For Valentine’s day weekend we caught a little Ryanair flight to Santiago de Compostela. This is a city in the most northwestern area of Spain. It is known for being rainier and colder than the rest of Spain but it is also much greener. The coast along this area is known as the “coast of death” because it is very rocky and contains many peninsulas and bays. Many sailors lost their lives when their boats crashed into the rocky outcroppings. All of this greenery and rugged coastline make for some gorgeous scenery. We took 400 pictures in 3 ½ days (with little sun). That is too many to share on here but just believe us when we say that we really thought it was gorgeous. It wasn't a bright sun shiny trip and there was a tinsy bit of rain and mist but it was still a really great time.
I really love Spain because it gives me a chance to practice my Spanish, the people are welcoming and patient with my rusty Spanish and the food and scenery are incredible.
The Spanish schedule is so different than what I am used to. We got to our hotel at about 9:00 at night, leaving us more than enough time to unpack and still get dinner in Spain. Many of the restaurants don’t even open until 9:00. We had our pick of tables and the Spanish people started rolling in around 10:00. This area is known for their seafood and also the Gaelic influence. So we had fish with potatoes. It is such an interesting mixture to have a Gaelic influence in Spain. There are boiled potatos with most meals, often coming as Tapas, and it is common to come across buskers with bagpipes on old Spanish streets.
On Saturday morning we cruised around Santiago de Compostela to hit up the farmer’s market. We had fresh squeezed orange juice for only 50 cents a cup. Yum yum. Then we had some wonderful empanadas for breakfast. The price of fresh fruits and vegetables is so much lower in this area as compared to Germany. It took a bit of effort to initially find the market, but following the stream of people with blue bags worked well.
Fresh milk vending machine
They are famous for their almond cake. Yum! I wished I was driving instead of flying on this trip because I would have filled up the whole car with various goodies. This summer we are planning to road trip through Spain and plan to make up for it.
All the dogs were stylish.
The architecture and buildings in this area are very ornate. Here are some pictures to give you a taste of the style.
We were excited to see the crown jewel of this area, the church of Santiago de Compostela. This is considered the third most holy site for Catholics in the world and every year thousands of people do a pilgrimage starting in France or eastern Spain. There are multiple routes for the pilgrimage and many take about a month. Unfortunately, the church was covered in scaffolding on the outside due to renovations. If I walked for a month and showed up at a church to see it was covered in scaffolding I would not be a happy camper (uh…pilgrimager). The inside of the church was quite amazing and included an organ covered in cherubs, a huge incense burner that swings over the entire crowd and is held up by some serious scaffolding and a statue of Saint James that people could embrace.
Quinn and I walked through the area where people embrace the statue and we did not embrace him but looked up at the ceiling and carvings all around. There was a priest sitting there and he actually signed and sucked his teeth when we did not give a money offering after walking through. Wow! Good thing I didn’t hug the statue….I don’t know what he would have done.
We stopped at a little famous café/restaurant called Abastos 2.0. They get all of their ingredients from the local market and are known for making delicious pulpo (octopus). This region is famous for octopus so we had to give it a try. It was such an amazing texture, something between crab and chicken and the outside was crispy. That is because they boil it and then bake it.
I was so impressed. I could have eaten 10 pounds of it. I didn't think anyone could make octopus better than the Japanese chefs, but tada! This Spanish restaurant has done it!
Since it was a little cold and rainy on Saturday we decided to go to Ourense, which is a hot springs town about an hour from Santiago. I was really excited about this expedition because one of the places modeled themselves after a Japanese Onsen. It had multiple different pools and some were outside with a view of the mountains. It was only 5 euro to enjoy all of the pools for two hours. We weren't allowed to take pictures so I took this picture from a google search.
There were also free springs right along the river that anyone can enjoy. The river was so high during our visit that it overwhelmed the springs and there was not any hot water. So the only option for our stay was the Japanese spa which was fine by me. It is kind of an odd experience to be homesick for a foreign country!
We treated ourselves to a special Japanese/Tapas dinner at a restaurant known for its unique treats and also its price. Spain in general is quite inexpensive in comparison with Germany and its more northern neighbors but this place was an exception. To be completely honest, I think the cheaper meals we ate were just as delicious. Although, there was one dish that tasted exactly like Poke from Food City in Hawaii, so I did enjoy that dish a ton.
On Sunday, we drove down the coast to Cambados. There we enjoyed another Tapas lunch. It was a choice of two menu items plus dessert for only 10 euros. I had langostines and STINGRAY and Quinn had another round of pulpo (octopus) and razor clams. As you can see, we were really embracing the seafood. Dessert was ice cream and peaches.
Pics around the town
Building for sale. Anyone interested?
Quinn claims this guy stole his pen.
This town turned out to be a super cute old fishing village.
There was a little port and an island connected by a little footbridge.
Apparently they also dig for cockles in this area. Quinn and I never found out what a cockle was….okay, I just googled it and it is a type of clam. No one was looking for clams while we were there but at some point, in this area, people look for clams.
Another cute dog.
And another....I can't help it. The Spanish dress their dogs up so cute!
Neat mixture of materials. These sea towns often have such great architecture, but with a little grit to it.
I love the windswept look of this tree.
The longest stretch of beach in the area. It is 7 kilometers long. It was windy. I am sure this is packed in the summer because there was an enormous parking lot and I hear the surfing is good. This area really did not have any tourists but I assume it is bustling in the summer.
Afterward, we drove to Parque Natural de Carreiron. This was the highlight of the trip for me. It is a little island off the coast that is connected by a bridge. Half of the island is a national park and there is a little path that traverses it. Every turn is another bay with another amazing view and along the path are pine trees and forest. It was incredible. I don’t think the pictures do it justice. We were the only ones there that day but I suspect in the summer, this area is hopping.
Random bridge on the way home. If you look careful you can see Quinn standing on it.
This region of Spain still gives free Tapas with a glass of wine. So technically, one could just go around to different bars at dinner time, order a glass of wine at each one, and eventually you would be full or drunk or both. A glass of wine is less than 2 dollars so this could be very economical or dangerous or both. We went to a famous little Tapas bar called Casa Pepe. The two regional wines are Albarino and Ribeira. Both of these were white wines and the grapes originated in Germany but the climate in Spain obviously produces a much different wine than it would in Germany.
We had a flight to catch at 8:00 on Monday night which left us with a good chunk of the day to see some more of the area. We didn’t really have anything planned so we started the day at a busy little café that we noticed was frequented mainly by older locals. Older locals on a budget always find the deals, this is good to know when trying to find reasonable prices. Quinn ordered the special which was coffee, chocolate, and churros. We were interested to see what the chocolate part of this meant. Turned out that it was a mug full of melted chocolate, kind of like pudding. You use that to dip your churros while enjoying your coffee. Quinn was in heaven! This is his kind of breakfast. (note from Quinn: Eat your heart out Ian)
Our last meal of the trip was a lunch before we went off on our adventure for the day. We were just thinking of getting a little more pulpo at Abastos 2.0 before we left but the cafe part was closed and only the restaurant was open. Once we were seated we were informed that they only did a course menu for lunch and it was an all or nothing deal. So we signed up for a 35 euro a person lunch. Some of it was scary, most of it was delicious, and there was even a little intrigue. The first dish was an orange, pumpkin and carrot soup, followed by a clam (possibly cockles?) thing in a gin foam...yes, gin foam. Next up was a squid ink blob with noodles (scary but delicious) and then mushrooms. The server actually congratulated me on being brave when I ate the squid ink blob. I guess I didn't hide my look of terror well. Then the main course of fish followed by another main course of beef cheek. They finished it off with some apples that had been vacuum sealed with citrus and a cake with banana cream accompanied by smoked cheese ice cream. I never imagined such a thing as smoked cheese ice cream but it is incredible. I would order it again in a heartbeat. All of this fabulous food for 35 euro!
Then we picked a random spot on the map and started driving. We saw some nice countryside with rolling hills, coastline, and horreros. These are old style grain storage facilities. They are definitely iconic for the area. I read on wiki that people pay big money to have these old structures on their property and that it is big business to restore old ones.