Monthly Archives: May 2022

(Three) short days in the Emerald City…


Santiago is a blend of very old and very new. My first stop was to be a tour of the Cathedral. I had intended to sign up for a tour of the interior and one of the towers. Turns out I had (apparently) just signed up for the tower tour. Which involved stairs. Many stairs. And, when we got to the top, we were expected to step out onto THIS:

Yes. Literally the roof. And while most people seemed not to have trouble navigating it, I was more than a little disconcerted.

I don’t mind heights, but the “slantiness” was quite vertigo-inducing. I did manage to get over to the next point and get some pictures. The guide seemed very knowledgeable but she only spoke in Spanish. There was an app that you could download that had the info in English, but I couldn’t read my phone and navigate the roof simultaneously.

When the guide started to lead us around to the other side, I told her I would wait back at the stairs. I literally crawled across to the door and then sat on the (flat) step. When the group came back around, I was informed by some man that “I was wearing the wrong shoes” (I had my Tevas on) and that was my problem. I disagreed, but he insisted. “Thank you, O Man, for Mansplaining to me,” I thought to myself. 🙄

We then climbed higher in the tower, where the surface was, thankfully, flat. Amazing views.

And close-ups of the bells!

And the very top of the tower.

This is a huge rachet. Apparently during Lent, they turn this instead of ringing the bells.

When I climbed back down, I saw this little “train” in the square. It was a tour-train that would take you on a circle tour of the city (with narration) for only €6. I hopped on.

Many sights and sounds of the city

The historic Burger King 😂

On Saturday, I took an all-day bus tour out to Finisterre and Muxia. Many Pilgrims continue their walk out to one of these places. Our guide was amazing, speaking in both Spanish and English and describing points of interest and history along the way.

Bridge from the 1400s
Fishing village of Muros
Fervenza do Ézaro

Finisterre – literally the “End of the Earth”

And Muxia. Much more wild and remote feeling than Finisterre and the site of the last scene from the movie “The Way.”

I never did get the tour of the inside of the Cathedral, but I managed a couple of pictures after the Mass on Thursday. I’ll just have to return!

Today, I slept in (a rare occurrence on this trip!). I took a bunch of things to be shipped ahead to my hotel in Madrid. I had lunch at a very upscale (and delicious) restaurant. And…I got my souvenir!

My Camino Shell. The guy was only doing black ink; I plan to add some color when I get back.

Tomorrow I am off to spend a couple of days in Barcelona. Enough cows and farms…I need some city vibes! I’m taking the train across Spain.

The end…and a beginning


Today, at approximately 11:30am, I reached Santiago and stood in front of the Cathedral.

It was quite crowded on the road; everyone near the end of their journey. Some had walked from St. Jean (or further!) and some had started 100 kms away in Sarria. Some were practically running. Others were visibly limping. Some walked with dogged determination. Some walked slowly, as if they didn’t want it to end.

As I came around the corner towards the front of the Cathedral, I saw a woman in tears and stumbling, as she walked with her husbands arm around her. Every emotion seemed to be expressed.

There was a Pilgrim’s Mass at noon. I went and sat on the steps in the back; every seat was taken. The cathedral is beautiful (I’ve got a full tour booked tomorrow and will post more pictures.)

I was starving, so got a plate of paella and a beer. Then I went to the Pilgrim’s Office to get my certificate. It’s all in Latin. They look closely over your stamps, especially the last ones, to be sure you’ve walked at least 100 kilometers! By my best reckoning, I walked about 350.

Then, after a few wrong turns, I found my albergue. It’s called “Seminario Menor” and is in this very cool old Monastery. It’s also up on a hill. But I have a little private room (that likely used to be some monk’s cell.). Plain, but comfortable.

My heart is full. I expect I’ll be turning over my thoughts for some time. And writing some of them here! But for now, I’m feeling very grateful and very blessed.

One more sleep…


…till Santiago. A pleasant walk today with a few climbs.

I had brought a rock with me on the Way. This is symbolic of your burdens and traditionally, pilgrims lay their rock at the base of the Cruz de Ferro – the iron cross in the Leon Mountains and the highest point on the Camino Frances.

However, I had skipped that part of the path …and so I laid my rock at the base of an older marker for entering Santiago. This was a special rock – a piece of squared-off quartz given to me by a first grader at my last school.

My last stop before Santiago is here in the town of Lavacolla. The name Lavacolla has one of the most debated origins of all the Camino towns. The most mundane theory is that it means “field at the bottom of the hill.” But some say it actually means “scrub your scrotum.” 😁

However, it is widely accepted that pilgrims stopped to bathe and wash their clothes in the stream here before finally entering the city.

For myself, I did not wash at the stream, but in the more modern shower in my pensión! Tomorrow, if all goes well, I will walk into Santiago at last!

“If you want to hear Divine laughter…


…try telling God YOUR plans.”

So goes the old saying. My Camino experience has been nothing like what I anticipated. Actually, I don’t even know what I was expecting. I had a plan, and then another plan, and then no plan…and now I’m just getting up every day and walking 10 – 12 kilometers.

Stopping when I need to stop, eating when I need to eat, letting others pass me on the Way. Drinking in the sights and sounds and smells and hoping my feet hold out for a couple more days.

Coming out of Boente this morning I came to a little church. The caretaker told me that this little church once had the distinction of being the “end” of the Camino. During the time of the Spanish flu, Santiago was closed. This church was believed to have been visited by Saint James, and so for a couple of years, Pilgrims considered it to be the end of their journey.

In addition to the cafes and bars in the little villages, there are sometimes little stands with fruit, water, coffee and other items to help the weary pilgrim. This was one I came upon yesterday. He had cut-up fruit platters, some kind of cheese slices spread with quince and…hard-boiled eggs! And get a load of the bright pink car!

There was also a church which had coffee and cake…and a priest who rang a bell and shouted “Buen Camino!” to passing pilgrims.

I have two more days before I reach Santiago. I have walked about half the kilometers originally planned…but each step has been hard-won and authentic. Walk your own walk, they say. And that is what I intend to do.

Teach your children well…


Today I walked in the mist. It was pleasantly cool and mostly flat, on dirt paths through wooded areas.

As I walked, I was thinking about my father. Donald William Chilton was born on April 3, 1923 in Brooklyn, NY. His mother, Abigail, became a widow when he was only 3 weeks old. She raised him and his older brother Robert alone.

My Dad and his older brother, ca 1925

My father was a brilliant man, who found almost everything interesting. It was from him that I learned that the unknown was not to be feared, but explored. Different cultures, beliefs, lifestyles and ideas were what made life fascinating. And if you didn’t understand something, well…learn more about it.

Naval Aviator.

He loved languages and finding out the etymology of various words. (We buried him with a well-worn dictionary.) He also loved poetry…and making up ribald verses, as evidenced by this “Christmas card” he sent to his brother.

Most of all, he loved us. He was 30 when he married my mother (who was almost 8 years younger) and she was his first and only girl. He never quite got over his good fortune.

And I think he felt constantly blessed to be a father.

At the fireworks. I love his expression as he looks at us.
Easter Sunday, ca 1961
“Family Camp” in Holmes, NY

As we grew into adulthood, he would sometimes get teary-eyed when he was with us. “Oh, Julie,” he’d say. “I remember when you were born.” And he’d get a bit choked up. My 16-year-old self didn’t quite get the emotion. I mean, of course he remembered when I was born – duh. (My much older self understands perfectly…)

When his first grandchild was born (Adam, my oldest) my father was over the moon with joy. Once, watching toddler Adam dance around the room while I played guitar, my father proclaimed that he could die right then and there and be happy.

My father would have enjoyed hearing about my adventures on the Camino. And he would have understood the “Camino magic.” Once, when I was driving a not-quite-reliable car from Long Island back to Massachusetts, he told me not to worry. “The car will make it,” he promised. “And if you have trouble, or something goes wrong, just wait. There is always someone who will help you.”

“There is always someone who will help you.” A lesson worth knowing. Then, now and always.