Thursday, October 02, 2008


On July 24, the day before The Saint's Day, we decided to drive to Fisterra--End of the Earth. It was a gray and rainy morning when we left, but as we reached the "confines of the earth" the sun was shining. It was a beautiful drive of two hours along the Rias Bajas with beautiful beaches and lovely fishing villages. At lunch time we stopped at the town of Fisterra, inquired about a good restaurant and were told by a fisherman that all of them had good a fresh seafood. He was carrying a bucket full of shells that he sells to some of the restaurants in town. We did not have to go too far, having found a restaurant in front of the beach with a balcony where were given a table. We ordered a combination of shell and other fish, a deliciously cool Albarino and salad. The meal was an experience in itself. By this time the rain had stopped and the sky was beginning to show its blue colors. We drove out to the tip of Fisterra to take some photos, got out of the car, and it started to rain.

Once back n Santiago, Justo stayed in the hotel to rest his tired back and Libia Stella and I walked over to a big supermarket to buy cold cuts, cheeses, wine and other goodies for the evening. The big fireworks display and piece de resistance was to take place tonight at 11:30. The facade of the Cathedral is made out to look like it has been set on fire, all of this done to music, water technics and fireworks. They were expecting thousands of people, so we wanted to be ready to go around 9:30. On the way to the supermarket we passed a few boutiques, so as women do, we stopped and did a bit of shopping. At the supermarket, not only did we find all our food items, but also some folding stools to be able to watch our show in comfort. Once back at the hotel, we had our aperitif, rested and set out to look for a good place to watch the show. It was raining pretty hard, and although we had umbrellas, we wanted some plastic ponchos that almost everyone was wearing. We bought them at one of the little shops, and felt pretty well protected from the rain. We were ready! As we approached the square, we were surprised to see how few people were there. We took the best places, just in front of the barriers in the center without any obstruction. Soon after the crowds piled in, and since we had about two hours before the show, we took out our picnic and wine all under our plastic ponchos. It was so unbelievably fun to enjoy this under such conditions. People were watching us wishing they had thought about doing the same. Just about five minutes before the show, miraculously the rain suddenly stopped, the sky cleared and the music started. It is difficult to describe how beautiful the whole experience was. The Celtic music, the lights, the photo reflexions on the Cathedral's facade, the luminous jets of water, the whole thing. The show lasted more than a half hour and it left us numb. There were concerts in all the squares, exhibits, conferences and all sorts of shows all throughout the town. Once the crowds cleared, we headed straight for the Parador Nacional where we had a night cap, got a taxi and retired for the night.

On Friday, July 25, The Day of The Saint we got up early had a wonderful breakfast at the hotel before heading for the Cathedral for the Holy Mass that would have all of the pomp and circumstance and would be celebrated by the Bishop of Santiago aided by many priests. This, for all the pilgrims believers and non believers is the true culmination of their pilgrimage. There is a musical procession before the mass and the service is attended by all kinds of government representatives, often The King and Queen--Juan Carlos was meeting with Chavez in Cuba--reason for his absence. This is the day when the famous solid sterling BOTAFUMEIRO (giant incense burner) is suspended and swung across the church after the service. Since Libia and I got there early, we were able to find places just behind the section that had been reserved for all the dignitaries. The service was quite special, with an initial procession of uniformed guards, members of different ancient fraternities and a shrine of The Saint in solid gold carried in by quite a few men. At the end of the mass, the Botafumeiro was swung, and as the crowd came out, another one just as large, was waiting for the next mass.

We met Justo outside in the square, and walked over to have lunch at a nearby restaurant which filled up as soon as we came in. Libia and I had an incredible lobster rice and Stella and Justo had a type of prime rib that it could have fed 4 people. After lunch, we did some shopping, and went back to the hotel early enough to pack our suitcases. Our flight to Madrid was leaving at 7:30 the next morning. Stella and Justo stayed one more day in Santiago, returned the car in San Sebastian and we all met again in Madrid the following week.

Hotel San Francisco, old Franciscan Monastery

Waiting for the show

A photo does not do it justice

Overcome by emotion

Gold statue of St. James of Compostela

Members of the Fraternity of St. James


Waiting to get in

The Cathedral

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