On an early Saturday morning, we awoke to a sunny sky. We quickly hustled to the language center and awaited our wonderful guide, Javier. Before long, we were off to Galicia, and the bus became silent as everyone tried to catch up on their sleep. Our first stop was at La Villa del Cebreiro, a small little village in the mountains where pilgrims begin their journey to Santiago de Compostela. Many still complete the journey today and we saw quite a few bikers and hikers. The original houses, which contained both the family and their animals, were preserved and it was like walking back through time. Everyone grabbed a few snacks for the road, and we hopped back on the bus to enjoy our scenic route to Santiago.
|The beginning of the journey!|
|The view from the mountain.|
An hour or so later, we arrived to the beautiful city of Santiago de Compostela. Javier reminded us that we were not truly pilgrims as we had not walked at least 100 km nor biked/ridden a horse for at least 200 km. In the heat, we set off on a quick tour of the plazas surrounding the famous Santiago cathedral. The cathedral was built in the shape of a cross, so we began with the Northern end. There, at the end of their long journey, the pilgrims enter the building. The plaza is called the Plaza de Azabacherías, which refers to the black mineral that is sold there.
|Plaza de Abacherias|
Afterwards, we made our way to the East side, the Plaza de Quintana. It is split into two different elevations, the lower part being called Quintana de los Muertos, as it used to be a cemetery for sick pilgrims that died after the journey, and the higher part being called Quintana de los Vivos. There, the Holy Gate stood, which only opens during the years that the 25th of July falls on a Sunday. The plaza was beautiful and expansive yet relatively empty due to the sun.
|Plaza de Quintana|
On the South side, we came upon the Plaza de Platerías (silver) where silver objects are bought and sold. Through that gate, the pilgrims exit the cathedral.
|Plaza de Platerias|
We finished our tour on the Western side at the Plaza del Obradoiro (stoneworker). This provided the most impressive photos of the cathedral. With our stomachs rumbling, we were dismissed for lunch. A few of us found a great deal (10 euros for a drink, appetizer, meal and dessert!) and we spent the rest of the time waiting in the shade for our tour of the Santiago church. We began by touring the inside of the cathedral, which was built in the Romanesque style and richly decorated. The Portico de la Gloria, a stone façade of Judgment Day was particularly impressive.
|Cathedral of Santiago|
For the second part of our tour, we climbed to the roof of the cathedral, which had concrete steps as a roof instead of tejas. This resulted in some beautiful views of the city! More city views were also available from the top of the monastery we visited. We finished off the night with a delicious dinner and bed.
|Claire being a translator.|
The next day, we set off for the coast! The excitement at every patch of blue that we could see between houses and trees grew until we arrived at a breathtaking pit stop. A few pictures later, we were back on the bus.
We arrived at Castro de Barona where an old Celtic village stood centuries ago. As the day warmed, we watched the fog disappear to reveal amazing views of the ocean and coastline. We spent an hour or so exploring the area, and as a rock climber, I was glad to be able to scramble on a few of the boulders! The ocean looked so inviting and a few braved the cold plunge. However, we felt slightly out of place on a nude beach so we slowly made our way up the hill again, looking forward to our beach time in Coruna.
|The remains of the Celtic village.|
And our time in Coruna did not disappoint. Sun, sand, and surf all came together in a perfect combination and we all returned back to the bus a little redder than before. Our last stop was at the Torre de Hércules, the oldest working lighthouse in the world. Since it was reconstructed so much, we debated whether it truly deserved that title. However, the views from the top were spectacular. It was VERY windy at the top but we managed to get a few photos without hair in our faces!
|El Torre de Hercules.|
Afterwards, we made our way to the Plaza Mayor of La Coruna. We snuck some illegal lunches on the bus and slept the majority of the way home. Though exhausting, the trip was a success and after a taste of the ocean (for some of us, literally), we look forward to the three-day weekend for more!