Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Glory of Galica

Wow, you’d think I have a life or something….nothing for over a week? Bet you all thought you were off the hook. Sorry, keep reading. You’re going to wish you hadn’t started, but who knows….maybe it will be interesting:

Where to start? I was in Galicia two weekends ago, February 27-March 1. It was my “you survived 5 Spanish midterms” present. Well worth the wait. Galicia is in the northwest part of Spain, in what many consider the Ireland of Spain. I think they are right.

We flew to Santiago de Compostala on Friday morning, after taking the 5:15 am indirect bus from Toledo to Madrid. Sketchy! Oh, I also almost threw up in the bus do to my motion sickness, thanks to all the damn round-a-bouts Europeans feel are necessary…

So we got to the bus stop and then hoped on the Metro for about 45 minutes. Good times. We made it to the airport with about two hours before our flight. We got all checked in with Ryan Air and made it through security, I got searched. That was an experience. (I think it was the buckles on my shoes though-they never found the Toledo sword I was smuggling).

Hmm, so we got on the plane and picked out seats and took off. I must say, Spain is even more beautiful from the sky. Because our flight was just under an hour, we didn’t have to get up too high and you could see the ground for the entire thing. I saw mountains and rivers and finally the green fields of Galicia. It honesty reminded me of flying into Amsterdam in January, just really fresh and beautiful. We landed and got to make our rock star exit from the plane. We finally caught the bus and made it into the city. After a conversation with a police man, we found our hotel, which was amazing.

We went to the market and got some bocadilla supplies for our picnic in the hotel. I love avocado/tomato/snap pea/pepper sandwiches. So lunch was over and we split up to go explore Santiago (there were eight of us all together, which tends to draw a crowd, so we decided to stick with Spanish and travel in smaller numbers).

I fell in love fast with Santiago. It’s so cute, so European. The streets were practically empty when we were out, probably due to siesta time. We found some cool and random things, including a lace store, we actually watched the women making it and another exercise park. Finally we made it to the cathedral, the ultimate destination for pilgrims.

See the story goes that, back in the day, St. James made a little journey through Spain and ended up in Galicia. When he was killed, some of the other apostles stole his body and buried it in the hills of Galicia, so the Romans couldn’t feed him to the lions. Well, years later, some monk followed a group of stars to the place where St. James was buried, dug him up, and built a chapel in his honor. Thus began the Camino de Santiago. Slowly the cathedral was built around the chapel and the tomb of St. James got a cleaning and has a special place under the high alter. Today pilgrims and non-believers alike hike, bike or drive the 1.200 kilometers from France to Santiago. AS you travel, you stop at churches and monasteries to get a stamp in your pilgrim’s passport, and finally when you get to Santiago, you get a certificate. You don’t have to do the whole 1200, but to get the certificate you must WALK the last 100 kilometers, or you can take your bike or HORSE the last 200. I did not see any horses, but my host sister and I decided that that is how we will make our Camino. But really, I plan to make the full 1.200 kilometer journey sometime soon. It was so powerful to attend the pilgrims’ mass not even being a pilgrim; I can only imagine what it’s like after 30+ days of travel. I can’t wait to see more of northern Spain on foot.

Hmm, well yeah, Saturday we went to the pilgrim’s mass and to this great market, then it was off to A Coruna, about an hour north of Santiago. Here we spent 3 or 4 hours walking the maritime paseo along the Atlantic. It was really breathtaking. I have never seen anything like it.

We hoped back on the train and got home in time to head to dinner. We found a great cheap student friendly restaurant in our handy Rick Steves and decided to give it a try. I ended up with a heaping bowl of lentejas (quite honestly one of my favorite foods in Spain) and some random fish, followed by some fried dough with sugar on it, all for just 8.50. A deal. We went looking for some flaming drink, but I guess it’s a summer thing, and well, despite the 65 degree whether, it’s still winter here.

That ended Saturday. Sunday we slept and then headed to the airport to catch or 10:00 flight home.

Not a bad weekend. I should probably also comment how much I love my friends. They made this weekend the best ever. I haven’t laughed so much in a long time. It was great to be able to have a real vacation, no agenda, just seeing Spain, with such wonderful people. My roomies were hilarious and everyone else are simply the best. So a little shout out to all y’all- YAY US!

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