It’s the same day still as my earlier post, but in the evening. I have my hotel booked for Madrid tomorrow and Monday night. It’s near the Prado, so I hope to go see that on Monday.
I went exploring earlier, both around the hotel and went to the church again to see the remains of St. James and to see some of the smaller chapels. It’s really a beautiful place. Both the hotel and the church here are really lovely to explore.
This parador was a pilgrim hospital and orphanage up until the 1950s, when it was converted into this fancy hotel. What I really like is that the hotel put up small plaques to explain what the rooms and courtyards were originally used for when it was a hospital. I found the leech tank from 1890, which was where they kept all the leeches they used for medical purposes. It’s now just part of a wall below a window. And there was a courtyard that was where the mothers could leave their children if they wanted them accepted by the orphanage. There were explicit instructions on how to leave the children and instructions on how to care for the children who were left. The person rang a bell when they wanted a child picked up by the nurses and they were to wait until they heard the bell answered with a statement that began “Ave Maria…”
When I went out to the plaza, I saw the pilgrims who have finished today sitting on the ground and meeting each other and congratulating each other just like Lucy and I did on Thursday. It made me smile to see more people arriving, but I still haven’t seen Pedro.
The church is so lovely, and just like yesterday, there is a sense of calm and peace in it. Especially after the attacks last night, it is nice to be in a place where there is a feeling of calm and peace. I went down below the altar and saw the tomb of St. James. It’s a much smaller coffin than I expected and completely bright silver. I walked all around and saw the chapels. One in particular of Mary and the baby Jesus struck me because it looked like Mary was staring right at me. It made me stop for a moment and stare back. It was sort of eerie, but also comforting. Even after leaving the church and eating dinner, I still have the image of her looking at me in my mind.
Dinner was a trip. It was crazy fancy with tiny portions and strange combinations of foods. I’ve certainly never eaten anywhere this fancy, and I was glad that I’d already paid for the meal so I didn’t have to actually see the prices. I was just given the menu of the day. And that, ladies and gents, is how Jill ended up eating octopus pate. The waiter took the menu from me before bringing out all the starters (I had asked if I could just get the ham croquettes as a starter, but he said he’d bring out both starters on the menu) and by the time he brought them out I couldn’t remember what the other starter was other than some type of seafood. I ate a few bites of what he brought out and, after dinner, looked at the menu by the restaurant entrance. It turned out to be a little rectangle of octopus pate with caviar on top. I didn’t eat the caviar at all because I recognized what that stuff was, but I took two bites of the pate. It tasted fishy to me, but since I don’t eat seafood, I think even non-fishy things taste fishy. Others who have eaten octopus told me that it wasn’t a fishy flavor. At any rate, as my last night in Galicia, I feel I can certainly leave now that I’ve actually tasted the octopus. The first course was some sort of stew with some veggies in it. Not bad, but they also just dropped a sunny-side-up egg on top of the stew, so I sort of mined my way around the egg to get to the veggies. The main course was “lamb knuckle”, which was pretty good. The meat was really tender and fell right off the bone. And for dessert, I had violet ice cream with an orange brownie — both pretty interesting. Well, it was all interesting. A memorable dinner. They kept taking my plate and all my silverware between each course and the head waiter took my bread from me and mini-swept up all the crumbs in front of me before I was actually done eating the bread. But, it was definitely an adventure in the culinary world!
After seeing St. James and eating octopus and relaxing a bit more, I feel like I’m really ready to begin the journey home. With the Camino over, I feel like I just want to go home. I’m ready to be back in the States.