Friday, June 26, 2009


Tuesday, June 29th, 2004 Ferrol, Spain

Ahh…the quiet place had a barking dog and many, many ringing bells at 7 am to get the farmers and the pilgrims up and going! Loaded the car after breakfast and took the freeway to Lugo. There we started with the trail on the side roads again and drove it all the way to Lavacolla where traditionally pilgrims stop to bath before entering the city of Santiago de Compostela. We picked up the freeway at that point and headed towards our Parador Hotel in Ferrol about fifty miles north. We’ll save our destination for tomorrow when we will drive down and spent the day savoring the history of St. James.

Ferrol is a very large old seaport on the northwest corner of Spain. It took us about half an hour of driving city streets to find the hotel. We had very bad directions from the Internet. We’re right next to the Spanish Navel Academy overlooking the shipyard and walking distance to the downtown area. And, views of the Atlantic Ocean!

For dinner we ventured out into the town. It was about six in the evening but all you could get were drinks and maybe a salad. Finally on the main square we found a Spanish type fast food shop; thanks to the wonderful instructions given to us in halting English by a waitress at a café. She was very nice and told us that this was about our only choice as the “kitchens” are closed until about 9 pm. We ordered a light meal and sat upstairs to eat with a view of the Palace and Mayor’s Plaza. There were about six teenagers eating French fries with us.

Wednesday, June 30th: Santiago de Compostela

Up about 8 am…..we had a quiet night here in this new hotel and a lovely breakfast before hitting the road to Santiago de Compostela. We decided to take the regular roads instead of the toll way for a much more scenic route; about half an hour longer but an easy road along the back bays of the coastal waters. Reach our destination about 11:30 in the morning, found parking and started our adventure.

Mass was going on so we purchased tickets to the Museum first and enjoyed seeing the artifacts that they have collected over the centuries. The outside of the Cathedral is very old looking. I don’t think it’s ever been “cleaned”; but that’s part of its charm. There are wild flowers and clumps of plants growing in various places on the walls; lots of steeples, bells and all those great things that make up a really old church in Europe. From the museum we were able to enter into the actual church and see the end of the Mass.

There was a Cardinal celebrating a high mass with all the pomp and circumstances. We arrived just at communion; you could hardly move as there were so many people. There were pilgrims all over with their backpacks stashed along the walls. At the end of the service they lowered this huge brass censer in the shape of a large lamp, put incense in, lit it and then swung it from a rope suspended from the very top of the dome like a huge pendulum for at least five plus minutes. It swings from one door to the other, that is, from south to north, along the arms of the cross. Because of its size and speed it makes a great wind. The burning incense and other odors produce a thick, fragrant smoke, which permeates the whole church. We were extremely fortunate to witness this event as it is only done on very important occasions (per our book). We still don’t know exactly what the occasion was…maybe they found out that Jim was coming! Anyway, it was very exciting and the perfect touch. Then we found the line outside the church to enter the back of the church and walk behind and touch the statute of Santiago on the main altar; then down into the crypt under the main altar to see the coffin holding the remains of the saint. By the way, this is a Holy Year for St. James. When his feast day, July 25th, falls on a Sunday as it does this year; a special door is opened on the eve of the Holy Year and then closed at midnight on December 31st. It will not happen again until 2010. We had to stand in line for about half and hour to do this part of the pilgrimage. Once more into the church to have another look before checking out the Parador Hotel that is located across the plaza from the church. It was full when we attempted to get a booking for the night last spring. That’s why we are staying in Ferrol.

Heading home by 2:30 pm; we took the wrong road and had an opportunity to spend some extra time on the back roads; always an experience that adds to the fun of driving in Europe. But, we only spent about an extra half hour returning to Ferrol. Back to our little fast food place called Enpanes, we enjoyed another fast and early dinner. But this time we were seated with nearly twenty teenagers. Rather noisy but who cares when you haven’t eaten since breakfast. Tonight is the big soccer game between Portugal and The Netherlands. There are only four teams left.

We leave tomorrow morning and head east on the northern coast for several days before entering France on July 4th.

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