This is the fun part of pilgrimage: the unexpected! I am writing this blog from the Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos! This is the oldest hotel int he world. Opened by Ferdinand and his Isabella in the 1500s for the sick pilgrims who would come into Santiago de Compestela, and run as a hospital (which is the root word for hotel) until the 1950s, in the 50s it was turned into a hotel. It claims to be the oldest, and longest running hotel in the world! While we (Sue, Jackie, and I, my Kiwi friends) had booked and moved into a room in a small pension with three beds, Jackie had always wanted to stay at this hotel. When she found out that there was a ¨pilgrim rate,¨ Jackie said, I´ll pay it! My treat! Sue and I were soon paying off the owner of the small pension, and we slept the night away in the grandest hotel of Spain! And it includes breakfast! Part of the pilgrim rate!
Yesterday we walked around the Cathedral, after having gone to 12 o´clock Mass. We will go today again to Mass, in which they use this huge incense burner, in Spanish known as a "botafumeiro," that they originally used to delouse the pilgrims while also making them smell sweet to the noses of the clergy at that time. It is used only 20 times a year. We also walked around to the various chapels of the Cathedral, seeing the reliquary of St. James, touching the columns and statues that we are supposed to touch. Outside the Cathedral, in the middle of the plaza, is a shell cemented to the floor of the plaza, in which you are supposed to say, I have arrived! Did that last night as well.
We had a disappointing last pilgrim meal, after bounteous amounts at small villages along the way. But we had sheets, no bunks, and not much snoring...well, I didn´t hear myself.
Today: cover the parts of Santiago we haven´t seen after a good breakfast, and then going to 12 noon mass, and hunt for gifts for home, and at 10 tonight, the night train to Madrid. Tomorrow, Friday, is a national holiday, so I´d rather be in Madrid, seeing parts of the city I´ve not seen, than Santiago. Then I fly out Sat. at 1!
Again: thanks for your prayers and support! The feet are healing, though I can´t wait to show the remains of the blisters!
Pilgrim peace, and Bien Camino!