6 September – 9 September 2010
Galicia is a different kind of Spain. The nature is nothing like Spain you know. It’s very green, hilly, and wet. It looks more like Ireland and Wales instead of Spain.
Galicia is located in North West Spain, by the Atlantic sea, north of Portugal.
I used to live for a year with Sabela, a Galician, when I was studying in the Uni. I made a promise to her and her friends that before I go back to Indonesia, I would definitely visit Galicia. I am (or trying to be) a man of my words, so 3 years later I did visit Galicia. I went there after my visit to Sweden, but as there was no direct flight from Gothenburg, I made an overnight transit in London Stansted. Yeah, I slept on the floor at the airport (I do this quite often to be honest). From London Stansted I took the flight to Santiago where Sabela now lives to teach at some school.
I have heard so much about Galician food. Being located by the sea, it has the best seafood (probably in the world). She picked me up at the airport, drove me to her place to put my stuff, then we went walking around the city central, then to an Octopus restaurant / Pulperia. There I ate Pulpo ala Gallega (there, it’s just pulpo) and pimientos de padron, a plate full of pepper, some are spicy, some are not – but as I am Asian, nothing is really spicy for me LOL.
The Famous “Walk” to Santiago de Compostela
Santiago is known for the famous “walk” (Camino de Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage / The Way of St James), where people walk to Santiago’s Cathedral from everywhere in Europe. Mostly from Portugal, some parts of Spain, and France. I came across a lot of pilgrims there, they are friends, families, some don’t even know each other and have just met on their journey.
The Holy Year
Every now and again, they have what they call “the holy year” in which they open the “forgiveness door” at the Cathedral. I was quite lucky ’cause then (2010) was the holy year. The next holy year is in 11 years (2021). Having said this, I was also unlucky ’cause it is naturally more crowded. I queued to enter the sacred door, but the guard stopped the line just in front of my face as it was their closing time. I was literally 10 meters away from the door.
Santiago is a very old city. In the central part, every lane is a narrow lane with squares / plazas everywhere, made of stone. It is so amazing that I felt like I was in the middle age. The neighbors are very close, people are friendly, bars and pubs are like everywhere as it is a student town as well.
Good thing is Sabela knows a lot of people there, including pubs / bars owners. They give me A LOT of complimentary drinks, probably because they think I am like an exotic man from Indonesia. I am pretty sure I was the first Indonesian they know in person. The guy on the right is the owner of the pub, the guy in the middle is his bartender. The girls are Sabela’s friends. This photo was taken after some Estrella Galicia (Galician beer), Alvariño (Galician white wine), Mencía (Galician red wine), Crema de Orujo (cream coffee liquer, similar like Baileys), and Licor Café, equals my face LOL.
Drinks in Galicia is very cheap. Just go to a bar and order some beer or wine with tapas (normally included), it will cost just around 2 Euros, sometimes less.
Road Trip – Galicia
Sabela was very kind to drive me around Galicia. She drove me to 3 Galician provinces: A Coruña, Pontevedra, and Lugo. First we went to Cangas (across Vigo) area to eat some seafood by the beach, just north of the Spanish-Portuguese border. There we ate this strange long clam thing called Navajas, and Almejas al Alvariño (oyster with Galician wine sauce). A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, not to mention the view of the ocean. Oh my.. so lovely.
After the meal, we headed off to Cabo Home, a place that has like a hill right next to the ocean. It is very similar with the terrains in Ireland and Britain.
From here, we had 2 options for the next destination. There was these islands nearby that have been voted many times having the best beach in the world, Cíes Islands (Las Islas Cies). But as we needed to go by ferry, and we don’t really have that much time, so we decided to drive to Portugal, cause I have never been to Portugal. But I won’t discuss Portugal trip here.
After Portugal, we drove to Ponte Vedra (meaning “old or ancient bridge”), the city where Sabela studied for 2 years. It is a very compact town, very small, everything is in walking distance, also a student town, pubs and bars are everywhere, and very old. Similar with Santiago, the central is formed by narrow lanes and plazas / squares made of stone.
There is this small pier by the river which was very beautiful in my opinion, but smells horrible LOL. The light is so amazing. The photo is natural, non-edited.
Next destination is A Coruña. I don’t know why, I love this city. A Coruña is surrounded by the sea, cause it is formed like a round bay with only one entrance and exit by car via a highway. The city itself is very compact, quite small to walk everywhere in the central, and like many European cities, modern and old blends into one.
We just spent one day there, started with having lunch at a nice restaurant with Sabela and her friends. I was quite surprised cause the waiter can speak English fluently.
I ate a lot of new Spanish meals here thanks to them. I tried Jamon Iberico (probably the finest ham in the world), Piqullo-con Bacallau (fish filled pepper), Raxo, and Vuevos con Patatas y Jamon (Eggs with potatos and ham).
After this, we went walking in the city. The beaches are amazing.. well probably not that amazing, but the idea of having a lot of beaches just by walking distance from where you work and live is freaking awesome, don’t you think? We can also see Deportivo la Coruna stadium from the beach. A little further on the other side of the city, we can find the pier which is nice and small. At one end of the city, we can find a very old light house called Torre de Hercules. The meaning needs no explanation.
As Pontes and Vilalba
After A Coruña, we drove to As Pontes, where Sabela is from. Now this city is quite funny. It has the second tallest chimney in Europe, and nothing else. Literally nothing else. Many Galician people refers As Pontes similar as Springfield (from The Simpsons). Now there’s not much to tell here to be honest, but as I heard, the town has the highest number of educated youngsters in Spain (don’t take this for granted).
When I told my other Galician friend when she asked me where did I go in Galicia, I also mentioned As Pontes and Vilalba, and it cracks her up… She couldn’t stop laughing.
Vilalba is where Sabela’s grandmother lives. Sabela has set up so we can have a Galician lunch there. One of my colleague from work who is also Galician told me, if I want to eat Pulpo ala Gallega, it has to be made by a fat old woman / grandmother for it tastes nicer. So I was really looking forward for this lunch.
One thing to note when eating Pulpo ala Gallega is we cannot drink water. It has to be something else, like wine, milk, or whatever. I am not really sure why.
My trip to Galicia is one of my memorable holidays. I was very impressed by the hidden jewel there. Not many people know about the beauty of Galicia. They usually know Barcelona, Madrid, and Andalucia (south of Spain). But I am quite happy with this fact, so it is not so crowded with tourists here.