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A pilgrim's progress: Santiago de Compostela
If walking in the footsteps of ancient ancestors eager to find salvation or personal glory at the end of trail across the Mediterranean appeals to you, then look no further than this fascinating town in North-Western Spain.
Offering relief for the weary in the form of dazzling Renaissance, Baroque and Romanesque art and architecture, Santiago de Compostela's history dates back to the ninth century where early entrepeneurs discovered the money that could be made in housing and advertising the (supposed) relics of early Christian saints and apostles. Nowadays, thousands flock to the city every year to enjoy fireworks and festivities in honour of St. James, whose remains the city hosts, on the 25th July. As 2010 has been designated 'Holy Year', why not visit with the Camino trekkers and locals in a two-week programme, from the 15th to the 31st of July.
So, what to do on arrival in the town? Start by heading along to the cooling shade of the city's cathedral, composed of granite now overlaid with lichen, to hear the midday Pilgrim's Mass and visit the tomb and statue of St. James. Rua do Vilars, Rua Nova and Rua do Franco promise sturdy stone arcades to marvel at and Renaissance courtyards to rest in. Peckish? Try Cafe Rosalia for cheap but cheeful tapas or Casa Calo for heartier fare. Before dinner, be sure to visit the Museo do Popo Galego for a taste of Galician folk history before finally heading to the O Dezaseis restaurant, and local's favourite, to try their speciality: grilled octopus! Wonders may never cease.