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Monday, May 28, 2007 

Somewhere in between...

My last hours in Santiago were surreal. I spent the last two days on my own. I went to mass in hopes of spotting some of the people I had started the camino with, especially Vivian & Carol, but I think I've missed them the day before, or perhaps they will come later.

I was lucky enough to have both breakfast AND dinner at the posh Parador hotel. They offer a free meal for the first 10 pilgrims @ 9am, 12pm, & 7pm. I can't believe I actually found the unmarked waiting spot. This "secret" is written in a few books (2 German books have it & my Pilipala Press guide from Vancouver also has it), so I expected many more pilgrims, however, when I finally confirmed the "spot" there were only 5 of us!

Breakfast was FANTASTIC, & the company was even better. Some Germans, and super friendly Dutch, and then little Canadian me. I met Christiane who was on her way home. She had been to dinner the night before & said there were only 7 people who came.

I made it to dinner with a few places to spare but the company left little to be desired. Everyone was German (again) except for me. But it was quiet and cold, and when I tried to start a conversation, I was told to "eat before my soup gets cold."


The camino really does "melt" away: pilgrims slowly reintegrate into civilization as worn gear is replaced.

One woman I saw in a cafe had the zipoffs and fleece, but sported a brand new pair of sneakers. Purses and handbags are worn instead of bulging backpacks. And even the pilgrim "look" (one of determination, destination, & openess to their environment) fades a bit into the tourist, self-absorption/reflection, and the once friendly now carry a bit of defensiveness in the city.

But I think most of us hang on to the camino feeling inside each in our own ways. For me it was little things: I went to mass every day I could in Santiago, and congratulated pilgrims waiting outside the Peregrino Office. I visited the convent de Santa Clara, the same order of Sisters that I had met in Castrojeriz in hopes that I could buy a tao (small T crucifix) that I didn't have the money for in Castrojeriz. I went back to "La Comida" and had a great time with the restaurant staff, quite possibly the second best experience for me next to the ringing of the cathedral bells in Santiago.

The final morning in Spain, I went for my last café con leche and croissante across the street. The girl who I had seen back in Leon (the one who said a car had been following her & her friend) came strolling in with some guy and ditched him to sit with me. She was wearing this short chinese print wrap with a sweater, and flipflops & proudly proclaimed that she hadn't even been back to her hostel yet. She went on to explain she had met this Italian guy 5 days ago, and kissed two really cute Irish guys before that and before that...

The Italian guy whom she ditched had finished his coffee, came over and flatly said "bye bye" to her and left.

This girl obviously had a different camino than I did. I excused myself from this slightly disturbing desayuno, grabbed my things and headed on the bus to the airport.

And then the camino threw one more little blessing: Linda (from Berlin), whom I had seen on & off on the camino, was at the airport and was travelling the same flight to London. We ended talking for hours, as our flight was delayed. We had this crazy kindred spirit: she is also a website girl for a car company, and LOVES movies. We talked about the camino, I saw almost all of her photos: it was like walking it all over again. She told me about her incredible experiences along the way... She even had a photo of Heinz, the guy I said "I have a date with an octopus" to. We had some crazy fun at the end, laughing like old friends... If she didn't have such a short time between connecting flights, we would have gone to the London Dungeon to see the torture chambers together. We agreed to make a "date with the dungeon" someday. Hee.

And that's how I left Santiago, Spain, and the physical camino behind - a bit mixed in feeling, but not without spirit and with confidence that I'm bringing a piece of the camino with me wherever I go.

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