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Showing posts from October, 2015

10 Museums to See in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

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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 Like any Spanish cathedral’s treasury worth its salt, you’ll find the usual suspects in the Museo…

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

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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.

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 panoramic vistas you can get from up top Monte Pedroso and Monte do…

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

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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. Replacebuenos días” with “bonjour” and that’s exactly what Villenueve felt like.

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

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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 EspañasSpain 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 importantl…

Santiago de Compostela’s Rocha Forte Castle Ruins

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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.

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 excavations of Roman-era mosaics, or strolling pa…