The grand finale

After all this time spent in the mountains, it was about time to see what the coast had to offer. I could hear the sea calling us and was looking forward to smelling the salt in the air, so we headed to San Pedro de la Rivera. It is also known as San Pedro de Bocamar and is one of the most beautiful beaches in the municipality of Cudillero. Surrounded by boulders and woodland it is a romantic little spot. The sand is beautifully golden, and the stream of the river Esqueiro flows right into the sea. We loved it, and decided right away to stay two nights.

We explored this and the neighbouring town by bike, and made sure we got our exercise by cycling up yet another bloody steep hill.

The hard work paid off as Oviñana was a lovely little place with cool restaurants, bars and houses with the biggest back gardens we’ve ever seen.

It was recommended to us by a ‘muchly Dutchly’ in the camp, because the views from the cliff are worth a look, and we weren’t disappointed. What a view we had, the sun was just kissing the sky goodbye, before drowning in the ocean to make space for the night to come. The first stars appeared and we made our way back to the camp.

The only downside to this and many other sites was, that the loo block was locked. From a fellow camper we found out that they only open it during high season. This is one thing we don’t quite understand about Spain, there are all these lovely locations and picnic areas, but no toilets. If you by chance do come across a toilet block it’s locked, hence why you need to be fairly careful where you place your feet! Sadly the lack of toilets doesn’t erase the need to use one.

We moved on after our second night to an even more beautiful spot in Frejulfe. It was a parking lot, but beautifully set up with direct access to the beach and hardly any people.

There we met Kim and Hannes, a lovely German couple who came to spain to climb, surf and skate. Pretty cool! Sadly the night was super windy and wet, so we packed up very early and chased warmer, dryer weather. The craving for sunshine and warmth, made us drive an unusually long distance, until we reached Santiago de Compostela.

Our last night in a proper campsite was a while ago, and I was itching, not literally but figuratively, to have a proper shower with soap and all these amenities you’d normally take for granted. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t smelly. We swam a lot and the beach had showers too but we weren’t allowed to use soap. It was just a beach shower to get rid off the salt, because normal people would go home, a home with a bathroom not one with four wheels and a tent on top.

Anyway, it turns out that there is only one campsite in Santiago, yes one! I expected a bit more, considering so many people come here and not only by foot. Of course because of their monopolistic position, the prices where quite a bit higher, but we had not much choice as we were in dire need of rest as well as showers after a long day. Admittedly the campsite was gorgeous! As it is situated on a hill, there are several plateaus with spots to pitch up, and many eucalyptus trees provide plenty of shade. They even have a pool, a tennis court, a restaurant,… You get the idea. We scouted out which pitches were still available, and found a beautifully private spot.

Not long after that our new neighbours arrived, and settled in opposite us. We had already decided to make a fire that evening, and invited the ‘Muchly Duchlies’ over to join us for a beer bit later. So I decided to hunt down a grocery store, to stock up on the promised beer we didn’t yet have, and a few other things. An hour and a half later I was finally back. What can I say, it was a huge Carrefour and I’m a food nerd. I love to look through the aisles in foreign supermarkets, check out the weird and wonderful food they offer and how differently they offer it. A whole pig’s head, no packaging, right there in the cooling department, the feet a bit further on, all kinds of fish beautifully presented on ice. I love to look at the different types of packaging, and even enjoy the struggle with the language barrier. Thank God for Google Translate… I guess you’ll only understand this, if you have a hint of ‘food neardiness’ inside you. Anyway, after that I quickly tracked down a bikini, and was on the way.

When I finally came back it was lateish, but never too late for beer. That evening we had the most beautiful time with our new found friends Arjan and Carmelita. Beautiful names for beautiful people, a truly wonderful couple, full of character, fun and an honest philanthropical spirit. Needless to say that we were very grateful for the ‘cold beer donations’ that evening, as ours didn’t make it into the fridge quick enough because of me.

Despite the steep price we decided to treat ourselves and stayed a second night, as we hadn’t made it into the city yet, and we didn’t want to rush the next day. Santiago de Compostela is the northwestern capital of a region called Galicia, and the final stop of the Camino de Santiago. For centuries pilgrims walked these trails across Europe. The Camino Frances is probaply the most famous one, but there are many more trails leading to Santiago from Spain and Portugal. However, there is only one trail starting in Santiago. It’s called ‘The Camino Finisterre’, the pilgrimage to the medieval end of the world. It takes about 3-4 days from Santiago and leads to Finisterre, which was the end of the known world back in Middle Ages.

We started to follow the Camino in France, and kept coming across the little iconic shell symbol as we drove on. So much so, that in the end we decided to make our way to Santiago as well, as we got quite attached to the trail. Even though we only ‘pilgrimed’ by car, we still wanted to finish it our way.

Besides being the official final destination for pilgrims, it’s also a student city and is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, founded in 1495. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its quaint little streets, historic squares and of course the big cathedral. We cycled into town from the campsite, and the cathedral was one of the first things we saw. It is impressive and obviously very beautiful. It was restored not too long ago, and we were lucky that the scaffolding was gone already. The Baroque front faces the Praza do Obradoiro, which is the big square were we saw many pilgrims rest and celebrate the end of their journey. You could see relief and pride in their faces, some had tears of joy running down their cheeks, selfies were made, hugs were given to celebrate the grand finale. Opposite the cathedral you can see the Pazo de Raxoi, an 18th century neoclassical palace that now serves as Santiago’s city hall. The Hostal dos Reis Catolicos is on the same square, and was originally a place where pilgrims could rest. These days that’s very unlikely unless you’re a rich pilgrim, as rooms start from about €160 per night!!

We walked through the surrounding narrow streets, and admired the food display of several restaurants, before we escaped the bustling streets. The Parque da Alameda is a beautiful big space, with the biggest eucalyptus trees we’ve ever seen, massive palm trees, sleeping men cuddling their dogs and strange, but funny sculptures.

After our day of exploration we had another great night with our Dutch friends as well as a German guy called Daniel. We braaied the massive steak we’d treated ourselves to, had great conversations about life, and finally crawled up into the rooftent in the tiny morning hours. We slept in a little longer than planed, and after descending from our tent, found a packet of ‘Hagelslag’ as well as a little tub of Dutch cheese on our table. Our lovely friends had left us some typically Dutch treats for us to enjoy. Luckily they weren’t gone yet, so we could say thank you, and even squeezed in a photo to support our fading memories in years to come.

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