Camino de Santiago del Norte: Days 8–10

Note: This is a camino of gratitude for me. Each day, I choose something I am grateful for in my life and think and journal about it throughout the day. I will share an exerpt from my journal entries at the end of each day’s post.

Day 8: Santander—Boo de Pielagos   8.5 miles
27 September 2017

Today’s walk was not terribly memorable…the first part was a bit of a slog over pavement and through the suburban and industrial area of Santander. 

The streets near the center of Santander had a lot of character and many
pedestrian malls, but as you leave the city, it is not so picturesque.

Along the way, I saw this concrete wall that looks like it is knitted! 

I ended the day at my favorite albergue to date! I could not believe how nice this place was! Lots of room to spread out in the kitchen/dining room, the upstairs patio right off our room, or the outdoor downstairs patio. 

Blankets AND towels were provided (that is very unusual in many albergues) and the showers are nice and hot. 

A nice touch in new, or recently remodeled, albergues is a shelf and electric outlets
right next to your bed for charging devices. Wi-fi and charging opportunities
are the first thing the modern pilgrim looks for upon arriving–well, after the shower.

Breakfast was included and my dinner of a giant salad topped with an incredible goat cheese and a glass of red wine was only an additional 7 euros. The hospitality here in this little town of Boo de Pielagos (pronounced BO) is phenomenal. I took part in our communal meal with people from Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

Earlier in the day, two of the women from Italy and Spain broke into a beautiful rendition of “O Solo Mio,” as I scrubbed my clothes in the outdoor laundry. I felt like I was in a movie! 

Of course, there was a resident cat, curled up by the front door.


Day 9: Boo de Pielagos—Santillana   11.7 miles
28 September 2017

Street art near the Boo train station.
I was so surprised when I arrived in the little town of Santillana. I came around the corner to enter the town from behind the church and found the streets full of tourists and gift shops! The town has preserved its medieval flavor—with cobblestone streets and all stone buildings. Busloads of people come to see replicas of Paleolithic cave paintings from the nearby Altamira Caves, which are closed to visitors. 
As I was standing in front of the church trying to get my bearings to find the albergue and a place to eat, an American tourist came up and asked, “Are you a pilgrim?”
“Yes,” I said. I was a bit distracted because it was nearly 4:00 and if I did not find a restaurant soon, they would all close and I would have to wait until after 8:00 to eat. 
“You are my first pilgrim,” he exclaimed.
“Well,” I replied, “there are a lot of us.” We laughed. 
Can I take your photo, he asked, “…here, in front of the church?
He was one of many from a cruise ship and his guide had told the group about the Camino de Santiago and pilgrims. He took me over to the table to meet his fellow travelers—all from the US. They asked some questions and then I had to get some food before the bar closed for the afternoon. Before they left, I encouraged them to consider doing a pilgrimage. It turned out that he had grown up in Seattle near the University District!
The next day, any time a tour bus passed me on the highway, I imagined the guide telling the passengers, And if you look quickly over to your left, you will see a modern pilgrim walking to Santiago.
Later that evening, a local English teacher came over to the albergue where I was staying. Our host had told him that an American was staying there and the teacher asked if I  would let some of his kids interview me in English about being a pilgrim. The only rule was that I was only to speak English—this was an English assignment. They were darling kids—about 13 or 14 years old. They all shook my hand and asked really great questions in their strongly accented English. And then they took selfies of us all together.


Between those two incidents, I felt like I had had my 15 minutes of fame on the Camino!

Day 10: Santillana—Cóbreces   8 miles
29 September 2017
My lunchtime view on the way to Cóbreces
This walk was made “shorter” by the appearance of a young German woman who accompanied me more than half way. We laughed and talked and I walked a little faster than my usual pace, so I arrived here in record time—for me anyway.
I was admiring the colorful cathedral and taking photos. Then I turned around and saw this Monument to the Peregrinos. I was completely unprepared for my emotional response when I saw it. What do you think?



I stayed in the albergue run by the Cisterian (Trappist) Monastery that is next door to the church. The church is an earthy red and the monastery sky blue.
Above: The Cisterian Monastery.
Below: The sparse, but comfortable albergue.

There were only 5 pilgrims in this albergue that holds 30—a French couple, and Italian couple, and me. The accommodations were sparse, but clean, and the showers are HOT!


At 9:00 pm, we were invited to take part in the evening offices of Completas (in English: Compline) in the Monastery. These prayers signify the closing of the working day. Since I am not Catholic, I did not know what to expect, but it was a serene half-hour of sung and chanted prayers—very calming, even if I could not understand most of the words. 



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