as we needed to arrive on-time to attend Pilgrim’s Mass at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela at noon.  Since this Mass gets packed, we wanted to be there at minimum 30 minutes in advance.  We wanted to sit on the nave on the side of the altar in case they used the “botafumeiro.”  They did not, to our great disappointment, but if they had, it would have flown right over us!

Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Olympus

Waiting for Pilgrim’s Mass to start

Monte de Gozo

But I get ahead of myself.  So we left Lavacolla sharp at 8 AM and made one stop at the impressive Monte de Gozo on the outskirts of town.  It was from this vantage point that pilgrims would get their first glimpse of the final destination.  “Gozo” means happiness which is exactly what the pilgrims would feel at this point after so many months/years of hiking their way across Europe and Spain.  I was more impressed by the monument built here and taking pictures of the sun showing through the top of the monument.

Monte de Gozo, Santiago de Compostela, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, trekking, hiking, photo, Olympus

The monument at Monte de Gozo

Monte de Gozo, Santiago de Compostela, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, trekking, hiking, photo, Olympus

Each side of the monument commemorates something different

Monte de Gozo, Santiago de Compostela, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, trekking, hiking, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Loved catching the sun through the glass cross

The great arrival in Santiago de Compostela

At some point in the walk (I think it was on a big downhill), we stopped being “outside” of Santiago and entered the outlying sectors of the city.

Santiago de Compostela, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Olympus

One of the last villages we passed before entering Santiago proper (after Monte de Gozo)

We crossed a long bridge over a highway and we felt like this was the final stretch.  OK, it was a long final stretch and we did stop at a café to make a final pit stop and to get a snack (not sitting down).  We knew once we hit Santiago, we were likely not going to get a break until noon Mass ended so this was a smart choice!

sign, Santiago de Compostela, Plaza del Obradeiro, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, trekking, hiking, photo, Olympus

Welcome to Santiago de Compostela!

As we got closer, it seemed the streets got narrower which kept making us more eager to finally get there.  I was eager to see the reaction of my fellow trekkers when they first saw the Cathedral (I had been there in 1994 already).

Getting the Compostela and Pilgrim’s Mass

Our plan was to hit town and immediately head to the Pilgrim’s Office (on rua Vilar) to get our “Compostela,” the certificate granted to those who complete the Camino.  A nice volunteer from Ireland named (of course) Mary helped English speakers with instructions to be ready to step inside and get the Compostela; a few questions were asked and the credencial (passport) was briefly examined.

Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela, Plaza del Obradoiro, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, trekking, hiking, photo, Olympus

Pilgrims filling out their papers while waiting for their Compostela

It was an exhilarating moment to get the Compostela (after standing in line about 25 minutes) even if I briefly embarrassed myself by telling the lady that she had gotten my first name wrong.  She politely told me that they write the first name in Latin not in its regular form…  As soon as I got to the hotel later, I took photos of the Compostela just in case something happened to it on the rest of the trip!

Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The big moment of getting the Compostela!

We had been told we could not take our backpacks in for Mass so we then proceeded to drop off our backpacks next to the Pilgrim’s Office for 2 euros.  We then were free to make our way to the Cathedral but, first, we took quick group and individual photos in the Plaza del Obradoiro in front of the Cathedral.

Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela, Plaza del Obradoiro, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, trekking, hiking, Trekking for Kids, photo, Olympus

Our Trekking for Kids group posing in front of the Cathedral

We then moved in to claim our spots for Mass and we took turns while we waited for the start of Mass to go behind the main altar to see the tomb of Santiago (St. James), after all, all this started because of him!

Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela, Plaza del Obradoiro, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Olympus

Another detail of the interior

Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela, Plaza del Obradoiro, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, St. James' tomb, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

St. James’ tomb

Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela, Plaza del Obradoiro, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Olympus

Details from inside the Cathedral

Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela, Plaza del Obradoiro, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, altar, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

A side altar

During Mass, in the part where they greet the pilgrims, they mention groups by name.  I had told them at the Pilgrim’s Office that we were a group, Trekking for Kids, from the U.S. and Canada and it was neat to hear us greeted during Mass.

We had heard that because 2014 was the 800th anniversary of St. Francis doing the Camino, the Church of San Francisco (St. Francis), not far from the Cathedral was issuing another certificate to pilgrims (the “Cotolaya“) so we went later that day to claim it (at this point, we would have taken any certificate issued to pilgrims, I think!).

Church of San Francisco, St. Francis, Santiago de Compostela, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, trekking, hiking, photo, Olympus

Walking towards the Church of San Francisco (St. Francis)

Church of San Francisco, St. Francis, Santiago de Compostela, Camino, The Way, pilgrimage, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, trekking, hiking, photo, Olympus

Main altar at the Church of San Francisco

So our week-long trek along this millennial pilgrimage came to a glorious end.  It was a unique experience and I loved returning to Santiago de Compostela of which I will write some more in another post.  I have some suggestions for those considering the Camino.  Keep an eye out for that post!

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Read more about my Camino:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

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