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Showing posts from May, 2015

San Millán de la Cogolla, the Cradle of the Spanish Language

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When traveling, some people seek out the best beaches or tranquil getaways, while others (the so-called “foodies”) research their destination’s tastiest dishes and the best places to eat them at. For me at least, I plan a lot of my trips around UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as I’m a big fan of historical sites and national parks. This program, associated with the UN since 1972, has recognized some of the planet’s most significant cultural and natural monuments. Spain has 44 such sites, making the country home to the third-highest concentration of Patrimonio de la Humanidad in the world.

During my weekend trip out east to Logroño to visit my friend Mike in December, I got the chance to explore the Spanish region of La Rioja’s sole World Heritage Site: the Suso and Yuso Monasteries, out in the village of San Millán de la Cogolla. Although little known outside of this small province, these two monasteries are a great point of pride for riojanos. After all, Castilian Spanish was writ…

Scenes from Logroño, Spain, the Capital of La Rioja

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One of my favorite things about keeping up a travel blog is all the connections I’ve been able to make with it, be it meeting up with fellow bloggers while traveling, giving advice to followers via email or comments, or simply making new friends based on shared common interests. Case in point: I would have never made any effort to go out east to La Rioja had it not been for the community I’ve gotten plugged into in the Spain expat/travel blogosphere.

When I first applied to teach English in Spain way back in 2011, I closely followed Liz Carlson’s Young Adventuress blog, as she was working that year as an auxiliar de conversación in Logroño, the capital of the Rioja region. She raved and raved about this under-appreciated region, its fabulous pinchos, and of course its namesake wine. Although she put Logroño on my travel radar, the city never really moved into my “essential visits” list.

Fast-forward to this school year, when my longtime blogger friend Mike began working as a language…

Photo Post: The Gothic Cathedral of Burgos, Spain

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Sitting at the top of my travel hitlist for this school year was the north-central Spanish city of Burgos, one of the major stops along the Camino de Santiago’s popular French Route. Although it’s five hours away from Santiago by car and close to approximately zero major airports, I was still determined to swing by this provincial capital, if only to check out its World Heritage-listed Gothic cathedral.

Back in early December an opportunity to visit Burgos finally presented itself to me: I would take the day train out here before transferring to a bus on my way to Logroño to visit my friend Mike. I’ll be talking more on the region of La Rioja in the days to come, but safe to say I was delighted to explore what is now one of my top ten favorite cathedrals in Spain.

Tourism boards love to brag that Burgos’s cathedral is the only one in all of Spain to be declared a World Heritage Site on its own, unlike many others (e.g., Santiago, Córdoba, Salamanca) that form part of a larger protect…

Castro de Baroña: Celtic Seaside Ruins

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Apart from the Roman walls of Lugo and the refurbished Tower of Hercules in A Coruña, Galicia doesn’t have much going for it in terms of ancient ruins. However, you can still catch a fleeting glimpse of its long-lost Celtic heritage in ruins scattered across the region, like a hilltop perch in A Guarda that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. These castros or pre-Roman fortifications consisting of circular stone huts were built all over Galicia and even lasted throughout Roman times.

While on a weekend trip to coastal Ribeira, about an hour or so west of Santiago de Compostela, I daytripped with a friend of a friend, who drove me around the area and gave me the chance to experience the wonders that the peninsula called O Barbanza has to offer, like mobile sand dunes and even a dolmen (prehistoric megalithic burial mound). On the northern coast of this mountainous peninsula, we stopped off for a few minutes to check out the Castro de Baroña, probably the most impressive ruins from Galicia’s…

Ribeira, Spain: A Galician Mariners Village

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I teach English at an elementary school in Boiro, which is just one of half a dozen cities that dot a mountainous peninsula called O Barbanza. This small region on Galicia’s western Atlantic coast is blessed with windy forested hills, expansive beaches, and a fertile habitat for growing mussels. At the very far southwestern tip of this peninsula lies the town of Ribeira, the capital and largest city of the comarca or county of Barbanza.

Back in November, I finally took the bus past Boiro for the first time to meet up with some fellow language assistants who work in the area and really enjoyed my time in Ribeira—in spite of the torrential rains that are all too common in Galicia in the fall and winter.

What is Ribeira all about? There’s absolutely no question that Ribeira lives off of the sea. As one of the most important fishing ports in Spain and all of Europe, this city receives the catches that folks bring in from all over the northwestern Galician coast and out into the Atlantic;…