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My Spain trip started poorly, as have my last 3 international flights, with an early am notice that my AA flight Tucson to Dallas was delayed, putting at risk my international connection. I rushed to the airport and managed to get the last seat on an earlier flight, necessitating exchanging a first-class ticket for a center seat at the back of the plane. This successfully got me to Dallas in plenty of time, permitting me to “enjoy” the Flagship Lounge for over 7 hours. The flight to Madrid was pleasantly boring and I got some sleep. Amazingly, I got a notice several days later that AA had processed a partial refund to my account.
Madrid, as usual, was great. I stayed in a small efficiency apartment less than ½ block from Santa Ana Plaza, my favorite haunt in the Letras Barrio (named the “Letters” as this was the historic district for many famous writers, from the great Cervantes, early 1600s, to Ernest Hemingway, early 1900s). The number of tapas bars is beyond count. I visited for the third time the Archeological Museum with its wonderful pre-Roman funerary exhibits.
I took the new high-speed rail from Chamartin station to Santiago, a trip that used to take over 6 hours now barely taking 3. I had a small room in the Pension O Codice, with 3 balconies overlooking the famous Rua do Franco, above a couple of tapas bars, and with a view of the cathedral just 200 yards up the street. The Catedral of Santiago has been famous for over 1100 years as the burial site of Saint James, the Disciple of Jesus. Amazingly, his lost burial suddenly was “discovered” in Santiago de Compostela, 900 years after and 2,500 miles distant from his death in Jerusalem. For over 1100 years pilgrims have been journeying hundreds of miles by foot, from France and Spain, as a pilgrimage to this Cathedral. Whatever your beliefs, it is moving. My first day I followed an old man, his wife 15 feet behind, both carrying packs with the inevitable white shell attached, walking the last 200 meters to the great square on the west side of the cathedral. Dropping their packs to the ground they stood in the middle of hundreds of other pilgrims, faces lifted to the great cathedral. I watched the old man, eyes closed, mouthing silent prayers, and tears were streaming down his face. Then a group of maybe 40 young people entered the square with rousing songs as they danced and leapt in great circles, dropping their packs in piles. It sounds trite, but the Camino clearly is a monumental religious experience for those who undertake the multi-weeks pilgrimage. In order to earn one of the official certificates from the Cathedral honoring completion of the Camino, one must certify the walk was undertaken for religious reasons, and must obtain stamped attestations from pass points at least twice daily which establish a minimum of 100 miles covered.
I now have moved on to the fishing city of Vigo, just north of the Portuguese border. Later. Dave
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