Free day in Santiago

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September 11th 2015
Published: September 11th 2015
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The Productive Learning workshop officially wrapped up last night so today is a free day. We slept in till 8:00 when Gary got up to go to the official "office of pilgrims" to get his certificate of completion. To get the certificate a walker must collect evidence, in the form of decorative ink stamps at cafes and hotels along the way, of having walked 100 km. Bicyclists must show 200 km, and horse riders 300 km. (We were passed by many cyclists but did not see any horse riders till a group came into Santiago yesterday.) By getting to the office when it opens at 8:00 Gary hoped to avoid the long lines, which reportedly reach 2-3 hours long as new pilgrims arrive. Surprise, the office chose to open at 9:00 this morning only, so Gary got to wait a bit over an hour anyway. But he got his certificate, suitable for framing.

We barely made it to breakfast before it closed, finished packing, and moved hotels. Our new hotel is a couple minutes farther from most of the action though not right on the main square as the previous one, the rooms are smaller but just as well appointed, the staff seems more eager to be helpful, and the room costs less than half as much. We chose to tow our bags rather than take a taxi because it was only a 15 minute walk - and we have walked for hours, days on end. Gary immediately broke his promise there would be no steps, just ramps, as we hit two flights just outside the hotel we were leaving. But the rest of the way went smoothly. Good thing since Madalyn's blisters are still healing and Gary's legs are still sore.

We left our luggage at the new hotel, got directional advice from the desk staff, had them reserve us space on a tour to Finisterre tomorrow, and headed out for a bit of shopping, something we've not had time for since joining the Camino group. We were surprised at the number of Celtic references. The Galicians seem proud of their Celtic roots. (Remember that Gaelic, Gaul (France), and Celt all have the same root. That is likely where GALicia also comes from. The Celts were all over Europe before the Romans and Visigoths.) Two of the street performers we passed played bagpipes. How much the bagpipes and Irish-looking Celtic knots are historic, vs being adopted for tourists, is unknown to us.

We wandered the old town tourist shopping districts, stopped into the Cathedral for a few minutes of prayer and contemplation, reaching a local park with figures of the "two Marias", sisters who were featured in an airline magazine article we read. In Franco's regime, their brothers were in hiding and the police tortured the family to reveal where they were. Even after the brothers were captured, they were reduced to begging because people were afraid to publicly support them. None the less they became popular as simple symbols of resistance. Gary noticed the surprising contrast from 40 years ago as a policeman posed for a photo next to his police car. 40 years ago Gary pointed his camera at a Guardia Civil and saw a rifle raised aiming at him in return.

We found a place for another tasty lunch, remarked on how nice it would be to have such sidewalk restaurants at home, and headed back to the hotel. We got disoriented, but starting to go downhill instead of up was the hint to check the map. Meandering streets of a 1200 year old city are very confusing! The old town seemed much more crowded today and full of tours, we yearn to be back in the countryside. We finished checking in now that our room was ready, and settled in for some quiet time, including laundry. One thing we have noticed in the local television systems is what they choose to show. We usually get BBC World News, often get Bloomberg or CNBC, no CNN International, and some familiar channels like Disney and Paramount produced locally. This hotel also has a French channel in English, CCTV (China's state broadcaster), and Russia Today, probably an official organ of the Kremlin. We watched CCTV some bit in Granada because they had some interesting programs, like an in-depth discussion of what went wrong in Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago. In contrast, they only had good reports on China, with no mention at all of the Tianjin factory explosion. Russia Today, in the few minutes we watched it, spoke only of the U.S. government's firm control of the media to publish lies about Putin and try to create a new cold war that would be more dangerous than before. We channel surfed looking for news about the U.S. Open tennis or the Vuelta de EspaƱol bike race, unsuccessfully. We have been privileged to happen to catch the endings of some stages of the Vuelta.


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