Showing posts from 2014

Photo Post: Santiago de Compostela’s Belvís Park

A few months ago, I talked about Santiago de Compostela’s Alameda Park on the blog. It’s the city’s historic public park with great views of the old town and many beautiful old trees. The Alameda is a great place to go for an afternoon stroll, and the trails that run around its central wooded hill are perfect for jogging. But it’s always busy with people at all hours of the day—be they tourists getting their pictures of the cathedral from the lookout point, a wall of old ladies stretching from one end of the path to the other, or packs of joggers careening around the corners. So it’s not surprising that the introvert in me and my inner hipster prefer Santiago’s Belvís Park, just to the east of the old town.

Pronounced “bel-VEES” [belˈβis] with the accent on the second syllable, I was told by a tour guide that the name derives from the Galician phrase bela vista or “pretty view,” which makes sense, because from the highest point in the park, you can get a lovely overview of the easter…

The 4 Churches of Santiago de Compostela’s “Skyline”

Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Spain’s northwestern region of Galicia, is by no means a big city, reaching barely 100,000 on weekdays (and plummeting on weekends and school vacations when students go back home to mamá). Its monumental old town, while impressive, is often overshadowed by the cathedral’s west façade, and the ugly new town has buildings of perhaps ten floors at most. Because of this I put the word “skyline” in scare quotes in this post’s title.

However, if you can manage to escape the tourist (and pilgrim) madness along Rúa do Franco south of the cathedral, you’ll likely find yourself in Santiago’s major public park, the Alameda. Walking north along the grand, tree-lined esplanade called the Paseo da Ferradura, you’ll eventually end up at a wide, semicircular mirador, or lookout point. From this strategic location, you can take in the whole old town as it sprawls from north to south. You’ll notice that there is a lot more going on in Santiago’s old town than just…

Photo Post: Cruceiros, or Galician Crossroad Crosses

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You can see these "cruceiros" or simple stone crosses made of granite all over Galicia; they typically stand at the crossroads of major streets and are topped with sculptures of Mary with child and/or Christ crucified. During the Christianization of Galicia, cruceiros were put up over original Roman altars to the "lares," or spirits that protected the hearth and the road. // #cruceiros #santiago #santiagodecompostela #galicia #spain #vsco #vscocam A post shared by Trevor Huxham (@trevorhuxham) on Nov 29, 2014 at 9:10am PST
The word cruceiro in the Galician language has a double meaning: on one hand, it can simply mean the place where two roads meet, but on the other hand, it can refer to granite stone crosses that often accompany said crossroads. Pronounced “kroo-THAY-EE-roe” [kɾuˈθej.ɾo], these monumental crosses guard intersections and also show up in cathedral cloisters and on residential property in rural Galicia.

My Guía Azul guid…

5 Great Hikes from Santiago de Compostela, Spain

If the region of Galicia has a counterpart state in the U.S., it would have to be Arkansas, if only for the latter’s state moniker, “The Natural State.” Like Arkansas, Galicia is rugged, forested, and a little hilly, and, in my opinion, it has the most beautiful countryside in Spain. Not only does the region have gorgeous coasts and beaches, it also has simply wonderful interior landscapes.

Living in Santiago de Compostela has given me a chance to get a taste of Galicia’s natural beauty by means of various hiking trails and mountain summits. You can see most of Santiago’s old town in around a day, so if you’re ever passing through here, definitely take some time to leave the city life for the outdoors!

1) Monte Pedroso
The “Stony Mountain” rears up directly northwest of the old town and is even visible from the central Praza do Obradoiro, just past the Parador hotel. If you’re short on time but looking for that panoramic photo shot, Monte Pedroso is the place to go. Starting from the …

Photo Post: Hórreos, or Galician Countryside Corncribs

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The Galician Hórreo // Pronounced "OE-rray-oe," these corncribs/granaries have a granite frame, wooden walls, and clay tile roofs and hold grains and veggies after the harvest. They're on stilts to keep the rats and, uh, varmins away. // #horreo #hiking #camino #santiago #santiagodecompostela #galicia #spain #vsco #vscocam #whitagram A post shared by Trevor Huxham (@trevorhuxham) on May 11, 2014 at 12:59pm PDT
Spend any amount of time outside Galicia’s seven major cities and you’ll quickly notice these peculiar little sheds that are everywhere in Spain’s northwestern countryside: the hórreo. Not to be confused with Oreo cookies, they’re pronounced “OR-ray-o” [ˈ] and are simply the traditional corncribs or granaries that Galicians have used for centuries to store corn, grain, and other harvested crops.

Sided with wood to keep out the humidity and elevated on stilts to keep out the critters, hórreos are a common sight in rural Galicia—in f…

What to Eat in Galicia: 10 Dishes to Try

The region of Galicia in the northwest part of Spain churns out the best food in the entire country. Give me some Galician food any day over expensive Basquepintxos, refined Catalan cuisine, or the famine food of the central meseta. I realize I’ve probably offended just about everybody, but exaggerations aside, but Galicia undeniably occupies a unique place on the Iberian peninsula that has allowed a rich cuisine to develop over the centuries. Bountiful seafood arrives inland from the region’s long, rugged coast; everything from corn to peppers to greens grow in a fertile, rain-blessed interior; and dairy cows stay happy with the mild Galician climate.

There’s a lot to see and do in this fascinating corner of the country, from Romanesque cathedrals and Roman ruins to glorious beaches and thermal baths, but enjoying quality home cooking ranks pretty high up there on the list. If you don’t know what to order when visiting Galicia, try any (or all!) of the dishes below.

1) Polbo á feira …

Edible Creativity: Santiago de Compostela’s Tapas Competition

This weekend, Santiago de Compostela’s seventh annual concurso de tapas or tapas competition came to an end after half a month of exciting bites served on black slate tablets. I was disappointed that it was over, but my gut and my wallet were relieved. Organized by Santiago’s association of hotels and restaurants, it was a clever way to stimulate the local economy as it enters low season (and as the rain begins to keep folks at home). For a flat price of 2€, you could go into any participating café, bar, or restaurant and order their tapa del concurso—which made it a great way to explore higher-end restaurants that otherwise might be out of your budget.

At every place, you could ask for a tapasporte, a “tapas passport” inspired not only along the lines of a travel passport but also on the credencial or “pilgrim passport” that people hiking the Camino de Santiago carry with them as they walk to Santiago. The participating restaurants were organized geographically into five etapas or sta…

Taking a Tourist’s Highlighter to Madrid

I’ve been writing online for two and a half years now, but a Madrid-shaped hole on this blog has been growing bigger and bigger ever since I first landed at Madrid-Barajas airport in September 2012. I’ve never really done a proper “city trip” to Madrid in my time here because it’s always been a convenient bookend for flights to and from the States. I’ve never felt the need to put together a blog post about the Spanish capital—until now.

Approximately half a dozen mini trips to Madrid later, I feel like I’ve gotten a chance to get a true feel for this capital city and finally seen all the museums I’ve wanted to visit. And since my family is coming to visit me for Christmas, I think I ought to distill my impressions and tidbits into something I can share with them while I’m their unofficial tour guide for the week.

I’ll be up front with y’all right now: Madrid is not my favorite city in this country. Give me extroverted, Moorish-influenced Sevilla or Córdoba; subdued, Old Spain outposts…

Spain’s Cíes Islands: The Best Beach in the World?

As last school year was drawing to an end, the weather had heated up and the sun had decided to come out, so a handful of friends and I decided to hop on the train south to Vigo to catch the next ferry for the Cíes Islands, which are home to what was called the “world’s best beach” in 2007 by the British newspaper The Guardian. It was a glorious daytrip from Santiago and a much-needed break from the rolling hills and rain of inland Galicia.

The three Cíes islands form an archipelago that guards the entrance to an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean called the Ría de Vigo. From north to south, the three islands are named Monteagudo (“pointy mountain”), Montefaro (“lighthouse mountain”), and San Martiño (“St. Martin’s”).

Why are the beaches the best?
The beaches on the Cíes Islands (pronounced “THEE-ays” [ˈθ]) are so wonderful partly because they belong to the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park; i.e., they have been protected from the runaway tourism and development that has happen…

Santiago de Compostela’s Cidade da Cultura: Fab or Flop?

When you think of Santiago de Compostela, you usually think of moody Romanesque architecture, over-the-top gilded Baroque churches, and charming homes with glassed-in balconies and overhanging arches. So it might come as a surprise that the city is actually home to a huge project of contemporary architecture built on Monte Gaiás, a hill southeast of the city center. Called the Cidade da Cultura de Galicia or “City of Culture of Galicia,” this ambitious arts and cultural center was designed by New York architect Peter Eisenman and constructed between 2001 and 2011.

The Cidade currently consists of the following four buildings:
Arquivo de Galicia: the “Archives of Galicia,” which stores the archives of all newspapers and publications in GaliciaBiblioteca de Galicia: the “Library of Galicia,” which is a repository of all books published in the Galician language or dealing with Galicia in other languagesMuseo de Galicia: the “Museum of Galicia,” which is supposed to house a museum dedicate…

Photo Post: Pizza & Roman Art in Sketchy Naples, Italy

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Pizza margherita alla romana: tomato sauce, fior di latte cheese, basil leaves, and anchovies. Eaten at one of Naples' classic pizzerias, Trianon. Modern pizza originated here in the city of Naples (Napoli). // #pizza #food #naples #napoli #campania #italy #travel #vsco #vscocam #whitagram A post shared by Trevor Huxham (@trevorhuxham) on Dec 26, 2013 at 12:18pm PST
While traveling around Italy last December, I dipped out of Rome after Christmas Day and took the train south to Naples to do three things, and three things only:
Explore the ruins of the Roman city of Pompeii, sealed for ages under volcanic ashEat pizza in the city where it was inventedCheck in to the archaeological museum, where all of the treasures and wonders of Pompeii were taken for safe keeping. I hadn’t heard great things about Napoli proper, so I (perhaps ignorantly) decided to crash in a hostel for two nights and focus exclusively on my hitlist rather than explore this sketchy city.

Padrón, Spain: Peppers, Pilgrims, & Poets

Everyday on the way to and from school, I pass through the town of Padrón, situated about halfway between Santiago de Compostela where I live and Boiro (on the coast) where I work. Just barely inland, Padrón straddles the Sar River before it empties into the estuary called the Ría de Arousa.

A small but proud village of almost 9,000, Padrón dates back to Roman times when it was known as Iria Flavia (which is still the name of a parish to the north of the city center). Today, it’s known for producing peppers of the same name, for being a major stop along the Camino de Santiago, and for being home to two significant poets in the Galician language.

Even non-Galicians have heard of Padrón at least once, if only for the famous peppers that originated just outside the city center in the parish of Herbón. Brought to the area by Franciscan monks after the Spanish conquest of the Americas, these pimientos de Padrón have been cultivated for centuries and are now a part of the Spanish na…

Culture Shock in Spain: It’s the Little Things

Whenever you move to another country, you’ll inevitably experience culture shock, a roller-coaster of emotions that you experience while dealing with the obvious (speaking a foreign language, listening to weird accents) to the benign (nothing open on Sundays) to the problematic (Epiphany parade-goers in blackface). I’ve talked about culture shock before on this blog, from the differences I’ve noticed in Spanish elementary schools and Spanish apartments to saying “see you later” in the street when you mean “hi!” or wishing “enjoy your meal!” to complete strangers.

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de volta na miña galicia A post shared by Trevor Huxham (@trevorhuxham) on Sep 28, 2014 at 2:05pm PDT
Although some people might complain about how everything here in Spain is sOoOoOo different from cultures in the U.S., the UK, etc., I don’t believe there are that many huge cultural hurdles to leap over when moving to Spain from another Western country. It’s not like in East Asia where they place a…

4 Reasons Why I Love Galicia in November

While there’s probably no one here in Galicia who is excited for the changing of the seasons and all of the miserable rain and bone-chilling cold they bring, there’s something really special about November here in northwest Spain that makes me really look forward to the month. It may not replace that warm fuzzy feeling I get from spending Thanksgiving with the family (and Mom’s cooking!), but Galicia in November is still a festive month that makes fall a wonderful time in this part of the country.

1) All Saints’ Day

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Huesos de Santos—"Saints' Bones" are a typical Spanish sweet on Nov 1st, All Saints' Day where Spaniards remember lost loved ones and bring flowers to their graves. The almond/marzipan-based confection has a sweet "marrow" filling. A little macabre, but hardly out of the ordinary from American Halloween treats. // #candy #sweets #dessert #halloween #allsaintsday #festivals #food #galicia #spain #santiago #santiagodecomp…