Day Twenty-six: Sobrado to Arzua — As Jacqueline and I waited for Martin to get ready this morning I mentioned to Jacqueline how much I’d like to have seen the old church of the monastery. The building, given its size and decrepitude, is unsuitable for the monks’ use, but I was intrigued by its exterior and when Jacqueline told me she knew how to get in, I jumped at the chance. We left Martin to his steady work of arranging his things and cleaning up, and Jacqueline took me through the cloisters to the church’s side entrance.
As we walked into the vast building I was immediately enthralled. Yes, plants were pushing their way between stones into the church interior, and yes, sparrows flew from perch to nest inside the empty place. But the church retained the majesty of its original design, and its mouldering condition had a tragic grandeur that pushed me into a momentary fantasy: I could offer the monks my skills at church building maintenance! I could conquer my acrophobia and pull weeds from the towers. I could offer my painting skills to bring the wooden windows of the cloister back to like-new condition. I could even offer my organ tuning skills to fix the sour notes of the monks’ pipe organ to better support their singing.
This vacation thing must be getting carried away if now I have energy enough to imagine fixing other people’s churches when I have a church of my own back home that needs my care.
Jacqueline and I returned to the albergue portion of the monastery to see if Martin was now ready to go. After learning the answer we two headed to a cafe across the square to have first breakfast while Martin completed his preparations.
First breakfast on this camino has meant the early morning caffeine and calorie injection that helps propel us onto the camino. First breakfast is a little iffy sometimes because you can never be sure if a town will have a cafe that opens before 8:00. Second breakfast takes place mid morning at the closest cafe at the stroke of 10:00. It’s another coffee/calorie break designed to propel a pilgrim ahead for the next few hours. By noon, one is ready for first lunch which may involve trying to convince a Spanish barkeeper that non-Spaniards get hungry at noon and that a sandwich is needed to help us march onward. Second lunch unfortunately coincides with Spanish siesta, so any hope of real food in mid afternoon requires extra kindness from a Spanish chef who otherwise would be resting. First dinner happens at early evening when most of the civilized world eats dinner but when Spanish restaurants are closed, while second dinner coincides with Spanish dinner, which happens at the pilgrim bedtime of 9:00 pm. At any time during the day a pilgrim may enjoy first, second or third dessert which occurs whenever one is near a cafe or shop that sells ice cream bars.
Finally, Martin joined us for a first-breakfast-in-progress of coffee and croissants, and given the day’s short distance goal of 22.5 km (14 miles), we made it a relaxed meal. Detlef of Germany and his wife, Diana of Mexico joined us, and before long Karina of Austria was also part of our group. After some time we headed out, the six of us, for the next-to-last day of walking in this year’s camino.
Detlef and Diana set a slower pace from the start, so Karina, Jacqueline, Martin and I stayed together for an easy day on quiet, asphalt roads under sunny skies on undulating terrain.
Second breakfast was taken 9 km later at Carredoiras, and we lingered over a first lunch of empanadas at the town of Boimorto, a scant 2.5 km later.
When we came to the town of Sendelle we noticed a makeshift pilgrim aid stand at the roadside. Martin took the opportunity to enjoy an ice cream bar as first dessert. As we talked with our hostess we learned that just across the road is a 12th century chapel with recently discovered paintings from the sixteenth century. She offered to unlock the door and allow us inside for photos of the simple, but eloquent art.
We continued on from Sendelle, sensing that Arzua was always just around the next corner. Anxious for a cool spot in the shade we were delighted suddenly to find ourselves in the outskirts of the town. Martin, Jacqueline and I dropped off Karina at a bar while we searched for lodging, then we returned for a second lunch of bocadillos. Karina is heading on to Salceda in an attempt to break up tomorrow’s 40 km into a longer walk today and a shorter walk tomorrow.
Our hostal includes a washer/dryer, so we were thrilled to have the possibility of clean clothes for tomorrow’s last, long walk of 40 km into Santiago. After laundry and 8:00 pm Mass at the local Catholic church we will head to second dinner (oops, we missed the first one), while enjoying the English vs. Italian “Europe Cup” match on Spanish TV at Martin’s request.
Tomorrow we will rise early and walk long, arriving in the very late afternoon at the end of our pilgrim road. We expect reunions with many pilgrims from the past weeks, and have already heard from Michael, Stefan, Amelia, Lauren and others that our arrivals will converge. In the coming days we will request our completion certificates from the cathedral office, share in a pilgrim mass and then hug the apostle in joyful gratitude for a beautiful and safe walk over many miles in the company of beloved new and old friends.