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13th October, 2012



Our voyage south through the Bay of Biscay was pretty good really, although there may have been one or two who decided a horizontal posture was the most comfortable. Even so, the welcome aboard cocktail party was very busy, with a suitable mix of regular Britannia Club members and newcomers to Saga cruising.

The pilot for Ferrol kept us waiting for over thirty minutes while a gas carrier was brought out to sea from the repair yard, but we were alongside, for the second time in two weeks, in good time for the tours to depart after an early lunch. With a little extra time available we joined the ‘Santiago On Your Own’ and headed off out of town on the motorway to this great centre of pilgrimage. The Spanish guide was fine, but he had a rather odd speaking voice, his English being a cross between that ‘meerkat’ and Donald Duck. Nice chap though, and very knowledgeable.


This was the excursion I had promised myself for some years and we were not to be disappointed. The coach dropped us off just about 200 meters from the old town and after a short walk we were passing the first of the medieval buildings, then the sounds of the Galician pipes mixed with that of a minor multitude filled our ears. Within a few minutes the great square came into view, thronged with people, and to the left the magnificent facade of the 12th century cathedral. It was then that it dawned on me that the majority of those standing around in small chatting groups were actually ‘pilgrims’. Well, they had all walked at least a hundred kilometres to get to that spot, so they were happy, smiling and obviously very pleased with themselves, and rightly so.

We found a small cafe in order to sit and take in the scene, then, suitably refreshed, climbed the many steps up to the cathedral entrance. Inside it is of course quite amazing, at the far end the shining gold leaf of the knave draws one forward and, as it became clearer, I realised that between the altar and the enormous baldachin above, people were moving around behind the centre piece, a decorated statue of the apostle, Saint James. There was a great queue lining up on one side waiting for their opportunity to touch this representation of the disciple. In the crypt below a small silver coffin contains what are believed to be his remains, brought back from the Holy Land in 44 AD after he had been beheaded.


Outside we walked the narrow busy streets, where tourists were adding their own atmosphere to this historic old town. Human ‘statues’, musicians, souvenir vendors and even a man with an antique camera all vied for their attention, while cafes and bars looked after the inner need.

This place is remarkable and after we had returned I wondered why it had taken me so long to get there in the first place. A visit is recommended, but not necessarily as a pilgrim.

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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.