That’s where I am, Cape Finisterre, which translates as “end of the earth” and feels like it. This peninsula in Galicia, Spain, narrows and pokes into the ocean and into the wind so that you feel totally disconnected from what your life used to be and ready to start anew. For a long time people believed that Finisterre (or Fisterra, as it often is called on maps) was the end of the known world, but the honor of being the westernmost point of continental Europe belongs to Cabo da Roca, Portugal, which wins by a few feet, although the two points of land look more like noses than feet. That’s horseraces for you.
Actually I’m in Finisterre virtually, at the end of my most recent virtual walking tour. I started in Le Puy, France, and walked through Moissac, St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and Roncesvalles before reaching Pamplona, Spain. From there it was Burgos, León, Santiago de Compostela, and Finisterre, which is an optional extension of the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James). My itinerary was virtual, but the walking was real; I use a pedometer and chart my progress on a spreadsheet. But I’ve been to Finisterre in real life. A couple of years ago, Joe and I took a trip through Galicia and Portugal. We stopped in Pontevedra, where I had the best Spanish tortilla I’ve ever had in my life, and in Santiago, where we saw more pilgrims than I would have believe existed. There were pilgrims in Finisterre, too, like the nun in the above photo. We were cheating, though. We traveled in a rented car and slept in hotels rather than pilgrim houses. This time around I did the walking, but I did it elsewhere; in fact much of the legwork for the last part of my route was done on wide Parisian sidewalks dotted with Parisian cafes.
Finisterre became a pilgrimage destination in pre-Christian times. People believed it was the place the sun went to die. Modern pilgrims don’t make sacrifices to the sun, but they are likely to leave something behind in that sacred place, perhaps their hiking boots or an article of clothing.
Where do I go next? I’ve already decided that I’ll walk down the coast of the Iberian peninsula, visiting Cabo da Roca, of course, and ending up in Sagres. I’m still mapping out the route, but I’ll definitely stop in Porto to sample some of that 20-year-old Tawny.