The Pilgrims Goal

Name Dropping

The luxury of a lie in before scooting off to the airport has become a rare treat. It’s seven years since Ryanair opened a route into Galicia. Their operation began by overwhelming a small regional airport with frequent and regular flights. The airport in question was Santiago de Compostela; but no sooner had the competition been forced into submission than this once regular route was slashed to the bone. What survives is a shadow of its former glory: an infrequent service occupying the least popular flight times. Not that I’m complaining: without Mr O’Leary’s intervention the numbers visiting this idyllic corner of Spain would be far less.

The sole exception to this out-of-hours timetable is the Wednesday flight from Stansted. It arrives just after lunch, plenty of time for a leisurely drive to the airport to meet my sister Julie and brother-in-law Jem.

Since moving to Spain, we spend far more time waiting for arrivals than we ever did waiting to depart. All this hanging around provides a great opportunity to admire these cathedrals of modern architecture. Where once I found stress and irritation I now find beauty and imagination. In short, I’ve become a closet admirer of these contemporary structures. They’re the building equivalent of prehistoric dinosaurs.

The new terminal at Santiago is a perfect example. In the centre of the building, running from top to bottom, are clear glass lift shafts. As the lifts rise and descend they remind me of the pistons of a giant combustion engine. It’s almost as if they’re pumping life into the building. The glass walls, running the length of the building, provide a living landscape: an old master changing with the seasons.

My daydream was quickly shattered as Julie and Jem pushed their way through the crowds. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, we left this modern-day cathedral and headed for another. The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is somewhat more traditional and considerably older.

The walk from the city centre car park to Plaza del Obradoiro, location of the famous cathedral and the city’s Parador, took us along Rua de San Fransisco. This mainly pedestrianised street is lined on one side with souvenir shops and retail establishments selling Santiago’s famous almond tart and the less famous, but equally delicious, piedras de Santiago: clusters of toasted almonds, coated in milk, plain or white chocolate. Julie refuses to leave Galicia without a box or two.

Mentioning no names

The sellers entice passers-by into their chocolate emporiums by offering seductive free samples. We’re old hats and weren’t moving on until we’d sampled a few tasty choccies. Our emporium of choice was Casal Cotón. Besides a not so famous author (that’s me by the way, just in case you were wondering) this chocolate shop of distinction counts among its patrons such global celebrities as tennis star Rafa Nadal and Hollywood A-lister Martin Sheen. I think the latter must have called in on ‘The Way’ past.

By the time we reached the square we were ready for a drink. During spring and summer the Parador offers an al fresco alternative to its busy café. It’s a wonderful location for watching determined hikers hobble towards their goal. Other pilgrims just relax in the square, reflecting on their achievement: and then there are those I refer to as train spotters: one more experience ticked off the bucket list of life.

We’re far too sensible to contemplate such physical torture: to say nothing of our personal fitness or to be more accurate, lack of it. That reminds me, I must dust the cobwebs off my bike. Until next time, have a great week.

Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

Are we there yet

Craig and Melanie own and operate a luxury farmhouse rental property called Campo Verde. To find out more about a stay at Campo Verde and Galicia in general, visit our website getaway-galicia

Craig’s book, Journey To A Dream, is available exclusively from Amazon, to purchase your copy click here for your national Amazon store.

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