~galicia: a perfect day~

December 22nd, 2008

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Some traveling experiences are simply perfect. This day was one of them, flowing from one lovely bit to the next, the sum even greater than the parts. Lacking the innocence of greenhorn travelers we thanked our lucky stars. We had hardly a notion how much we’d come to appreciate this day. (cue foreboding music here)

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no, not the parador. just a lovely old house.

We left our parador (well-rested and breakfasted never hurts) and toodled toward the coast, coming upon a view so gorgeous we had to stop driving on the spot.

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Then we found a proper view point far out on a perch, with a 360 degree span.

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We headed along the Costa Verde towards Galicia, stopping in the small fishing port of Cudillero for lunch. It is built into a steep mountain cliff in a kind of horseshoe shape.

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Ali had fish soup and I had Fabana, a regional dish from Asturias generally made with Fava beans simmered with Tocino, Morcilla, Chorizo, and Ham (pork, anyone?). Mine had La Granja beans and Chorizo only and was fantastic.

We also ordered Gambas al la Plancha (shirmp grilled in their jackets), and some wine from Rias Baixs. The locals drank beer and ate from planks covered with mountains of seafood–spider crabs, lobsters, prawn, fried fish, calamari. The young couple behind us ate enough fish for five people, it was a kind of madness. We sat in the sunshine and fed the kitties who gathered around our ankles. Heavenly.

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We drove onward to Santiago de Compostela, making the famous pilgrimage (in our little rental Polo–“young & fresh” edition, I kid you not) to the presumed burial site of St. James, Santiago de Compostela Cathedral .

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totally forbidden photograph.

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spying on nuns, stage left

The church was in fact an incredible monument of gilt and gewgaws, as epic in scale as I’ve ever seen. The interior was notable for the excess, the exterior was also excessive, but in a way more pleasing to my eye: time and weather have lent it the look of Neptune’s castle, or a house of worship in Atlantis. With the underwater lighting and sea air it was lovely.

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Most restaurants in Santiago featured a theatrical window display of giant protein–whole octopi, huge steaks, mile-long eel, enormous spiky crab, whole lamb’s head–arranged to imply relationships with each other or bits of citrus and parsley. It would become a reoccurring theme–the Spanish like to know what they are getting into when dining out, it would seem. I can get behind that.

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We found CafĂ© Casino among the more touristy places, a former 19th-century gentlemen’s club and still old-school likes we like it: carved wood figures, plush chairs and cozy nooks, giant nativity scene, and a grand piano. This man walked in, played three songs, and left. Presumably his home from work routine.

There were many Galicians meeting friends and family–holiday gifts exchanged on the left, champagne toasting on the right–a festive scene. I had my first tortilla sandwich here: egg and potato layered omelet tucked between two huge pieces of bread. Interesting–no tortilla as I know it was involved.

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After a post dinner stroll it was back on the road for an incredible spooky drive up up up the windiest road to the tippy-top of the most remote mountain. No lights, plenty of owls. I was pretty certain we were miles from our destiny: a converted Benedictine Monastery in the town of Nogueira de Ramuin, Parador de Santo Estevo.

As it was we were right on the spot, and Alfonso was beside himself at his good fortune in having chosen super-sleuth as a wife, who could both swing a hotel such as this on a tiny budget and find it on a map. Of the monks quarters he said with unbundled glee, “It’s like being in a James Bond film!” It was.

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Kindly imagine this at midnight: a tiny ancient higgledy-piggledy cemetery out front, a massive and gorgeous building beautifully preserved, wild kitties, a high turret room, a marble bath, a feather bed. A perfect day.

One Response to “~galicia: a perfect day~”

  1. Noria says:

    Suppposedly the Mayans invented the tortilla we know and love. When the conquistadors came and saw the round corn cakes, I imagine they thought it looked like the potato-and-egg omelette of their homeland, and voila – tortilla.

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