At breakfast in the morning, we were surprised to see the two gals from Canada that we had first met in Triacastela. They had made it in later yesterday, and they were glad to see us. There were also a bunch of Americans in the dining area who were on a guided tour and had been walking pieces of the Camino from Sarria on in. These were most likely the people we saw from time to time getting on and off buses that were strategically waiting before long uphill climbs. They seemed anxious to meet us, and fascinated by the fact that we had walked the entire 500 miles. Greg and I found that we had become minor celebrities in the hotel, as other tourists came up to us saying that they had heard about us from their friends. We both found this quite amusing and almost a bit annoying, but we were careful to be accommodating to all of them.
At 10:30 am we set out for the Cathedral to go to the Pilgrim Mass that was scheduled for noon, intending to get there early for a seat up close and hoping to see the botafumeria in action. People were sitting in pews that spiked out in four directions from the centrally-located altar. There was plenty of time to take a tour of the cathedral, but we feared that we would lose our seats, so Greg went on the tour while I saved us two seats. One of the guards spoke to me about taking pictures. It seemed that I was sitting in the prayer area, and there was no picture-taking allowed there. I apologized and moved to another location that actually had a better view of the altar. When I saw Greg, I flagged him down and he came over to where I was. It was then that I saw the Irish couple sitting across the way in the praying area. I went over there to say hello, and they were really glad to see me. We decided to find each other after the service since they were really frowning on people talking. Then I did a quick mini-tour of the cathedral primarily wanting to see the tomb of St. James.
It was getting close to noon by now, so I returned to our seats where Greg was holding forth. I figured I could see anything I wanted later after the mass. Out of nowhere, Manfred appeared, and we were really happy to see him. He couldn’t find the fellow he had been travelling with, so we asked him to join us, and he did. Manfred brought us up to date on everyone that he had seen in the last couple of days and we did the same with him. He had run into Phyllis, who was arriving in Santiago today, but had to get the airport to catch a plane late in the afternoon. She was was not going to be able to attend the mass. Soon it was time for the mass to begin. It was great having Manfred there because he was able to explain a lot of the liturgy to us which was in either Spanish or Latin. At an early point, there was a welcoming of all the pilgrims and a list of all the countries they represented. After this, a British chap spoke, representing an Anglican group that had made the pilgrimage. He brought a present for the church in Santiago. It was incense from England. The head priest gladly received the gift and placed it on the altar. I found myself hoping that they would swing the botafumeria for sure now.
The mass went on, and they served communion. Apparently there were too many in attendance to have all the congregants take the wine, so they only offered the bread to all of us. The priests blessed the wine and took it for all of us. Greg and I went up to get a wafer and a blessing from one of the priests. After that there was a passing of the peace which was quite moving. There were pilgrims of many religious traditions from all over the world, literally, as well as locals who regularly worshipped at the church hugging each other saying “may the peace of Christ be with you”. Then the head priest said in English that this is what Christianity is: “we are all brothers and sisters through Christ our Savior”. After some liturgical singing in Latin, they brought the botafumeria to the center of the altar and lowered it to fill it up with incense. After it was lit, the seven monks manned the ropes and pulled it up so it could swing through the church. Everyone was getting pictures of this, and the guards did not seem to mind. Both Greg and I took videos of this amazing event, something neither of us will ever forget.
When the service was finished, the doors to the sides were opened so people could get out easier. Greg and I said goodbye to Manfred, who was catching a plane to Germany later in the day. He would be home this evening. Greg and I wished it would be that easy for us. Due to the large crowds, it was impossible to locate our Irish friends, so we just hung on inside the church and did a bit more touring. Outside the Cathedral, there was a steady stream of pilgrims coming into the city.
Greg and I visited a number of shops to search for some souvenirs to bring home. I bought Heather a necklace, and Greg was intent on finding a brass shell that he could place in cement at his house. I left him in the shops after a while and went to sit on the wall near the Cathedral and watch the pilgrims enter the city. Across the way, the trio I had seen earlier was beginning to play and I made a video of this. On another corner was a musician playing a sitar.
Greg came back from shopping and we found a small restaurant on Rua Vilar and had some lunch. After that we returned to the hotel to get some sleep. Still trying to catch up, I guess. When I woke up, I went down to the bar/lounge and ordered a glass of vino tinto and took it to a comfortable chair in the library area.
While there, I met another woman from Ohio that was part of the tour group I had seen at breakfast. She was a Catholic sister, Sister Carol, and she was talking via Skype to her priest back home. We struck up a conversation, and she gave me a postcard that had the Pilgrim’s Prayer on it. She had obtained several of these from the church in O’Cebreiro, and since I loved it so much, she wanted me to have it. We talked for 15 minutes or so, and then she got up and left with some other ladies in her group. I sat there for a while emailing Heather and posting some pictures of the day on Facebook. Five minutes later, and much to my surprise, Roger and Nancy came down the steps into the library. They were staying here in the hotel, and it was another nice reunion. They had arrived yesterday as well and got up early today and took the tour to Finesterre by bus. We adjourned to the bar and had a drink to share the experiences of the last three days. I had not seen them since early on the road to Palas da Rei, so much had taken place. They asked me about the mass, and I told them that they would need to get there early to get a good seat. While we were talking, Sister Carol came by and I introduced everyone. Carol joined us for a short time and told us about one of the members of her tour group who was a non-believer that was suffering some severe anger and depression issues. We prayed for her right there in the bar at the table. Carol got up after that and went to join some others while Roger, Nancy and I continued our conversation. Soon Greg joined us, and we spent the better part of the next hour just having a great time. Roger and Nancy then wanted to go up to their room and get cleaned up and rested before they went out to dinner. On the way back to the room to get our things to go out to dinner, I found an interesting sculpture that reminded me of Heather and me. It was just off the walkway from our room that bordered the beautiful garden area.
Within a few minutes, Greg and I were off to find the restaurant that was owned by Pousadas de Compostela, the chain that owned the hotel where we were staying. We had a special coupon provided by the hotel and we wanted to make good use of it. We found the place, but it was already packed. Near the door, one of the waiters told us that they were opening the downstairs dining area in a few minutes and that we could go down there. Soon we had our menus delivered, and we could make no sense of them. This was getting old to me by this time. I just wanted to get a good meal, get back to the hotel and a good night’s sleep before a long day’s trip tomorrow back to California. I asked the waiter if he could explain the menu and he could speak no English. I told him I wanted meat, carne, and he pointed to various menu items and then to a different part of his body to illustrate where the meat came from. I took the butt area, and Greg broke out laughing uproariously. When my meal came, it was too raw to eat. I complained to the waiter who indicated that he had a solution. In a short time he came back with a huge stone that he was holding with enormous pot holders. He set the stone down next to my plate and indicated that I should put the meat on the stone to cook it more. That solved the problem and meal was great. On the way back from the restaurant, we saw a guy with a big ice cream cone. We asked him where he got it and then went there and got one for ourselves. Feeling quite satisfied, we returned to the hotel and went to bed.