It was day two in Santiago de Compostela.  I hit the sidewalk and soon realized that my day was starting off really well compared to the guy I just saw walk out of his house looking fresh and clean, only to dump a cup of coffee down the front of his shirt.  I hope his day got increasingly better because mine sure did.

After a quick stop at the Renfe train station to get a ticket to Monforte I was back on the sidewalk with some very pedestrian goals.  I needed to find some food eventually and I wanted to buy a hat.  I knew what kind of hat I wanted.  I wanted a flexible, wide-brimmed hat that was bright red.  The first place I looked in was one of the many Chino Bazars in Santiago.  They had everything: dog toys and treats, toiletries, toothpick holders, clothes, umbrellas, jewelry, travel gear, tupperware, silverware, and every other ware you could imagine.  One thing they were lacking was a flexible, wide-brimmed red hat.  So I moved on.

I went in to the Gadis grocery market and grabbed a hunk of cheese and a fresh from the oven, still hot baguette.  This, I figured, would make a good lunch.  After leaving the market I stopped in a fruteria to grab an orange for breakfast.  After all, I had a big day of hat hunting ahead of me and I needed to keep my energy up.

For the next three hours I searched the shopping district, the monumental district, and even the outskirts of Santiago for my red hat.  I went into every shop, no matter how remote the chances of them having such a hat might be.  To be perfectly honest I knew that many of the places I was visiting would have no such hat.  What they did have were friendly people who were more than excited to hear a thick American accent speaking to them in their native tongue.  And to be even more honest I was doing it because I really got a kick out of the fact that they understood me and I understood them.  I felt like I had broken some kind of barrier (like a language barrier).

As we approached the siesta I decided that the flexible narrow-brimmed beige hat that I had seen at the first Chino Bazar was leading the pack in both style and function.  So I scrambled up and down the nearly identical roads in the shopping district looking for the bazar.  I got to the front door just in time to catch the lady trying to close up shop for the midday break.  She remembered me from earlier in the day and I explained that I thought her hat was the best in all the city.  She laughed and gave me the hat for 2 Euros.  I was pleased to have a hat that I could put over my face to block the sun during siesta but I was disappointed with the width of the brim and the color of the cap.

I went to the garden park where I spent yesterday’s siesta and picked up where I left off.  I had my baguette and cheese.  I watched the people.  I listened to music and then I napped.  After the nap I headed back towards the bus station to get my bags out of the consignor and check my email.  I had sent a message to a hostel in the morning asking if they had any vacancies for the evening.  I was told about the place by the people who would be hosting me near Montforte for the next few weeks.  They said that their previous guest had just left to work in the hostel and he told them that the rooms were clean and cheap.  Having slept on buses and in bus stations for half a week this sounded like something I might really enjoy.

The reply affirmed that there would be a spot for me when I got to the hostel.  I threw on both my packs and took off on the right road going the wrong way.  Eventually, I realized this and headed back to where I started.  I recalculated my route and before long I was in front of the hostel.  I checked in and immediately headed to the shower.  After cleaning up, shaving, and putting on some nice clothes I felt like a new man.  I went to my room and one of the girls that had checked me in was now checking me out.  Okay, that may not have happened but the word play was irresistible.  Sorry.  But we did start chatting and she asked if I had seen certain major sites around Santiago.  Of course, we talked about the cathedral.  It really is the centerpiece of Santiago.  I told her I was going out to see it all lit up at night.  She told me that the best thing to do is lay on your back in front of the cathedral and just enjoy it.  So I headed out to grab some tapas and see the cathedral.

It was Monday and the narrow brick streets in the monumental district were mostly empty.  I could here my footsteps echo through the alley-like passages.  I went into a little restaurant and had some snacks while I thought about how close I came to skipping Santiago and going straight to Montforte.  What a mistake that would have been.  I am very grateful that my future hosts had told me that I might want to spend a couple days here before heading out to see them.  And to think that I nearly missed the moments of nirvana that were coming up now makes me realize how important it is to take opportunities when they present themselves.  If I was looking for a reason not to risk it, I could have found one but I didn’t.  I looked for a chance to take and I took it.

As I neared the Praza do Obradoiro I stopped under the thirty foot stone arches to listen to a clarinetist and guitarist float there melodies through the air.  I entered the square and watched the palace on its west end.  I did not want to face the east until I was ready to engage the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela.  I walked to the long series of round arches that make up the front of the palace and closed my eyes.  I laid down under the central arch and pointed my head to the sky.  As I opened my eyes the main facade of the cathedral came to life.  The spotlights bathed the monumental masterpiece in white-yellow splendor.  The figures were pulled out of the darkness.  As I continued to stare the sounds of passing couples faded into the background.  The stars and the darkness around the cathedral disappeared.  There was nothing but me and the baroque magnum opus.  I don’t know how long I was there.  When I stood up I felt the coldness of the air and the lateness of the twilight.  I walked around the emptied center of Santiago alone.  I thought thoughts that had no beginning and no end.  After hours of introspection I instinctively headed back to the bus station to sleep.  It was not until I arrived at the bus station that I remembered about my room a few minutes away.

I entered the empty hostel and grabbed my backpack.  I snacked on what was left of the bread and cheese in the common room.  My imagination had told me that this would be a good night’s sleep.  I had been nearly a month since I slept in a bed indoors.  As my head hit the pillow the night ended suddenly.  There was no laying awake.  There was no worrying about what might happen tomorrow.  There was only rest.

Well, this is how I spent the day and night.  I can only hope that I have more of them like this.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and I will share the next day’s excitement very soon.  Until then…

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