Yesterday we woke to the sound of rain pattering on the roof and the creaking of fenders as the wind pushed us around on our berth. We had intended to take the train to Santiago to explore and visit the cathedral, but decided to wait a day and hope for better weather.
When the rain had passed we ventured out to the castle opposite, now open for visitors. It was a surprisingly attractive fort, built into the hillside of the rocky tidal island, so that there was a lower courtyard area from which a sloping passage, lead up to a higher grassy enclosure with a light house, a wishing well and a mound with a few neolithic looking rocks. There were indoor rooms housing an impressive collection of swords and daggers and the passage itself was home to an imposing longboat made with stretched skins.
We climbed a winding turret to the roof and enjoyed views of Lyra back in marina. Apparently the castle formed part of a stiff resistance to the efforts of our friend Drake, who sailed over to pick a fight, and was involved with the subsequent launching of the Armada, which an illustration showed being defeated by the sea.
After the fort we headed up into town and shopped in the supermarket, which was rather like a small Morrisons except for the packets of frozen octopus tentacles and the live crab tottering about a fish tank by the wine section. We upset the system a bit by not having weighed our loose vegetables, but clearly we were not the first people to fail in this respect and the girl at the checkout sorted us out in record time. We trudged back with it all and had new bread and local cheeses for lunch on the boat.
After lunch we headed back out to the art gallery, Museo de Belas Artes, which took a bit of finding, but turned out to be a very impressive new building and admission was free. There was a complete collection of prints by Goya, the most cheerful of which being about bullfights and then the collection ranged over several stories, becoming more modern as we climbed. There was something for everyone, classical pieces ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, portraits of the great and the beautiful, Rubens, Picasso, sketchbooks and contemporary works, enough, but not overwhelming. A very pleasant place for a rainy afternoon. We managed to get back without getting wet, but then elected to stay on board for pasta.
So today was our train ride. We caught a taxi to the station and bought a one way ticket from the grumpiest person we have met so far. He heard our request for a return, ignored us while he had a grouch at a fellow clerk, then tossed us two tickets for the train due to depart in four minutes and looked heartily offended by having to give change for our money. We made the train, pushing our luck by getting off to change carriages as we could not figure out how to work the space age internal doors. The countryside we passed through was delightful. The railway sidings were bathed in gorse, the landscape beyond a hilly tapestry of mixed forest. Some of the pine trees were blooming, their heads dusted carmine. The trees opened to hamlets of sizeable farm houses, with orange pantile roofs each surrounded by a productive looking plot. Our journey continued into long tunnels and across viaducts, means of coping with sending a railway through such terrain. Half an hour later we pulled into Santiago and it was grey and wet, the surrounding countryside hidden in a veil of low cloud.
We trudged, heads down, up the high street and found the Cathedral of St James. The square outside was thronged with walkers, ladies with umbrellas and young soldiers in desert camouflage. Pipes were being played and at a drum beat they all set off into the cathedral. In we followed, the place was packed. Officials in luminous vests were discouraging photographs and keeping the walkways clear. Priests manned sentry boxes flanking the walls, offering to hear confessions in a variety of languages. All the seats were taken and the standing room pretty full. It seemed we had stumbled on a special international mass, with visitors from all over the world and “Chicago”. We could not clearly see the nun leading the service, but she had a beautiful singing voice, as had the woman next to us. After a while the priests took over and we wandered off to try to leave, which was not easy, but eventually we managed to follow a woman with a small child, who seemed to know her way round. We went for a coffee.
Buzzing with caffeine we wandered into a part of the university, round a small formal garden and into an exhibition of ephemera from the dawn of motion pictures. There were magic lanterns and Buster Keyton’s movie camera, watercolour paintings of long gone cinemas and shadow puppets that still worked. It was too wet to explore outside, so we headed back to the cathedral, to visit the museum there. The mass had just finished and there was a great outpouring of people, chatting animatedly, many lighting cigarettes. I recognised our neighbour with the lovely singing voice. They all poured down the steps and raised their umbrellas. We found the crypt, where the tickets were sold, and were asked if we were pilgrims. We felt honour bound to say no and paid full price, going back to the museum entrance where a smiley lady ushered us in. It was worth the price of the ticket to see just one narrow painting on wood, of the last supper. There was the usual structure of a central Christ, flanked by apostles behind a long table. Jesus had a hand raised absolving a shifty looking Judas, who in this instance, sat opposite Christ and the rest, fingering his bag of loot under the table. The remaining disciples seemed to be engaged in bitching about each other in small cliques, except for Peter and, the star of the show, John. Peter was on one side of Christ looking stoic, I figured it was Peter as he had a rock painted into his forehead, on the other side was John. He was slumped forward on the table resting his head on his arms, in front of him was an empty wine flask. None of the others were taking any notice, as if this were a regular occurrence. Perfection. As we threaded our way through the museum we kept encountering the same smiley lady, like a lucky talisman, we kept making each other laugh.
After the cathedral we went for lunch in a small cafe with windows streaming on account of the fug from the wet clothes and umbrellas. We ordered tapas to try the green peppers we had seen for the first time here. They came fried till the skins were black, dredged in salt and delicious. We ate them with bread and fried squid and washed them down with cold beer, all for twenty four euros. More perfection.