Showing posts from December, 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: the city’s historic public park with great views of the old town and many beautiful old trees. It’s a great place to go for an afternoon stroll in, and the trails that run around the wooded hill are perfect for jogging. But it’s always busy with people at all hours of the day—be it tourists getting their pictures of the cathedral from the lookout point, a wall of grandmas 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 eastern side of Santiago’s old to…

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

Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Spain’s northwesterly region of Galicia, is by no means a big city, barely reaching 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 zona vella than ju…

Photo Post: Cruceiros, or Galician Crossroad Crosses

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 also refer to granite stone crosses that often accompany said crossroads. Pronounced “kroo-THAY-EE-roe” [kɾuˈθej.ɾo], these monumental crosses guard intersections but also show up in cathedral cloisters and on residential property in rural Galicia.

My Guía Azul guidebook to Galicia describes how cruceiros came about:
The cruceiros’ origin can be traced back to the lares (laribus vialibus) or gods of the hearth that magically protected the road and to whom the Romans dedicated altars with inscriptions, mainly building them by crossroads. Ancient Galicians would light candles on the altars because they believed they were connected with the underworld. As the Christianization of the region progressed, said altars were torn down and in their place the cruceiros were put up. (Translated from Spanish, p. 47) Today cruceiros add a nic…

5 Great Hikes from Santiago de Compostela, Spain

If the region of Galicia were a state in the U.S., it would have to be Arkansas, if only for the state motto, The Natural State. Rugged, forested, and a little hilly, Galicia has in my opinion 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 for time but are looking for that panoramic photo shot, Monte Pedroso is the place to go. Starting from the cathedral, it only takes one hour to hike up t…

Photo Post: Hórreos, or Galician Countryside Corncribs

Spend any time outside of the seven major cities in Galicia and you’ll quickly notice peculiar little sheds that are everywhere in Spain’s northwestern countryside: the hórreo. Not to be confused with Oreo cookies (though I love them so), 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 fact, it’s estimated that there are 100,000 of them around the region. The most typical form is a small, rectangular construction with a granite skeleton, wooden slatted siding, and a roof of clay tiles. The further east you go, however, they become larger and more square-shaped, often donning slate shingles. Sometimes recently-built hórreos emulate contemporary Spanish housing and sport a concrete frame with brick walls.

If you ever ha…

What to Eat in Galicia: 10 Dishes to Try

Hey y’all, I just signed up with Bloglovin the other day and I recommend it as a great way to keep updated when any new posts go live. Follow my blog with Bloglovin!

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and argue that 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, snobby Catalan cuisine, or the famine food of the central meseta. I realize I probably offended just about everybody out there, but exaggerations aside, I believe Galicia occupies a particularly special place on the peninsula that has allowed a rich cuisine to develop over the centuries: a rugged coast from which bountiful seafood arrives inland, a fertile, rain-blessed interior to grow anything from corn to peppers to greens in, and a climate friendly to raising dairy cows.

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 th…

Edible Creativity: Santiago de Compostela’s Tapas Competition

This weekend Santiago de Compostela’s seventh annual concurso de tapas or tapas competition finally 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. Inside, the participating restaurants were organized geographically into fiv…

Taking a Tourist’s Highlighter to Madrid

I’ve been writing 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. Consequently, 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 o…