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Showing posts from March, 2014

Photo Post: Colexiata de Sar, the Leaning Church of Santiago de Compostela, Spain

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Most days of the week I end up passing through Santiago de Compostela’s Praza de Galicia, a major hub for traffic and city buses traversing the northeast-to-southwest sprawl of this regional capital. On my way home, I usually head east along the city’s main loop, a road that changes its name about eight times as it circles Santiago’s small but stately historic center.

Before I reach the sidestreet that leads down to my apartment, I pass by a large, bold magenta sign informing drivers of a “Colexiata de Sar” down to the right. Walking past this intriguing sign nearly every day for a month after I moved to Santiago made me think that there had to be something pretty significant for there to be a tourist sign put up for it.

So, one day I descended down, down Santiago’s central bluff, under the highway and train tracks, to the edge of the Sar River. Here, in a quiet, sunny neighborhood, I came across a simple church that dates to the Romanesque era of architecture (think medieval times),…

Confessions of a Texan in Spain

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Alright, guys, it’s time to take off the rose-colored glasses that too often get put on when I talk about traveling or how amazing Spanish food is, and time for some #RealTalk. As an American living in Spain, trying to speak Spanish, and living to tell the tale about it on this blog, I’ve got some thoughts and reflections that I’d like to share in a confessional-style post, touching on the subjects of life, travel, language, and blogging.

Life Almost two years since graduating college, I’m still not sure what comes next in terms of a career or job. This point is a major source of anxiety for me: do I sell out for the ever-elusive 9-5 desk job, attempt to make ends meet by pursuing writing full-time, or attempt to teach high-schoolers some combination of Spanish and history? Don’t get me wrong—I’ve really enjoyed teaching English but I can’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life, which is one reason that…
I can’t see myself living in Spain long-term, making the transition from tem…

Photo Post: Monte Pedroso in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

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Lots of famous Spanish cities are relatively flat and easy to walk around, from Barcelona to Sevilla to Córdoba. Santiago de Compostela, in the country’s northwest corner, however, was built on a series of hills and bluffs on the high ground between the Sarela and Sar rivers, so you tend to get a good workout going to work and getting the groceries here.

The surrounding area is rather hilly as well, with the distinctive, pointy Pico Sacro rising up to the southeast and Monte Pedroso looming right outside of town to the west. You can enjoy the best views of the city from the summit of this mountain just an hour-long hike from the Praza do Obradoiro in front of the cathedral.

Crowded neighborhoods give way to rural mansions and farmland, which in turn surrender to the fragrant forests of pine and eucalyptus trees that cover the falda or foothills of the mountain.

While Santiago is by no means a huge city, it’s always nice to go up to the summit and relax away from all the hustle and bu…

The Mercado de Abastos (Farmers Market) of Santiago de Compostela, Spain

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I haven’t written much yet about the city I’m currently living in this year—Santiago de Compostela, the capital of the northwestern Galicia region—mainly because I have a backlog of 300+ pictures to edit and upload. Hopefully this summer I’ll have everything put up so I can start talking about what has become one of my favorite cities in the country. For now, at least, all I’ve got are some shots of the city’s mercado de abastos or farmers market, which is one of the premier markets of its kind in all of Spain but still small enough that you don’t feel lost inside.

Santiago’s market is one of my favorite places in the entire city, mainly because a huge part of Galician culture is its famously-delicious food but also because I love eating, cooking, and supporting local producers rather than big chain supermarkets.

Although the current collection of eight granite naves or halls was built in 1941, the farmers market has been held almost daily since the late 1800s in a location due east of…

My 10 Favorite Churches in Rome

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When I was back home in Texas last summer I decided to teach myself a little about all the different architectural styles that have left their mark across the centuries in western Europe. I had a vague idea of what Romanesque, Gothic, or Neoclassical buildings looked like but I would have been stumped had you asked me to explain what exactly made each time period stand out from the others. So I embarked on History of Architecture I, a free iTunes U course taught by Ohio State University professor Jacqueline Gargus. Although I have no background in architecture, engineering, or design, I found it super easy to jump right to Prof. Gargus’s lively discussion of western architecture.

Watching these lectures really helped me to grow in my knowledge of the major styles, and I now feel comfortable explaining the differences and revolutionary ideas of each era. I also enjoyed being introduced to some of the most significant examples of each architectural style, most of them in Italy, the crad…

3 Cold Spanish Soups (& Recipes!): Ajoblanco, Salmorejo, Gazpacho

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When I first applied to work in Spain two years ago, I knew I wanted to live in the southernmost region of Andalucía, not least for its warm and sunny reputation. I was also drawn by its treasure trove of Moorish architecture—from castles to palaces to mosques—and the infamous andalú accent, which I hoped would be most similar to the Latin American Spanish I studied in school. In reality, my Andalusian winter turned out to be one of the rainiest and bone-chilling I’ve experienced yet, the province of Jaén where I got placed was a Renaissance exception to the Moorish norm, and the Andalusian accent may as well be classified as a separate language it was so hard to understand.

But the food lived up to all my expectations: tangy marinated olives, spicy boiled snails, savory cured ham, and generous free tapas made for a, uh, belt-tightening year. One of my favorite parts of Andalusian cuisine was its ancient and varied tradition of cold soups, although perhaps the word “soup” in English do…

Thoughts from Aragón, Spain’s Forgotten Interior

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Just a couple days ago I arrived back in Santiago after a week of exploring the region of Aragón in eastern Spain, and now that I’ve done several loads of laundry and slept in ’til noon in my own bed, I think I can put together some thoughts and reflections on one of the most interesting and unique rincones (corners) of Spain I’ve been to yet.

I’m sure you wondering, where is Aragón? This landlocked, eastern part of Spain stretches south from the central Pyrenees mountains, nestled between Castilla on one hand and Barcelona-dominated Catalunya on the other. It’s actually one of the largest autonomous communities in all of Spain but, because most Spanish people over the past half-century have flocked from the countryside to the biggest cities—it’s one of the most sparsely-populated swaths of the country.

Perhaps because of this, Aragón is kind of a “forgotten” part of Spain, skipped over by whirlwind tourists on their way from Barcelona to Madrid or Sevilla. Zaragoza—the capital with o…

3 Warm Spanish Stews (& Recipes!): Callos, Fabada, Lentejas

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If you asked me what my favorite part of Spanish cooking is, I wouldn’t answer with tortilla (potato omelet), jamón (cured ham), or paella (a meat-and-veggies rice dish). What I love most about the cuisine of Spain is the country’s savory tradition of soups and stews. Usually centered around one of what I like to call the Holy Trinity of Spanish Legumes—chickpeas, white beans, and lentils—these one-pot meals cook on low heat for hours, letting the flavors of the aromatic veggies and spiced sausages combine together to create a simple, yet tasty, product.

When cooler temperatures roll around in November, restaurant cooks and abuelas alike will start preparing these warm, comforting stews that are beloved by Spaniards but under-appreciated by foreigners. Let me share with you three of the essential stews to try if you visit Spain off-season (or to try your hand at in your own kitchen). Each recipe serves 4-6 people, or one person and enough leftovers for a week!

Callos con garbanzos Thi…