Sleeping in till 0800 seemed a completely reasonable thing to do after the Camino. First priority though was a Parador breakfast. Fresh fruit at last, along with many of the usual things found in hotel buffet's around the world. Specials here were the Chicharron (fatty pork rinds), various types of chorizo, and Spanish omelettes. The breakfast room looked over the Obradoiro square and the front entrance of the Cathedral. Alex and Jill needed to travel back to London this day so we farewelled them in a taxi at about 0900.
We thought the Cathedral justified another, more focussed visit so headed off that way. Greg hired one of those earphone guides which turned out to be a great investment. The two speakers covered the factual aspects as well as the spiritual and cultural aspects of this UNESCO site. The sculptures and baroque golden decorations behind the altar are truly magnificent. The pilgrims were guided around the outside of the main cruciform footprint of the cathedral (the ambulatory) and past a number of additional chapels, some that were originally separate churches. Each was built in a different era and by independent artisans. The path takes pilgrims up behind the altar, under
the huge baldachin, and to a spot where one can embrace a 13th century statue of St James, if one is so inclined. Below that the crypt with a beautiful silver sarcophagus. This all makes for a particularly rich experience. While we were to exploring there was another Catholic mass underway, again with multilingual components. 2016 is apparently a holy year and so the Botafumerio was swung again. This time we had a really good chance to observe the whole spectacle. The "censur" itself weighs about 60 kgs so the OH&S manager in us wanted to do a risk assessment around those solid hemp ropes actually giving way. The monks really propel that thing fast and high. The guided tour also pointed out a statue of St James on a white horse and in a warlike pose. St James the Moor slayer. As it noted, this was St James' image hijacked for political and military purposes, as opposed to the community man and apostle in the classical sense. Unfortunately on this particular visit the Gloria doorway (Portico da Gloria) was undergoing renovation. Nonetheless there was a series of posters describing the features of the Portico which will be worth seeing
on the next visit. In the meantime Wikipedia gives a pretty good account of the masterpiece.
After this cultural and spiritual high, we walked back into old town looking for places to stay on the night of the 31st, and we left the Parador. Seemed to be plenty of options but we settled on one down near the medieval gate to the city: Gastronomico Arco de Marzarelos. This turned out to be a great guess as the hostess was very friendly and also hired a great chef. On the second night, we enjoyed a pilgrim's meal of poached egg and ratatouille, baked Sole with potatoes and capers, and an excellent tiramisu. Of course there was a great Rioja to help things along as well. Being situated right on an active square there was plenty of people watching to be done.
In the rest of the time in Santiago we had the opportunity to wander the streets. We also went to the Pilgrim's Centre and claimed our first Compostela credential. It was quite interesting to stand in line with all these other people who had shared this amazing communal experience. Among the crowd were walkers who had only just
finished. Many nationalities, a range of ages but not surprisingly few people in their 30s and early 40s. We presumed these are the peak reproductive and career building years. Interestingly our names had been Latinised to Gregorium Scott Harper, and Catherinium Miriam Harper in the credential. A simple bit of paper, but good to have we thought.
During the time Greg went back to the Cathedral and made some attempts at sketching various views of the wonderful building including the two gates on the eastern fascade. Very challenging to do any justice to the complexity of the structure with simple pencil and paper. Particularly the friezes that included human bodies and particularly faces.
On the 31st we also walked up to the new Ciudad de Cultura, which is an amazing complex of buildings. All were in different states of completion, along with the whole area which was being landscaped and treed. It gave us a chance to walk again, but this time through the pleasant and unpretentious suburbs of Santiago de Compostela.
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