Tuesday, December 13, 2011

This Can't be Spain....

Galicia: the most North-western part of the Iberian Peninsula. While its people speak a different language and have a distinct diet and its coastline and weather resemble the UK - it should and will always be considered SPAIN. 

I can finally say "I've been to Galicia!" I was in shock most of the time, constantly thinking "I can't believe I'm in Spain." I can't believe it took me so long to visit Galicia; after experiencing 5 cities in 4 days, I returned to Valladolid with lots of ganas (desire) to return to Galicia's beautiful green countryside sometime in the near future.

My weekend started off with an overnight visit to Salamanca to have dinner with my sorority sister, Erica. Erica is studying in Salamanca, living with my old host mom, Lourdes! We had a nice dinner at A'Tarantella, the restaurant where I had my 21st birthday dinner in 2008. Just after we sat down, our waiter came to the table... I recognized him from before, but I wasn't going to say anything as I didn't think he would remember me. BUT, instead of taking our order, he said to me: "Tu no eres nueva aqui....te recuerdo - tienes una cara que no podia olvidar." (You're not new here...I remember you - you have an unforgettable face.) He continued with, "Estabas aqui con una amiga se llamaba Gina." (You were here with a friend named Gina.) So, yes, Nicola remembered us - so crazy! After, we got drinks with a few of Erica's friends at Irish and visited some of our novios - typical. 
Amigos in Irish. Erica, Jorge, Oscar, Yo
Early the next morning (ok, a few hours later) I boarded the bus with 40 Erasmus students. My friend Jamal was one of the organizers so I thought it would be fun to go, even though I didn't know many people. I'm so glad I did! While I wasn't Ms. Social Butterfly, I did meet many great people and we enjoyed each others' company for the long weekend.

Usually the weather in Galicia is rainy, wet, cold... when I woke up on the bus 6 hours later, all I thought was "Holy, fog." Seriously. Directly above us, there was a massive dark cloud and fog as far as you could see. I was sad to see the weather was so horrible... but after a few turns and coming out on the other side of the mountain, all I could see was SOL!!!! That's right: 4 days in Galicia with sunshine and warmth. Happy Thanksgiving to me! 

We spent the first day in Santiago, the famous final city on the "Camino de Santiago" - a pilgrimage many people do in Northern Spain. The Cathedral is outstanding, gigantic and beautiful. We spent the day eating traditional food in a typical mom-pop restaurant - the first tastes of Galician bread, broth-based soup, and fresh cheese! Anastasia, my Russian roommate for the weekend, and I explored the center of Santiago before taking a much needed siesta to rest up for the night.
Exploring tiny streets. We ate at the restaurant at the end: Entre Ruas (Between Streets)
Santiago: classic archways. The arches are from when people use to throw their "crap" outside their windows...
They built the archways to protect people from getting crapped on. No joke.
Tarta de Santiago made of almonds: yum!
Part of the massive Cathedral: Santiago
Erasmus students usually do three things: study, party, sleep. In Galicia, their activities changed to: site-see, party, sleep. While I don't usually party and site-see, (I find it impossible to really take in the beauty of a city when I'm tired...) I was able to do both. We went out for tapas and spent the night dancing to Nossa! Nossa! Assim você me mata... a new popular Portuguese song. It became the theme song of the weekend as we changed the lyrics to "Salamanca, Salamanca..." or "Galicia, Galicia..."
Anastasia y yo
Day two was spent visiting the Hercules' Tower on the beautiful coast in La Coruña. We went for a homemade meal that a señora cooked for us! WOW! To start, we had a big bowl of soup - nice, warm, broth based soup with spinach and potato. Next, I tried Pulpo gallego (Galician octopus) for the first time. And, again, WOW! it is wonderful - with just the right amount of paprika! We also had Pimientos de Padrón - typical peppers from Galicia. (Unos pican y otros no! Some are spicy and some aren't!) As if we couldn't eat more, we had a nice helping of veggies and a big piece of meat. Incredible! Why can't I cook like this? I don't think I could live in Galicia, I'd go out for dinner all the time.
El Torre de Hercules
wonderful background!
green green green!!!!
Jamal y yo
I was here.
I swear, this is Spain!
La Coruna had an amazing Plaza Mayor that didn't resemble any Plaza Mayor I've seen in Spain before. The whole city was covered in beautiful windows that also don't resemble "Spanish windows".
Unique Plaza Mayor Walls
Plaza Mayor
Galician Sopa!!!
Pulpo gallego.
Celtic Sea
Viva Salamanca!
We arrived back to Santiago for the evening...went out for another huge meal - no seafood this time - just sausages and steaks. We drank typical wine from bowls and ate more wonderful bread. After, we went out for "quemada" a typical Galician shot that is cooked and set on fire... then, we went dancing again. I went to a typical bar with some of the locals and when I entered, they said "don't be scared, it's just Galician music!" And, what kind of music was it? Celtic. I felt like I had walked into Riverdance: The Bar. We had such a fantastic night/morning that ended around 7:30am, giving me just enough time to pack my bag, shower, and get on the bus for the next adventure awaiting us!
Dancing to "Nossa! Nossa! ...
FINISTERRE -- "The End of the Land"
Really, at this site, you can't see anything in front of you - just the sea. It's marked 0,0km on the Camino de Santiago. It's the beginning of Spain and the end of Spain to the North! We were able to relax and walk around to see the lighthouse and views from all angles. We stopped in a village nearby and had some of the best paella I've ever had - you could taste the freshness of the mariscos (seafood)!
Camino de Santiago
Sea + yo
Farro de Finnisterre
Que tranquilla.
Port where we had lunch - so colorful!
I'm not a fan of Vigo... it was rather gray. I guess when it rains so much in a place, the buildings lose their color; it was as if all the buildings were awaiting their paint-job. It was depressing. We hiked to see an old fort, which had nice views of the boats collecting mussels far below. We went for drinks in a disco called "Twenty". It was spelled the American way (not "Tuenti") because it's an American bar! A huge American bar. It had tons of memoribilia from the States - old tram cars, gas pumps, license plates, Harleys, Taxi cabs... the Europeans were blown away with all of the "stuff", while us Americans were like "Hey, it looks like Applebee's!" Either way, it was exciting to see St. Louis and Budweiser things all over, made me feel at home. 
Viva los EEUU.
Who knew there were palm trees in northern Spain?
Las Americanas.
Colorless streets of Vigo.
This city is a very popular city for Spanish holiday get-a-ways! It has an amazing Parador/fort with nice views of the port. We spent our time exploring the walls, eating and visiting the sea.
Parador of Baiona
scary ledges...
Parador/Port of Baiona
Panoramic view; Baiona
Cíes Islands off Baiona's coast
the weekend was all fun and games.
Baiona + Cíes + yo
We arrived back to Salamanca around 10:30pm. I stayed overnight and returned to Valladolid early the next morning just in time for classes.

Oh yeah, that American holiday.... While there was neither turkey nor football at my Thanksgiving this year, we did have pulpo and the beach! I was thankful for 4 days of sun in Galicia, new friends, spending time with an old friend, and finally checking Galicia off my list of "Places to Visit".

Saúde, Galicia! Grazas por un fin de semana marabilloso. (Gallego for: Cheers, Galicia! Thank you for a wonderful weekend.)