Galicia: It’s different (and refreshing)

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Here I am sitting at home in San Diego, writing about a trip I took to Galicia six months ago. The truth is, getting used to my new life here has been challenging. And writing about a beautiful trip I took to see a friend I miss, to a place I wish I could go back to, from a time that I never wanted to end…well, it’s rough. It’s taken me days to finish this post. Every time I sit down to finish it, I get distracted by a photo or memory that takes me back. And then I miss Spain so much, and feel down about it, and that maybe it’s better to stop thinking about it for a while. But, I really want to share what I experienced in Galicia because it is such an amazing place worth visiting.

Galicia is one of Spain’s 17 regions, sitting above Portugal. Each region has a unique charm, and getting to experience all of them was a goal I had while living there. I didn’t quite get to all 17, but by the time I left I had visited 11 regions. Pretty good for a guiri!

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The region of Galicia (outlined in red)

Lucky for me, one of my friends I had made at the University of Madrid offered to host me at her home in Redondela, a small city in Galicia.

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Close up: cities I visited circled in yellow. The smallest with no city name shown is Redondela.

Knowing I would be leaving Spain in September, I quickly planned a trip there just a few weeks ahead of time. I would take the train from Madrid, my favorite way to travel. It’s easy, comfortable, and relatively fast. The ride up to Redondela from Madrid was really green. We passed lots of rivers, creeks, and mountains.

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Some of my friend’s friends picked me up from the train station and took me to meet up with my friend (Carmen) at the Vigo Zoo.

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Signs in Gallego, Spanish, and English!

She showed me around where she was volunteering, and then we went out for some food at a little gourmet restaurant called Regato on a local beach.

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View from the restaurant

Just across the way was a small island with an old building on it. “Does anyone live there?” I asked. Carmen told me that no one lives there now, but the island used to house people that had leprosy and cholera in the 1800s and early 1900s. Woah, dark, yet interesting! But I like details like this–it’s a good example of how many interesting things you can learn when you travel to new places.

Carmen was such a great host. When we got to her house, she had a guest bedroom waiting for me. She was back home at the house she grew up in for the summer, and her super sweet dogs were there too. Her backyard was full of colorful hydrangeas in bloom. I remembered how much my mom loved them.

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Later, we explored around Pontevedra. She showed me this amazing, super old church in ruins in the middle of the city. The crazy thing is that there were tons of stones in the ground with latin writing etched into them, probably hundreds of years old, with nothing stopping people from stepping on them.

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A tomb!
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Oh just some stonework dating back to 1282!
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It’s just so amazing to me how little protection something so old had!

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More beauty in Pontevedra…

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A plaza with 5 connecting streets
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Old meets modern

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Loro Ravachol

Then, we went to a little fishing village called Combarro that’s famous for its hórreos or little raised houses to dry grain. Combarro was so charming. There’s a very narrow stone walkway that’s filled with little bars, restaurants, and shops. We stopped at one of the bars for a drink and enjoyed the view.

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Hórreos
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The narrow pathway was full of bars and restaurants like this: narrow and with a water view
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Tiny plazas and stone streets so narrow a car can’t pass. I think I left my heart here!

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The next day, I took a train up to Santiago de Compostela, the city at the end of the Camino de Santiago. It’s become a pretty touristy town now but it’s still amazing. Walking down the streets gives you this feeling like you’ve walked into a fairy tale.

When I first got there, I stopped by a bakery and picked up some apple empanada. I had tried many flavors, but never apple–and it was delicious!

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Like most European cities, just wandering the streets is an interesting activity. I eventually got to the market (Mercado de Abastos de Santiago) which is worth a visit. There are lots of meats, cheeses, vegetables, and fruits on display at this typical Spanish open air market. Each type of food has its own station with people there to help you if you want to buy anything. I really miss these markets! There’s so much more variety than at your typical American grocery store.

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Left: meat and cheeses. Right: more cheese!

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A bit more wandering led me to the Museo do Pobo Galego or the Museum of the Galician People. It was full of the history of the Galician region of Spain, including food, customs, celebrations, traditional jobs, architecture, and art. Which reminds me that many people are not aware that Spain has many diverse regions, and some even have their own language. In Galicia they speak Gallego, although Castellano (Spanish) is also spoken. People that grow up in Galicia learn Gallego and Spanish in school and often speak both at home too.

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Spain’s version of a concrete jungle
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There’s so much history and character in these buildings
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Stairway to nothing…although there probably used to be a pulpit there
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The staircase in the museum was so mesmerizing
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This staircase definitely confused me. There were two different ones winding together.
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Various old costumes for Galician festivals
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View from the museum to the cathedral

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This exhibit talked about a traditional job that was fixing pots and plates. Back in the day, cookware was so expensive that if you broke something, fixing it was necessary instead of buying new.
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Traditional Galician shoes, called zuecos

After visiting the museum I had to see the famous cathedral, which is the traditional end of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. Unfortunately, the facade was covered up and under renovation when I was there.

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Making my way to the cathedral
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The plaza where the cathedral is: full of people finishing the Camino de Santiago
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A bit of a bummer. Good thing I didn’t come just for the cathedral!

Alameda Park is a short walk away from the city center, so I checked that out too.

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Later, I got something to eat at “O Gato Negro,” a tiny hole in the wall place hidden from the main streets. I ordered exactly what the waiter recommended, as he seemed like a down to earth local who would tell me what’s up. I honestly can’t remember what I ended up ordering, except that I got mussels as an appetizer, the main plate was delicious, and for dessert I had to try the famous tarta de Santiago.

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Tiny walkway on the way to the restaurant
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I like to read when I eat alone at a restaurant. The famous tarta (cake)

After returning from Santiago de Compostela, I joined Carmen for a walk down to the marina. We then met up with some of her friends up the mountain to see an old church, some beautiful views of the bay, and a famous bench with “Galiza: It’s different” on the back. The little square things in the water are mussel farms!

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Views from another mountain that we ventured to
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Galiza: Galicia in Gallego

On my last day in Galicia, I took a local bus down to Vigo. Vigo is the perfect size city: not too small that there’s nothing to do, but not too big that you feel overwhelmed. It’s got beautiful bay views, classic Spanish architecture, quaint stone pathways, and of course plenty of bars and restaurants that will serve you a 2 euro beer and free tapas.

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Architecture in Vigo

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This was so random yet amazing

O Castro Mountain is home to a park with great views, plenty of flowers, fountains, a fortress, and an archaeological site that dates back 2,000 years.

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I finished my visit to Vigo with a caña and some tapas. This is one of those things I really miss about Spain.

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I almost missed by train back to Madrid because we went to the wrong station. But all was well and I had yet another trip to look forward to: Germany! Thanks so much, Carmen 🙂

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lisa Wieman says:

    You need to write a tour book! I have learned so much from your blog. You, like your mother, don’t let life pass you by. So glad that you take every opportunity to explore. learn, and enjoy the journey.

    Like

  2. This was so fun to read and see! I’m glad you shared it.

    Like

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