Around 3:30pm, I awoke and for the life of me couldn’t fall back to sleep – perhaps it was due to the noise level coming from the pub below! Around 5:00am, I gave up the battle and got up, responded to my email and checked us in to our flights later today. Once the breakfast cafe was open, I went down dying for a cup of coffee. Margaret and Caryl arrived around the same time so we enjoyed breakfast together.
Shortly before 9:00am, we met in the lobby and took our taxi to the airport. Check in went smoothly and with time to kill before heading to our flight we went to Starbucks, yep they have them here too!
After trekking to the absolute opposite end of the airport we met up with Heather, who just flew in the morning from Vancouver, and looking very refreshed I might add! Our flight to Santiago was quick and pleasant and Paul Sr. of Walks in Spain was waiting to transfer us to the Hotel Monumento de Santiago.
Paul Sr. walked the full Camino 15 years ago, and a couple of years later started Walks in Spain to allow him to spend more of his time here. He balances his time between London and Valencia. His wife is Spanish and his son Paul Jr., although born in England, speaks fluent Spanish, and handles the business end as well as driving and guiding.
The ride was picturesque and in no time we were at the hotel. What an incredible place it is. The original building that houses the Hotel Monumento is a 12th century convent that it is still in active use today. The portion that is now the 5* hotel was built 10 years ago incorporating walls, floors and various elements of the original convent. The end result is breathtaking.
The afternoon was free for exploration of the centuries old centre and cathedral which are only steps away from the front reception area. I accompanied Paul & Paul back to the airport to collect the last five members of our group. We are now a complete team of 12, all together and very excited to be here!
Several of the group ventured to the cathedral for the 7:30pm Pilgrim mass and to watch the Bota Fumerio swing from one side of the church to the other filling the air with incense. Some of us chose to wait to attend this mass next Friday once we have completed our Camino.
Nichole, Lois & I meandered the streets and found the sign that said Casa Lois so that we could have our photo taking in front. How fun! We then headed towards the centre until we came to a Vino and Tapas Bar recommended by Ruth and Helen. Thank you ladies, the tapas were awesome and the wine a mere €2 per glass, who could ask for more!
Around 8:30pm, we all gathered in the cafe bar lounge of the Hotel Monumento for a welcome meet and greet over glasses of wine. It was nice for everyone to put names to faces and get to know one another. It is going to be a fun group!
Off to bed for me as the morning always comes earlier than I plan!