Monday, August 31, 2015

Where to Eat in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

This blog post has been literally years in the making. Although I’ve happily moved back home to Texas, the city of Santiago de Compostela in far northwestern Spain gave me two of the best years of my life. I spent much of that time drinking an expertly-pulled café con leche, indulging in a fresh butter croissant (or two), and going out for tapas with friends in the old town. I cooked most of my meals at my apartment, but that’s not to say I didn’t gain an intimate knowledge of the cafés, bars, and restaurants in the Galician capital.

Where to eat in Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Churros and coffee at Churrería San Pedro Burguer
Whether you’re a freshly-arrived pilgrim weary of the Camino, or a visitor with limited time to spare, I hope these recommendations that I’ve curated below will help you avoid the tourist traps on Rúa do Franco south of the cathedral and instead get an authentic experience in one of Spain’s most alluring cities.


Alabama (Rúa do Hórreo, 21)
A clean, comfortable café south of Praza de Galicia with a large outside terrace for people-watching on the busy Hórreo street. Come here for good coffee and the morning paper. Their fresh-squeezed orange juice is the best in town.

Bicoca (Rúa de Entremuros, 4)
Tucked away in a side-plaza near the Porta do Camiño (where pilgrims first enter the old town on the Camino de Santiago), Bicoca serves a brunch every Sunday that is up to American standards. I love their Galician interpretation of eggs Benedict: a slice of toasted country bread with Spanish cured ham, plus the poached eggs & Hollandaise sauce.

Café Iacobus
With several locations around town, this local chain churns out quality pastries and fries their own churros in house, plus they have great coffee and loose-leaf teas. If you want tarta de Santiago, go here to try a slice.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

5 Advanced Spanish Pronunciation Tips

I’ve talked some about Spanish pronunciation on the blog before, from how to speak Spanish like a Spaniard to tips on learning how to roll your Rs; in fact, they’re two of my most popular posts! Today I’d like to share a little bit of what I learned when I took a Spanish linguistics course in college. Don’t worry, I’m going to make sure to explain everything in layman’s terms, but these subtle, rarely-discussed differences between English and Spanish were transformational in getting me to lose my American accent in Spanish and have made me sound much more native. I hope they help you as much as they helped me!

Spanish pronunciation tips
Plaza de San Nicolás, Madrid

1) B, D, G are soft, not hard consonants

This was one of the first things I picked up on in my linguistics class and it totally blew my mind. At the beginnings of word or phrases, the B, D, and G sounds are “full stops” or are pronounced strongly, just like they are in English: vinagre, día, and gamba begin with clean, firm Bs, Ds, and Gs.

However, whenever you see a B/D/G in between two vowels, that’s your key to smooth things out, since they are pronounced much softer in Spanish in this position. The technical linguistic term here is fricative vs. stop; but to make things simpler, whenever the letters B or V come between two vowels, they end up sounding more like a V than a B; the D becomes a voiced TH as in the English word “the”; and the soft G is the lazy cousin of the hard G that doesn’t want to get out of bed (think of the modern Greek pronunciation of gyro).

In all cases where B/D/G come between vowels, the sound they make is never as forced and enunciated as an English V, TH, or G, but instead something a little smoother and softer. Your lips and teeth don’t touch when you make the soft B sound, your tongue just kind of hangs out between your teeth for the soft D sound; and for the soft G sound, you want to push air at the back of your throat in the same way you would with the Spanish J sound, only with voice behind it.

Here’s a few examples with pronunciation guides:

* complicado “com-plee-KAH-tho” [kom.pliˈca.ðo]
* preguntaba “pray-ghoon-TAH-vah” [pre.ɣunˈta.βa]
* la bomba “lah VOM-bah” [la ˈβ]
* la garganta “la ghar-GHAN-tah” [la ɣarˈɣan.ta]
* digo yo “DEE-gho jo” [ˈdi.ɣo ʝo]
* te lo digo “tay lo THEE-gho” [te lo ˈði.ɣo]
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