Melide to Santiago de Compostella

Santiago cathedral
Santiago cathedral

Everyone was up early and I wasn’t asleep so getting up was easy. A group of very traditional Germans, equipped with canvas haversacks and big wooden walking poles were talking earnestly in deep voices. With legs spread out making them seem even bigger, it was reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch and I found it hard to suppress a giggle.

A coach party left the booked-up hotel wheeling suitcases and to our astonishment called in at the refugio in the vain hope of getting their pilgrim passports stamped. We took the N547 all the way to Santiago, no faffing about with minor roads today. A cheery priest was outside his church stamping passports for the many passing peregrinos. We stopped a little further on for a coffee and watched the empty coach sail past. We guessed that its former occupants were walking the “nice” bits of the camino and travelling the rest by coach. The coffee was the first poor cup I’d had in Spain, like milky instant – yuck! We stopped again soon for a black espresso and freshly squeezed orange juice to erase the memory. We were given complimentary tortilla patatas and noted that we could have stayed the night there too if we’d known in advance.

The road was very easy, rising and falling gently as we glided along towards the culmination of all the camino trails. We stopped by picnic benches for lunch while a steady stream of walkers filed past. We spoke to two Italian roadies in their seventies on their first touring expedition, finding it hard but enjoyable. Santiago came into view with the usual disappointing vista of modern tower blocks. There was a surprising lack of signposting to the old quarter but we found our way eventually and on to the La Salle hostal which we’d seen advertised at Melide. It was cheap and comfortable, our en-suite double room seeming like a five star hotel after last night. It was in a very quiet but central location, highly recommended.

After showering and changing, we walked the short distance to the enormously impressive ornate cathedral. Despite it being officially low season and midweek, there were still lots of tourists and pilgrims. We collected our compostelas from the office, quite a formal process as the rather prim young woman examined our pilgrims passports and satisfied herself that were were deserving of the certificates. We had to state whether we’d made the pilgrimage for purely religious, partly religious or for other reasons. Everyone else before us had ticked one of the first two boxes and Christine lied by ticking the second box. The secretary looked shocked when I ticked the non-religious box and asked if I really meant it! This meant that my certificate was in Spanish rather than Latin.

We obtained a free city map from the tourist information and located the vegetarian restaurant, O Triangulo das Verduras at Pracina das Penas. The door was ajar at 19:50, there was of course no indication of opening times so we pushed open the door to enquire. We were tersely told it opened at 21:00. We returned at the appointed time, and enjoyed a very nice meal of mushroom crèpes and salad accompanied by a bottle of wine, then chocolate torte and decaffeinated coffee which came to around €40 for the two of us. The waitress spoke no English and the menu was in Galician, but it was a lovely change from either cooking ourselves or carefully having to enquire about ingredients.

Day 16: Rest day in Santiago