JWMT 1 I had one of the most memorable days of my Journey at Praia das Catedrais in Galicia.   Now if I close my eyes and sit quietly I can go back to that splendid place and re-experience its beauty in my mind, and will be able to do so forever. The appeal of meditation is that we can all re-visit places that are special to us, and relive the feelings we had there … hear once again the sounds we heard, the warmth of the sun on our faces. Beach distance Getting up early to catch low tide, I arrived at “Cathedral Beach” on a sunny autumn morning along with a few others. Here erosion by the sea has rendered the rocks and cliffs into magnificent shapes, many that resemble great ecclesiastic columns and arches. Spider legs 1 Arch 1 Hole in wall copy There is one set of steps down to the beach then you can explore its geography. We all did so. Soon everyone was scampering over rocks, searching in caves, and wading through pools under the arches. Something about the sense of merriment this provoked broke down barriers and people were giving each other a hand over tricky rocks, or asking strangers to take their photographs. Everyone was smiling and saying “magnifico” or “esplendido” to people they did not know. I understood when a lady said “what a gift for us this morning” and offered to take my picture. Strata 1 Through arches3 (2) It seemed as if all sorts of people and nationalities had arrived there that morning, even a businessman with his suit trousers rolled up talking on his mobile phone. Business man And just who was the mysterious man with the umbrella whose presence everywhere seemed quite surreal? Umbrella man 1 Umbrella man 2 I had time to thoroughly explore the geological features along the shoreline, finding it huge fun. Part of Augasantas bay, the beach has been declared a Site of Community Importance and a specially protected zone because of its natural interest, including the vegetation and molluscs as well as the rock formations.   The word for ‘beach’ in Castilian Spanish is playa, but Galicia is an autonomous region of north-west Spain with its own Galician language, Galego, which has historic similarities to Portuguese.  So here we were not on a playa but a praia. Strata and pool Eventually the tide turned and slowly, slowly we all reluctantly retreated towards the only escape route up the steps. I kept finding new perches from which to watch the huge rollers hitting the shore, and did not want to leave. In fact I stayed for hours, missing lunchtime, watching the sea approach further and further, changing the appearance of the beach as it did so. 20141022_134517 20141022_135028 Sitting there I felt supremely happy again, the completely perfect moment in time.   Once more I found myself noticing more of my surroundings, not just the crashing Cantabrian Sea and the rock structures, but the way that the light reflections from a rock pool played on an overhanging stone shelf so prettily.  And the way that the blue-blue sky looked as if an artist had painted an azure wash on her page letting the hues fade as the colours ran down the paper to the paler shades beneath. I could never imagine myself sitting alone so contently for so long before. I was learning this wonderful lesson of having a still mind all along this Journey. I was also finding how easy it was to find this intense sense of peace and realised that previously I had been trying too hard, searching for the right conditions, the time, the place, even music, in which to meditate when all I had to do was just stop and be still. It was also clear that I was finding these moments of serenity most frequently in nature and not in the churches I was visiting. This was not really a surprise, I had always found nature to be my spiritual source. Shoes 1 The question was, would I be able to apply these lessons when I returned home to my ‘normal life’? As the waters rose latecomers took risks by hurrying down onto the beach in danger of being cut off. All made it back, though many had to wade or evade big waves, but signs explained that some explorers DO need to get rescued every year.  Suddenly a lithe young man ran down the steps and, casting his tee shirt aside, waded out to a big rock and there, pounded by waves breaking over his body he held his arms outstretched in joy. It was wonderful to share his moment of delight. 20141022_135214 I was staying at Ribadeo on the north coast of Spain, situated on the estuary of the River Eo which forms the boundary between Astrurias and Galicia. The marshes and riverbanks of the “ria” have been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a RAMSAR wetland of international importance. The fishing port of Ribadeo was established as a trading centre back in the 8th century.  It was granted an important charter of rights by King Ferdinand II in 1183 including a concession to hold markets which increased its trading capacity so the town grew.  More recently wealthy locals returning from making their fortunes in South America,  called “Los Indianos”, settled back in the town building elegant homes which are still a feature of Ribadeo.

A former 'Indianos' property

A former ‘Indianos’ property

Old building 2 The Indianos are particularly associated with the north coast of Spain, from where thousands of people emigrated to improve their circumstances in countries like Cuba, Argentina, Uruguay, and Venezuela in the 19th and 20th centuries. When they came back to their homeland they were renowned for their generosity to their local communities, building schools and hospitals for their towns.   Their homes were eye-catching and usually had a signature palm tree planted in front of the colonial style house. 20141021_160913 20141021_162946 The heart of Ribadeo is the central Plaza de Espana which is dominated by the noble Tower of Moreno and its high cupola. Though this building was boarded up and its windows smashed I liked the way the tourist information still described it as a beautiful building, noted for its structure of concrete and glass which was unusual in its time. The same was true of other buildings, including the romantic little 16th century San Rocque chapel which had been “remodelled to enhance its natural beauty” yet was full of sad, smashed up wreckage inside. How fantastic to continue to see only the beauty of your fallen landmarks. And how great it would be to apply that to other areas of life. When I finally left Cathedral Beach I returned to my lodgings in Ribadeo via the remote coast road, a challenging journey where I spent a moment in silent prayer that I would not meet a car coming the other way. The views were energising as the now high tide hit the shorelines.  I passed tiny fishing villages and the Pancha Island and lighthouse, which in summer is entirely covered in pink heather.  I had instead my shades of blue. 20141022_164602 Lighthouse 1 20141022_155801 Construction 2 Along the road were farm outhouses which are a significant feature of northern Spain – hórreos.   These old grain stores on stone stilts are clever constructions which allow the wind to blow the corn dry and prevent rodents from climbing into the container. I was to see these all along my journey though Spain, some in disrepair but many still in use.   Hórreos are now protected buildings and property owners have a duty to care for them. Horreo 2 20141021_133854 The coast road took me back to Ribadeo’s attractive port, where the signs in the harbour reminded me that Ribadeo is an important point on the Camino de Santiago. I was still on the “Way”, learning my life lessons.   One camino pilgrim wrote : “The road teaches us the best way to get there, and the road enriches us as we walk its length.”   At Ribadeo my life was enriched by the everlasting memories I made on my trip to Cathedral Beach.

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20141022_170932 Camino 1 Ribadeo port JWMT faded

  1. Sonia says:

    I really enjoyed this post. Full of life and love. What a beautiful beach and your photos do it justice. Happy travels.

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