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Santiago de Compostela

April 24-26
Edited and done May 19

Dear Friends and Families,

Wednesday (April 24) weather was nice for a drive.  Too bad we were mostly on relatively high-speed highways and needed to keep the top up.

Our first stop was north and west of Oviedo in the small fishing village of Cudilero.  The village itself is in a narrow gulch, inset on a very rugged coast.  The harbor is sheltered by a massive wall that, despite its 20-foot height, is marked with signs warning that water will wash over at times.  Hard to imagine.

d130424_09_path.jpgThe rest of the four-hour drive was uneventful.  Sometimes the road was a modern four-lane divided affair and sometimes a narrow two-lane country road.  All along we saw the signs that mark this as "Camino de Santiago", the path of pilgrims that starts not far from our home in Bavaria.  In principle, one could walk as far as it took us ten days to drive.  In principle.  Our version of backpacking pilgrimage is considerably softer.

In Santiago itself, Gertrude sent us over some very bumpy cobblestone roads in search of our hotel and a nearby parking garage.  The Hotel Bonaval is too small for their own parking, but we have gotten used to the process of dragging our stuff a few hundred yards from car to room. When we are at a nice hotel like the Bonaval, it's OK.

We arrived hungry and the desk recommended "KUMART", just around the corner for lunch.  We discovered that Kumart was in fact the restaurant of the Contemporary Art Museum so we managed a very nice meal as well as some exploration of strange art.  Contemporary art is always a bit strange, imho.  I mean, the fire extinguisher looked as arty as the labeled displays.
After lunch and siesta, we tried a quick walk into town to see the cathedral.  "Quick" was relative, since the route from hotel to church was a series of small hills.  I suppose we are the least ambitious pilgrims in town.  We only had a few minutes before the cathedral would be closed, but the evening sun was very nice.


d130425_01_walk.jpgThursday started with no plans and, mostly, stayed that way.  After breakfast, we wandered into town and sought out the open market.  It was nice to see people other than tourists, although we weren't the only visitors poking around.

From there, it was more wandering.  Marianne chose to attend the pilgrim's mass at noon and said it was an interesting ceremony, complete with call outs to the diligent who had walked at least 100 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago.  While she was inside the cathedral, I just looked at the activity in the neighborhood, including the large police presence parked behind the cathedral square.  Reassuring, I suppose.
For lunch, we stopped by "La Casa de la Marquesa", a sushi place close to our hotel. There was a TV crew filming a story on the Santiago restaurant scene and we became part of the production.  The reporter, Xaime Barreiro, interviewed us both and said we should be able to see the program next week or on the internet(http://www.santiagotv.es/ TV a la carta / Xantar e Folgar / 4/25/2013).  We will check.
Post-siesta activities included more walking, over 10,000 steps for both of us today, and wine and cheese on the hotel patio.  A nice evening, even if some high clouds were showing that our good weather may be ending.

Friday.  Another day-without-plans.  When we checked in, the desk clerk said three days may be too much time for Santiago by itself and he was almost right.  We do travel slowly, seeing in a week what others might in a few days, but our third Santiago day was slow even by our standards.

We repeated walks over to the cathedral and repeated pictures we already had taken.  We splurged the calories for chocolate and churros at the Parador next to the Cathedral.  Paradors in Spain are generally grand historic buildings that have been renovated to offer first-class accommodation.  We had considered staying here, but concluded from our calorie-laden stop that our small hotel was more personal and a better decision.

After some time spent sipping and reading or sketching in the Parador lounge, we "needed" lunch.  We followed a guest recommendations from breakfast and found the "Los Carocoles" in the heart of the tourist area.  The menu looked reasonable and the greeting was friendly, but the food was not up to the quality we've experienced in Spain.  Too bad since we hate to waste calories this way.

After lunch, we walked back toward the Hotel Bonaval and stopped at the neighboring Museo do Pobo Galego (roughly: Museum of the Galician People).  I enjoyed this stop.  The displays were well done explanations of life in this part of Spain, at least the older historic periods when this was a fishing and farming area.  The setting, a 17th century church and convent offered open space for all the displays and would accommodate more than the handful of Friday visitors.
Displays centered on Galician life, from boats to bagpipes to breakfast.
St. Dominic church had only a small side altar and a few of the old 13th century decorations, but it was somehow as impressive as the elaborate cathedral, at least to me.
My favorite building feature was a triple-spiral staircase, each path leading up to a different floor

A late siesta was followed by a short walk down to a neighborhood bar, AMOA.  While we sat and talked about our trip, the place filled with a noisy young crowd, many from the nearby university perhaps.  We ordered tapas, snacks, and enjoyed the tiny lamb "hamburgers" along with our local Galician wine.  A nice end to our Santiago stay, but we are definitely ready for another country, city, and time zone. 

Tomorrow: Porto, Portugal, Western European Time.

John and Marianne


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