A wise Swedish pilgrim told some fellow pilgrims and me: "you'll arrive in Santiago when you're supposed to arrive, and it'll be just perfect." She was right!
I arrived around the time of the Saint's feast during the summer of 2004 (a holy year). A few pilgrims who had been accompanying me since St. Jean began complaining that the closer we got to Santiago, the more crowded it was becoming. Although they became bitter pilgrims towards the end of the Camino, they were filled with childlike wonderment when they arrived in Santiago. Despite the crowds, they admitted that this was an incredibly wonderful experience.
During our first pilgrim's mass in Santiago, there were no seats in the Cathedral to be found--it was very crowded. We sat right down on the floor. We were dusty, sweaty, and grimy from walking. It couldn't have been more perfect or fitting. We watched in childlike amazement as the botafumeiro whisked back and forth above our heads spewing incense all around us.
Afterwards, we went into the plaza in front of the Cathedral, laid our backpacks down, and rested on the ground--just staring up at the Cathedral's facade. It felt very much like home, our living room.
It was tough to leave, to say goodbye. But as the Camino teaches you: you accept each person you meet on the road of life and cherish them for the fleeting moments you're able to spend with them, for you never know if you'll ever see them again.