Santiago de Compostela

I really enjoyed reading Rick Steves’ article on Santiago de Compostela in the August ’04 issue. It brought back memories of a voyage my wife and I made in May ’04.

While Rick is correct in saying that the Cathedral is Santiago’s one real sight, it would be a shame not to visit some of the other buildings, for example, Santa Maria la Real de Sar, founded as a monastery in the 12th century, with its impressive sloping piers and walks, its Romanesque cloister and its 13th-century tombs. Then there is San Benito del Campo, one of the town’s oldest churches, dating from the 10th century.

Among the secular buildings is the Archbishop’s Palace, the most important secular building of the Spanish Romanesque. Begun about 1120, it was not completed until 1266. The banqueting hall is an impressive 107 feet long!

Of course, as Rick mentions, there is the Hospital Real (now Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos), now part of the Paradores of Spain chain of hotels and well worth a stay. It is one of the treasures of the Parador network and is much more than a magnificent hotel; it is a unique experience! The bedrooms are contained in several wings, which extend from the central patios — be careful, as it is quite easy to get lost! Beautiful antiques are scattered about.

It is one of the more expensive paradores, and the room rate (normally €178 plus 7% tax) does not change throughout the year except for Holy Week. Our room price (with breakfast for two), less 35% for seniors but plus tax, worked out at about €142 (near $192). For more information, you can visit

On our journey we met many pilgrims, from all walks of life and from all over the world. Most were wearing good walking shoes and carrying a staff and a backpack containing a bedroll or a sleeping bag, a change of clothes (especially socks), medication (for sore and blistered feet!) and water (not in a gourd!). A modern addition was a mobile (cell) phone. As for headgear, it was more likely to be the same design as the famous ITN hats — good against rain or sun.

The dedicated pilgrim will walk, of course, and return with a cockleshell as witness to the long journey undertaken. I must confess we did not walk the route but drove, traveling along the well-signposted road. We did stop at “pilgrims’” lodgings, where we met and talked with those doing the pilgrimage the hard way.

For those who want to make the trip by means other than walking, the U.K. specialist travel company Martin Randall Travel, Ltd. (, offers such a trip, though a lot of walking is still involved, often on uneven ground.

Should ITN readers make the trip, they will find both the journey and the destination an experience which will be remembered, enjoyed, recounted and relived all their lives.

Laree, France