Sunday 26 July 2015

Camino by car

Driving west from San Sebastian and Bilbao along the curve of the Bay of Biscay - bay of shipwrecks and drowned sailors - following the incredibly beautiful Basque coastline of mountains and sea, through Cantabria and Asturias to Galicia,
we turn southwards to Santiago de Compostela ...

Santiago de Compostela: sidelong view from the main entrance of the Cathedral 

and voilà in just a day we've covered the Camino del Norte, one of the main pilgrimage routes of the Camino de Santiago. 

Puerta de Platerias, side entrance to cathedral. The front view is spectacular but was totally covered in scaffolding! 

There are many different routes, but all roads end in Santiago de Compostela, where legend has it the remains of the apostle James are buried. 

Though despite its appropriation by Christians, the pilgrimage was not a Christian invention; long before, pagans walked across northern Spain to Finisterre where they burned their clothes and watched the sun fall into the sea at the end of the world. 

Does it count if you do the Camino by car, could I still collect a certificate I wondered? 

Hostal dos Reis Catolicos, Praza do Obradoiro

The grand Hostal dos Reis Catolicos on the plaza next to the Cathedral is the ultimate luxury destination for weary pilgrims.

It's been here since the 1400s when it was built by monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel as a hospital where pilgrims could recover after completing the pilgrimage

and is now a state-run Parador with Gothic and gargoyled inner courtyards and monastic rooms with four-poster beds.

Santiago was teeming with weary and jolly pilgrims (hundreds of thousands do it annually - for which Paulo Coelho is generally blamed, with some reason)

but off the main routes there were empty tables waiting to be filled for dinner outside in the squares

quiet corners for contemplation

and good simple tapas for weary non-pilgrims

Santiago de Compostela, Spain, June 2015
Day 3, Iberian road trip

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