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October 21, 2022
How do you get lost on a famous pilgrim’s route used by hundred’s of thousands every year? Although it stretches for over 400 miles from an area in southern France all the way to Santiago de Compostela (where we were visiting), we walked on it only a short way–accidentally. We had taken a taxi from our hotel to the St. James Cathedral. It is here that St. James the Greater is believed to be buried. He was an apostle and the first of Jesus’s disciples to be martyred. The purpose of the Camino Real is to bring the pilgrims to this tomb. They come to the cathedral every day, hundreds upon hundreds where they present themselves in special ceremonies. As we entered the cathedral, it appeared voluminous, yet plain. But the further into the interior we walked, we noticed a shine and light and then…an explosion of gold and silver in a very large altar room in the middle of the cathedral. Huge angels carried banners in their arms, and the story of St. James in baroque splendor unfolded before us. Before the altar is the huge incense Botafumeiro, the largest thuriblein (incense container) the world. Suspended on huge chains, it can be manipulated to swing at speeds of 45 mph over the heads of worshipers in the nave. Originally used to cover up the smell of the sweaty and dirty pilgrims, it is now used as an act of worship. Below the altar area is a tomb room with the remains of St. James in a silver casket. Inspirational, indeed!
Leaving the cathedral, under cloudy skies, we decided to walk back to the hotel which was only a 16 minute walk. Consulting our phone map apps. both Randy and I independently came up with an identical route home, but it said it was a 35 minute walk. Oh well! Off we walked, down side streets, around flower-laden round abouts, and on and on we went. After about 10 minutes, my map said we still had 35 minutes to walk! Hmm! But on and on we went. At one point it was an upward climb on an off the map incline–150 steps–and then a marked gravel walkway–the Camino Real–cool! But we still had 25 minutes to walk. “We are probably going to the hotel on the backside,” Randy said. I was comforted by that thought. The skies were turning dark, but we soldiered forward. Finally, after about two hours, we were getting close, so our map apps. indicated. Nothing, however, looked familiar, and we were now in a rural area. On we went, until we reached the hotel street. It was sprinkling hard now. Down the street we rushed. Then the map app. said, “Arrived,” and what should we see–an abandoned restaurant!!! We were completely lost, and it was raining hard, and there were no other buildings in sight. Thankfully, the restaurant had a covered porch. What on earth? Time passed by! Finally, Kathy took the bull by the horns and walked down to the road to wave any passer by down. Amazingly, a woman came by and became our angel in disguise. She came up to the porch and called a cab for us! Within ten minutes we were on our way to the hotel several miles away. That is how you get lost on the Camino Real–use a map app. on the phone! We had walked over five miles and sadly, we later found out our hotel was truly only a sixteen minute walk following the proper route. We came via plane from Madrid–we saw amazing sights–we conquered the map app. What more can one say or do!