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Cycling the Camino de Santiago - Day 21 (Exploring Santiago de Compostela before heading home)

I'm afraid I didn't leave myself much time to explore Santiago de Compostela. I was due to fly out only a day after rolling in. 

But, I'm pleased to say, I managed to cram an awful lot into those few hours! 

In the morning I got up at about 9am and hightailed it to the Pilgrims Office down the road from my hotel. 

This is the place where you get the final stamp for your credential - the official stamp of the Cathedral. 

Then an attendant goes through your credential, checks that you have the right amount of stamps, and issues you with your official Compostela. 

If you pay an additional €3 you can get a certificate of distance. This is similar in appearance to the Compostela, but also includes your starting point and the distance you covered. 

Another €2 gets you a nice tube to protect the certs so they don't get damaged. 

My next stop was the bike shop. I had to say goodbye to the beautiful machine which allowed me to cycle that last 800km through wind and rain and sun and mud, on roads and through fields and over mountains. 

I was sorry to see her go. 

My next port of call? The Cathedral herself. I had been in yesterday for a look around, but had to experience the pilgrims mass at 12pm. 

I didn't understand much because it was all in Spanish of course, but the highlight was when the red clad priests came out to swing the incense holder. 

The holder, or urn, is attached to a rope that hangs from levers in the ceiling. 

Towards the end of some masses (not all) priests dressed in red garb will come out, burn frankincense in the holder, and will pull on the rope so that the urn swings wildly back and forth through the Cathedral.

It really is an amazing sight. 

After this, I queued up at the back of the building to 'hug' the statue of St James. 

This tradition is carried out by pilgrims as a way of thanking St James for granting them safe passage on their pilgrimage. 

After hugging the statue, the way out leads underground, through the tomb of St James where it is said the Apostle's remains are to be found.

You can kneel before the apse, which contains a silver chest, if you wish. 

As the day was now moving on quickly, I gathered my things and went to get the bus to the airport. 

Along the way I passed a tattoo parlour and made a spontaneous decision to go in and get a camino tattoo. 

I got the words 'Buen Camino' written on my right foot. 

It was my feet, and legs, after all that got me through it. And my right leg, specifically, considering it had to deal with damaged tendons as well as a dog bite! 

Now it was really time to go, so I found the bus stop, hopped on the airport bus, made my flight, and said one final farewe to Santiago. 

There were ups, and there were downs, but overall the camino was a fantastic experience, and one which I will genuinely never, ever forget. 

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