Friday, 7 October 2016

Day 42 - A Return Home : Paris to Toronto

We were awake at 5 am out of habit, but we both sat in the hotel room until 8 am, uncertain what to do with the extra time. By 9 we had enjoyed a brief breakfast in the lobby, checked out, and boarded the shuttle to the Charles de Gaul airport. Checked in, we were on the 11:30 am flight from Paris to Montreal before changing aircraft for a short jump from Montreal to Toronto. 

Our flights were again long, but safe and uneventful. Without the excitement of the Camino keeping us awake as we crossed the Atlantic this time, we both slept well and arrived into Toronto at 8 pm. 

Here we again gathered our luggage, and waited for the Airlink bus which took us from Toronto to the small town we currently call home. We arrived home at midnight. Here it did not take long for the silence of our own home in our own neighbourhood to get to us. Ironically, after weeks of being frustrated by the noises of others at night, and the hurried mornings on the Camino, it is the silence of our own house which is irritating. The hum of the refrigerator, the click of the furnace, the sound of the pool pump, are now all unnerving electronic noises. The snoring of the albergue, the rustling of others in their bunks, the crickets outside, and the smell of fresh cut hay are all just memories. Our adventure in Spain has come to an end and the trick will be figuring out how to make sense of it all and keep it fresh and meaningful in our daily lives.

As we sit here, safely back home, I want to say thank you to everyone we met along the way, and to everyone who helped us make this possible.  Although it hasn't sunk in yet, I think we are different for having made this journey, and we couldn't have done it alone.  Thank you!
Practical information:

Distance: 6,017 km
Max Temperature: 15°C
Accommodations: Home, Simcoe Ontario

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Day 41 - Fast Transit Navigating Home : Santiago de Compostela to Paris

We awoke this morning early and wandered back to the cathedral to spend some time watching excited pilgrims rush into the main square. It was here that the depression began to settled in. Our trek was done and we didn't belong in the flood of new pilgrims who came with their groups to finish their quests. Two days after arriving it is clear the transformation from pilgrim to tourist is complete, and it is time to go home and figure out how to fit the Camino into our lives back in Canada.

With all of this in mind we began our homeward journey. We hired a taxi from our hotel to the small, clean, and modern looking Santiago airport to catch our Air Iberia flight to Madrid.  At first his was a stunning experience, as the taxi was travelling at a much faster speed than we had been for the past 4 - 5 weeks.  However, by the time we arrived at the airport we had already begun to adjust back to the pace of automated world we had left behind. 

With few other people in the airport we were quickly checked in and took the time to admire a scale model of Santiago and the Cathedral which was set up in the waiting from. 

We caught our flight to Madrid, where we had a two hour layover before catching a flight back to Paris.  By 8 pm we were back in France, and from the airport we caught a Le Bus Direct to the Ibis Styles Paris Roissy hotel. 

Given our late arrival into Paris we were advised to order dinner before closing time. As such, after rather basic fair in the hotel restaurant, we were back in our room by 10 catching up on our final journals and preparing for our morning flights from Paris to Montreal and then from Montreal to Toronto, and our final shuttle drive back home. 

By the end of the day both of us had sore legs and sore backs - ironically from sitting all day on planes and not being able to get out walking or hiking. How quickly our bodies began to expect certain lifestyles and physical demands. Ultimately today was relatively uninspiring and uneventful, but I suppose that is how you want things to go when you are on a series of plane flights. In the end we are grateful to have been able to safely travel from Santiago to Madrid to Paris without incident and to arrive at our hotel in time for an evening meal.

Practical information:

Distance: 1,495 km
Max Temperature: 17°C
Accommodations: Ibis Styles Paris Roissy Hotel (95.95 Euro / room)

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Day 40 - Pilgrimage comes to an End : Santiago de Compostela

We awoke early on our final morning in Santiago in order to return to the Cathedral and partake in the early morning mass at 8 am. Today's itinerary had been the subject of debate for almost a week prior to arriving in Santiago. Shortly after leaving Portomarin we had begun discussing the possibility of what to do with our extra day. We had explored the notion of taking a bus to Finisterre and back, but thought that it would be better to have the time to more fully enjoy that route.  We had also considered moving our flights by 2-3 days in order to hike to Finisterre and Muxia, but that option came at the cost of almost $800.00 in fees.

Added to all of this was the fact that any of these choices meant that we would have to essentially walk away from our friends after the pilgrim's mass without any time for goodbyes or reflection. As a result, for our "extra day in Santiago" we ultimately decided to spend the time, enjoy the city and museums, and to have a final dinner with our companions. In the end, we made the right decision!

Following mass we enjoyed a cafe con leche and fresh pie in a cafe located beside the cathedral. After this we spent several hours exploring and photographing the cathedral interior, which was beautifully illuminated by the morning sun. After a second breakfast we sat in the main plaza awaiting the arrival of our Canadian friends at the conclusion of their Camino. At around 11 am they came trekking down the stairway, exciting by their achievement and stunned to see that so many others had waited to cheer them on. 

Now left with the afternoon to ourselves, we decided to visit the nearby pilgrim museum and to take the roof top tour of the cathedral. Our first stop, the Museo Das Peregrinacions e De Santiago (1.20 Euro / individual admission), or the Museum of Pilgrimage and Santiago is a collection focused on the history of pilgrimage to the region. Inside we enjoyed displays on historical and worldwide pilgrimages, with the main focus of course being on the Camino throughout Europe. We also got to see artistic representations of pilgrims and saints, displays on symbols, rituals and documents related to pilgrims, and examples of ancient Compostela documents including copies of the original Codice Calixtino! We thoroughly enjoyed all of this.

Next we visited the Museo Catedral and purchased our tickets for a roof top tour of the Cathedral (10 Euros / person) later in the afternoon. The Cathedral Museum itself is fascinating and includes art, historical displays, descriptions of the cathedral's restoration, as well as various other religious pieces including previous butofumerios. During our visit we were able to wander the hallways of the building and visit the upper balconies of the cathedral to get a great view down into the church. We were also able to go out onto a narrow outside balcony which overlooked the main plaza in front of the cathedral. 

While we wanted to continue our visit, our roof top tour was set to begin at 4 pm, and so we returned to the museum entrance to meet our guide. Our tour began with a brief history of the cathedral during which time we were lead upwards through a series of long narrow stair cases to a doorway which opened outwards onto the roof and set between the two front spires of the western facade (front) of the church. Once on the roof we were led onto the stone tiles over the nave of the cathedral, where we were allowed to walk around freely. Surprisingly, despite the slant of the roof everyone was able to walk with great ease and stability while the guide detailed the history of the church and the city. In the roof we were able see the back of the state of St. James on the front of the Cathedral, and we able to walk to both the central tower and the clock tower.

From our vantage point we could see through windows down into the church, walk under archways, see down into the surrounding plazas, and see the nearby Seminario Mayor, which is the main lodging for most pilgrims in the city. As with most of our trip, today we were truly luck to have had a wonderful and clear day to visit the cathedral roof and enjoy such a beautiful view of Santiago. I would certainly suggest that anyone who visits Santiago should make the time for this tour, even if one in your native language is not available.  It is still well worth it.

When the roof top tour came to an end we realized that it was nearing time for us to meet our friends for our final meal together, as most of us were set to either hike onward or take a bus to Finisterre and Muxia the next day, or fly out to Paris, London, or Madrid early in the morning. We all met at 7 pm outside of the Parador beside the Cathedral and together made our way to a nearby restaurant, the Casa Manolo.

Here, after a long meal, we slowly made our goodbyes to most of our comrades, and returned to the cathedral with others, where we gathered outside in the plaza, and then slowly parted ways.

Afterwards we wandered the city, talked some, photographed some, but in general we mostly just tried to put off returning to our hotel. By 1 am however we are back in our room, packing and preparing for our morning flight from Santiago to Madrid, and then from Madrid to Paris. And just like that, the Camino is done, our friends are returning to their lives, and we are about to return home.


Practical information:

Distance: 0 km
Max Temperature: 19°C
Accommodations: Hotel San Lazaro (45 Euros / room / evening)