Hola St. James!
I'm coming to the end of my time here, I leave tomorrow. It is a bitter-sweet experience. I do, however, feel like it has all come to a conclusion. I gave Todd permission to punch me in the face if I even mention possibly doing this again. That being said, this has been a fantastic adventure, and I am privileged to have been able to do it. I mentioned the crowds, and the challenges involving that, but the flip side is: look at how many people, from all over the world and ALL different walks of life, are drawn here by the spirit of the Camino and devotion to St. James. Truly amazing! One of the tour guides said the # of Pilgrims this year will be over 500,000 (and that's just the ones that get Certificates/Compostelas, how many more, like me, who didn't). This is the first time it has surpassed the highest # in the Middle Ages. It surprises me, and even confounds me a bit, how drawn I've been to this experience and Santiago. I am also moved and humbled to be able to see that same inspiration in others, and see what it means to them.
On that note: I'm in a beautiful boutique hotel, more behind the Cathedral than on one of the sides, so a different neighborhood yet again. I met some lovely Scottish folks early on, and told them I was staying at Costa Vella before I left, they woo-hooed and said it was their go-to place every time they're here. I can see why. It such a pretty and well run place. It's known mainly for it's sprawling garden in the back, gigantic, which is open to the public to sit and snack, and it's never crowded. I was walking around back in the garden yesterday (after a little bout of "ate something wrong", I think), and saw the back of some lady's head, white hair. I chuckled to myself, reminded me of Birgit (the German woman I walked with, who I haven't seen in a week). I walked a little farther and turned around... IT WAS HER. We both started laughing, and after a big hug, I sat down to join her. We shared our joys and tales of woe, she also concluded she was done (17 years on Caminos, literally a wall of Compostelas), but, like me, not done with traveling and walking. I have to point out that chances of us finding each other were slim to none. She said I was the highlight of her Camino this time, imagine that. Another wonderful example of how this all works when you just let it happen (I've been having A LOT of those since I'm here). Just as the yellow arrows, markers, signs, consistently pointed and guided me here, it seems now, all the signs are pointing me home. Peace photos to follow