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Discover Stunning Santiago!

August 26, 2008

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Internationally bestselling author Paulo Coelho said:

"My turning point was my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It was then that I, who had dedicated most of my life to penetrate the 'secrets' of the universe, realized that there are no secrets. Life is and will always be a mystery. Life is a constant miracle, and this miracle manifests itself in encounters with other people. After the pilgrimage, I simplified my spiritual search a lot, and instead of searching for answers, I started to understand that life itself is an answer."

 
Santiago de Compostela has been a famous pilgrimage place since the middle ages and it continues today. They say it is where the remains of the apostle, Saint James are buried. Santiago means James in Spanish and Compostela means "field of stars". Famous people like Saint Francis and Pope John (before he was pope) walked the long way from France, through the Pyrenees to this sacred place. I was surprised to learn that the Catholic Church considers only three cities Holy; Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela.

Today, many do the pilgrimage by bike tour (funny to see them piled in special vans with trailers), a few by horse, some by foot, but most do it by bus or car. Some do part of the journey, some do all of it and there are quite a few routes, including some from Portugal, but coming from France is the most common.

The scallop shell symbol is seen every where in Santiago and they were used as proof of ones pilgrimage long ago as they are typically found on the shores of Galicia and there is a legend about a resurrected St. James as Moor-slayer on horse, covered in sea shells (clearly used as a symbol to incite the masses during the reconquest).

I love the metaphors related to this shell. All the grooves in the shell come to one point, so this symbolizes the many routes a pilgrim can take, but all leading to a the tomb of St.James in Santiago. It also represents the pilgrims and their inner journey; just as the waves bring the shells to the shores of Galicia, God's hand guides the pilgrims path to Santiago de Compostela.

Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,

My staff of faith to walk upon,

My scrip of joy, immortal diet,

My bottle of salvation,

My gown of glory, hope's true gage,

And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.

(Sir Walter Raleigh, 1604)

We too, feel like pilgrims in our own way, as a family can not take a journey like this without great dedication and trust or without learning more about one's soul. We do not need to walk or bike to Santiago or around the world, to connect to the essence of such a journey. We had hoped to make it to Santiago during the beginning of our trip in 2006, but soon realized that it was too ambitious of a plan and we had to go to plan B. Thus, it felt a little like we have been on a very long journey here and have finally arrived!

"A pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is the finest journey in Spain"

James Michener, Iberia

The energy is very special in Santiago de Compostela, perhaps because so many have been so happy and grateful when they arrived. Perhaps it is from Saint James' bones or all the prayers that have been said here. Perhaps it is one of those light vortex points on the planet, or because it is a University town or something else. Maybe we were influenced because we were there around midsummer, the weather was idyllic and light of day so long. I don't know what it was, but the energy sure felt very sweet to me.

We felt a wonderful mix of blissful joy, gratitude and sacredness. Discovering the lone bag-piper during the day, reading a kid's book about Santiago together near the cathedral, lazily basking at an outdoor cafe on a gorgeous day that seemed to go on forever with the sun setting after ten at night, or Tunas singers  later in their colorful costumes added a soundtrack and visual delights to our memory banks. We could not resist buying  some music to take home with us and used it in the car while doing deeper explorations of Celtic Spain. Here is the video that we made to capture some of the essence we felt:

One does not tend to think of pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela as "family travel", especially with a young child, but it was an extraordinary way to experience it together, that I can highly recommend. Seeing things through a child's eyes opened my heart in ways that I would have missed if we did it alone. We will always cherish our family pilgrimage to Santiago and Galicia.

I have entered this post into a contest and group writing project  at Problogger. Darren is a great guy with lots of savvy advice. This is something totally new to me, so we will see how it goes. It is about "killer titles" for blogs, but our travelogue format & travel adds some limits. Hopefully I will learn something and meet some other interesting people.

 

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Laurie/Halo Secretarial

Thanks for stopping by my blog - yours is beautiful, makes me long to be able to take a great trip! Good luck in the problogger contest.

Craig

It wasn't Santiago but the pilgrimage itself that really made the difference for. The community of walkers is something I've never experienced before: I felt much more 'at home' on the Camino than anywhere else in Europe.

I would recommend walking: perhaps take a month from southern France or start at Pamplona like I did.

Your photos have reminded me of the city so much; I have a lot of fellow pilgrims to email!

soultravelers3

Thanks Craig! Yes, I think the Camino, Santiago and Galicia will affect every pilgrim a little differently. There are many ways to do it and many ways to perceive the value.

We feel like our lives are a pilgrimage, thus the name, soultravelers3. We do absolutely a ton of walking, biking and connected with many other walking/biking pilgrims on that route, but really find our RV is by far the best mode of transportation for our family.We love the freedom it gives us.

We went ( very slowly) from Santiago, explored much of Galicia and took the Camino to France...so have covered that territory.( Besides the Portugal entry).

Perhaps because of genetics or because 2 of us are fluent in Spanish, we feel deeply connected to Spain & Spaniards and we constantly connect with other non-Americans on the road.(Very rarely see any Americans).

Also the deep immersion of living in our tiny authentic Spanish village...going on our 3rd winter..is a pilgrimage in itself that we love.

We find the community in our village and the people we meet on the road... just amazing and could not ask for more.

We find ourselves feeling very "at home" where ever we go. (These weeks it is in the Swedish countryside with friends we met online).

With my movement disabilities due to a once severely crushed knee & broken femur, I won't be walking the entire Camino. ;) Doesn't mean I can not find ways to enjoy it as a family or even do things like an overnight in the Sahara! ;)

Wendy-Escape NY

Beautiful post on a beautiful place.

soultravelers3

Thanks Wendy! Nice to see you here!

Ava Semerau

Delicious photos! I'll definitetly be putting Santiago on my "must see" list! Thanks -

Ava Semerau, author of And God Was Pleased

A Problogger entry

soultravelers3

Thanks Ava! Definitely one to have on your list & Galicia is one of the most pristine and beautiful places in Europe.

I tried to leave a comment on your site, but could not get in.

DesertMama

Fantastic photos and the energy sounds amazing.

Beth

soultravelers3

Thanks Beth! Glad to "see" you here.

Mark H

I've read a couple of books on the pilgrimmage walk. Makes Santiago sound a superb end to the walk. Well photographed.

Jonathan  EnlightenYourDay.com

Beautiful photos...
This is a truly magical place and I beleive you captured some of that magic. I wrote a post about Paulo Coelho and his pilgrimage. Check it out when you get the chance.
http://enlightenyourday.com/2008/05/29/a-life-inspiring-passage-from-paulo-coelho%e2%80%99s-book-the-pilgrimage-a-must-read-for-dreamers/

Vic Lindal

Inspirational site.
I am interested in energy centres on the El Camino.
do you know if specific churches have been built over vortexes? Earth energy centres.

Vic

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