After feeling like we had arrived back in winter thanks to Cudillero, it was a welcome sight to see the clouds parting and sun streaming through the closer we got to Santiago. This was a place that Dad had recommended over and over again to visit. The things that I had heard about Santiago before we went were that the town was one of the main destinations for the pilgrims who walked hundreds of kilometers to get there, and that (thanks to a Rick Stein programme on TV), the local food is Empanada which are flat pies filled with miscellaneous meat (not the most appealing sounding thing).
When we got to our accommodation we realised that instead of booking a university hostel like we thought (being a hostel on the university campus), we had actually booked at a current monestary, popular with pilgrims, awkward. There was even a working church with mass at 10.30am every day attached to where we were staying. The old lady at the front desk didn’t speak any English but I knew when she made some comment about is not being married in Spanish (she was looking at our passports) so I just ignored her pretending I didn’t understand. Since this was not the most fun place to hang out, we decided to head into the town to check out the sights.
When we got in there, I could understand why Dad had raved about this place so much. It was an old walled city with tiny lanes and stone buildings everywhere. The atmosphere inside was alive as it was full of pilgrims who had reached their end destination. My step-uncle had recently done this walk. I remember Dad telling me about it, saying what a cool idea it was, with my response being, “actually it sounds horrible”. I stand by those comments. All of the pilgrims were walking around with horrible limps, their shoes off and blisters covering their entire feet, and were crisp beyond belief.
We visited the Cathedral Santiago (the cathedral where Saint James is buried). It was very impressive, very old and packed. One thing that I thought was funny about the church was that they had to install a giant swinging incense burner as there were so many pilgrims that came to mass each day, their unwashed stench was too pungent without it. The other thing that we noticed was that around the cathedral, all of the balconies had strange sculptures of naked men on them. After some crafty googling (Santiago de Compostela statutes on balconies) we discovered that they were an art exhibition from a local artist. I personally could have done without seeing them…. (so I will share with you all)
That afternoon was just divine, the sun was shining, we were in a beautiful location so we decided to spend the rest of the sunlight hours updating our journals at a table in a nice garden with a wine. That evening I had the hugest craving for vegetables so we spent ages walking around looking for somewhere which 1) served dinner not tapas, and 2) had a meal with vegetables in (extremely hard task). We settled for Italian and I ordered the meal with the most vegetables in in. Nothing special, but definitely hit the spot.
In the morning we did our good old trick of getting up early before anyone else and exploring the sights while there were no people. Unfortunately the whole front facade was getting maintenance so was covered in scaffolding so didn’t get any photos of that. We had a nice breakfast in the old town then enjoyed roaming the streets of the old town. We came across an amazing market (Praza de Abastos) with absolutely any type of produce imaginable (in particular seafood), but also vegetables. I wondered what they do with all of these fruit and vegetables because it does not seem like they eat it.
After a walk through the park on the way home, we went to check out. This part was horrible. We booked this place through one of the online booking sights and “apparently” according to the least professional ex-British lady on the desk the room had not been paid for, even though we have confirmation emails saying that it had been paid. Long story short, we had to pay for the room in cash (even though it was paid for on credit card – the charge had just not come through to them yet) and wasted an hour and a half arguing with the dumbest lady in the world. Very sour drive out of Santiago (with an extremely honest comment to come for the rating of that place).
Since Portugal have crazy road tax systems, we decided to take the long way (no-toll way) to Porto. This drive was wonderful as it basically wound us through the wine country at the top of Portugal which lifted our moods. Everything was pristine, well looked after, clean, and above all, stunning. We really enjoyed the drive even though it took much longer.