Last year I walked my first Camino and after attending the noon mass in Santiago sat out in front of Bar A Gramola writing on my MacBook. I was targeted by some professional thieves and they stole my laptop causing me to lose 4 months of my European Journal, over 1,000 pictures and several stories. This did not ruin my Camino but it left me angry and depressed for a few days and feeling that I did not like Santiago.
At that time I knew I would get back to Santiago someday but was not expecting it to be so soon just about a year later. This time it was different to say the least. The day before arriving in Santiago I was walking by where the Primitivo Camino connects with the Camino Frances and two women emerged from Primitivo. I struck up a conversation as I was curious about their experience as I want to do that Camino someday. They were mother, Brigetta, and her daughter, Ina, and it turned out Brigetta was like me a Camino junkie and had also done Chemin du Puy and Via de la Plata. So we had a lively discussion for an hour before my Italian friend Marco and his new friend Santiago from Barcelona showed up and of course we had some fun with “Santiago” walking into his namesake city Santiago:
We continued on to O Pedrouza and they were all heading to Labacolla so I continued on with them. At one point we came across a young German mother, Katherine, walking with her 4 year old boy, Thomas:
We all stopped at the Labacolla Albergue and there were no restaurants in town so the Germans invited me to join them for dinner. As we sat in the kitchen a woman walked in and I recognized her, Laurence from Paris, from 5 weeks before back in France. I had been thinking for a few days how nice it would be to reconnect with one of my old Chemin du Puy friends. She was walking with her mother, Genevieve, back in France but her mom had returned home about 4 weeks ago but was driving into Santiago to meet her. We had a very nice conversation that evening reminiscing about The Camino in France:
In the morning, I set off alone as normal about 7 in the dark for the short 10K walk to Santiago. It was quiet and I enjoyed some very positive reflections about my experiences over the past 57 days on pilgrimage. Have met so many friendly, open minded, kind, interesting people and feel blessed. It was getting light out as I neared the Monastary 5K from Santiago. I chatted with two guys, aged 88 and 85 from Bordeaux and had to convince them to take a selfie with me:
How inspiring they are as I vowed to do the same if I am still vertical at 80+. Continuing on to Santiago walking the streets just before the center of town I stopped to purchase two huge loaves of bread and some fruit. I had decided a few days back to set up a table on the Camino near the Cathedral at Bar A Gramola and offer free wine, meat, cheese, bread and fruit to the peregrinos walking into Santiago in return for listening to me about Sjogren’s Syndrome(SS), and all donations would go to the SS Foundation (you can find out more about Sjogren’s on the Sjogren’s Tab on this website). Thinking hopefully this would erase my negative thoughts of Santiago from last year.
After visiting the Cathedral and St. James’ tomb I hurried to the super mercado to purchase the wine, water, cups, meats, and cheese. I struggled walking back to A Gramola carrying all of the food. So I asked a few other Bars by the Cathedral if I could set up on one of their tables but was told emphatically “No” in both cases. So I carried on to A Gramola and explained that my laptop was stolen there last year and I had carried some anger towards them and Santiago since then and felt offering free food and wine to the peregrinos was something I needed to do. He took me to the woman supervisor who remembered me and I was quite surprised that she actually agreed to let me use one of two tables they had out front. I was so humbled by their kindness. One of the first donators was Laurence’s Mother, Genevieve, who I last saw 28 days ago in St. Jean Pied-de-Port:
I am particularly grateful to two very good Camino friends Rodrigo from Burgos, Spain and Doreen from Dresden, Germany who came by and were so kind and supportive and helpful staying with me for hours and even purchasing additional food:
From 10:00 to 6:00 we offered the free food and I was able to share the Sjogren’s story with at least 200 people. Felt so blessed to be here and able to create awareness of such a horrible disease. And many Camino friends stopped by and chatted and were so supportive. The Italians; Anna and her father who just finished his treatments for prostate cancer two months ago along with her Uncle who lost his wife a year ago:
Tom from England who had walked to Santiago from Innsbruck, Austria stopped by with his brother and wife and niece Edwina. A group of 6 Irish women, the German mother Brigetta and daughter Ina, and Katarina and her young son Tom. John O’Shea from Ireland, Terri from Oregon, Laurence and Genevieve from Paris, Lucasz from Poland. Andreas from Germany. Elisa from Italy and a host of other peregrinos. And the Spanish couple with their infant baby, my youngest Camino friend:
Twelve of us ended up having dinner at Casa Felisa and the fun and laughter continued late into the evening:
As I walked back to The Last Stamp Albergue around midnight I felt such intense joy and happiness at having connected with so many friendly, kind, and compassionate people on my Caminos. So grateful to The Camino for all the tiny miracles and giving me such a joyous Return to Santiago. In fact I know something bad happened last year in Santiago but I can’t remember what it was.