Day 34, Santiago, Nov 1


 There was a street party last night lasting well after 3 a.m. It had to be locals as pilgrims were too tired and used to being in bed by 8 or 9. Yesterday, the BBC website had an article on drinking a Galician special drink called the Blue Fire. Drinking it after a special incantation will purify you. And the one night that is special for drinking this was last night, All hallows eve or All Saints Day eve.

We slept in until past 8am. In clean sheets. For the second night in a row! We finally got active after 9 and headed out for café con leche and a pastry (looked like a sausage roll but with tomato sauce and cheese). Then off to The Camino office for the final credential  – parchment paper written in Latin stating we had completed the pilgrimage with our names on it. I saw Brian in the lineup, met Simon from Quebec and Melissa still in her yellow crocs, coming out of the office clutching her paper. Her eyes glowed.

But time was marching ahead. We had planned to be sitting in the Cathedral before 11:30, time enough we hoped, to get a seat for the noon mass. But even being 30 minutes early, the pews are all taken.  I managed to step up on a pillar and hang on by my feet. All saints day was one of the days that they use the Botafumeiro (incense sensor) which weighs over 50kilograms when empty and another 10k when filled with incense and burning coal. It is lowered from the ceiling and lit, then raised and swung above the crowds of sweating, smelly pilgrims to cleanse them and sweeten the air. It takes 8 men to help raise and put the Botafumeiro into motion, in a 65 meter arc swinging it from one end of the church to the other. God help them if the rope breaks.    


I had a good view of the altar and first few rows of the seats on three sides. On the centre aisle of seats I spotted Brad. In the crowds near me I thought I spied Aussie Wayne but he looked so different, clean shaven, at least ten lbs lighter and ten years younger. Linda told me later that yes, it was indeed him. El Grandio Italiano stood quietly nearby with an excellent view of the proceedings. I watched as he stepped aside and gave his place to someone else. Mats and Linda were of course there but some were missing. Thomas had to leave the day before. Rob had a date with his brothers ashes in Finisterre on Nov 3rd, so was on his way there. Tall gaunt Mat would probably be another two days. Steffen was of course missing but Steffen had videoed us earlier to congratulate us on making it to Satiago. He looked and sounded good but had been told he may never get his hearing in his left ear back.
It was a special mass. The Botafumeiro is only swung on 12 masses a year. In addition a choir was there which rarely happens. We were glad we made the push to be there.
Mats was tired, empty he said. He compared it to running marathons: you train for months, maybe even two years and then you run. But when it us over you are drained, empty inside. Not me. I guess not having trained I felt better but a siesta wouldn’t hurt, besides, the feet needed to recover.    



Linda and I went for coffee and the young French camper and El Grande Italiano came in. ‘Ah the rich lady!’ El Grande Italiano boomed. I had no idea what he was referring to.  The young French camper seemed to be tongue tied and he hugged Linda. He seemed to hold her in awe. It wasn’t until later that I remembered that this was the young man she had given €50 to help him get to Santiago . I don’t think he will ever forget that act of kindness.  

After siesta, I wandered up the street for café con leche and found Mats, Simon from Quebec, Peter who found Linda’s wallet, and Brian drinking beer and Patcheron (no idea how to spell it), Mats’s favorite drink.  

The good looking Frenchman, arrived as did the German Martin who had introduced Mats to Patcheron. The talk turned from hiking in bear country or wilderness (wilderness being defined as walking for 3 days without seeing a house…I call that a walk in a Canadian National park) to the Camino and expecting the girl of your dreams to walk through the door. The good looking Frenchman started smoking again bumming cigarettes from Simon, explaining that he was emotional. He had met a girl and fallen in love but she had left him. Later I asked Mats if the woman he was in love with was Mats ‘Future Wife’. 
 ‘No, it was that pretty French woman.’ 
‘The one at the albergue where the owner yelled at me? But she was with that older man.’  
‘Ja, that one. She told me she had been sick in bed for two days in Lyon. When I mentioned that to him, he said  ‘oui, but not sick, she was in bed with me.” 
No wonder Mats Future Wife hadn’t made any headway with the good looking Frenchman. His heart had already been stolen on the Camino. 

Linda arrived to meet us for dinner. German Martin seemed to know a lot about what was going on and where to stay. He and Mats organized dinner but Linda opted to stay with Simon, Brian and the good looking Frenchman.

German Martin had arranged to have dinner with two other Canadian women, one from Victoria and her sister from Surrey. Martin led us to what seemed like a very authentic Spanish hole-in-the-wall restaurant. I had a sardine empanada, I confess I was expecting tuna but the sardines were good, followed by fried chorizo and accompanied by hunks of Galician bread. A voice rose, it was El Grande Italiano. He came over and waved his arm over the food, gave his blessing and went on his way. 

The Galician druid drink ‘Blue Fire’.


  As we left the restaurant we took a shortcut down a narrow alley way and I spotted a bowl of Blue Fire flickering outside a bar. We peered into it and didn’t hesitate when a waitress appeared and offered us glasses at €3 each, but refills were free! I asked about the incantation that would provide the spell needed for purification but she appeared mystified and a waiter who knew more about it said we needed ten people for the ceremony, so we stuck with drinking it and hoped for the best.   

We are all awoken again in the middle of the night with voices below. In the morning Mats asked ‘Did you hear the noise?’

I nodded.
‘Did you recognize the voice?’
I shook my head.
‘It was El Grande Italiano, his voice will stay with me.’

A lot of voices will stay  with me!

A special thanks to Mats for getting me there!

Time on trail: 0

Distance travelled: 782k

Distance to go: 0
Food: a determination to learn to cook a good French stew, some Galician bread and fennel ice cream. 
Lesson learned: Lots. It will take me years to remember them all. 
Feeling: Full.
Aches and pains: Aches and pain? What aches and pains? 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: