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22 août 2012 3 22 /08 /août /2012 11:30

    TIME TO GO HOME / IL EST TEMPS DE RENTRER A LA MAISON130 Fisterra (1024x576)Fog and rain the entire day. Despite this, I was determined to make it to Fisterra and walked a total of 38 kilometers. It was terrible. The rain soaked me straight through and I was unable to take photos of certain places because it was impossible to do so without getting my camera wet. 089 Café O' Castelino, Hospital (1024x576)After leaving the albergue in Olveiroa, I had my breakfast and coffee at the last chance saloon, Café O' Castelino, the only place to find food and drink before heading to Fisterra. The woman who runs this place is named Marina and she was very surprised to see me so early in the morning. 090 Factory in Hospital (1024x576)This is a huge factory near the cafe which bellows smoke and fire into the air from its chimneys. 091 Marker for Fisterra and Muxía (1024x576)At 07h30 I set off past the marker where I had to choose either to go to Muxía first or Fisterra. I chose the direction of Fisterra and took the paved AC-2302 all the way to Cee. There was NO WAY anyone was going to get me to hike another day along a muddy path...in the fog...in the rain... The road was the best option. I didn't get muddy but I didn't stay dry either. 094 Cee (1024x576)In Cee, I took a photo of another filthy factory spewing its pollution into the air--buildings and homes nearby were covered in black soot. Because of the rain, the ONLY thing of any interest I could visit in Cee was the Iglesia de Nosa Señora da Xunqueira. 097 Iglesia de Nosa Señora da Xunqueira, Cee (1024x576)099 Iglesia de Nosa Señora da Xunqueira, Cee (1024x576)It is a 15th century church designed by the same man who served as architect for the clock tower in Santiago, Domingo de Andrade. By this time, I was so tired and hungry that I thought of taking a break and looked for an albergue or a hotel to stay in until the weather improved. Somehow, I kept going and ignored all the advertising signs for places to stay. I ended up getting lost again as well. I wanted to take the road all the way to Fisterra but I ended up walking uphill along a muddy path past the San Roque Albergue which was closed. Had it been open, I would have probably checked in. I was looking forward to walking along the beach in Fisterra called the Playa Langosteira and placing my feet in the water as some symbolic gesture of completion. If the weather was nice, I was even thinking about taking a swim. No such luck. My feet were already soaking wet and there was no sunshine. There's nothing tempting about a beach during a downpour so I followed the path that winds its way behind the dunes all the way to the center of Fisterra. 101 Playa Langosteira, Fisterra (1024x576)100 Playa Langosteira, Fisterra (1024x576)I only got two shots of the beach before continuing my journey into town. 105 Emigrante, Fisterra (576x1024)Eventually, I came to the Emigrant monument across from the town hall and a cozy, warm and inviting restaurant called Tearron where I stopped and had lunch--eggs and ham and lentil soup. I wanted to get my certificate of completion, the Fisterana but I had to wait until 14h00 when the albergue would open up for business. Thank goodness I didn't have to stay there in order to get my piece of paper. The Fisterana has my name and the date written in Galego.  Once I tucked my certificate into the tube with my Compostela inside of my backpack I decided to walk the remaining 3 kilometers to the zero kilometer marker next to the lighthouse. 106 Iglesia de Santa María, Fisterra (1024x576)This is the church of Nosa Señora das Areas (late 12th century) which houses the image of the the Holy Christ of Fisterra whose beard grows and wounds bleed.  I wanted to see that but the church was closed.  107 Fisterra (1024x576)108 Fisterra (1024x576)128 Fisterra (1024x576)129 Fisterra (1024x576)The views of the sea along the cliff were not very good due to all of the fog.  At least it stopped raining for a little while and I was able to take off my poncho.  109 Fisterra (1024x576)110 Fisterra (1024x576)It was here by the statue of the pilgrim looking out to sea that I knew I needed to go home. I was not going to suffer any longer by walking in wet shoes to Muxía.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I'm certain that it was God telling me that I could lay my burden down and go home.  111 Fisterra (1024x576)114 Fisterra (1024x576)116 Fisterra (1024x768)118 Fisterra (1024x768)120 Fisterra (1024x576)121 Fisterra (1024x576)123 Fisterra (1024x576)I opened my backpack and took out the small cross that I made using the two stones I brought with me from the Cruz de Ferro.  Thanking Him for his protection and guidance I placed the small cross at the base of the distance marker beside the lighthouse.  It was finished.  Time to go home.  132 Leaving Fisterra (1024x576)I took a bus from Fisterra back to Santiago and checked myself into the Seminario Menor for one more night.  I had my own room again but I was just too tired to leave it and find something to eat.  The three hour bus ride took too much out of me and all I wanted to do was sleep.  I didn't even do my laundry.  My shoes were soaking wet and my clothes smelled terrible. 2012j Camino de Santiago de ComposetlaSleep came immediately and in the morning I put on my sandals, packed my bag and headed to the Santiago bus station--it was the morning of June 16th. 2012i Camino de Santiago de ComposetlaMy journey by foot was over but the bus ride all the way to Paris was just beginning. The ALSA bus service was crowded, smelly, noisy and uncomfortable.  Now, multiply that by ten and you will understand how terrible it got when I had to change my bus at the Area Suco station outside of Burgos.  2012l Camino de Santiago de Composetla2012n Camino de Santiago de Composetla2012o Camino de Santiago de ComposetlaDespite not showering in three days, I was exceptionally clean compared to the others on my bus. If I had known this ahead of time, I would have bought a plane ticket instead or a gas mask to filter the fumes at the very least.  Although I was uncomfortable 100 percent of the time, I did enjoy watching the Spanish countryside fly past me.  2012k Camino de Santiago de ComposetlaHard to believe I was walking these same fields a month ago when they were green and not brown.  By the time I reached Paris on the 17th, I had spent nearly 24 hours on a bus, in a chair not even big enough for a small child. 2012p Camino de Santiago de Composetla2012q Camino de Santiago de ComposetlaMy feet swelled up to a frightening size. In Paris, I went directly to the Gare St-Lazare train station and bought a first class ticket back to Cherbourg. I was so glad to be home!  095 My CompostelaMy Compostela and Fisterana now hang on the wall above the fireplace in my house along with a copy of my pilgrim's passport.  My Camino was a success and I hope to do it again one day.  Who knows?097 Camino Stages

Published by Thomas Hugues - dans Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques
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21 août 2012 2 21 /08 /août /2012 11:35


056 Cornado (1024x576)I was the last person to leave the albergue this morning.  I was trying to wait out the rain but it would not relent.  There has been a heavy fog mixed with a strong drizzle ever since I woke up and it is now 10h00 and I’ve been resting for the last 45 minutes in the Bar Casa Vitoriano in Maroñas.  Every now and then, other pilgrims arrive looking for a warm cup of coffee or a chance to dry out a little bit before continuing their journey.  I wasn’t the only one feeling miserable.  Earlier, I got lost and ended up back where I started at the entrance to the town.  Soon, a black taxi pulled up and a huge group of tightly packed Spanish pilgrims stepped out.  After introducing myself, they told me that they too were lost and called the taxi to transport them back to the spot where they got lost in the first place.  After my 45 minute break in Maroñas, I put my poncho back on and continued walking.  059 Maroñas (1024x576)057 Maroñas (1024x576)058 Maroñas (1024x576)064 (1024x576)It seems like there is a small church, a cemetery or a hórreo every few hundred meters.  Of course, I find them all very interesting and took as many photos as I could without getting my camera wet.  I don’t know what it is with these primitive stone structures but I find them endlessly fascinating.  061 Iglesia Santa Mariña (1024x576)062 Iglesia Santa Mariña (1024x576)As for the cemeteries, well, I’ve always had a morbid attraction to graveyards—especially ones with cool tombstones.  Surrounding the small church of Santa Mariña on three sides were several large, family tombs.  063 (1024x576)In Corzón, the ominous, black clouds opened up for a quick down pour that had me seeking safety in a wayside bus shelter.  I wasn’t happy with this situation but as quickly as it had started, the rain stopped and I had intermittent bursts of sunshine the rest of the afternoon.  067 San Cristovo de Corzón (1024x576)069 San Cristovo de Corzón (1024x576)068 San Cristovo de Corzón (1024x576)In Corzón I took some pictures of the Iglesia de San Cristóbal which was not only surrounded by large tombs but had an interesting bell tower that was detached from the building.  066 (1024x576)065 (1024x576)To my right was the Montes de la Ruña, site of a medieval castle now vanished along with ancient legends of buried gold.  076 Municipal Albergue, Olveiroa (576x1024)077 Municipal Albergue, Olveiroa (1024x576)In Olveiroa, I stayed at the municipal albergue.  I wanted to do my laundry but I didn’t want to take the chance that it might rain again so I went to another albergue nearby called the O Peregrino.  I WANTED to give them my 10 Euros to wash and dry my clothes and they readily ACCEPTED my 10 Euros but when they realized that I was not staying at their albergue (which cost 12 Euros), they refunded my money and handed back my clothes.  I wasn’t in the mood for stupid games from STUPID people (all I wanted was clean clothing!!!) so I politely told them I had NO problem giving them 12 Euros for a bed that I did not intend to sleep in.  To seal the deal, I even told them I would give them an extra 5 Euros to do my laundry.  Can you believe it?  They REFUSED my money!  The arrogant, fools didn’t want my money!  With my usual grace and calm, I explained to them that I would do whatever I could to keep future pilgrims from staying here.  So, if you are reading this, be sure to avoid the arrogance and stupidity of the people who run O Peregrino in Olveiroa!  You are much better off with wet clothes and a warm bed at the municipal albergue which only costs 5 Euros.  Tomorrow I will have to wear my dry dirty clothes and hope that I can find a place to do laundry in Fisterra.  074 Horreo, Olveiroa (1024x576)073 Horreo, Olveiroa (1024x576)075 Horreo, Olveiroa (1024x576)070 Horreo, Olveiroa (1024x576)Meanwhile, I walked around Olveiroa in my red swimming trunks and took pictures of the many different hórreos for which this town is famous.  071 Iglesia Santiago, Olveiroa (1024x576)072 Iglesia Santiago, Olveiroa (1024x576)Olveiroa also has its own church dedicated to Santiago.  080 Ermita Santa Lucia, Olveiroa (1024x576)081 Ermita Santa Lucia, Olveiroa (1024x576)About a kilometer away, off the beaten path is the Ermita de Santa Lucía with its miraculous fountain which can supposedly cure diseases of the eyes.  I have no disease of the eyes but I'm bound to have something now--just look at all the filthy issues in and around the fountain.  It looks awful.  Local leaders ought to do something about this and clean up the fountain. The arrogant Frenchman who stayed in the albergue in Vilarserío last night was in the bunk above mine when I got back.  This didn’t bother me in the least but I ALMOST lost total control of my faculties when I saw him push my shoes out of the window and into a puddle of water!  I had them strategically placed on the window sill to dry but he just HAD to close the window didn’t he?  No apologies.  No, I’m sorry.  No sense of guilt whatsoever at what he had done.  NOTHING.  The only explanation I could come up with is that he did this purposefully for a reason that I could not fathom.  This COMPLETE and TOTAL egghead didn’t even bother to go outside, pick them up for me and take responsibility for his actions!  No one gets off that easily...  Fortunately, the sun came out in full force for the rest of the day and I managed to get my shoes completely dry!  In the end, I was quite glad that he had the bunk above mine.  In the middle of the night, while he snored loudly in his bed, I accidentally tipped over my water bottle soaking the bottom of his backpack.  I felt pretty bad about it  as you can imagine.  Total distance walked today: 20,6 kilometers.088 Horreo, Olveiroa (1024x576)087 Horreo, Olveiroa (1024x576)086 Horreo, Olveiroa (1024x576)    


Published by Thomas Hugues - dans Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques
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20 août 2012 1 20 /08 /août /2012 14:51


001 Santiago de Compostela (768x1024)I left the albergue early enough to see the towers of Santiago Cathedral silhouetted against the dawn of the morning sky.  005 Santiago de Compostela (1024x576)It looked so peaceful in the distance.  The weather was beautiful so I took advantage of it and walked a total of 34,8 kilometers today.  002 To Fisterra (1024x576)The hike out of the city is flat but winds its way through a forest of eucalyptus trees.  007 Augapesada (1024x576)Some rotting wood in the forest near Augapesada.  008 Augapesada (1024x576)Another of the many hórreos of Galicia.  009 Augapesada (1024x576)The medieval footbridge in Augapesada.  011 Augapesada (1024x576)010 Augapesada (1024x575)I took a short rest in the eucalyptus forest near Augapesada.  060 Maroñas (1024x576)I walked alone all day and caught only glimpses of other pilgrims on the trail.  It was very different from the Camino path to Santiago where fellow pilgrims are rarely out of sight.  012 Cruceiro Santiago, Trasmonte (1024x576)Cruceiro Santiago, Trasmonte  013 Iglesia Santa Maria, Trasmonte (1024x576)Iglesia Santa María, Trasmonte 015 Iglesia Santa Maria, Trasmonte (576x1024)Iglesia Santa María, Trasmonte 014 Iglesia Santa Maria, Trasmonte (1024x576)Iglesia Santa María, Trasmonte 016 Casa Pancho, Trasmonte (1024x576)In Trasmonte, I stopped at the Casa Pancho for some juice and coffee.  017 Reino (1024x576)018 Burgueiros (1024x576)I passed by many more hórreos on my way through small villages before reaching Ponte Maceira with its weir and 13th century bridge which spans 100 meters over the río Tambre.  019 Ponte Maceira (1024x576)020 Ponte Maceira (1024x576)023 río Tambre (1024x576)024 Ponte Maceira (1024x576)026 Ponte Maceira (1024x576)034 Ponte Maceira (576x1024)The town’s coat of arms features an image from the story about how God destroyed the bridge in order to prevent Roman soldiers from following the followers of Saint James in the early 12th century.  027 Capilla de San Blas, Ponte Maceira (1024x576)The nearby Chapel of San Blas was closed as was everything else in town.  028 Cruceiro, Ponte Maceira (1024x576)033 Cruceiro, Ponte Maceira (1024x576)031 Cruceiro, Ponte Maceira (1024x576)030 Cruceiro, Ponte Maceira (1024x576)032 Cruceiro, Ponte Maceira (1024x576)029 Cruceiro, Ponte Maceira (1024x576)I came across an interesting cross with the image of Jesus on one side and the Virgin Mary with arms folded on the other side.  Symbols of Christ’s Passion were sculpted in the stone of its base.  035 Pazo, Chancela de Abaixo (1024x576)This is the Pazo de Abaixo with its 14th century stone walls just outside of Negreira.  036 Negreira (1024x576)037 Negreira (768x1024)Pilgrim monument at the center of town, Negreira.  038 Negreira (1024x768)Fountain and monument to cows in Negreira.  040 Negreira (768x1024)Emigrant statue in Negreira. 041 Negreira (768x1024)Emigrant statue in Negreira. 039 calle San Mauro, Negreira (1024x768)The remains of the Cotón manor house in Negreira.  042 Capilla San Mauro, Negreira (1024x768)The small church of San Mauro in Negreira.  044 Xax (1024x576)045 Xas (1024x576)The pilgrim path leading all the way to Vilarserío was muddy and I had to be careful where I stepped.  049 near Vilarserío (1024x576)At one point, I got lost and found myself crossing a farmer’s field in order to get back on the trail.  It looks to me like the farmer needs to build a fence or put up better signs or I won’t be the only pilgrim trampling through his crops.  046 Xas (1024x576)043 Iglesia de San Xulián, Negreira (768x1024)Just outside of town is the 18th century parish church of San Xulián.  The path then makes its way between hills covered in eucalyptus trees and large wind turbines before reaching the small towns of Xas, San Marmede and San Martiño.  048 near Vilarserío (1024x576)In front of a small church in San Marmede, I met a French man walking in the other direction.  I stopped him to ask where he was going and he told me that he was walking back to Le-Puy-en-Velay in France!  I can’t imagine being on the Camino for so long.  He skin was darkened by the sun and his eyes squinted at me through little slits.  I wonder why he wasn’t wearing sunglasses—the sun is so bright!  I also met a large group of Irish who were on pilgrimage to Santiago.  They told me that they started in Santiago but in order to receive a Compostela they had to walk at least 100 kilometers first.  Their guide was taking them on a round trip to the coast and back.  I thought this was an interesting route and certainly very scenic considering they only had five days to make the journey.  051 Vilarserío (1024x576)A hórreo just outside of Vilarsarío.  052 A Nosa Casa, Vilarserío (1024x576)I arrived in Vilarsarío at 15h00 and had a late lunch in the restaurant A Nosa Casa in front of the albergue O Rueiro.  For only six Euros, my lunch consisted of two eggs, French fries and five extremely large slices of ham.  It was enough to feed two people!  053 Albergue O Rueiro, Vilarserío (768x1024)There is a very annoying, old French man staying here who is quite full of himself and seems quite cocky when telling everyone that he has been walking for months from Brittany in the north of France.  Not to be outdone, another man from Switzerland pipes in to brag that he began walking from Geneva.  Both of them are probably telling lies since they look like millionaires in their pristine, top-of-the-line clothing.  I’ve only one set of clean clothes which I will wear tomorrow.  Right now, my biggest fear is that it is going to rain and I won’t be able to find an albergue that has a dryer.  055 Albergue O Rueiro, Vilarserío (1024x576)I've seen this before in other albergues where pilgrims leave small coins balanced on the edges of the stone walls.  I don't know what it means--perhaps someone can enlighten me.  Perhaps it is some ritual / traditional way of saying thanks for the bed (?)054 Albergue O Rueiro, Vilarserío (768x1024)

Published by Thomas Hugues - dans Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques
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20 août 2012 1 20 /08 /août /2012 10:02


056 Santiago de Compostela (1024x575)It feels strange not to get out of bed at six in the morning. I've nothing to do today except enjoy my 43rd birthday in front of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela with my friends.  For those of you who received postcards dated on this day, I want you to know that I pre-wrote all of those poscards days earlier so I would have more time to do things in Santiago...little did I know that I would have all afternoon in front of the Cathedral to write them.  My companions came in quite late last night after a few rounds of sangria.  Frank was the first of our group to leave.  He had to get up early in order to walk to the bus station which was going to take him to Madrid to catch his flight back to Germany.  As a parting gift, he gave me all of his blister bandages and wished me luck on my Camino to Fisterra.  It was sad to see him go and I knew that I would be losing the rest of my friends throughout the day.  092 Camino Santiago CompostelaMy companions are not in the habit of hurrying anyone but it seemed like they were in a rush this morning.  They told me to get out of bed and get ready to go to breakfast.  When I finished showering and getting dressed, I went to meet them in the living room of the hotel where they all yelled, "Happy Birthday!"  It was so unexpected.  093 Chemin de St-JacquesThe gifts that they gave me included a small decorative box, a Camino distance marker, a postcard with all of their signatures and good wishes and best of all, a new Rosary.  During my Camino I lost several wooden beads from the Rosary that I brought with me.  When I told my friends that I had to remember to do an extra four Hail Marys after the sixth bead, I guess they knew what I needed the most.  094 St-Jacques de CompostelaIt fits perfectly around my wrist.  Thanks guys for being so thoughtful.  It was a great 43th birthday present!  After breakfast, we went to the bus stop to say farewell to Sebastian who was catching a bus that would take him back to Sarria where his motorcycle was in storage.  034 Svatojakubská cesta (768x1024)064 Pazo de Raxoi, Jakobsweg (768x1024)--Watching the pilgrim’s come and go in front of the Cathedral on the Prazo Obradoiro--

046 Pazo de Raxoi, Jakobsweg (1024x575)Tom, Tommy, Andreas and I spent the rest of the afternoon in front of the Cathedral watching pilgrims come and go.  We had fantastic weather as we sat under the arches of the Pazo de Raxoi.  It is a building across from the Cathedral on the Praza del Obradoiro.  Built in 1766 under the direction of Archbishop Raxoi it served as a residence for priests from the seminary and the Cathedral children's choir.  Works were executed by French engineer Charles Lemaur.  It now serves as the town hall for Santiago and administrative center for Galicia.065 Prazo Obradoiro (768x1024)061 Andreas Fisher (1024x577)--Andreas seemed to be deep in thought as he relaxed against the arches of the Pazo de Raxoi in front of the Cathedral--

059 Hostal dos Reis Catolicos (1024x768)Another beautiful building on the plaza is the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, founded in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand II of Aragon, as a pilgrims' hospice, now the luxury Parador Hotel and Museum.  Another fine example of extraordinary architecture can be found at the intersection of the Praza das Praterías and the Praza da Quintana where the Torre do Reloxo bell tower stands.  070 Santiago de Compostela (768x1024)Its construction began in 1316 under the direction of Archbishop Rodrigo de Padrón.  The intimate square is adorned with a lovely fountain of hoses leaping out of the water.  At 14h30, we returned to the Residencia Hedra’ss to get our backpacks.  Tom, Tommy and Andreas had to catch a bus to the Santiago airport.  I walked with them and said my farewells.  We hope to get together again in the future to walk another Camino.  Who knows?  I might visit them next year so we can all go to Oktoberfest together.  I think it would be fun to put on a pair of lederhosen.  That sounds like a great idea!  090 Seminario Menor (1024x575)091 Seminario Menor (1024x575)I then went directly to the Seminario Menor which is the largest of the albergues in Santiago.  For 17 Euros I was able to get a room to myself (the first time in over a month) and access to a washer and dryer.  It’s supposed to be very nice tomorrow so I think I will begin my walk to Fisterra.  When I come back from Fisterra I will do all of my souvenir shopping and visit all of the museums and churches in Santiago.069 Santiago de Compostela (768x1024)

Published by Thomas Hugues - dans Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques
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19 août 2012 7 19 /08 /août /2012 16:00


058 Santiago de Compostela (768x1024)With only less than five kilometres to walk, the route from Monte do Gozo into Santiago was perhaps the most joyful stage of the entire Camino.  Many things in life have brought me happiness and what I was about to experience would suddenly rank up high with the many pinnacles of joy I’ve been blessed to know in my life.  001 Monte de Gozo (1024x768)--Tommy and Andreas wait for me to get my backpack organized so we can start walking into Santiago--

002 Monte de Gozo (1024x576)--The Pilgrim complex at the top of Monte do Gozo is huge--

009 Monte de Gozo (892x1024)006 Monte de Gozo (1024x572)--Some early morning rain to greet us as we leave the albergue at Monte do Gozo--

011 Santiago de Compostela (576x1024)Although the sky was dark and covered in clouds, I felt only sunshine.  My backpack was lighter and my legs seemed to fly over the asphalt.  I’d waited so long for this moment.  014 Santiago de Compostela (1024x576)After walking through a maze of modern buildings along busy streets and confusing roundabouts, I and my Croatian and German friends entered the rúa dos Conceiros which is named after the stall owners who used to sell scallop shells, conchas, to the arriving pilgrims.  From here on the old city of Santiago begins to open up as we reach the Cruceiro de San Pedro.  015 Santiago de Compostela (1024x576)From here on in I expected to see the spires of the Cathedral but all I could see were narrow streets and tightly packed buildings.The first church we saw on our way to the Cathedral was the Iglesia Santa María do Camiño, a neoclassical temple designed by Miguel Ferro Caaveiro and completed in 1770.  016 Santiago de Compostela (768x1024)It was rebuilt to replace the original Romanesque church that was here.  Its main façade is decorated with Baroque and neoclassical elements which highlight a great oculus, wreathed in laurels and topped by a crown.  The front door is framed by four giant Ionic pilasters which support the pediment.  017 Santiago de Compostela (1024x768)Down ancient streets that have paid witness to millions of pilgrims over a thousand years, we passed another small church called the Capilla de Ánimas (Chapel of Souls) which dates from 1784 and features another neoclassical design by Ventura Rodríguez.  018 Santiago de Compostela (768x1024)Its otherwise plain and ordinary pediment is adorned with the image of souls being purified in the fires Purgatory.  Just a few hundred meters away the clouds almost disappeared as we caught our first glimpse of our destination--the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  049 Santiago de Compostela (1024x640)After a few minutes to catch our breath and take in this wondrous site, we took several photos before turning our attention briefly to the former Benedictine Monastery of San Martín Pinaro on the right.  026 St-Jacques-de-Compostelle (576x1024)048 Jakobsweg (1024x657)The current building dates from the 16th century and continues to play the religious role of being the seminary for the Archdiocese.  The entrance is oriented to the south with its own gardens that open up to the Praza da Immaculada and the northern façade of the Cathedral.  It was designed by Gabriel de las Casas and its four Doric columns support an entablature decorated with pinnacles.   Its façade features a large shield representing Spain and a statue of San Benito riding a horse.  We were all very excited and our pace increased.  022 Santiago de Compostela (768x1024)Through the archbishop’s arch (Arco Arzobispal) between the Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace we finally reached the end of our journey at the center of the Praza do Obradoiro, the ‘golden’ square.  032 Jakobsweg (1024x324)028 St-Jacques-de-Compostelle (1024x768)We started to look for a kilometer marker which read zero but there wasn’t one.  Of course we didn’t need one—the arrival at the western façade of the great Cathedral was enough to satisfy all of us.  It was a great feeling—a feeling that is hard to describe in words.  After a month of walking, I finally arrived at the end of my pilgrimage.  032 Svatojakubská cesta (768x1024)I was with good friends and our little group cheered and hugged one another in congratulations.  At the center of the plaza is a marker with the image of the scallop shell.  030 St-Jacques-de-Compostelle (1024x576)I felt that a word of thanks was necessary here and I asked my friends to place their hands on my walking stick and gather in a circle.  I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I thanked the Lord for bringing us together and for bringing us safely to Santiago.  I made a special point of praying aloud for each of my companions wishing them new beginnings.  Of all my experiences up to this point, none has been more poignant and meaningful.  I think that the others felt the same way and a few of us cried a few tears of joy.  It is something I will never forget.  Thanks guys!  St-Jacques de CompostelaBefore going to the Pilgrim Mass at noon, and visiting the tomb of the Apostle, we went to the Pilgrim office to get our certificates which confirmed that we’d walked the last 100 kilometers on foot from Sarria to complete our pilgrimage.  We had a little trouble finding it, but it turned out to be only a block from the Cathedral.  I expected to see a long line but there was no one there except us and a few dozen other people.  As we entered, an English volunteer greeted us and told us to go to the top of the stairs to obtain our Compostela.  One at a time, we presented our pilgrim’s passport to a volunteer behind a booth who checked to see if we had all of the necessary stamps from the albergues in which we stayed.  Camino Credencial Sello Compostela--This is my “Credencial del Peregrino” which was issued to me by the Association Normande des Amis de St-Jacques.--  

    The volunteer also asked us some pretty straightforward questions like:  “When did you start?”,  “Where did you start?”, “What is your nationality?” and “What are your reasons for walking?”  People walk the Camino for very different reasons—not all of them religious.  After filling out a small form I was given my certificate of completion with my name written in Latin.  Our next step was to find somewhere to stay.  Tommy found a woman outside the Pilgrim’s office that was willing to help us find a nice hotel at a good price.  In the end, she got a hold of a lady on the telephone who said she would come to meet us and take us back to her establishment.  Sebastian was very happy that we were in Santiago but he was not happy that we had to walk even further to find a place to stay.  His leg was still giving him a lot of pain.  Soon, an elderly woman arrived and told us that it would be a seven minute walk to her building, the Residencia Hedra'ss—Sebastian timed it on his watch and it took exactly seven minutes to get there.  Residencia Hedra'ss, SantiagoThe rooms were actually part of someone’s large apartment with chambers of different sizes and two large bathrooms at either end.  We paid approximately 20 Euros apiece for two rooms.  Despite all of the comforts of home, she could not provide a laundry service—something I needed because I had only one set of clothes to wear for tomorrow.  Once we put our backpacks away, we headed out to find a place to eat breakfast before going back to the Cathedral for the Pilgrim’s Mass.  The first restaurant we tried was just below our hotel called The Derby Bar.  Despite its proximity, we chose NOT to eat there because there were NO menus!  When we asked for a breakfast menu, the waiter acted as if we were speaking in tongues and just asked us what we wanted.  What sort of place is that?  He could charge anything he wants for two eggs and some juice!  Forget that!  Nope!  Not eating there!  We found a restaurant nearby that served a huge breakfast with juice and coffee so we ate there instead.  The day turned into a celebration and a reunion with many of the people I’d met along the way.  I was fortunate enough to see Gottfried and Peter from Germany again, Scott from Australia, Mauricio from Italy, Rob and Judy from New Zealand, and the entire family from New Zealand that made dinner for me in Molinaseca and best of all, István, the Hungarian man I walked with for several weeks at the beginning of my Camino.  067 Itstvan Modos (1024x984)He and some other friends were just coming back to Santiago from their trip to Fisterra.  He said that he experienced a lot of rain on the way there and because of that, he decided not to continue walking to Muxía and instead came back to Santiago by bus.  I hope that I don’t have the same problem when I go.  The five-day round-trip walk to the coast of Spain and back is only popular with the more intrepid pilgrims and is supposed to be even prettier than the walk to Santiago—also, it is the official end of the Camino Francés.  037 Svatojakubská cesta (1024x768)After breakfast, we went to the Cathedral and arrived at 11h00, one hour ahead of the Pilgrim’s Mass.  We took some time to look around fully and to make sure we got great seats so we could see the swinging of the Botafumeiro, a large silver and gold incensory that is swung over the heads of the faithful during the Mass by eight men in red robes, called tiraboleiros.  In medieval times, its function was not just liturgical.  It was also filled with perfumes to deodorize the smells from the hordes of sweating and unwashed pilgrims who went straight to the Cathedral after days on the road.  These days, the Botafumeiro is only used on special occasions or when groups of tourists pay to have it swung.  A volunteer at the Pilgrim office said that there would be incense today because a tour group of Irish pilgrims paid to have it swung during the Mass.  (This did not come to pass and none of us got to see the Botafumeiro.)  For us, the biggest highlight of the Mass came when the priest announced the country names of all the pilgrims who arrived in Santiago before noon that day.  We were grinning from ear to ear when he congratulated the “four men from Germany who started their Camino in Astorga…one man from Croatia who started his Camino in Sarria…and one man from the United States who started his Camino in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port.”  I suspect that my companions were somewhat puzzled by some of the things done during a Catholic Mass—like when they should genuflect and when they should bow.  For Catholics, a Mass is the same in every church all over the world.  Mass in Santiago is the same as Mass in France or Germany or the United States.  The only obvious difference is the language—I knew what was happening throughout the Mass even though I didn’t understand a word of Spanish.  However, I must agree with my friends that the most important spiritual experience in Santiago did not come during the Mass but during our small prayer circle in front of the Cathedral.  I’m certain that each of us felt God’s presence at that moment.  “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)  After Mass we performed some of the traditional pilgrim rituals such as walking behind the high altar and hugging the statue of James the Apostle.  Here, there was a sign that said “NO PICTURES” but I was not going to pass up this opportunity to photograph my friends as they spent a few moments with the saint.  I’m sure that if I explained my reasons, God would forgive me.  042 Andreas Fischer (768x1024)--This is Andreas touching the shoulders of the Apostle-- 

044 Sebastian, Croatia (768x1024)--This is Sebastian touching the shoulders of the Apostle-- 

043 Amanda, New Zealand (768x1024)--This is Amanda (one of the daughters from the family from New Zealand)-- 

By this time, an elderly church warden was on to me and told me to shut off my camera.  St-Jacques de Compostela altar041 Szent Jakab-ut (748x1024)The next ritual is to go below the high altar to the crypt and reliquary chapel where the bones of Saint James are kept.  I knelt in prayer and gratitude for my safe arrival.  055 Portico de Gloria Maestro Mateo (547x1024)051 Santiago de Compostela (768x1024)Millions of pilgrims over the centuries have worn finger holes in the solid marble of the tree of Jesse at the Portico de Gloria.  For this reason, it is no longer permitted to place your hand on the column—another pilgrim ritual.  The inner portico was carved between 1166 and 1188 by sculptor Master Mateo.  Restoration work is currently taking place on this work and a small barrier keeps the dirty hands of pilgrims at bay.  054 Portico de Gloria Maestro Mateo (1024x768)The column rests on a base where there is a figure with beard to his chest (perhaps an image of Noah) and two lions.  052 Portico de Gloria Maestro Mateo (677x1024)At the foot of the central column on the other side looking towards the main altar of the Cathedral, is the kneeling figure of Master Mateo, holding a sign that is says Architectus.  Master Mateo is popularly known as the Santo dos Croques (Saint of the Bumps) since traditionally pilgrims bump their heads against the figure in order to receive some of his wisdom.  This ritual also is no longer permitted.  The rest of the day was spent souvenir shopping and looking around the town.  Tom wasn’t feeling well so he went back to the room to sleep it off.  080 Sebastian and Andreas Fischer (1024x640)083 Andreas Fischer (800x1024)079 Tommy Wissel (1024x768)073 Frank Bieberschulte (1024x782)072 Frank Bieberschulte (1024x577)The rest of us went to dinner at a nice place near the Cathedral called Restaurante Central.  074 Vas-Partner (1024x575)077 Thomas Sauerland (1024x768)075 Vas-Partner (1024x578)We had a plethora of traditional Spanish dishes including caldo Galego, paella, pulpo, peppers, and baked scallops.  Afterward, I was feeling very tired and I wanted to go back to the room and rest but I gave into peer pressure and followed Sebastian on his search for a bar that would serve him a glass of sangria.  084 Sebastian and Andreas Fischer (1024x575)088 Charly und Aggi (1024x768)087 Charly und Aggi (1024x768)After two pitchers of wine, I said goodnight to everyone and went back to our room.  Tomorrow is my birthday and I plan on spending it with my friends before each of them must leave to go back work in their own country.  After that, I will probably start out on the trail which leads to Fisterra, “the end of the Earth”.

Published by Thomas Hugues - dans Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques
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16 août 2012 4 16 /08 /août /2012 12:24


999-892 Ready to leave Arzúa (1024x576)--Tom, Tommy, Frank, Sebastian, Andreas and me prepared to face the morning rain in Arzúa--

I did not write much on this day because I didn’t feel up to it.  Everything about this day was long.  We woke up early to heavy rain in Arzúa—it rained most of the day.  I'm writing some nonsense text now because I have to keep up with the stupid ads on this blog platform.  Hopefully this will get rid of them for three months.  Before we left, we had coffee from the vending machine in the dining room of the Albergue Don Quixote next door while the guys convinced me to walk with them into Santiago tomorrow morning.  I was reluctant at first to give up my plan to arrive in Santiago on the 12th but in the end I couldn’t imagine arriving without them.  We’ve become so close these last three days. 

999-894 Ready to leave Arzúa (768x1024)  999-896 Ready to leave Arzúa (768x1024)

999-897 Ready to leave Arzúa (1024x578)999-898 Ready to leave Arzúa (1024x576)999-899 Ready to leave Arzúa (1024x575)Once again, I had the opportunity to explain the designs on my walking stick.  The guys were intrigued and in the end, I promised that I would make them each a walking stick—I’m not too sure how that will pan out but I think I can do it.  999-901 Ramón Pazos Seaje, As Barrosas (576x1024)As we left Arzúa, one of the first things we encountered along the muddy path was this irregular shaped monolith with a plaque in honor of Ramón Pazos Seaje, a pilgrim who died on this spot in 1996.  It's so sad to think he was so close to having completed his pilgrimage.  999-902 Fondevila (1024x576)999-904 Pereiriña (768x1024)999-903 Cartobe (1024x576)Although we had horrible weather and a muddy path to contend with, the views of the surrounding countryside were spectacular.  999-905 A Calzada (768x1024)Every now and then we would cross a small stream or walk through a forest of eucalyptus trees.  999-906 A Calzada999-908 A Calzada (1024x576)In A Calzada we stopped for breakfast and another round of coffee at the café Casa Calzada.  I prayed that the rain would stop and Tommy ordered the universe to stop the rain as well.  Neither of us had our prayers answered.  999-911 A Calle (1024x576)It continued to rain.  At one point, I saw a man walking with plastic bags taped to his feet.  It was such a funny sight but I have to admit that I wish I had those bags myself because my blisters were very sore due to wet shoes.  999-910 A Calzada (1024x576)--A pilgrim on horseback-- 

999-913 Guillermo Watt, Salceda (1024x576)999-912 Guillermo Watt, Salceda (1024x576)999-914 Guillermo Watt, Salceda (1024x576)In Salceda we came across another pilgrim memorial—this time it was for a man named Guillermo Watt who died on this spot only one day away from Santiago, aged 69.  The memorial consists of a plaque and a bronze sculpture of his hiking shoes set in a niche where fellow pilgrims leave small stones, prayer cards, flowers and photographs to show their respects.  999-915 Santa Irene (1024x576)999-916 Myra Brennan, Camino Santiago Compostela (1024x576)About five kilometres later, we came across the 25km marker and another pilgrim memorial to a 52 year-old Irish woman named Myra Brennan who died in Santiago after completing her second Camino.  Our approach seems to be getting more and more depressing with all of these memorials!  Am I going to make it?  I’m half dead already with walking in this awful weather!  999-916 Santa Irene (1024x576)Andreas and Tommy are so far ahead, we don’t know where they are.  Frank got a text message telling us that they were going to stop at the restaurant O Caedoiro outside of Santa Irene and wait for us but when we arrived, they had already left.  I think this may have been a bit of subterfuge on Tommy’s part in order to keep all of us walking.  I was ready to quit and find a room in Santa Irene.  It took some time but Frank finally convinced me to go on.  999-917 Santa Irene (1024x576)999-918 Santa Irene (1024x576)--The sun came out for a little while and lit up a field of yellow flowers--

For the most part, Tom, Frank, Sebastian and me walked together—each of us trying to lift one another’s spirits.  I’m confident that Tom moved a lot faster than us because he was tired of Frank and I singing show tunes and 80s pop classics.  It was sheer drudgery the rest of the afternoon for all of us.  What would normally take us one hour to accomplish now took two.  999-919 Santa Irene (877x1024)--The grafitti along the Camino is often encouraging--

Once again, Tommy and Andreas sent us another text saying they would wait for us in Amenal but when we finally arrived, they were already gone.  999-921 Pereiriña (1024x575)--Frank made a new friend as we were leaving Arca O Pino--  999-922 Pereiriña (768x1024)-- Frank made a new friend as we were leaving Arca O Pino-- 

999-923 Amenal (1024x768)999-925 Amenal (1024x574)999-929 Lavacolla (1024x576)999-926 San Paio (768x1024)999-931 Lavacolla (1024x576)In Lavacolla we decided to rest our weary bones.  Sebastian was having a lot of problems with his leg and decided to stay here when he realized we had another eight kilometres to go before reaching Monte do Gozo.  I think we were all a bit frustrated and worn out—I was going to stay with him since I too was past the point of being absolutely miserable.  After 30 minutes, I convinced Sebastian to take a whole Paracetamol and push on with Tom and Frank.  After taking the pill, he felt a lot better and took the shorter route to Monte do Gozo along the auto route instead of the marked pilgrim trail.  The rest of us should have followed him because he arrived in Monte do Gozo an hour before us!  999-932 Lavacolla (1024x950)--I found an old bocadillo tucked away in my backpack.  No, I didn’t care how old it was.  I was hungry, tired, depressed and wet.--  999-933 Lavacolla (768x1024)--Sebastian had to rest his leg in Lavacolla--  999-934 Lavacolla (768x1024)--Tom wasn’t feeling well either but he tried not to let on--  999-935 Lavacolla (1024x575)--I took a picture of the cemetery because that’s where I thought I would end up if I kept walking…another pilgrim memorial with my name on it!--

999-938 Monte do Gozo (768x1024)The asphalt trail past the airport and television tower seemed to go on forever.  It was near 17h00 when we finally reached Monte do Gozo.  Sebastian was waiting with Tommy and Andreas at the Tienda da Calle.  999-940 Monte do Gozo (1024x768)Charly and Aggi who arrived in Santiago days earlier came to the restaurant and cheered us on with a sign in German.  It wasn’t Santiago but I felt like I was already at the end of a long journey.  999-942 Monte do Gozo (817x1024)--Frank and I make it to Monte do Gozo--  999-941 Monte do Gozo (1024x578)--Looking for Tom--  999-943 Tienda da Calle, Monte do Gozo (1024x577)--I was glad to sit down and drink a few beers.  Victory!  Sebastian, Aggi, Frank, Tommy, me, Charly and Tom--  999-945 Tienda da Calle, Monte do Gozo (1024x577)--Frank and Tommy--  999-946 Tienda da Calle, Monte do Gozo (1024x576)--Charly, Tom, Andreas and Sebastian--  999-947 Tienda da Calle, Monte do Gozo (1024x577)--Aggi, Frank, Tommy, me, Tom, Charly and Andreas--

FROM THE WIKIPEDIA: Monte do Gozo (Hill of Joy) is a hill in Santiago de Compostela known for being the place where Christian pilgrims on the Camino get their first views of the three spires of their destination, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  It is the pilgrims' last hill and last stop before reaching the cathedral, with about an hour's walk still to go, and by tradition is where they cry out in rapture at finally seeing the end of their path.  The hill features the large Ciudad de Vacaciones Monte do Gozo (Monte do Gozo Holiday City) development, constructed in 1993 for benefit of the pilgrims, which includes a spread-out, bungalow-style, 500-bed hotel/hostel, a camping ground, gardens and walking paths, all on 65 hectares.  The only thing left on the hill that mirrors any religious history to this place is the small chapel of San Marcos.  999-952 Monte do Gozo (1024x576)A large, soulless and ugly sculpture of concrete and steel rises from the top of the hill to commemorate Pope John Paul’s visit in 1989.  The hospitalero gave us a room with eight beds.  While everyone took their showers and cared for their sore feet, I went to the San Marcos chapel for the pilgrim Mass and to give thanks to God for my safe arrival on this dreary, wet day.  999-955 Capilla San Marcos, Monte do Gozo (1024x576)999-956 Capilla San Marcos, Monte do Gozo (1024x522)Despite the size of the Monte do Gozo complex and the vast number of pilgrims it houses, I was shocked to see only nine people at Mass not including the priest, Father Alphonse.  He celebrated the Mass in several languages and provided musical accompaniment on his guitar.  It was dark outside by the time Mass was over and I had to walk through the rain to get back to the albergue.  999-964 Marisquería Sexo I, Monte do Gozo (796x1024)999-954 Monte do Gozo (1024x461)Everyone was ready to go to dinner except me but they were all willing to wait while I got a shower and changed my clothes.  The guys hung out in the break room with the hospitalero and other pilgrims watching another Euro 2012 football match between Ireland and Croatia.  Croatia beat the Irish 3-1 which was a good reason for us to celebrate with Sebastian.  The hospitalero gave us some directions to what he thought was a good restaurant nearby called Susos.  It was horrible.  There was no way we were going to eat there because it smelled like a filthy toilet.  999-960 Marisquería Sexo I, Monte do Gozo (921x1024)Directly across the street, fortunately, was a much better restaurant called the Marisquería Sexto.  They had their own traditional stone oven and an Italian cook who made mouth-watering pizzas to order.  We each ordered something different.  999-962 Marisquería Sexo I, Monte do Gozo (1024x576)999-957 Marisquería Sexo I, Monte do Gozo (901x1024)It was absolutely delicious and really hit the spot after a long day of walking.  999-958 Marisquería Sexo I, Monte do Gozo (1024x577)--REAL Italian pizzas at the Marisquería Sexto in Monte do Gozo--

Published by Thomas Hugues - dans Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques
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15 août 2012 3 15 /08 /août /2012 15:50


999-840 Boente de Arriba (1024x576)We did not walk very far today—a total of only 14 kilometers or so.  The path wound through shaded forests of eucalyptus and pine.  999-836 Leaving Melide (1024x607)999-837 Andreas Fischer und Frank Bieberschulte (1024x911)999-841 Boente de Arriba (1024x576)999-842 Boente de Arriba (768x1024)It gave off a pleasant odor and I broke off a few leaves from one of the trees and attached them to my walking stick.  999-844 Boente de Arriba (1024x576)999-849a Boente de Arriba (1024x672)In Boente de Arriba, we crossed a small river before reaching the busy café, No Camino where I took it upon myself to buy everyone coffee and scrambled egg sandwiches just so we could save some time.  999-848 Boente de Arriba (1024x576)--Hórreo in Boente de Arriba--  999-850 Boente de Arriba (1024x576)--Hórreo in Boente de Arriba--

999-847 Boente de Arriba (1024x576)While we ate, we talked about our favourite films.  I was surprised at some of the choices which ran the gamut from 20,000 BC, WALL-E, The Book of Eli, Highlander, The Nines, and Blade Runner to classic oldies like Casablanca and High Noon.  I just love old movies.  In the typical Sebastian fashion, he couldn’t come up with a single film title that he liked the most but encouraged everyone to try reading one of his favorite books instead by John C. Parkin called F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way.  (It’s just what you think it would be about—saying f**k it to all of life’s problems, stress and anxiety in order to feel better.)  999-852 Boente de Arriba (1024x576)--A shepherd and his flock in Boente de Arriba-- 999-853 Boente de Arriba (1024x576)--The Holy Year fountain in Boente de Arriba--

999-857 Castañeda (1024x576)Then Tommy asked me, “What do Americans think of when they think of Germany?”  He clearly wanted to know if Americans still held World War II and Nazis against his country.  I told him that I didn’t think most Americans thought about Germany at all except to say that they have a good work ethic and associate all things German with fine quality workmanship.  I also told him that I thought that Germany was an economic powerhouse and that I wasn’t sure about Americans’ feelings concerning Angela Merkel.  (I do not follow politics and my opinions are based solely on gut instincts and NOT facts.)  I’m not sure Tommy or any of the other guys wanted to touch that one.  I got the feeling that they had their own personal issues with Frau Merkel.  I wasn’t sure how to respond when they asked me what I thought about Obama and our former president, George Bush: “Every country has their own Hitler in charge one time or another,” I said.  That got some laughs.  When we left the café, we all decided that we would head for Arzúa and decide whether or not to continue walking.  999-855a Castañeda (1024x576)999-855 Castañeda (1024x576)999-856 Castañeda (1024x576)We walked right through the small villages of Castañeda and Ribadiso.  It was on this day that I got to know Frank a lot better as we kept up with one another pretty well the day before.  He was the first of my new friends to ask me why I was doing the Camino. I explained that I’d started it as a Catholic pilgrimage—making each step a prayer for world peace.  Then I said, “I don’t know if you’re religious, so this might sound a little bizarre but what I’ve discovered so far is that I am walking with Christ and that he is walking with me, through other people.”  I guess what I meant to say was that I found Christ in everyone that I met along the Camino—especially those people with whom I found a special bond.  I suppose I was quite straightforward with my answer because his question was so honest and I felt like sharing my feelings about the Camino and the people I’ve met.  999-861 Ribadiso (1024x576)999-860 Ribadiso (1024x576)Across the medieval bridge into Ribadiso is an albergue that once served as a pilgrim hospital.  It is in a tranquil setting along the río Iso and is said to be one of the oldest pilgrim hospitals in existence.  999-876 Arzúa (1024x576)Once we got to Arzúa, we all stopped at the bar Os Casqueiros in the tree-covered Plaza de Galizia for a large beer where we sat for an hour simply enjoying the fine weather and watching workers hang lights in the trees and assemble a large outdoor stage.  Preparations for tomorrow’s Feast of Corpus Christi were underway.  999-871 Arzúa (1024x576)--Frank and Andreas--  999-873 Arzúa (1024x577)--Sebastian, Frank, Tommy, me and Tom--

999-869 Arzúa (1024x576)999-872 Arzúa (1024x576)We were entertained by a grey dove which flew to our table and wouldn’t fly away despite the number of cameras we shoved in his face.  999-864 Arzúa (1024x576)This fountain and its statue on the edge of the plaza had us all laughing because if you look at it from a certain direction, the backside of the cow looks like a naked man bending over.  It is a statue which symbolizes the men and women of the region and their long history of raising cattle.  999-880 Queixeira, Arzúa (1024x576)Another, more important statue in the town square is the “La Queixeira” which pays homage to the women who made and sold cheese in Arzúa.  Every year, hundreds of pilgrims come to see and photograph her.  During the Fiesta del Queso (cheese festival), people can even buy ornamental replicas of her to take home with them.  As we drank, I saw people coming out of the parish church, Iglesia de Santiago and decided to take a few minutes to explore its interior.  999-865 Iglesia de Santiago. Arzúa (1024x576)This building was completed in 1955 to replace the old one which had fallen into ruin.  Designed by Ramón Santos Verea the granite bell tower from 1829 is the only reminder of the old church.  999-866 Iglesia de Santiago. Arzúa (1024x576)The main altarpiece dates from the 19th century and is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary.  It is topped with two statues of Saint James—one as the pilgrim and the other as the “Moor-slayer.”  999-867 Iglesia de Santiago. Arzúa (1024x576)The 18th-century Rococo altar of the north aisle is dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  To the left are statues of Saint Christopher, patron saint of travellers as well as Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals.  To the right are statues of Our Lady of the Pillar and Our Lady of Fátima.  999-868 Iglesia de Santiago. Arzúa (1024x576)Made in 1779 and painted in 1792 by José Edrosa the altar of the Rosary located in the south aisle is the most valuable of the church.  At the center it has an image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary with Christ depicted as a child standing on a globe.  The image at the top is San Roque, the patron saint invoked in times of disease or pestilence.  To the left is the statue of the patron saint of farmers and laborers, Saint Isidore while to the right is the statue of Saint Raymond Nonnatus, patron saint of childbirth, midwives, children, pregnant women and priests who want to protect the secrecy of confession.  I wanted to attend a Mass here but the priest said there would be no Mass until tomorrow morning.  We were all anxious to stay somewhere where we could get a good night’s sleep so we chose to dish out 18 Euros apiece for two rooms at the Pensión Rúa directly next door to the Albergue Don Quixote.  I shared a room with Tom and Tommy while Andreas and Frank shared with Sebastian.  It was comfortable and spacious with a roomy bathroom and lots of hot water--well worth the money!  999-891 Arzúa (768x1024)--I’m just pretending to be sick: “Please daddy, I want you to spend all your money on an i-Pod for me. (an inside joke)-- 

999-881 Arzúa (662x1000)999-884 Arzúa (1024x654)We went back to the bar Os Casqueiros because they had a television and we all wanted to watch the Euro 2012 soccer match between Holland and Denmark.  The Danes upset the Dutch 1-0.  Someone in our group came up with the idea of placing 1 Euro bets on whoever could guess the final outcome of the match.  In this case, none of us won and we all got to keep our coin.  999-879 Arzúa (1024x576)--A small brass band outside of Os Casqueiros was trying to rouse people on the street and get them in the mood for this evening’s festivities for Corpus Christi in the Plaza de Galizia--

Os Casqueiros was a decent enough place to sit and watch a soccer match and drink a few beers but it was quite filthy inside and we decided to head out and find a nice restaurant/bar where we could get a good meal and watch the next Euro 2012 game between Germany and Portugal.  We ended up at the Pulpería Mesón Venus where we all ordered from the pilgrim menu.  999-885 Dinner in Arzúa (1024x576)It was absolutely delicious with huge plates of pasta for Frank, Sebastian and Andreas, lentil soup for me and salads for Tom and Tommy.  999-886 Dinner in Arzúa (1024x576)The main course consisted of a grilled half chicken and fries and all the red wine we could drink.  Everything was on the line for my German friends since this was their country’s first match of the Euro 2012 championship.  Fortunately, Germany defeated Portugal 1-0.  After dinner we walked back to the Plaza de Galizia to check out the festivities.  999-887 Arzúa (1024x576)999-888 Arzúa (1024x576)Under the trees strung with bright lights, local people were dancing while two ladies on stage sang pop songs in Spanish.  We were all acting a bit silly (one might say we were under the influence) but we all danced a little bit while Andreas took photos.  I had a blast and I will never forget dancing in the streets of Arzúa.999-889 Arzúa (911x1024) 

Published by Thomas Hugues - dans Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques
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14 août 2012 2 14 /08 /août /2012 15:21


999-772 leaving Gonzar (1024x768)The lights were out and everyone else in bed when I left my new Croatian and German friends in the dining room last night.  They carried on loudly until 23h00 with five German girls from the Municipal Albergue on the other side of town.  The girls were locked out of their albergue at 22h30 and I have no idea how they managed to get back in.  I was awake early this morning and watched Frank, Tom, Andreas and Tommy from my bunk as they prepared to start hiking.  Before they left, Frank came over to say goodbye and I gave him the yellow arrow pin that I received in O’Cebreiro.  Yesterday, he told me that his scallop shell broke and that he was pretty upset about this because it was a shell that his daughter gave to him before he left Germany.  I wanted to cheer him up a bit, so I gave him the pin.  When they left the albergue, I doubted that I would see them again.  Thirty minutes later, when I decided to crawl out of bed and get moving, they were all still hanging about in the courtyard preparing their backpacks.  We all decided to walk together and stopped for breakfast at the O Cruceiro Bar inVentas de Narón--the only solid food that the owner had to offer us were leftover tuna empenadas. 999-773 O Cruceiro Bar in Ventas de Narón (1024x768)--Frank, me, Tom, Tommy and Andreas in Ventas de Narón-- 999-774a O Cruceiro Bar in Ventas de Narón (1024x577)--Tom, Andreas, Frank Tommy and me in Ventas de Narón-- 999-774b O Cruceiro Bar Thomas Sauerland (1024x977)--Tom and me in Ventas de Narón-- 999-774c O Cruceiro Bar Andreas Fischer (790x829)--Andreas and me in Ventas de Narón--

We all walked our own pace today—some of us walked alone while others walked in pairs of two.  Later in the afternoon, I had the opportunity to walk part of the trail with some of my new friends.  In a very short time I got to know them each very well—it was as if we had been friends for many years and that I was just another member of their Camino fraternity.  Soon, Sebastian from Croatia joined us and we became a fellowship of middle-aged men on their way to Santiago.  999-776 Eirexe, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576)--Another hórreo on the trail through Eirexe--  999-778 Eirexe, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576)--Another hórreo on the trail through Eirexe--   999-775 Eirexe, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576)--This cross in Eirexe dates from the 17th century--

My guidebook said to stop at the albergue in A Calzada to enquire about opening times of the Iglesia San Salvador in Vilar de Donas but the albergue was closed and so I decided to take the 4,6 kilometer roundtrip detour anyway and hope for the best.  999-779 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (1024x576)My friends were not interested in adding additional kilometres to their day and continued walking the Camino trail without me.  Just as I suspected, the church was not open and I had to wait until 10h00 when an elderly Spanish man showed up with the keys.  I asked him if his name was Jesús and he replied, “Si.”  I had to laugh at the coincidence.  I wish I had taken his picture so I could show Silke and my new friends exactly what Jesús looked like.  Oh well.  999-782 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (1024x768)999-786 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (768x1024)999-783 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (1024x768)999-790 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (1024x768)The church of Vilar de Donas began as a nunnery in the early 10th century and was founded by two women from the family of Arias de Monterroso (the title of Donas applies to these women).  In 1184 it was given to the Knights of Santiago, the Templar order charged with protecting pilgrims on their way to Santiago.  The current building was completed in 1224.  999-785 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (1024x768)Its Romanesque portal is highly stylized with geometric designs as well as floral motifs.  The most interesting ones are the thistles which link Scotland and Celtic world to the church making it quite probable that religious nuns and priests from England once lived here.  999-781 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (768x1024)999-785a Vilar de Donas999-785b Vilar de Donas999-785c Vilar de DonasThe large wooden doors are original and patterned with wrought iron decorations of swirling branches and tree leaves.  999-797 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (1024x576)999-799 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (1024x576)999-798 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (768x1024)The small chapels in the northern and southern transepts have polychrome stone and wood statues that come from other churches in Galicia including an altar in the southern transept dedicated to San Salvador.  999-785d Vilar de DonasDuring its careful restoration in the 1940s, a coating of white lime was removed from the walls to reveal polychrome Gothic paintings commissioned for the Compostela Holy Year in 1434.  999-795 - Copy Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (1024x57999-793 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas - Copy (576x102  999-794 - Copy Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (587x102

Christ’s resurrection is the largest of these frescoes while the two smaller ones depict the Annunciation.  999-800 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (1024x576)A number of tombs, coffin slabs and a complete sarcophagus dating from the 14th to 17th century serve as a reminder that this was once a burial place for important members and leaders of the Knights of Santiago.  999-803 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (1024x576)999-802 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (1024x576)The sarcophagus belongs to Don Fernas Ares Noguerol and rests above two lions.  999-801 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (576x1024)The inscription around the figure of the knight tells us that this was the grave of Don Diego García de Ulloa.  999-796 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (576x1024)In the northern transept, the baldachin of Donas, depicting the Castillo de Pambre serves as a canopy over a statue of the Virgin and Child.   999-805 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (576x1024)The church did not look much different than other medieval churches I’ve seen but the historic and artistic value of this place along with the detailed narrative provided by Jesús, the doorkeeper and guide filled me with awe.  999-787 Igrexa San Salvador, Vilar de Donas (1024x768)--The remains of a 12th century well behind the apse of the Iglesia San Salvador, Vilar de Donas-- 

I was so glad that I took the time out of my day to see this awesome gem along the Camino de Santiago.  After signing the guest book and getting a special stamp in my credencial from Jesús, I left San Salvador and returned to the pilgrim path via the N-574 auto route instead of returning to A Calzada.  My day was fantastic and I felt so blessed by God for once again providing me so many wonderful experiences and the opportunity to make some new friends.  I was going to make this an easy day and not walk very far, but I felt compelled to march on and reconvene with the fellowship of middle-aged men (my new friends) wherever they might be.  999-806 Palas de Rei (1024x576)999-807 Iglesia San Tirso, Palas de Rei (1024x576)999-809 Iglesia San Tirso, Palas de Rei (576x1024)999-808 Iglesia San Tirso, Palas de Rei (1024x576)There was nothing to see in Palas de Rei except the Iglesia San Tirso where I stopped for a few minutes to talk with friends Rod and Judy from New Zealand.  They were still using the SD card that I gave them two days ago in Samos.  I really hope they will be able to recover all the photos they accidentally deleted from their other SD card.  999-811 Horreo, Carballal (1024x576)999-812 Horreo, Carballal (1024x576)999-813 Horreo, San Xulián do Camiño (1024x576)999-815 Horreo, San Xulián do Camiño (1024x576)999-819 Horreos, San Xulián do Camiño (1024x576)999-814 Horreo, San Xulián do Camiño (1024x576)The road out of Palas de Rei went through several small farming villages including Carballal and San Xulián do Camino and where I came across no less than a dozen hórreos before crossing into Provincia A Coruña.  999-820 Provincia A Coruña (1024x576)Today, I walked 38 or more kilometers.  Most of it was alone until I caught up with my new friends in O Coto where I found them all resting at a small café and eating bocadillos.  999-817 San Xulián do Camiño (1024x576)--Cows on the trail in San Xulián do Camiño-- 999-818 San Xulián do Camiño (1024x576)--Cows on the trail in San Xulián do Camiño--  999-816 Iglesia de San Xulián do Camiño (1024x576)--Iglesia de San Xulián do Camiño--

A fellowship once again, we all decided to hike into the city of Melide for the night and find a good place to eat that has a television set.  The guys all want to watch the starting match between Poland and Greece in the Euro 2012 Football Championship being held in Poland and Ukraine.  People come into your life and go out of it on the Camino, and some people stay in.  I spent so much time with Istvàn during the start of my Camino that he became a most trusted friend.  I still think about him and wonder where he is on his Camino.  Once again, I am fortunate to have found Andreas, Tom, Tommy, Frank and Sebastian—a great bunch of guys that I am proud to call my friends.  From O Coto onward, I walked primarily with Tommy.  We walked at a brisk pace and talked the entire way.  He walked the Camino before in 2011 and afterwards he gave a presentation about his Camino experience to his friends and co-workers in hopes that they might join him for another Camino in 2012.  He managed to convince some of his friends (Tom, Andreas and Frank) and some other people, Charly and Aggi, a couple that I have yet to meet.  I believe they are already in Santiago.  Before leaving Germany, Tommy organized several practice hikes in preparation for the Camino.  I get the impression that he is the sort of person who makes friends very easily.  He is never condescending and treats everyone with respect and equality.  999-821 Iglesia Santa María, Cabazo de Leboreiro (1024x576--Iglesia Santa María just before Melide with the Cabazo de Leboreiro in front.  A cabazo is a large, circular basket made with intertwined sticks and covered with straw used to store corn--  999-823 Ponte Velha Furelos, Melide (1024x576)--The medieval Ponte Velha of Furelos before entering Melide-- 

999-824 Melide (682x1024)I found this to be quite ecumenical of him and we talked for a long time on the subject of prayer as we walked the last few kilometres into Melide.  I believe in the power of prayer and that when I pray for God’s assistance, He may not always grant me exactly what I ask.  God knows best what we really need.  999-829c Melide (768x1024)Perhaps what we really need is for Him to give us strength to cope effectively with some of life’s situations on our own.  One small example of this was the rain this morning.  I think everyone wanted the rain to stop before they left the albergue, including me.  God didn’t have to stop the rain.  He knows that I have a poncho and that even if He didn’t stop the rain, I would eventually find the strength to continue.  Still, I persisted with my prayer and as I left the albergue, the rain stopped.  In the Gospel of Luke (11: 1-13), Jesus teaches us how to pray and He says, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  It is not about asking for something and then expecting someone to give it to us—it is about praying with perseverance.  We may not obtain exactly what we ask but with perseverance and faith, God will hear our prayers and certainly give us strength.  I don’t presume to think that only those who pray this way will obtain results.  999-829 Melide, Tommy Wissel (852x1024)Tommy shared with me an idea that he heard somewhere of ordering the universe for help.  Is God not the universe?  Is He not everything?  Tommy’s idea of asking the universe for assistance does not seem strange to me.  It is just a different way of praying in my opinion.  Catholics shouldn’t believe that only THEY have it right!  We need to understand the religious and spiritual traditions of all faiths in order to find common ground.  I will be the first to admit that I have some problems with the New Age spiritualist movement but I also have my own problems with the Catholic Church.  Like I said to Tommy, “we must all feel good when we are close to God—if this means waving one’s hands in the air and playing with snakes or finding God in Mother Nature, so be it.  Personally, I feel closer to God when I am at Mass.  999-829a Melide, Tommy Wissel (1024x768)--Prost !!!  Relaxing in Melide with my German friend, Tommy--

The last few kilometres went by quickly and we were soon the first two of our group to reach Melide.  We found a bar with an outside patio and ordered beers for everyone as they came strolling into town at their own pace.  999-827 Melide, Frank Bieberschulte (1024x906)--Frank-- 

Frank doesn’t like the full-bodied flavor of beer and has the barkeep add lemon soda to his drink.  It’s actually very delicious and a great way to avoid drinking too much.  I find that I have a lot in common with Frank and we spent a lot of time walking together during our last few days before arriving in Santiago.  He likes American television shows and movies and we both spent time talking about our favorites.  I’m a big fan of Lost while he enjoys comedies like Seinfeld.  The “Soup Nazi” episode is a favorite for us both: “No soup for you!!!”  We also like some of the same music and we often sang together on some of the more gruelling stretches of the Camino just so we could keep our spirits high.  I thought I was the only one who remembered Nik Kershaw’s hit song from the 80s, “Wouldn’t it be good to be in your shoes/ Even if it were for just one day? / Grass is always greener over there / Wouldn’t it be good if we could live without a care?”  Frank is a real kindred spirit—we talk, tell jokes and sing constantly!  Perhaps what impressed me the most about Frank was his willingness to shake off the mischievous taunting the other guys gave him.  He was often the subject of humor for everyone—something I didn’t really appreciate.  “Why do you let people joke with you like that?” I asked him once.  He replied, “I need to be able to take it in order to give it.”  This makes sense since he too doled out his fair share of good-natured teasing.  999-826 Melide, Thomas Sauerland (1024x805)--Tom--

Tom, on the other hand, is a very quiet man.  I’m pretty sure that Tom did not like our singing all the time—he would linger behind us or walk faster in order to get ahead so he didn’t have to hear our glorious voices.  He told me that he doesn’t talk that often because he doesn’t think that his English skills are as good as the others.  Well, I seriously doubt that!  Each one of these German fellows has an extensive vocabulary and can express themselves very well.  I never found out what everyone did for a living but I understand that Tom does some modelling for a company that sells clothes for Oktoberfest.  I didn’t realize that people wore costumes to Oktoberfest.  He gave me the web address so that I could see some of the products he endorses but I was unable to read his handwriting.  I’ve seen so many people (myself included) who like to engage in conversations about what ails them but Tom is not like this at all.  He keeps his health concerns to himself and does what he needs to do in order to feel better.  In Santiago, this included staying in bed for a full night and day while the rest of us went out for dinner and drinks.  By the 12th he was as good as new and I was very happy that he felt much better.  I’ve already written a little bit about Andreas and his participation in Ironman competitions in Germany.  999-828 Melide, Andreas Fischer (808x1024)--Andreas-- 

During our time on the Camino, he has been the one pilgrim from our group that has always been out in front.  He is energetic, stylish and trim.  Also, he has an infectious laugh and smile—I find that whenever anyone speaks to him, he immediately lights up with a huge grin and gives that person all of his attention.  I’ve also decided that he is a very meticulous person who takes great care in everything he does.  His backpack is exceedingly organized and he never seems to have trouble finding anything when he needs it.  More often than not, when we are all relaxing on our bunks in the albergues, he can be found deep in thought and furiously writing in his Camino journal.  With all of the photographs he takes, I wonder why he isn’t a photo journalist for he seems to have the eye for capturing the best moments all of us shared on the Camino. 999-825 Melide, Sebastian (907x1024)--Sebastian-- 

What to say about our Croatian friend, Sebastian?  I must admit that when I first met him I was disinclined to spend any time with him.  I thought he talked too loud and perhaps a bit self-centered.  In time I began to realize that I was judging him without even taking the time to get to know him.  This was not fair so I purposefully took the time to walk with him and get to know what sort of person he really was.  Sure, he talks a lot but that is because he is a very confident, well-read, intelligent man who knows what he is talking about.  Of all of my new friends, he spoke the best English.  He was actually very good at languages and could speak Italian and even Spanish.  I was impressed with how quickly he picked up German while I was still plodding along with “ja”, “sehr Gut”, “nein” and the longest German word I ever learned: “Minderwertigkeitsgefühl”!  It’s quite an appropriate word to describe me since it means inferiority complex—which I have compared to the language skills of the others in our group.  Anyway, Sebastian no longer lives in Croatia but in Slovenia with his wife who is about to give birth to their first child.  999-829b Melide, Sebastian (768x1024)He says that he loves her very much but I get the funny notion that he loves his motorcycle even more!  His bike often tends to be a topic of conversation.  He can even tell from the sound of other bikes we hear on the road what make and year they are.  He has an answer or explanation for just about everything that we talk about and can easily balance his responses with examples from real-life situations.  It’s no wonder he is a successful motivational speaker and runs his own business.  999-830 Albergue Melide (1024x576)999-831 Albergue Melide (1024x576)The albergue in Melide was huge and we all took beds in the same section of bunk beds.  The only thing that surprised me was that there were no doors to the shower stalls.  I feel no shame when it comes to showering in front of a bunch of other men, but I’m sure that other people would find the experience somewhat uncomfortable.  I heard that it was even more shocking for the females in the albergue.  The family from New Zealand that made me dinner in Molinaseca were here and one of the daughters told me that the women had no doors in their shower room either—they had to face one another in the middle of the room as they showered unlike the men who were at least separated by a small dividing wall.  999-832 Iglesia de Sancti Spiritus, Melide (808x1024)--Iglesia de Sancti Spiritus, Melide--  999-833 Capela de San Antonio de Melide (1024x576)--The  Capela de San Antonio de Melide draws a standing-room-only crowd for Friday night Mass--

999-834 Pulpería Ezequiel, Melide (1024x576)After taking our showers and cleaning our clothes, we all took a short nap at the albergue before heading out to the most recommended restaurant in town, the Pulpería Exequiel known for its traditional Galician dishes—especially pulpo (octopus).999-835d Pulpería Ezequiel, Melide (1024x768)999-835c Pulpería Ezequiel, Melide (1024x768)999-835 Pulpería Ezequiel, Melide (1024x576)I was the only one getting tired of pulpo so I ordered the Ternera Asada, a huge plate of beef and potatoes.  While we ate and drank seemingly endless bowls of red wine, we watched Poland and Greece in the Euro 2012 Football Championship.  After ninety minutes, the game ended 1-1.999-835b Pulpería Ezequiel, Melide (1024x768)999-835g Andreas Fischer, Pulpería Ezequiel, Melide (768x1999-835h Pulpería Ezequiel, Melide (768x1024)999-835e Pulpería Ezequiel, Melide (768x1024)999-835f Pulpería Ezequiel, Melide (768x1024)

Published by Thomas Hugues - dans Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques
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11 août 2012 6 11 /08 /août /2012 14:17


999-725 Morgade, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576I’m finding it very hard to write now, although there is more of a need to do so than ever before.  So many things are happening to me and I think I will forget some of the more interesting adventures if I don’t write them all down.  Every now and then, I will stop to make a few notes in this journal so I don’t lose track.  999-703 Barbadelo (1024x576)--Cloudy skies above Casa Carmen in Barbadelo-- 999-705 Barbadelo (1024x576)--Cloudy skies above Casa Carmen in Barbadelo-- 999-704 Barbadelo (1024x576)--Thumbs up!  The rain stopped just as I left the albergue!-- 

This morning, everyone in my albergue left before 08h00 and got soaking wet by the rain, except me.  Tired and weary, I sat by myself in the community room and drank orange juice from the vending machine and prayed for God to stop the rain.  I knew that I had to get going sooner or later, so I threw on my poncho and hit the road.  Fortunately for me, all I had to do was step outside and the rain came to a sudden stop.  I’m so thankful for this small miracle.  999-706 Rente (1024x576)999-708 Leimán, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576Ever so slowly my feet found their rhythm and the pain from my blisters disappeared as I picked up my pace and forged ahead through the Galician countryside.  999-707 Baxán, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (768x1024)--Wild Foxglove flowers growing all along the Camino de Santiago--  999-709 Peruscallo, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x--Hórreo near the hamlet of Peruscallo-- 999-711 Lavandeira, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x--A moss covered roof in the hamlet of Lavandeira--  999-710 Lavandeira, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x--Hórreo near the hamlet of Lavandeira--

There is no need to hurry on the Camino (at least during this time of year) because beds are always available.  I’m not concerned about where I will stay tonight—my feet will tell me when to stop.  The landscape all around me has me fascinated.  999-713 Casal, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576)There are things here that I’ve never seen before like the small, stone grain houses called hórreos.  They are everywhere.  Each one is slightly different and unique—they’d make an interesting subject for a coffee table book.  A few kilometres away from the albergue I came across the 101 kilometer marker.  999-712 Casal, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576)Only now do I start associating the numbers I see on a borne with something else in my experience.  For example, Room 101 is the torture chamber in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, one of my favorite books.  Also, 101 can sometimes look like computer-speak for “laugh out loud.”  That’s what I did here.  I laughed out loud.  No one else was around to hear me and I thought it would probably do me some good to have a big laugh.  What the heck.  999-716 A Brea, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576)At the 100 kilometer marker there were many Spanish ladies standing around snapping photos of one other and I asked them if they could take one of me.  It is obviously a popular marker, hence all of the graffiti.  It’s hard to believe that 100 kilometers is all I have left to do before reaching Santiago.  When I think about it, it’s only less than five days away!  It would be nice to arrive in Santiago on the 12th for my birthday.  I think I need to slow down and take another day of rest somewhere.  999-717 A Brea, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576)999-720 Morgade, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576999-721 Morgade, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576999-723 Morgade, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576This morning’s clouds practically disappeared by the time I reached Morgade.  I saw a farmer working diligently to repair a stone wall and I couldn’t help but wonder what he was walling in or perhaps walling out.  Does he know the line, “Good fences make good neighbors” from Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall”?   999-726 Morgade, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576999-727 Mesón de Mirallos, Ferreiros (1024x576)999-730 Iglesia de Santa María de Ferreiros (1024x576)999-732 Iglesia de Santa María de Ferreiros (1024x576)999-733 Iglesia de Santa María de Ferreiros (1024x576)In Ferreiros I stopped at the Méson Mirallos for a cup of coffee and took a look at the adjoining Iglesia Santa María with its cemetery.  The stone baptismal font in front of the church amidst all the graves made me think of death and rebirth.  It was so nice just to sit and watch the rest of the world go by.  999-729 Ferreiros, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x5--This lazy dog certainly had the right idea--

999-728 Ferreiros, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x5The closer I got to Portomarín, the more hórreos I saw.  I don’t think I can get enough of these interesting structures so I took a photo of nearly every single one.  Some have a cross and a spire on the roof, some are built of stone and wood, others are simply bricks with small holes while others are colorfully painted and raised from the ground on stone pillars that look like mushrooms.  999-736 near Portomarín (1024x576)--Another pilgrim memorial along the side of the trail near Portomarín--  999-737 near Portomarín (1024x576)999-738 near Portomarín (1024x576)999-740 near Portomarín (1024x576)999-742 near Portomarín (1024x576)999-743 near Portomarín (1024x576)999-744 near Portomarín (1024x576)999-745 near Portomarín (1024x576)999-746 near Portomarín (1024x576)--Cows share the same path with pilgrims in Portomarín-- 999-747 near Portomarín (1024x576)--Cows share the same path with pilgrims in Portomarín--999-753 Portomarín (576x1024)999-751 Portomarín (1024x576)999-752 Portomarín (1024x576)In order to get into Portomarín, I had to cross a long bridge across the reservoir formed by a dam along the río Miño.  The ancient villages of Portomarín and San Pedro were flooded during the construction of the reservoir in 1963.  999-757 Iglesia de San Nicolás, Portomarín (768x1024)999-755 Iglesia de San Nicolás, Portomarín (768x1024)The Iglesia de San Nicolás (nowadays San Juan) and other important buildings were moved stone by stone to their current location just above the grand staircase leading up from the bridge to the town high above the reservoir.  When the level of water allows, the remains of the old bridge and the ruins of the village can be seen at the bottom of the reservoir.  Once again, I arrived just in time to see NOTHING!  999-756 Praza Conde de Fenosa, Portomarín (1024x768)Everything was closed except for the restaurants around the Plaza Conde de Fenosa.  I was so hungry that I decided to stop here for a large beer and a pizza.  At home in Normandy, I wouldn’t dare eat such foods.  The fat, the salt, the carbohydrates—the idea just makes my arteries harden!  However, I’ve found that I can eat as much junk food as I like along the Camino and not gain a kilo.  As a matter of fact, I’ve actually lost weight.  To be quite honest, I wasn’t very impressed with Portomarín.  The albergue where I planned on staying was nearby but I turned right around when I saw the five Japanese girls that drove me crazy in Ponferrada and Villafranca del Bierzo had already checked in.  I can’t explain how they made it here before me.  I’m starting to think that they are cheating and catching a bus every afternoon.  Who knows?  999-771 Casa Garcia, Gonzar (1024x768)After walking a distance of 24,5 kilometers today, I was so happy to reach the Albergue Casa Garcia in the next town of Gonzar.  The hospitalero was a young girl who appeared to have her hands full checking in pilgrims, pouring beers at the bar, taking care of laundry and serving dinner in the dining room.  She offered me the choice of beds in different rooms so (being the idiot that I am) I chose the top bunk right next to the toilets.  What was I thinking?  I can certainly tell you what I was smelling!  Silke, Richard and Luciano were already here so it was good to see them again—we agreed to eat dinner together again.  I wasn’t about to tempt God by doing my own laundry with all of the dark clouds lingering about so I paid 6 Euros to have my things washed and dried.  After my shower I had a beer with two guys from Germany named Frank and Andreas.  999-759 Gonzar (1024x576)--Worn-out hiking boots along the pilgrim trail near Gonzar--

I talked mostly with Frank who told me all about his day and having to walk in the rain and how it has not been easy on his feet—he has many painful blisters unlike Andreas who says he has no blisters at all.  He’s very lucky and I assume that he has no blisters because he is an athlete.  I was aghast and agog to learn that he is only 47 years-old!!!  He has no body fat, no wrinkles and doesn’t look a day over 30 (at the most!).  He’s in excellent physical condition because he is an athlete who competes in the Ironman European Championships in Frankfurt...maybe he said Regensburg but I can’t remember exactly.  I’m sure his feet get a workout all the time.  Both of them are walking the Camino with two other friends, Tom and Tommy.  Tommy is the self-appointed leader of their little group because he has walked the Camino before in 2011 and has some experience.  I did not get the opportunity to speak much with Tom but he seems like a nice fellow(I did get to spend some time with him later in the Camino and I will write more about my new friends in upcoming posts.)  999-769 Casa Garcia, Gonzar (2) (1024x683)--Andreas and Frank, my two new friends from Germany-- 

Anyway, I hit it off well with Frank and Andreas and we exchanged blog information and email addresses.  They are both very easy to talk to and I am shocked at just how good their English is.  I took several years of German in high school and another four years of German at university but I’ve never had the opportunity to use it—I can barely speak a word now!  I’m so ashamed at how much I’ve forgotten!  These guys learned English in school years ago and they can still use it when they need to.  Are Europeans naturally inclined to be good at languages?  999-770b Casa Garcia, Gonzar (1024x768)--Frank, my new friend from Germany-- 

It turns out they all share a blog where they post information about the Camino and the practice hikes that they took together before leaving Germany.  Frank and Andreas asked me to join them for dinner tonight but I already promised Silke, Richard and Luciano that I would eat with them.  I agreed to have a drink with Frank and Andreas later.  I look awful.  My beard is growing out and it looks as if someone stuck pubic hairs on my face.  I want to shave but I made a deal with Istvàn and I’m sticking to it.  Dinner was very good.  999-765 Casa Garcia, Gonzar (1024x576)I had a huge bowl of caldo Gallego (a type of soup that is very popular in Galicia), 999-767 Casa Garcia, Gonzar (1024x576)octopus (pulpo) with potatoes, 999-768 Casa Garcia, Gonzar (1024x576)and a large slice of cheesecake.  It was so delicious that everyone in the restaurant of the albergue ordered it for dessert.  Those of us who ate the cheescake the night before at Casa Carmen in Barbadelo agreed that this was WAY better!  999-766 Casa Garcia, Gonzar (1024x576)--At the dining room table in Gonzar with Luciano, Silke and Richard-- 

Silke shared a bit of information with me from her German guidebook about a place I might visit tomorrow called the Igrexa San Salvador in Vilar de Donas.  Her book says that if the church is not open, you should go to the house next door ask for Jesús.  Jesús will open the door!  We all got a good laugh out of that.  999-750 near Portomarín (1024x576)999-758 Gonzar (1024x576)Gonzar is a small town with several hórreos, lots of cows and a small church that was open when I walked by to visit.  There were several ladies feverishly sweeping, mopping and dusting every nook and cranny.  I asked them if there would be a Pilgrim Mass this evening but they said there would NOT be a Mass until Sunday morning for the Feast of Corpus Christi.  999-761 Iglesia Santa Maria de Gonzar (1024x576)--Iglesia Santa María de Gonzar--  999-762 Iglesia Santa Maria de Gonzar (1024x576)--Iglesia Santa María de Gonzar--  999-763 Iglesia Santa Maria de Gonzar (1024x576)--Iglesia Santa María de Gonzar--

LATER: I waited and waited for my new German friends to finish their dinner so we could have our drinks.  Later that evening, I found them still hanging out in the restaurant of the albergue with a group of five German girls and the fellow from Croatia named Sebastian.  He talked the loudest I think and had quite a mouth on him--lots and lots of F*** words it made my head spin!  Swearing aside, he seems like a nice enough guy.  He began his Camino on his beloved motercycle but was inspired to walk after seeing the satisfied look in other pilgrim's faces as they came down the mountain in Roncesvalles.  He said something to us that I think we all understood, "When you are walking on the Camino, something happens to you.  I don't know how to explain it but it's like everyone instantly becomes your family.  When I saw the faces of those other pilgrims, I knew I just had to walk all the way to Santiago.  I had to find a way."  He didn't have a lot of time to do the 800 kilometer stretch on foot from Roncesvalles so he biked all the way to Sarria, found a garage that would store his bike, bought some last-minute hiking gear, obtained a pilgrim's passport, and started walking this morning--in the rain! 999-770d Casa Garcia, Gonzar (935x993)--Sebastian, my new friend from Croatia drinking a popular Galician liqueur made by Ruavieja called Licor de Hierbas-- 

Everyone was very loud and trying to talk above one another.  It was not my scene but I stayed long enough to see that the young hospitalero / waitress / bartender was very frustrated with the noise.  It was late and I’m sure she wanted all of us to get the hell out and go to bed.  I didn’t want to be on her list so I paid for the drinks and said goodnight.  More later….     999-770c Casa Garcia, Gonzar (1024x861)--Tommy, my new friend from Germany--  999-764 Gonzar, Camino de Santiago de Compostela (1024x576)999-749 near Portomarín (1024x576)--One more horreo and some chickens from Gonzar-- 


Published by Thomas Hugues - dans Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques
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8 août 2012 3 08 /08 /août /2012 09:22


999-597 Samos (1024x576)I took an alternative route this morning so that I could visit the Monasterio de San Julián de Samos.  Up and awake by 04h00, I took the road which follows along the trail because it was too dark to be walking on the rocky, uneven path alone in a forest.  999-598 Samos (1024x576)999-596 Samos (1024x576)The road was more predictable and I had the light of the full moon to guide me.  I arrived in Samos by 06h30 but had to wait until 10h00 for the monastery to open.  I had my coffee and breakfast at the restaurant across the street called A Cova do Frade and then took some time to explore the grounds around the monastery.  The river Oribio which winds its way around the imposing walls of the monastery provides an opportunity to photograph the orchards and fields belonging to the Benedictine brothers.  999-604 Samos (1024x576)999-605 Samos (1024x576)999-606 Samos (1024x771)999-619 Samos (576x1024)In a small park situated barely 100 meters from the monastery is the Chapel of the Cypress.  It is so named because of the 27 meter cypress tree which grows close by.  Dating from the first quarter of the 10th century, the little chapel is dedicated to San Salvador and is distinguished by its Mozarabic interior.  999-602 Samos (1024x576)I wasn’t allowed to go inside because it was closed to the public due to the restoration of its frescoes which date from the 10th century and depict rosette crosses and a trompe l’oeil of carefully placed masonry stones.  It served as the first monastery of Samos and later as the oratory for the monks before falling into neglect.  999-601 Samos (1024x576)999-609 Samos (1024x576)999-607 Samos (1024x576)999-616 Samos (1024x576)999-618 Samos (1024x576)My tour of the interior of the monastery was marvellous.  It was only 3 Euros (perhaps the best money I've spent so far on the Camino) to enter and there were only 13 people on our guided tour including my two friends from Germany, Gottfried and Peter and a nice couple from New Zealand named Rod and Judy.  999-622 Samos (1024x576)We had an interesting conversation about what the beehive structure beside the monastery could possibly be.  I thought it was just that: a beehive.  Some said it was an ancient water tower.  In the end, we asked a monk who opened the door to the souvenir shop.  He told us that he's lived at the monastery for most of his life and even HE doesn't know what it was used for.  999-626 Samos (1024x576)Anyway, Rod and Judy had some bad luck when the tour was over and Rod unwittingly formatted (and thus deleted) all of the Camino photos from their camera.  I felt really bad for them but they did not seem to be very concerned.  I guess they felt that their memories would be enough.  Personally, I would be so upset if I lost all of my Camino pictures that I probably wouldn’t be able to control myself.  To help them out a little bit, I gave them one of my empty 1GB SD cards so they could start over again.  We also exchanged email addresses in case they wanted to have copies of my photos.  999-620 Samos (1024x576)The Monasterio de San Julián de Samos was founded in the 6th century by San Martín de Dumio and is one of the oldest monasteries in the whole of western world -- not to mention one of the largest.  It was San Martín de Dumio who started the promotion of the monastic life style in Galicia. At its inception, the monks of Samos followed the monastic rules laid down by Saint Frutuoso and Saint Isidora, but after the 10th century this regime was changed to that of San Benito (St. Benedict) of Nursia.  The only remains of the Medieval church at Samos and its Romanesque architecture can be found near a doorway that once connected the old church to the refectory.  999-630 Samos (768x1024)Its tympanum has a unique schema of a cross overlaid with the cosmological pattern of a quadrivium--the representation of a world that is ordered and harmonious on the basis of the number four.999-623 Samos (1024x576)Behind the chancel of the church is the sacristy, access to which is through the signum or statio.  This space takes its name from a monastic custom: the community of brothers meets before services and enters the church in procession through the Epistle aisle.  It is a rectangular space divided into four bays with vaulting that resembles that of the Nereid cloister.  The Catalan painter, Juan Parés, who in his first period at the monastery painted other murals, came back to paint a cycle of pictures in 1956-1960.  999-629 Samos (1024x576)999-650 Samos (1024x768)One can find impressive murals here: the Adoration of the Shepherds, The Presentation, Pilate Washing His Hands, Jesus on the Cross, and an allegorical painting of The Virgin before the Benedictine Brothers.  999-649 Samos (1024x768)The Sacristy is configured as an eight-sided rotunda, with the dome sitting directly on it.  999-648 Samos (1024x768)On each side there is a trapezoidal niche housing a chest of drawers or vestment press, except in the one opposite the access bay, where there is a reliquary reredos.999-624 Samos (1024x576)999-625 Samos (1024x576)999-633 Samos (768x1024)999-661 Samos (1024x576)There are two large cloisters at Samos.  The Great cloister was built between 1685 and 1689 and is sometimes called the Feijoo cloister after the Benedictine monk who took his habit here in 1690.  A statue of Brother Feijoo was erected in the center of the garden in 1947 and was carefully made using two different colors of granite.  The darker granite takes on the black color of a Benedictine habit when it is wet.  999-634 Samos (1024x768)999-640 Samos (1024x768)In 1951 the monastery suffered greatly from a fire which destroyed much of the Feijoo cloister.  Once it was rebuilt, the upper floors were decorated with huge murals completed by contemporary artists depicting stories from the life of Saint Benedict.  Decorating a cloister with paintings was not new.  What was new was the style of these paintings.  999-644 Samos (1024x768)From 1955 onward, the Catholic Church began to incorporate new styles into religious art.  In the early 1960s, artists José Luis Rodríguez, Celia Cortés Rivas and Enrique Navarro were asked to paint the walls of the cloister.  Their paintings tell the story of the life of Saint Benedict as well as the life of the monastery at Samos including the devastating fire of 1951 which destroyed much of the library, refectory, kitchen and nearly all the rooms attached to the Feijoo cloister.  999-636 Samos (1024x768)999-637 Samos (1024x768)999-660 Samos (1024x576)999-638 Samos (1024x768)999-639 Samos (1024x768)999-641 Samos (1024x768)999-642 Samos (1024x768)999-647 Samos (1024x768)999-643 Samos (1024x768)999-645 Samos (1024x768)999-646 Samos (1024x768)Other murals include Apotheosis of the Rule, Saint Scholastica’s Miracle and Saint Benedict Writing the Rule.  The different painters used different techniques and styles to make up a set of murals that may be considered a portrait of the monastic, ecclesiastical and civil society of the Catholic Church.  999-627 Samos (1024x576)999-628 Samos (1024x576)The Small Cloister, also known as the Nereid cloister, was built between 1539 and 1582.  It mimics the Gothic style with its arches and curious decorative motifs.  At the center of this cloister is the Baroque fountain of the Nereids which dates from the early 18th century.  999-631 Samos (768x1024)The fountain is formed by four strange feminine figures with serpentine bodies and heads and faces of women.  For this reason, it is said that on one occasion, the ecclesiastical authority decided that the fountain should be dismantled and transferred to a more discreet place.  When they were ready to transport the dismantled pieces of the fountain, the stones suddenly increased in weight in such a way that it became impossible to move them.  This left the authorities with no other choice than to rebuild the fountain in the same place, for which, miraculously, the stones recovered their normal weight making it clear that the fountain had no intention of moving.   999-632 Samos (1024x768)999-655 Samos (1024x768)999-652 Samos (768x1024)999-653 Samos (768x1024)The abbey church in Baroque style is laid out in a cruciform pattern and has three naves.  It was built between 1734 and 1748 and its interior is bright and solemn.  999-654 Samos (768x1024)999-657 Samos (768x1024)The vault is illuminated by eight windows and is decorated with paintings of the four Benedictine Marian doctors (Anselmo, Bernardo, Ildefonso and Rupert).  The main altarpiece was built by José Ferreiro and has an image of the patron of the monastery, San Julián.  999-621 Samos (768x1024)999-610 Samos (1024x576)The façade of the church is presented as a great rectangle divided in two storeys with three differentiated vertical spaces.  999-658 Samos (1024x647)My time in Samos was extraordinary and I regret not staying there longer and perhaps staying the night in their albergue--perhaps even longer.  I feel so comfortable in a monastic environment although I don't think I could live the life of a monk or a priest.  I often think about this idea of the renunciation of self and the giving up of all worldly goods.  In the Catholic tradition we know of two lifestyles in which Christians search for meaning and happiness.  One of them is marriage, which is the lifesyle of most people.  Facing life together, married couples must try to see Jesus more clearly and follow Him through the good stewardship of all the beauty and goodness of life that God has bestowed upon them.  The other lifestyle, for those who are called to it, is "celibacy for the sake of the kingdom."  It is a life of renunciation not as an end in itself but for a life of discipleship.  That is the lifelestyle that these Benedictine monks have chosen.  In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells his disciples, "How hard is it for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"  When His disciples asked among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.  All things are possible for God."  Well then.  Will everyone be saved?  Will I be saved or rejected?  What about eternal salvation?  It gives me an uncomfortable feeling if I miss the bus or the airplane.  This feeling is even more miserable when I know it was my won fault because I wasted time doing unnecessary things that could have been done later.  Should I not then seriously consider the possiblity that I might come too late for the kingdom of God?  Could it happen that though I've been "paying my dues" and taking part in Mass, I will not be saved?       999-666 Pascais (1024x576)999-673 Gorolfe (1024x576)--A view of the countryside after leaving Samos (there were so many cows everywhere)--   999-668 Pascais (1024x576)--A small chapel in the town of Gorolfe-- 999-671 Pascais (1024x576)--The small door leading into the chapel at Gorolfe--999-669 Pascais (982x1024)--Interesting funerary stones in the cemetery at Gorolfe--  999-670 Pascais (1008x1024)--Interesting funerary stones in the cemetery at Gorolfe--  999-677 near San Mamed del Camino (1024x576)--Another wayside chapel near San Mamed del Camino-- 999-678 near San Mamed del Camino (1024x768)--Interior of the chapel near San Mamed del Camino--  999-680 near San Mamed del Camino (1024x576)--Water fountain near San Mamed del Camino--    


999-676 Gorolfe (1024x564)After leaving Samos, I continued walking to Sarria only stopping long enough to eat a sandwich along the river Oribio.  Very few pilgrims were on this path today.  I only saw Gottfried and Peter who told me they were going to spend the night in Sarria.  999-687 Sarria (768x1024)This is an important town along the Camino because many people begin their pilgrimage to Santiago from here.  One only has to prove that they walked the last 100 kilometers to Santiago in order to receive their Compostela.  Sarria is therefore filled with many albergues and hotels for the bus loads of Spanish pilgrims who start out from here each day.  999-682 Sarria (1024x576)--Entering Sarria by climbing the granite steps called Escalinata Maior--  999-683 Iglesia Santa Mariña de Sarria (768x1024)--Iglesia Santa Mariña de Sarria--  999-684 Iglesia Santa Mariña de Sarria (1024x768)--A pilgrim mural outside of the Iglesia Santa Mariña de Sarria--

    I did not stay long in Sarria because everything was closed except for the restaurants and bars.  However, I did think that it was important to receive a stamp in my pilgrim passport from Sarria.  I looked everywhere for an open church but could not find one.  999-686 Iglesia de San Salvador de Sarria (1024x768)--Iglesia de San Salvador de Sarria-- 

In the end, I had my credencial stamped at the Monasterio de la Magdalena which is now a modern hotel.  999-688 Monasterio de la Magdalena, Sarria (1024x768)--Monasterio de la Magdalena, Sarria--  999-689 Monasterio de la Magdalena, Sarria (768x1024)--Monasterio de la Magdalena, Sarria-- 


Perhaps I should have stayed in Sarria overnight.  My feet were really sore and I could have benefited from a longer respite in this large town.  999-690 Ponte Aspera, Sarria (1024x576)999-691 Ponte Aspera, Sarria (1024x576)I’m not sure why I left.  Perhaps it was impatience.  I felt like I was in a hurry to do as many kilometres as possible today since the weather was so nice.  In all, I completed 28,3 kilometers.  999-698 Casa Carmen, Barbadelo (1024x576)999-699 Casa Carmen, Barbadelo (1024x576)I am staying at a wonderful albergue in Barbadelo called Casa Carmen, which offers home cooking in a restored 17th century farmhouse with a terrace overlooking Sarria and the river Celeiro. 999-700 Casa Carmen, Barbadelo (1024x576)999-701 Capela de San Silvestre, Casa Carmen, Barbadelo (10--The albergue even has its own chapel devoted to San Silvestre--  999-693 Casa Carmen, Barbadelo (1024x576)999-697 Casa Carmen, Barbadelo (1024x576)999-695 Casa Carmen, Barbadelo (1024x576)My feet are in a great deal of pain and my blisters are just awful.  I’ve cleaned them and bandaged them but I really ought to think twice before walking too far tomorrow.  999-696 Casa Carmen, Barbadelo (1024x576)The toe that got banged up in the albergue in Ponferrada is turning more and more red with blood underneath the nail.  It doesn't hurt as much as it did yesterday but I'm pretty sure now that I am eventually going to lose the nail.  During dinner the lights kept flickering and everyone wondered why the owner didn’t just turn them off.  999-675 Gorolfe (1024x576)We found out later that all of the farmers in the area were milking their cows and that the lights always flicker during milking time.  The food here was top notch.  I ate dinner at a table with a Spanish man named Luciano and a man and woman from Germany, Richard and Silke.  They are quite fun to be around and together we tried the different desserts offered on the menu—the best was the special house cheesecake which looked more like a flan covered in caramel.  Because we liked it so much, the waiter brought us each an extra slice free of charge.  999-702 Casa Carmen, Barbadelo (1024x576)Do not miss out on Casa Carmen’s lentil soup—it is out of this world delicious and better yet, all you can eat.    


Published by Thomas Hugues - dans Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques
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  • Thomas Hugues
  • De captivants à banals, les articles et photographies de “La Baguette” sont une tentative de publier un journal de ma vie pendant mon pélerinage à Saint-Jacques de Compostelle.
  • De captivants à banals, les articles et photographies de “La Baguette” sont une tentative de publier un journal de ma vie pendant mon pélerinage à Saint-Jacques de Compostelle.