Tuesday 25 June 2013
On our third day in Santiago de Compostela Ruby slept in, so Susie and I spent a few hours competing for bandwidth with pilgrims in the common room of the hospedaria. When Her Ladyship finally rose to displace the sun, we breakfasted on chocolate-filled crêpes in the plaza Quintana dos Muertos.
There was a busker there playing jazz guitar whose music we had enjoyed the day before while we were scoffing sticky pastries on the steps. We could not work our whether he was a victim of severe burns, or he was wearing a crude black-face costume involving black stockings and a false set of lips. I enjoyed his guitar playing, so I approached him during a break to purchase a CD. It turned out he was wearing a cheesy black-face costume. Had he worn it in Australia, he would in all likelihood be set alight so that the alternative explanation for his appearance might have been the correct one. This tended to confirm our assessment that Santiago de Compostela was the “cheese” capital of Spain. One of the CDs consisted of cheesy popular songs played with admirable virtuosity—a suitable soundtrack for this leg of our journey.
In the afternoon I tried again to get a haircut. I succeeded in securing an appointment. I also completed a self-guided tour of closed hairdressers and barbers in the old city and neighbouring district. You don’t have to look far for evidence of the recent economic downturn in Europe. Many small businesses appear to have gone under. There are also a surprising number of beggars on the streets. This is not something we were expecting in Spain.
Susan and Ruby set out together to torment shoe-sellers and bag salesmen. Susie was delighted to be with someone who understood the fundamental connection between travel and shopping. This is one of the finer points of life that is completely lost on me. Whilst I accompanied Susan on a shopping expedition in Bilbao, where she tried on a series of summer dresses, I paused to ask her whether she needed another dress. She just sighed and looked at me with exasperation and pity, as you might look upon an idiot child.
We met up again in the old city after I had finally been shawn and after Susie had bought two more bags. (Soon we would no doubt need a bag to carry all the extra bags in.) We spent the early evening catching up with Ruby on travel stories that we had not yet shared, and then we walked out of the old town a short distance to the Restaurant San Roque, which was located on the street that bore the same name. We dined on octopus, vegetable tart, and avocado salad, all washed down with a very fine bottle of vino blanco from Galicia.
When we finally returned to the hospederia, there were buskers in the tunnel singing Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah. Susie wanted to go and listen, but I made a bee-line for bed. I was coming down with a cold that would develop into a nasty case of sinusitis. This was to plague me and then Susie for the next two weeks. Having had ample time to reflect on the possible modes of transmission, I came to wonder about the statue of St. James in the cathedral being touched hundreds of times a day by pilgrims. Could it be a way to share viruses as well as express religious devotion? If so, we should call the sickness ‘Santiago’s revenge’, or perhaps even ‘Santiago Mataturistas’.