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Showing posts from October, 2014

Colorful Coruña, Spain’s “Glass City”

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I’ll be honest: I’m not the biggest fan of A Coruña, Galicia’s second-largest city and the major metropolis along the region’s north Atlantic coast. Its residents have a reputation of being pijo (snobby), the city is sprawling and confusingly-laid out, and much of Coruña has all that Big City character Madrid is known for…without the charm.

But there’s something attractive about Coruña that I just can’t shake. Compared with Santiago and the rest of inland Galicia, A Coruña is bright and colorful. While I love the simple granite, whitewashed houses with green doors that are oh-so-typical here in Santiago, it can get a little repetitive when all the houses look the same. In most Galician coastal towns, however, people paint their homes a variety of colors, and A Coruña is no different. Here you can find red, pink, orange, and blue homes, and the town hall has pretty red roofs to boot.

While Coruña may not be my favorite city in Galicia, it’s got a lot going for it and is a pleasant plac…

Don’t Leave Spain Without Trying These 10 Dishes

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I haven’t announced it yet on the blog but I am getting more and more excited for my parents and brother to come visit me between Christmas and New Years this December. To get ready to be their personal tour guide and translator, I’ve been thinking about what places I want to highlight in Madrid, which restaurants I want to take them to in Santiago, and certain survival phrases in case we get separated (fingers crossed that doesn’t happen).

My family is only going to have six nights to spend in Spain, which is almost too little time to do this country justice—but hey, it’s better than nothing! It would be impossible to cover all aspects of Spanish food in such a brief stay, but I’m hoping that if we stick to the highlights they’ll leave having gotten a good overview of what authentic Spanish cuisine really is (hint: it’s not paella on a Tuesday evening in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor!). Below are what I hope to share with my family when we head out for lunch or dinner during their trip.

1) To…

Sintra, Portugal: Lisbon’s Romantic-Era Getaway

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While I was kickin’ around in Lisbon this April, I took a couple daytrips from the city center to some admittedly touristy destinations. A modern-day tram that shares tracks and wires with the creaky, classic Tram 28 took me to the coastal neighborhood of Belém, a World Heritage Site dripping with history, museums, glorious architecture…and pastries. The next day I hopped on a speedy regional train from the Rossio station to the nearby city of Sintra.

Inhabited since, like, forever, Sintra’s strategic location perched on a hill between the Atlantic coast and Lisbon has made it an attractive place for kings, the wealthy, and daytrippers alike. Famous for its mystical fog and pleasing natural surroundings, Sintra became a favorite retreat in the 1800s. Relics from the Middle Ages, like the Sintra National Palace, or from Portugal’s Islamic past (the Castle of the Moors) played in to the age’s prevailing Revivalism and Orientalism. And Sintra’s dramatic, rugged setting caused the emotion…

How I Write Blog Posts

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Last week fellow Spain blogger Cassandra of Gee, Cassandratagged me in a “Blog Hop” that’s been going around (although we both agree that’s a lame name so we’re not going to call it that). Basically you have to talk about your personal writing process and how you go about blogging, and then you tag/nominate/@-reply three fellow bloggers to write their own response to the Blog Hop meme going around. So let’s get started!

1) What am I working on / writing? I am the worst at getting around to doing write-ups of places I’ve been to; I’m just now finishing up talking about Portugal (April 2014) and there are several cities and villages in Galicia that I’ve got some (empty) drafts for, too. One of the biggest items on my blogging to-do list right now is simply to get caught up on travel posts.

This school year I’d really like to talk more about Santiago de Compostela, where I’ve been living for the past year. Now that I’ve uploaded 400+ photos of the town to Flickr I feel like I can finally…

Photo Post: Santiago de Compostela’s Alameda Park

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All across Spain you’ll often find that each city has their own principal public park, usually established a century or two ago and which functions as the city’s backyard. For example, Madrid has the Retiro Park, Sevilla the María Luisa Park, and Barcelona the Parc de la Ciutadella. Santiago de Compostela is no different; its Alameda Park—just to the west of the old historic core—is where the whole city comes out to go for an afternoon stroll or a late-night jog, or to simply get a breath of clean, tree-purified air.

Built on land that the Counts of Altamira donated to the city in the 1500s, the park’s three main gravel avenues trace around a small hill, upon which hundreds of ancient oak trees have taken root. While the Spanish word alameda literally means “a place with álamo trees” or poplars, the term has come to mean any sort of grand, tree-lined promenade—which Santiago’s Alameda definitely fits.

The Santiago tourism board describes the park aspacego (adjective applied to the …

Lisbon’s Historic Neighborhood of Belém: What to See & What to Skip

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Before getting off the train in Lisbon’s magnificent Gare do Oriente train station, I was most looking forward to visiting the Portuguese capital’s historic neighborhood of Belém. Six kilometers west of Lisbon’s historic center, Belém (pronounced “bih-LANG” [bɨˈlɐ̃j]) has a concentration of museums and monuments a lot higher than the rest of Lisbon—or any city, for that matter.

The area of Belém gained significance as an important harbor for sailors departing from and arriving in Lisbon during the Age of Exploration, when Portugal dominated the seas. Today, with the advent of modern tourism, Belém is a great daytrip away from the city center; a great place to moor your ship for a spell and take in the wonders of this World Heritage Site.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery) This sprawling, gargantuan complex owes its creation to King Manuel I, who ordered a monastery to be built here in 1501 to minister to Atlantic-bound mariners and pray for the souls of the kings of Portugal…