My mystery illness must have been catching up with me. That’s the only thing that could explain the immense fatigue that had come over me, slowing my steps and making my breath remarkably labored. My whole body felt bone tired and we hadn’t even arrived at Finisterre yet.
My body’s issues aide, the beauty of this area continued to stun me with its craggy coastline and white sand beaches that dissolved into a gentle surf of aqua, turquoise, teal, and cobalt. Among the native pines, coconut palms had been planted giving the landscape a carefree, Mediterranean air.
Meg and I passed cottages and large establishments at intervals along Playa Langosteira, all of them looking closed. The colorful slate walkway along the beach that at first delighted me with its beauty became an uncomfortable surface that seemed interminable. Feeling increasingly exhausted, I wanted to stop at the next opportunity.
We paused to look at the ocean while considering our plan. It was late afternoon and both of us were done with walking for the day and agreed to stay at a nearby hotel. Leaving the path and walking on a grassy yard, we crossed the main street and checked in to Hotel Langosteira. It was perfect. A cozy room with two beds, a distant view of the surf, and very quiet.
While I stayed to take a long shower and a nap, Meg wanted to go for a swim in the ocean.
“Do you want company?” I asked her.
“No, I want to do this on my own.” Something was calling her.
I was writing in my journal when Meg returned an hour later. She looked radiant. Something personally meaningful had happened during her swim and her blue eyes flashed animatedly as she revealed the story to me. Witnessing her transformation, I felt deeply moved and in awe of her.
To celebrate our arrival at the ocean we agreed to have a sumptuous dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.
The only people present at the “early” hour of nine, we toasted our accomplishment with a bottle of local white wine and feasted on sharing plates of calamari, garlic shrimp, tiny fried green peppers, salad, and shared a dessert. We laughed at the 80’s soundtrack of American love songs – a bit of a non-sequitur in this setting – and recounted our favorite memories of the pilgrimage. I loved being with her. I loved celebrating our arrival together.
* * *
In the morning, we arose late and lingered over a leisurely breakfast buffet at the hotel, then struck out for the heart of Finisterre. We were really here! Meg had made mention the day before that she might head to Muxía today, but we didn’t speak of it all morning. I wasn’t yet ready to let her go.
From the hotel, we retraced our step to the water’s edge and re-joined the slate path with its winding curves, beautiful pine plantings, and grassy knolls. The morning sun and cool breeze were welcome companions.
In contrast to the natural beauty of the Galician shoreline, our arrival into Finisterre twenty minutes later was abrupt and jarring. Even though it’s a tiny fishing village, the combination of cars, hordes of day pilgrims, and general bustle snapped me out of my reverie and right into overwhelm.
In the town center is an office where pilgrims can obtain a special certificate verifying they’ve arrived on foot from Santiago. We stood in front of the building to mark its location and considered entering, but a drunken Irishman (sorry, Irish friends) insisted that we stop there to get the document and his boisterous ramblings were my last straw. It was just too much.
“Later,” we agreed and got out of there.
Not ten steps away, we ran into Moisés, our fisherman friend who bought us coffee the previous day.
“We’re trying to decide where to stay,” we told him.
“Oh, I know a very nice albergue,” he said. “Very new, very nice,” kissing his fingertips. “You will like it.”
Still overwhelmed, Meg and I followed him down the cobbled streets between tall, impenetrable buildings. He stopped at one of these homes and rang the bell. Moments later, an elderly woman came out and they started talking animatedly in Galego. Neither of us understood a word, but it seemed that the grandmother knew the location of this new albergue.
Now a foursome – the elderly lady, Moisés, Meg, and I walked down a steep street toward the aforementioned hostel. Our pace was slow because the woman seemed to walk with considerable pain, her hobbling steps aided with a cane.
Without realizing it, we were swept up in a procession of people who’d decided for us that we would stay in Finisterre that night.
After a maze of twists and turns through shaded alleys, we discovered that Moisés had been right; the hostel was new. We were welcomed by the two proud owners (no other pilgrims were present) and then all four locals followed us around for a tour.
With this entourage looking on, I felt tremendous pressure to say yes to staying there, but the hostel was located at the lowest level of a building with no windows. Although the price was fair and the bedding looked like it was fresh from the store, I didn’t want basement accommodations in this scenic seaside town.
When the four were distracted and chatting, I said softly to Meg, “I don’t want to stay here.”
I felt relieved.
“Do you think there’s a tactful way to get ourselves out of this? I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”
We approached them and tried to explain in Spanish that we wanted to stay somewhere where we could see the ocean and thanked them for trying to help us. They all seemed genuinely confused, but let us go.
Once outside, I felt the pressure release at last.
“Okay,” I said, suddenly focused. “I know we can do better. I think we can manifest a place that is away from a busy street, has its own bathroom, a view of the ocean, and beach access – for under 20€ a night.”
Meg looked at me skeptically. (I’ll admit, it did seem pretty optimistic.) Still, I followed my intuition to the far side of town and we stopped at a pension on Brierley’s map.
Not only did they have several rooms available, from its third-story height one had a view of swaying palms and the Atlantic beyond. We could even hear the waves crashing outside on a tiny beach. It had a bathroom down the hall. And it was only 15€ a night per person. Even the bed spreads were adorable. Perfection.
I looked at Meg, questioningly. Would she stay?
“Let’s take it.”
Even Finisterre was proud of our accomplishments. I opened our window and heard the strains of bagpipes and drums below. A festival was in progress and the waterfront area was festooned with flags flapping in the ocean air. What a welcome!
I was grinning from ear to ear, proud of my ability to have found a room that so perfectly matched my intention. I also felt easier now knowing that I had one more night with Meg in this beautiful setting. I knew I would let her go tomorrow, but I was living in the moment and tried not to think about it. Or my growing illness.
Tonight we would watch the sun set.