Camino de Santiago (Inglés) Day 5 End: Finally, Santiago de Compostela!
My first stop, after taking some pictures at the Cathedral was to head for my hotel for the night, Hostal Suso. I was already impressed by them yesterday, because they called me and asked me what time I was going to arrive. So today, despite arriving around 10:30am, they had my room ready already, which was super welcome coming in on the camino!
And it was a very pretty room, with warm whites.
I was lucky to have nabbed one of the rooms with exterior view (paying a bit more than the rooms without exterior-facing windows).
This let in a lot of light, and also let me take in views of the old town of Santiago, without leaving my room!
The bathroom was also highly functional - and unlike the Sigüeiro Hostel, had its own door!
I went back to the Cathedral square, where I noticed this group of pilgrims (maybe from Mexico?) taking a group photo.
I spent about 1 hour on one of those “free” city tours (you tip at the end), where I learned that this stone in the center of the plaza is supposed to represent the point from which all of the distances of the various caminos are measured.
I cut the free tour a bit short, because I wanted to get to the Pilgrim’s Office around lunch time, to get my Compostela. That’s the certificate you get at the end of the Camino, provided you walked at least 100km and got at least 2 stamps per day to prove your progress in your pilgrim’s credentials.
I was advised to come around lunchtime by the staff member at Hostal Suso, because she said the lines are usually shorter then. But I think that everyone probably got that same advice! When I got in line around 12:45pm, the line was already very long…
…taking about an hour to get to the front of the line. It’s just like passing through immigration at the airport! You wait in one line, and then are directed to the next available agent, who inspects your credentials and takes down your information. Then the agent gives you your Compostela, and for an extra fee of 3€, a certificate of distance. They personalize the documents with your name and your city of departure - I was lucky to get an agent whose handwriting was nice and fancy, matching the calligraphy of the certificates!
When I exited the office around 2pm, lunchtime in Spain, the line extended outside into the courtyard!
I then walked around town, visiting the market…
…and just taking in the cute old town.
Then I went for lunch at El Bombero (this picture was taken later, at night).
You enter and go upstairs into kind of a rustic looking space.
They had a set menu, and started off with fried calamari rings. A bit salty, but not too greasy.
Then there was lacón, or ham, served with potatoes, sausage, and grelos, or turnip greens. I really wanted the greens, because I’ve really missed eating vegetables this whole trip. They were a bit bland and waterlogged, and the lacón could have been more tender.
I finished with the coffee mousse, a recommendation from the waiter. It was alright. The food was just okay overall, but the service was good and personable.
After lunch, I went back to the Cathedral for the afternoon pilgrim’s mass.
There are a few rituals that they say all pilgrims must do. One is to go to mass in the Cathedral.
There was also a pilgrim’s mass at noon, and I heard from my friends - the cousins from the South - who attended earlier, that in that mass they swung the giant incense-filled Botafumerio which you see below.
So unfortunately, they didn’t swing it again during our mass, but it was still nice to sit through it. The priest reads out the nationalities and points of origin for all of the pilgrims who’ve entered Santiago in the last 24 hours - one of the reasons why they keep such good records in the Pilgrim’s Office. And seeing the people around me praying along with the priest, it was clear that this really is a religious pilgrimage for many, not just a fun activity to see the countryside of Spain.
Another ritual for pilgrims, is to hug the statue of St. James dressed as a pilgrim (decked out in jewels, though - not very pilgrim-y). There are stairs behind the altar that lead up to the statue from the side. You can see a pair of hands on top of his shoulders in the picture below - that’s someone hugging him from behind!
After mass, I went for an early dinner at El Papatorio, a recommendation from the hotel staff.
I found a spot at the bar, but the waitstaff there recommended that I got a table, if I’d be having dinner instead of just a snack. And they did have a table available.
First I had their merluza (hake) tempura, served with citrus aioli. I was a bit disappointed in this, because I was actually expecting something more like a buñuelo de bacalao, where the dough is mixed together with the fish. But here it was kind of just like fish fingers, with a really spongy and bready batter.
The waiter asked if I wanted bread or bread with tomato, so I chose bread with tomato. I couldn’t leave Galicia with another helping of bread, and this large helping really filled me up.
Next up was a montadito (small tapa on top of bread) of entrecot. This was melt-in-mouth good, and had a superb char on it. This was the highlight of the evening.
Finally, I had the sea scallop, served with mushroom sauce. It turned out to be a single scallop, topped with a mountain of mushrooms and drenched in indistinguishable brown sauce. Quite a far cry from the fresh bay scallops simply served in Ferrol. I still miss today!
Overall, the meat was the highlight at El Papatorio, and probably would have been more fun with more people to try different food.
After I had ice cream at a stand called Bico, a store that says they produce their own milk. The ice cream had a nice texture, and the pistachio was quite good but the coffee didn’t quite live up to the better coffee ice creams I’ve had.
I took a stroll to a park overlooking the Cathedral. It’s kind of strange - I didn’t feel like I was ascending or descending any hills going to either the Cathedral in one direction from my hotel, or to the park in the other direction, but I definitely got the sense that I was overlooking the building!
At that time, my friends the Southern Cousins texted me and invited me to a glass of wine at a bar in the center of town. The wine was good, but check out this tortilla de patatas, served as a free tapa! It’s two portions, but still, look at the size! The tapa culture is seriously strong here in Galicia.
Later, the cousins went off partying with other companions from our Camino Inglés, but I decided to call it a night. I was looking forward to enjoying my private room.
This was a fitting end to my camino experience!