Once again mother nature was not playing ball as I arrived by train into Santiago De Compostela, the capital of the Galicia region of Spain. In fact, it was tipping it down.
The journey direct from A Coruna to Santiago de Compostela took 30 minutes and cost me 8 euros. You are allocated a seat and I immediately noted how spotlessly clean the train was. Some difference from the commuter train to London that I endured for five years of my life.
It’s clear the Spanish take great pride in their transport services as the excellent bus network was the same. What has happened to us in Britain?
I was staying on the very edge of the old quarter at the “Hotel Virxe da Cerca by Pousadas de Compostela” – not the sort of name you remember after a few Estrella’s but a guaranteed game-winner for Scrabble! This lovely character hotel was a maze of corridors and gothic art with a beautiful garden terrace complete with about 30 (sadly captive) canaries who were singing their heart out at breakfast.
I arrived early evening so once I had dried out I decided to venture into town. Expect to work your thigh muscles in Santiago de Compostela. It seems every cobbled street in the old town is on a hill or has steps. That should not bother many of the visitors as a large number (many Irish and US) are here to start or end the Camino de Santiago – a religious pilgrimage that takes 30 days for the experienced hiker.
In fact, you can spot the walkers quite easily as they are the super prepared type of traveller. When it rained out came the brightly coloured cagoule which accompanied the telltale backpack and fold-up walking poles. For locals in the Basque Country, there is a beautiful hand-crafted walking stick called the Makila which caught my attention in a shop in Bilbao. It’s a true piece of art however here in Santiago de Compostela they seem to be more Millets than Makila.
The Old Town
The old quarter is beautiful with its Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic architecture along with numerous churches and the most famous building the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela.
The city is also a great place to get lost. I had a map but there are few street names apparent. I was standing at a crossroads looking a little perplexed and I heard some soft Irish voices. I turned to these four ladies, who were complete with Cagoule and Millets (Dublin branch) walking sticks and asked for guidance. Like me they did not have a clue…. some hope they have of completing the Camino de Santiago – I only have to make It back to the train station!
Souvenirs from Santiago de Compostela
Despite the usual tacky souvenir shops selling some religious artefacts to adorn your mantelpiece, I found that the shops here were some of the most interesting I have come across on this trip. For centuries chocolate makers have worked on the city streets so there are many chocolatiers who invite you in to sample their products. Not really a hardship for me!
For clothes and art, there seems to be something a little unique on offer here too. What was lacking was a decent choice of restaurants or bars in the old town so I had to head outside the old quarter to find a reasonable tapas.
Santiago de Compostela is not the sort of town you visit to party all night. It’s more about Faith than Faithless! It’s very low key and I reckon a 2-night visit is plenty if you are on a tour. For me, however, I was only here the night as I was moving on to the final destination on my grand tour – the Portuguese city of Porto!
All photos were taken by myself and should be credited if used to @justonefortheroad