Right now, I’m sitting under the ancient stone arches in Rua Nova, enjoying the hustle and bustle and the ambience of Santiago life.
Children walk by dressed in their quaint little dresses and ‘outfits’, followed by their beautifully dressed parents. Yes, Santiago may be a smallish town but they have style. European women dress beautifully. The madres all have their hair ‘set’ like back in the 1950’s. They wear conservative clothes. The younger generation dress in tight jeans and skimpy tops, often with nicely fitted jackets, and they seem to LOVE shoes (shoe shops every few metres). The Spanish men are generally smaller than Australians and they are skinny with shorter legs. This is just a general observation.
Santiago is always bustling with waves of pilgrims coming and going. Many are limping and walking with a dazed expression as they navigate their way through the maze of ancient, paved narrow streets. Only taxis are allowed to enter the town centre so walking is the norm.
Life is upside down as Santiago doesn’t stir until about 10 or 11. The streets then transform to a sea of people mostly sitting al fresco outside the cafes or wandering the streets looking for souvenirs. Litres of coffee are consumed and with each cup comes a complimentary cake. Later in the day as we switch to wine, tapas is served with every drink. Eating can be very cheap here if you drink a lot!
I catch the bus to school each day and I’m getting to know some of the locals. Everyone here says hello and they smile. I share the bus ride with many of the local women who clamber on with their shopping trolleys, and I watch them ‘chat’ amongst themselves. They shout and gesticulate wildly with their arms…not a single permed or perfectly set hair falls out of place as they do so and the bus fills with the scent of old lady perfume. The bus hurtles down the hill, swerving around the bends with the precision of a racing car sometimes and then we reach the quaint little Roman bridge on the edge of town. The bus stops, the driver raises it a little, and carefully manoeuvres it between the bridge sides with only an inch or two to spare. I hold my breath each time, waiting for the bridge to crack or collapse, but somehow we seem to survive each trip. After a few more bends, and turning by the famous Bar Tertulia that serves American pancakes, we reach Alameda Park, the bus lowers to the ground and I hop off. Only 60cents per trip!
School is fun. There are only two of us in the class so the work is quite intense.
The teacher is funny and we laugh a lot, but I’m taking it seriously and trying my hardest. It certainly feels great when you can order a meal in Spanish and be understood!
I am loving life in Santiago. I enjoy walking around the ancient stone paved streets, sheltering under the beautiful archways and sitting in the numerous cafes and bars. I’m getting to know people now and it’s rare not to bump into someone I can chat with. The people in Pilgrim House (a drop in centre) always greet me warmly and I often get the chance to sit and chat with pilgrims there or go out the back and sit in the quiet room for a rest.
I’ve been spending quite a bit of time at Gonzalo’s bar (Conga 7), Conga Sete in Galician language.
It is perfectly situated near the cathedral and it has become a great place to cool off in the heat and sit and taste his yummy cocktails. We’ve had many a night of fun in there and I’m sure it will be very successful.
Gonzalo’s bar has become a meeting place for fellow pilgrims and I’ve enjoyed putting faces to the names of people I chat to on various social media platforms. Gonzalo has a smile equal to when he patted the koala in Australia earlier this year and he is enjoying not being the taxi driver any more.
The bar is open until 4 or 5 in the morning as that is the way the Spanish live, so he sleeps most of the day, and the only way to get to see him is to go to the bar!
Please fellow pilgrims, drop in to visit him when you reach Santiago, and be sure to message me on arrival too so that I can meet with you as well! I love to share coffee or a wine with fellow pilgrims and listen to their stories.
So I’m off now to enjoy yet another vino and perhaps some garlic prawns. It’s time to go eat. Ciao ciao