We left our little Santiago hotel room in the morning, meeting Sarah not far off at her albergue to give a fellow vegetarian hiker the extra protein powder we had. She walked with us most of the way to the train station. Mandy had booked us on a morning train to Madrid. We got there early enough for me to have a cup of coffee before we boarded. The Spanish trains are wonderful – clean, reserved seats and on time. Too bad Amtrak doesn’t seem to be able to claim the same thing. We had to change trains at Ourense but still zipped along into Madrid. It seemed so odd to be traveling so fast, seeing the countryside fly by rather than at the foot pace we’ve been going for a month. But nice to see ridge lines with windmills that I wasn’t having to climb. Once there we decided to treat ourselves to a cab ride to the hotel we booked near the airport rather than dealing with the metro.
I’m feeling spoiled already having a soft bed with real sheets, a large shower with plenty of hot water, a regular towel to get completely dry (the travel towels just never quite do the job) and air conditioning (it’s hot as blazes here). Oh, and a hair dryer! I’ve gotten accustomed to many things this past month, including having continuous bad hair days and always smelling less than fresh. But we splurged at the airport pharmacy and bought deodorant – how wonderful! And the hotel had a razor. More goodness. I chided Mandy endlessly about how little we had with us, but was more than happy about that each time I lifted my pack or when I saw others carrying huge, heavy ones. I was lucky though to find a good friend, Stephanie,who continued to amaze me with goodness that kept coming out of her pack. Like tweezers, a nail file and mirror and an extra hiking dress she shared in Muxía. It’s the little things that count.
After a marvelous shower I decided it was time to retire the poor shirt that I hiked in day in and day out. It was stinky, stained and finally faded somewhat lavender in the Negreira laundry debacle. I did a ceremonial dropping of it happily in the hotel trash.
We wandered over to a mall located behind the hotel to find something to eat. It seemed busier than any American mall I’ve been in lately. They had a large area of restaurants, where we finally found something to nosh on. Back to rest as we figure it wouldnt be very restful heading home.
A great night’s sleep in what felt like the lap of luxury and then up and going off to the airport. Feels a mite strange to be wearing clothes other than those I hiked in. But I still have my hiking shoes and socks on so the feet may look bad but feel great. The hotel shuttle bus driver was somewhat confused about our terminal, and were not as efficient time-wise as the trains, but we arrived and got checked in through all the various required lines.
A long, but uneventful flight, with several glasses of wine and three movies later, we arrived in Toronto. A different system than I’ve encountered getting through immigration and then the goat rope of going through security again, got us onto our flight to Vancouver. After a month of paying attention only to feet and walking, the few possessions we had with us, and purposefully avoiding any contact with the world outside of the Camino, it’s a bit of a shock to the system. Plus, hearing English and not having to ask Mandy to be my mouthpiece and translator felt strange.
After a short delay we arrived in Vancouver and got on the metro heading into the city. Once again the metro ticket machines gave us issues but with perseverance, we got on. When Mandy was trying to book us a place near the train station not much was available, so while we are really close, we are in a very tired, old hostel. With bunk beds. Again. But two very tired women are grateful for beds and a short walk to the train station.
Up at 0445 to get to the train station, get through immigration and customs before the supposed 0630 train to Edmonds. We encountered nothing but charming, smiling agents. An unexpected, but pleasant welcome back to the US. Leaving just 20 minutes late we were headed to the border. Wonderful to see the Pacific Northwest landscape again on a beautiful, sunny day.
We arrived in Edmonds in the nick of time to catch the next ferry waiting at the dock. My sister was waiting at the dock in Kingston to drive us home. And then, a surprise! We were greeted with welcome home banners on the house, which we thought were great fun, but even better was that some of my neighbors were hiding in my courtyard and popped out surprising us with chilled champagne. What a wonderful world!