Camino de Santiago: Santiago de Compostela No Walking-Camino Hangover

4 05 2018

Once my husband gave a speech as a groomsman in his friend Rob’s wedding. He started out by saying that the day after he got married was the worst day of his life. After some uncomfortable chuckles and twitters and a scathing look from my direction, he explained. The day after our wedding all his favorite people in the world who’d been together with us for three days departed one by one. The goodbyes each of then painful. Until at some point it was just us. Officially married and alone.

It feels very much like that today. I’ve had a great day, I slept as late as I could and then enjoyed the breakfast buffet then took a little walk and ran into some pilgrims from days past, Andi and Simon. I slept more after trying to write my blog post. I was irritated to find most of my clothes totally gross so I found a laundromat and washed clothes and grabbed a beer down the street. It was a super swanky laundromat! Very clean and enjoyable to use but I was hungry so I headed out to find a bar. Found a cute place but at 12:15 they said they weren’t serving yet so I got a beer and they brought me nuts and olives and then suddenly a great piece of warm bread with melted cheese and ham on it. It was all I’d really wanted!

After a return back to the room to put the clothes away it was off again in search of another nibble. I found a self serve tapas place where you pull the tapas from the case yourself and they count your used toothpicks later (three different toothpick sizes distinguish which items you ate and the price.) it was fine but the bread was a bit cold…

It felt so weird to really have no where I needed to go or get to. And weird to be alone. I roamed around and found the market which was sadly already closed for the day… then I stumbled upon a market hall filled with fancy restaurants, an oyster place, a Japanese tapas spot and then a place that was mobbed with people! They were digging into crab, scallops, clams, mussels, all sorts of items from the sea. It was incredible. I asked the guy at the counter what they had and he said, “Nothing!”

He explained that all the food was purchased by the customers fresh during market hours, 9-2pm and then they cook it for them! Pretty amazing. Totally my kind of place so I was sorry I hadn’t found it sooner.

I continued to roam the streets and found a place selling churros and chocolate so naturally for research purposes I had to try that. The chocolate was so thick it stuck to the spoon and was almost the consistency of pudding before it sets. It was so so good. The churros were good but not freshly dried but how can fried dough ever be bad. I had some time to write some thank you’s and compile my official list for the cathedral to ask for a blessing. After consuming the whole cup of chocolate I felt a little sugar drunk and headed out into the bright sunshine to go back to the hotel. Just a few seconds after leaving the shop I merged back into the stream of pilgrims walking in and saw our friends! The German “team” was arriving! They almost didn’t recognize me without the John Deere hat. It was great to see them and we exchanged info quickly so we could grab a beer later but I didn’t want to distract them on their entry so I peeled away to let them walk in. Soon upon entering my warm sunny room I was dozing, finally enjoying my very first real Spanish siesta.

At about 7 I zipped over to the cathedral. It looks so much happier today in the sunshine.It was so nice to be so close to it staying at the hotel right beside it. I lit a candle for Daniel and a few more for others and hugged the statue you’re supposed to hug behind the altar. Mass was starting at 7:30 so they tell everyone who isn’t staying for mass they have to leave before it begins. I went back down to the crypt and read my list to St. James asking him to honor my friends and family who are no longer here with us, to thank all those that supported my journey in so many ways and to plead for help for a few who need soothing and assistance. I got out just before the mass began.

Around the corner from the cathedral I bought my one souvenir, a ring that says “ultreia” and has the symbols of the Camino on it and I reunited with Suzy to have a wine behind the cathedral. She had run into the family we met a few days ago who were now hanging out in Santiago. the sun was leaving this nice patio so we gathered up and went to find some food. We went towards the area where there seemed to be a lot of restaurants and gawked at the window displays of seafood, scallops and big bunks of meat. Each of them looked nice, we reviewed the menus and although they all were for the most part empty (it was only 8:00 or so) we went for one called Las Caracoles (snails) partly for the name but also it just looked cute.

We found a two top and ordered up a bottle of Ribeira Sacra (Mencia), the snails (the same recipe since they opened in 1986 they told us) and I ordered the ribeye and Suzy got the Pork loin, fed on chestnuts and topped with tetilla cheese (you’ll see this semi-soft mild but delicious cheese all over the region… named tetilla for its distinctive teat-like shape, no joke).

We were presented with an amuse bouche, a bite of crisp Romaine with a mussel marinated in peppers and oil on it, super fresh and deliciously briny. Next came the snails, medium in size in a slightly picant red sauce with some sweet onion, green onion, probably pimenton and the thing that must really make it, little white chunks of pork fat. So decadent.

Finally the entrees came and once again we were in heaven. The meats were both perfectly tender and cooked so they were juicy and not tough. Mine came with a vibrantly green plate of arugula dressed in high quality olive oil and salted just enough, and of course the requisite potatoes were part of the meal, cooked just this side of golden.

As we enjoyed all the flavors we noticed that the restaurant was filling up. A huge group came to dominate the back room singing and chanting and soon every other table was full. It was crazy. Two people came in and tried to usurp a vacated table that was still dirty and were sent away. The staff was slammed, we were thrilled. When we left we checked in on the other restaurants on the row. Most were completely empty, just the owner sitting in the back reading. None was even close to as busy, but as we peered in we noticed two pilgrims from a long time ago! One remarked that he remembered Suzy building her little fort with a blanket back at the Albergue in Villamayor de Monjardin I think, and our dear Claudia!

We went to the cathedral to meet up with the German crew and ran into Richard. There was a band of singers in cloaks playing Guadalajara and Guantanamera, Mexican songs, so funny. We finally found our crew and had some beers together sharing stories of how our paths had split and what had happened along the way. We were all very tired though and retired early. It was great to finally reconvene though even if only to say goodbye officially.

These friends will always be so special and so unique. A family that sometimes speaks in English and sometimes really needs no words to communicate. Our special Camino family.