I wanted to place my hand on the Tree of Jesse, the central marble column of the cathedral's Portico de Gloria, the Entrance of Glory. Unfortunately it was barricaded off - presumably for renovation or repair. However I didn't really mind. It's not the time-honoured routine of pilgrim ritual that matters in the end. It's what you feel inside.
The next day, a Sunday, just before the 12 noon pilgrim mass, the west face of the cathedral looked wonderful in the sunlight. During mass the Botafumeiro, the celebrated giant incense burner, wasn't swung from its ropes and pulleys. Apparently they do that much less nowadays. I wasn't really disappointed. I met up with some of my pilgrim friends afterwards - Ezequiel, Kristin, Daniel, Hiroshi, Marlis, Sebastiane, Marco, Philippe. We all hugged. We were visibly moved. And glad to have arrived at our spiritual destination.
They were all going to eat in the bar at the Hostal Suso. But somehow I didn't feel like going with them - not at that particular moment. I wanted to be alone, to take in the particular atmosphere, to untangle the complicated thoughts and emotions which had suddenly woven themselves around my mind and heart. I stepped outside the cathedral into the cold and wintry air.