A pleasant day — not too hot. Regina and Anthea enjoyed sleeping in. Peg and Tom, Teri and Jim went off to explore, starting at the monastery where Jim, Anthea and I got new credencials. Those are the forms on which you collect inked stamps (Regina says it reminds her very much of elementary school) from churches, businesses, hotels, museums and so forth, that are dated and slow where you have been along the Camino. At the end of the trip, a pilgrim presents the credencial(s) to an official in Santiago, and if the number of stamps is sufficient, a “Compostela” or certificate of completion is issued. From Sarria on, two stamps per day are required.
We toured the church and cloisters, looked in on the cemetery, and checked around at the ruined castle to see if we could get into it somehow. No luck, so we made our way down the hill to the sports shop that is conveniently located right next to the Camino as it enters the town. It was chock-a-block with ponchos, backpacks, walking sticks, guidebooks, and everything else that a peregrino might need. Jim acquired a very highly recommended poncho (made by Altus, a European company) and Peg found a daypack and smaller bag for carrying things while her bag is being shipped. We found a Pharmacia where I could re-stock on aspirin, and got to watch their order-filling machinery in action. They enter the type and amount of the drugs needed into a computer, and a robot system scurries around the back room of the pharmacy (visible from the front of the store), finds the package(s), and puts them onto a conveyor belt which spits them out to the pharmacist waiting by the cash register. Very slick.
For lunch, we went to the Italian place, Matias Locanda Italiana, and ate delicious pizza. Bear Tooth (our favorite place in Anchorage) has competition. The rest of the afternoon was spent in making travel arrangements. We bought our tickets from Santiago back to Barcelona. Not too bad a price for the ticket, but an additional 3 euros to choose each seat, an additional 15 euros to check each bag (and we had to check the backpacks because they are too big for Vueling’s carryon policy), and 11 euros to pay with a Visa card. But it was still not much more than half the price of the regular airline. We also booked all of our rooms from here to Santiago, and felt glad that we had. In the smaller towns, most of the hotels in our price range were full. In the larger towns, it seemed that there weren’t many rooms left. We didn’t even bother to ask about wi-fi (which we have heretofore been choosy about), in part because even when we are assured that “Yes, of course, it is in the rooms,” it often is not. And tonight, we had to make the arrangements to ship my backpack and Peg’s and Tom’s, which took another half hour or more because different services carry the bags shorter distances along this segment of the Camino. The advantage is that there’s a good deal of competition, so the price has suddenly dropped from 7 euros per bag to 3 euros per bag.
In the evening some of us went to Mass at the cathedral; others looked around the city a bit more. We met back at the Italian restaurant — yes, we spent half our day there, eating, playing with Blue the kitten (see below for photos), talking with the owner, and generally enjoying ourselves. The food is outstanding and the atmosphere welcoming.
Tomorrow we are back on the road, for the last six days of walking. It looks to be a longish day, with considerable up and down, about fourteen miles from Sarria to Portomarin. We’ll report back, as often as possible, but as noted above — we didn’t ask about wi-fi, and may find ourselves without. Wish us luck, and we wish all of you a happy and pleasant weekend –
Regina: “Chocolate and churros for breakfast (not at the Italian restaurant).” [Churros are very much like doughnuts — a light, fried dough; the chocolate is the very thick dipping/drinking chocolate.]
Can anyone tell us what these are? We think that they might be brussels sprouts plants, stripped of their sprouts. But we can’t figure out why they leave the plants standing, if that’s the case. We’ve seen these in gardens all across Spain. [Note from later: They are called walking stick cabbages. The lower leaves are stripped off as the plant grows and fed to the livestock. The stalks are harvested for walking poles, although we never saw anyone using anything that remotely resembled these.]
Peg in the monastery church. Note the crystal chandelier — we have seen these in a number of Spanish churches — I don’t ever recall seeing them in other churches. The alter is a heavily-gilt-covered work with several statue framed in elaborate Baroque curlicued niches — a great contrast to the very simple gray stone arches of the church itself.
Saint James – Santiago — as a pilgrim. This is one of his two representations (the other is as the Moor-slayer, Matamoros — we are less fond of that image). He has the pilgrim’s staff, gourd (for water), scallop shells, hat and cloak. Plus, he has a book because he was a writer. This was in the monastery church that we visited in the morning.
The ruins of one of Sarria’s castles, Fortaleza de Sarria. The guidebook says that it was destroyed “during the uprising of the peasantry against the aristocracy” during the 15th century. The owner of the Italian restaurant where we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner says that a group of people would like to buy the castle and restore it; to that end they are working on raising a million euros.
A Camino panhandler — or, if you prefer, a pilgrim who is making his way along the Camino existing on donations. I gave him a couple of euros earlier in the afternoon; he later came into the Italian restaurant a bit tipsy. By evening, he was back, soberer for the moment. I suppose he could make a very decent living never leaving Sarria. He characterized himself as a :libertarian anarchist,” and said that he had walked the Camino five times. [We saw him several days later, maybe in Santiago.]
Peg and Tom waiting for lunch.
Anthea: “The family and Blue, a brand new kitten, in Sarria [Blue lives at the Italian restaurant]. (My book about the Camino is going to be called ‘Cute Animals to Santiago’ and be sponsored by Can Has Cheezburger.)”
A kids’ birthday party at the Italian restaurant. They all trooped in with this cake (mound of candy? Not clear); they were delighted to have their picture taken. No adults were anywhere in sight — not something that you would find happening in an American restaurant.
Our dinner wine — or at least the bottle it was served in. They didn’t pull the cork at the table, and Regina said it was possible that a wine bought in bulk had been decanted into a bottle for serving at the table. It was a pleasant, very mild wine compared to the wines we’d had earlier in the trip.