The monitors at the police headquarters in Santiago de Compostela showed the large crowds of people around the cathedral, picked up by the closed-circuit TV cameras. The large open square, known as the Praza da Obradoiro, was full of people adorned with scallop shells, carrying rucksacks and thumb sticks, and wearing waterproofs and boots.
Most of them had walked to the square, but not all of them had walked along the Camino de Santiago or the Way of St James for any great distance. They were hanging around until the queue had subsided to visit the cathedral so they might pay their respects to the Apostle.
As the camera scanned the square it picked up the queue of people waiting for the tourist train – Tren Turistico – in the shadow of the western front of the cathedral. It highlighted the wealthier tourists entering and exiting the luxurious Parador de Santiago, housed in the Hostal dos Reis Catolicos.
Until the 13th century, they allowed pilgrims to stay in the cathedral itself, but gradually convents around the city took over the accommodation of travellers from the cathedral. After the fall of Granada in 1492, Fernando of Aragon and Isabel of Castile built this hostel for the poor and sick as a mark of gratitude and to add to the places where pilgrims could stay. Now the poor can’t afford to stay in this place.
On the western side of the square the camera showed the Pazo de Raxoi or Palacio de Rajoy, a neoclassical palace dating from 1766. A group of Galician musicians was giving a recital outside the palace, encouraging people to dance, clap, and sing along to their tunes.
What the cameras did not dwell on was the man in pilgrim’s garb, sketching the Parador in wonderful detail, who was noting down the times the tourist train left at certain parts of the day. He’d done the same on the previous day and would do the same tomorrow. Precision was key for sketching the architectural delights of the Parador and it would be key in what he and his friends were planning.