Today has been a very emotional day for me, with a lot of tears. The whole time I was walking toward Santiago, I was telling God how I didn't want it to end--so I made the decision to remain a pilgrim as long as I could today, even if I technically wasn't anymore. I knew that I needed to wait until at least 1:30 pm to check in at my Albergue, so I made the decision to hang around the Cathedral all day until I could check in.
So, at first, all I did was follow the arrows to the Cathedral, then wandered around the center of the city until I found the pilgrim's office. The volunteers there were very nice, especially when I burst into tears while there. I was both happy to have gotten my Compostela, and very much not wanting it to end. One of the gentlemen there gave me his handkerchief, which I will be washing tomorrow in order to give it back. And, as I left, one of the volunteers ran after me to make sure that I was alright. In spite of my roller coaster emotions, it was so nice to be taken care of, and to know that there was someone who understood the feelings I was feeling--all of the volunteers at the pilgrim's office have been pilgrims themselves.
Next, I went to a place where they will hold your back pack for 2 euros, since there has been some issues with theft at the Cathedral, and several people have recommended that we not bring our backpacks in to the Pilgrim's Mass. The people there were very nice, and even let me get things out of my pack several times when I realized that I had forgot something. Normally, a pilgrim just goes to their accommodations, but since mine doesn't open until 1:30, it was well worth the money. When I left, I kept my boots and the stones I took from all of you with me. Originally, I wanted to leave the stones at Cruz de Ferro, but since I had to skip it, I felt that there was no better place than leaving them with the apostle. I did the same with my boots, and left them at the crypt of he apostle as well. I have heard that the Cathedral donates such things to the poor when they are left for the Apostle, and I couldn't think of any better place to leave them. So, that is exactly what I did.
There were more crowds than I thought there would be, and it was a little sad because many of the visitors weren't incredibly reverent. I had really hoped to have a few moments in quiet and solitude to contemplate my journey, but as soon as I stepped foot in the Cathedral, I was part of the throng. Once I left my boots in the Crypt, I then went to "embrace the Apostle" or to hug the Statue of St. James which is part of the altar piece of the Cathedral. It used to be that this statue used to have a crown as well, which Pilgrims would put on, but it is lost in the annals of time. Later, it was popular to put your hat on the Statue, but the lines were so long that there really isn't time for that.
One of the other things I was surprised about is that there is Adoration daily in one of the chapels in the Cathedral, so, after Mass, I popped over and spent some time in Adoration. I hope to do the same thing tomorrow as well. Even though I will be here for 2 more days, because of the price hike of being in a tourist town, I probably won't see much of the city's museums, etc. Instead, I plan to spend a lot of time enjoying the city's wonderful parks, and looking for places that let you in for free (there is a tourist's office, so I will start there--I hope that they have some good information!). I also expect to sleep in and maybe read a little bit, since I haven't had a chance to do so my whole time here in Spain.
Then, I was able to go to confession and then found a seat for the Pilgrim's Mass, which is at noon. Words cannot express how I was feeling during the Mass, although there was this beautiful nun that spent the 10 minutes before Mass started to teach us the songs we would be singing during Mass. Then, much to my surprise, they used the Botafumiero. As the censer was being lit, the presiding priest explained that incense is a beautiful symbol of what our prayers do--waft up to Heaven. When it started swinging, that is when I really lost it.
One of the things that has been the most pleasant surprise is that there are a lot of street artists here in Santiago. Just in walking around, I saw 2 harpists, 4 living statues, a bagpipe player, and two different troubadour bands, one of which were wearing the elizabethan pants and hose, as well as capes bedecked with ribbons and patches (no collars, though), and other musicians as well. Not surprising is the fact that there are several people begging all around the center of the city as well. With close to 25% unemployment, I have to say that I'm actually surprised that there aren't more beggars around.
So, my pilgrimage is now ended, and it is time to think about coming home. God has been very good to me, and I will cherish this trip always, even if it is to gross my friends out by talking about bedbugs!