Showing posts from 2015

The 3 World Heritage Sites of Galicia, Spain

Even if you’re not familiar with the concept of a World Heritage Site, almost all of Spain’s most impressive monuments fall into this category, from the Moorish glories of the Alhambra to Gaudí’s dizzying Sagrada Família. Established by the UN’s Unesco agency in 1972, the World Heritage program recognizes and protects places of outstanding natural or cultural significance, including world-famous places like the Grand Canyon in Arizona but also lesser-known ones like the Chaco Culture ruins in next-door New Mexico. In fact, Spain is home to the third-largest amount of World Heritage Sites in the world, behind only Italy and China, with 44 sites on the list, and the small region of Galicia in the country’s northwest corner lays claim to three of those. Now, in my highly-biased opinion (having lived there for two years) I think there ought to be a few more Galician sites selected, from the monasteries and vineyards that perch along the Ribeira Sacra canyon to Atlantic islands like the

Reminders of Rome in Macaron-Colored Arles, France

Bundling up in boots, skinny jeans, and scarves while spending Thanksgiving with family a couple weeks ago in Indiana reminded me of the last time the weather was that cold: late February, when my friend Melissa and I traveled around southern France from our home base in Avignon . We were so fed up with the miserable cold, rainy weather in Santiago de Compostela that we decided to hop on over to France’s Mediterranean coast—where you would think  things would be warm and sunny—only to be greeted with more rain and cold weather. I guess you can’t have everything. Place de la République But it’s easy to beat the winter blues when you’re in one of the most beautiful parts of Europe, rain or shine. Avignon welcomed us in for four nights and turned out to be a cozy city overflowing with history. We took advantage of Avignon’s central location and good rail connections to make daytrips to various towns around Provence, once of which was the Roman city of Arles, a mere 17-minute jou

10 Museums to Visit in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Santiago de Compostela isn’t exactly a city known for its museums. As it’s the endpoint of the Camino de Santiago  pilgrimage route, once you’ve checked in at the cathedral , there really isn’t that much to see and do besides checking out tapas bars in the granite-paved old town, strolling through the myriad of green parks and trails nearby, and generally relaxing after walking six hours a day for a month. That saying “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” definitely applies to the Camino. That’s not to say there’s nothing to check out in Santiago besides the purported resting place of the Apostle St. James. Although Santiago might not have museums on the grand scale of those in Lisbon , Madrid , or Barcelona, this city has several museums, exposition halls, and centers that will tell you more about the city’s past and how it influenced the Santiago we see today. 1) The cathedral museum The reconstructed stone choir stalls Like any Spanish cathedral’s treasury worth

Photo Post: Monte de Deus in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Panoramic view of the city Santiago de Compostela may be the capital of Galicia and a bustling university town just shy of 100,000, but locals still often affectionately refer to it as a pueblo , a small town. And not without reason: you can walk to most any place in Santiago in around half an hour, a series of parks and greenbelts circle the old town, and despite the constant influx of tourists it’s not uncommon to run into people you know in all corners of the city. Camellia in bloom You’re also never too far from the green Galician countryside, as you only have to walk 15 minutes from the built-up parts of town to get into rural areas where pine forests and family farms take over from apartment blocks and supermarkets. Nowhere is this more visible than from the Monte de Deus lookout point, just north of central Santiago. Called the “Mountain of God” for reasons I’m not clear on, Monte de Deus offers a unique, south-facing perspective that complements the more panorami

Villeneuve-lès-Avignon & the Simple Pleasures of Southern France

Ivy-covered house When my friend Melissa and I took a bridge across the Rhône River into Villeneuve-lès-Avignon last February, the city reminded us a lot of what in Spain they call pueblos : villages in the countryside where traditional, slower ways of life continue, where cozy family homes line the streets, and where you can say buenos días  to people you pass on the sidewalk. Replace   “ buenos días ” with “ bonjour ” and that’s exactly what Villenueve felt like. Our friend the chat We didn’t exactly go out of our way to check out this charming southern French town, as it’s simply on the other side of the Rhône from the tourist hotspot of Avignon . In French placenames, lès  simply means “near,” so you might translate the name as “New Town Near Avignon.” After a jam-packed morning crawling around a gigantic papal palace and getting a French nursery rhyme stuck in our heads, we decided to cross the river into this tourist-free town to relax for a bit.

My Guide to the 17 Regions of Spain

One of the most striking ideas that I came across during my college-level Hispanic Culture & Civilization course was this notion of España y las Españas — Spain and the Spains. It forced me to reconsider my preconceptions of Spain as a land of Don Quixote, paella, and sunshine and instead come face to face with the rich history and endless variety of this country that refuses to live up to its stereotypes . During the three years I lived in Spain I was fortunate enough to visit 14 of the country’s 17 autonomous communities, or regions that the central government has granted varying degrees of home rule to. Many of these regions are considered nationalities  within the larger Spanish nation-state, either because they speak a language other than Castilian Spanish or because they hold culture and history in common. Getting beyond the standard Madrid-Barcelona-Sevilla itinerary gave me a more nuanced view of the country, told me the deeper truth of the country’s past, and (most

Santiago de Compostela’s Rocha Forte Castle Ruins

The ruins It began as a passing blur, a brief break in between thick trees and rural farms as the train headed south out of Santiago. What did I just see?  I wondered. Later, I would catch passing references to the crumbling foundations of a long-forgotten fortress, hiding in plain sight just outside of town. Then I came across banners advertising what was once “the largest castle in Galicia.” In a town known for its cathedral , its granite-paved old town , and its pilgrim heritage, I was intrigued that there was something more unique to explore than yet another  over-the-top Baroque monastery . Completionist that I am, I added the ruins of the Rocha Forte to my Santiago bucket list and finally went hiking into the countryside one sunny May afternoon. Foxgloves nearby Even after living in Europe for three years, this history major never lost the thrill of stumbling across a church whose doors had welcomed the faithful for a thousand years, walking over glass-covered excav

Living Like Popes in Avignon, France

It was mid-February and my friend Melissa and I were not amused with how the Galician winter had been treating us. Dark skies and  rainy  nights kept us indoors most of the time, and because of high humidity, the cold temperatures were particularly bitter despite never dropping below freezing. Simply put, we needed to get out, and  sunny  southern France  seemed like a great place to escape from Santiago for a long weekend. View this post on Instagram Arrival in Avignon // Santiago de Compostela 🚅 Vigo 🚈 Porto ✈️ Marseille 🚄 Avignon. Safe to say it's been a long 24 hours but @lissakathryn and I made it in one piece to this charming mid-sized city in France's southern region of Provence. After sharing some amazing open-face cheesy sandwiches and a raspberry tart that was to DIE for, we peeked in to the Place du Palais where you can get amazing views of the 14th-century Papal Palace, the residence of the Popes in

Moving to Spain, 3 Years Later: My Spain-iversary

Now that I’m back home with my parents in Texas this summer, I’ve recently been leafing through all the old travel journals that I kept when I moved to Spain and traveled around Europe. They’ve put me in a real emotional mood remembering how excited I felt to be moving to a foreign country. At the same time, all my old anxieties came flooding back: what city would I live in, what apartment would I choose, how would I get to work, would I make any friends, and what the heck comes next after all of this is over. View this post on Instagram It's always sunny in least this month ☀️😏☀️ // #sun #santiago #santiagodecompostela #baroque #church #cathedral #galicia #spain #visitspain #whitagram #snapseed #latergram A post shared by Trevor Huxham (@trevorhuxham) on May 23, 2015 at 1:55pm PDT It’s now been three years  since I landed on the tarmac at the Barajas airport in Madrid , giddy and jetlagged a

Photo Post: Santiago de Compostela’s Bonaval Park

View of the cathedral I know, I know, I’ve been on a big city-parks-of-Santiago kick lately on the blog. Last year I talked about the Alameda (the main public park) and Belvís (basically my backyard), and in the past few weeks I’ve highlighted the Sarela River Trail and Galeras Park . These green spaces amount to one of Santiago de Compostela’s greatest assets and give folks who live here a way to exercise, relax, and meet up with friends and family. Triple staircase in the Museo do Pobo Galego Today I’d like to turn the spotlight on  Bonaval Park, situated just outside the old town to the northeast. For centuries, the land here belonged to the monastic community of San Domingos de Bonaval, but in 1837 it was confiscated by the Spanish state during the anti-clerical  desamortización de Mendizábal . The Baroque monastery then passed to the city government. Today, Bonaval is anchored by the Museo do Pobo Galego,  which offers an ethnographic look into Galician culture an

Photo Post: Santiago de Compostela’s Galeras Park

Cherry trees in blossom Like I said on my earlier post about the Sarela River Trail, I think Santiago de Compostela is uniquely fortunate to have its older part of town surrounded by parks and green spaces rather than by sprawl, as happened to countless other European cities in the past century. Built on a bluff between two small rivers, Santiago only became the administrative capital of Galicia in the 1980s, so much of the World Heritage-declared historic core has been protected. A heron flying through the willows With the Alameda Park to the southwest and Belvís Park running along the east, Santiago has plenty of places to go running, have a picnic, or just breathe some fresh air in. Joining these quality parks is Galeras Park, situated just to the northeast of Santiago’s old town. A tranquil meadow dotted with willows and fruit trees, Galeras straddles both banks of the Sarela River as it meanders southwards.

A Crash Course in the Galician Language

Galicia, located in Spain’s northwestern corner, is  one of the country’s greatest regions. When I lived there from 2013 to 2015, I couldn’t get enough of the glorious, fresh food , the green, lush countryside, and the grand, granite architecture . But I could only take canned sardines with me back home, we’ve got enough humidity here in Texas, and sadly the oldest buildings in suburban Plano date back not to the 1070s but the 1970s. View this post on Instagram Okay, but really, y'all, where are the fairies??? This place has got some serious magic about it... // #flowers #spring #park #santiago #santiagodecompostela #galicia #spain #vsco #vscocam A post shared by Trevor Huxham (@trevorhuxham) on Mar 13, 2014 at 1:29pm PDT But what has stuck with me the most has been galego , the Galician language that I quickly picked up on after being immersed in it from day one at the elementary school I worked at. Clo

Photo Post: Santiago de Compostela’s Sarela River Trail

Old stone bridge I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the countless parks and green spaces that surround Santiago de Compostela make the city such a great place to call home. From the Alameda , where you can see and be seen (or just go jogging), to Belvís , where you can lay out on the hillside and have a picnic, Santiago is truly blessed with pleasant public spaces where you can escape the noise and demands of the city and breathe in some fresh air. Spring flowers No part of town gives you a better connection to the natural world than the footpaths that follow the course of the Sarela River. Trailblazed several years ago, the Paseo Fluvial do Río Sarela  traces a tranquil creek as it trickles down the western edge of Santiago from the north to the southwest.

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. View this post on Instagram Café con leche & chocolate con churros—breakfast of champions ☕️🍫 // #coffee #cafe #chocolate #churros #santiago #santiagodecompostela #breakfast #spain #galicia #snapseed #GaliciaCalidade A post shared by Trevor Huxham (@trevorhuxham) on Feb 8, 2015 at 7:57am PST Whether you’re a freshly-arrived pilgrim weary of the Camino , or a visitor with li

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! 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 G

Where to See Roman Ruins in Spain

The land that we call Spain today belonged to the Roman Empire for nearly 600 years, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we can find countless relics dating from this time period across the country—not least the Castilian language itself, which derives from the Latin the Romans imposed on Hispania. Coming from a part of the U.S. where it’s a big deal to catch a glimpse of a truck that’s only half a century old , I naturally gravitated to places like ancient Roman ruins as I made my way from one region of Spain to another. This country has so much Roman heritage to offer—on par with Italy or France!—so read on to learn where to go in Spain for your ancient ruin fix. 1) City of Mérida Roman theater Today the capital of vast, lonely Extremadura in western Spain, Mérida was founded as a settlement of emeritus (veteran) soldiers along the Guadiana River. Emerita Augusta  would become the capital of Lusitania province (which included modern-day Portugal and Extremadura) and wa

The 7 Most Unusual Things I’ve Eaten in Spain

Despite what many Spaniards may tell you, the food here is not spicy at all. But that hardly means Spanish cuisine is boring! I’ve broadened my palate and tried so many new things since moving to Spain in 2012, picking up a taste for everything from sardines and anchovies to cured ham and beef. During this culinary adventure I’ve had throughout the country, though, I’ve come across several out-of-the-ordinary dishes, most of which I actually enjoy eating now! Read on to see some exciting dishes you can try in Spain. 1) Octopus Pulpo á feira No, this isn’t like those little fried calamari you get as an appetizer sometimes; pulpo á feira is adult octopus, tentacles and all, slow-boiled under tender. After the octopus is finished cooking, apron-clad women (the pulpeiras ) snip the purple tentacles into little medallions with scissors, discarding the mantle or “head.” Garnished with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pimentón (smoked paprika), the white tentacle cross-sections a