Sunday, 24 November 2013


     As soon as my new music video, "Can't Stop These Tears", was uploaded, a pilgrim friend asked,"Was that a bottle of Estrella Galicia cerveza I saw?" Well indeed, it was. My intention had been to send a "hello" to all Camino Santiago pilgrims so it was wonderful that it had worked so quickly. This bottle, an empty one at that, was the only souvenir I brought home after spending a month in Spain walking El Norte in the spring of 2013. Here's why I couldn't leave it behind.

     I was on my way to Miraz, having just spent a lovely day in Baamonde relaxing with an utterly charming fellow pilgrim. It wasn't a great distance, maybe 15k, so I was anticipating a light stroll with, hopefully, a few stops for cafe con leche and/or cerveza.

    Just before Miraz, I was startled to hear very loud music seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Walking a little further, I found the source -- a somewhat solitary, sky-blue house, scarcely visible behind an ancient stone wall. I could not contain my curiosity so, a little brazenly I suppose, I opened the gate and just walked in.

    I was  expecting some kind of party, but there was nothing of the sort. It was a party of one, a single man diligently tapping away at a large, intricate, stone carving. His name, I learned, was Chacon, and he was an artist. We smiled and said hello. He was extremely congenial and apparently quite pleased that I had invited myself in. Though he spoke no English and my Spanish is rudimentary at best, we  managed to communicate well enough. He was working on a  magnificent carving, a near-completed commission for a client in Bilbao.



      Chacon was enjoying a bottle of  Estrella Galicia cerveza and, without too much difficulty, I managed to convey that I would like to join him. He smiled, disappeared into his house and  quickly returned with a nice cold one. I pulled out some euros but, try as I might, payment didn't appear to be an option.
      He then took me for a tour of his house, the front room of which was pretty much a gallery for a variety of his marvellous carvings. Back outside, he asked  if I wanted him to stamp my credencial and, of course, I agreed. But he didn't just use a stamp -- he melted some blood-red wax onto the appropriate square, then imprinted a cross thereon with a bronze signet tube. It was certainly a grand gesture, though not especially practical as, once cooled, the wax was far too brittle to survive the rigours of the Camino, at least mine, anyway. I was awestruck with Chacon's kindness and hospitality, but he was not done yet.
      On his workbench, I noticed a scallop shell, on which Chacon had hand-painted a green Templar cross. When I offered to buy it, he picked it up, smiled, then added a leather cord so that I might wear or attach it to my knapsack. Now surely, I thought, he would accept a few euros--no chance, he remained steadfast in his refusal.
      Back over by the  carving-in-progress, I showed him my guitar and he signed the back, not without some enjoyment I might add. Watching him, I suddenly realized that I too might have a gift for him. Thinking he might enjoy my Camino-influenced song, "Peregrina" from the Steeltown Pilgrim cd, I offered him one of the download cards I had in my guitar case. Anyway, I had nothing else to offer except a pile of dirty laundry. Now, to be sure, explaining exactly what this little plastic card was took some doing but, with the help of his charming wife, I managed.

      We said our goodbyes, but Chacon had one more act of kindness up his sleeve. I hadn't walked  10 metres when he called me back, gently sat me down and raised his finger as if to say "watch this". He then grabbed a chisel as well as my empty Estrella Galicia bottle, sat down in a chair and started grinding and scraping. Minutes later he proudly stood up and handed me the bottle which was now inscribed : "a Matthew--Chacon" I smiled, then we both started laughing.We hugged, then said goodbye.
     I carefully brought the empty cerveza bottle back to Canada. It was a great relief that I did not have to explain such action to Canada Customs in the presence of a legion of tired, grumpy onlookers.
     When shooting the video, I included my treasured Camino souvenir not only as a greeting to all my dear pilgrim friends but also as an expression of my deep respect and gratitude for pal Chacon.


  1. Very nice story Matthew, and your blog page looks great!

  2. Great blog. Keep the stories coming, Matt.