Santiago de Compostela: Food, Charm, and “New” Family

Praza do Obradoiro, Cathedral, west facade,Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

I wrote earlier about my arrival in Santiago de Compostela as a Camino pilgrim and the activities related to the end of the pilgrimage (getting the Compostela certificate, Pilgrims’ Mass, etc.).  Though my stay in Santiago was brief (less than 24 hours due to needing to bring the group back to Madrid), there were some noteworthy things to share about my brief second visit to this incredible city in northwest Spain‘s Galicia

Food

As ANYWHERE in Spain, food is spectacular.  In Santiago, I had a quick lunch at a local tapas bar before going to meet relatives.  I love tapas bars.  These are not the unreasonable facsimiles in many U.S. cities that offer tapas.  I loved sitting at the bar and looking at the tapas on display (salivating at, to be more accurate) and then making my choices.  That and an adult beverage made for a quick and delicious lunch.

tapas, food, foodporn, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Galicia, Olympus

A splendid array

tapas, food, foodporn, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Galicia, Olympus

One of many had…

Later that evening, after dinner with my group, a couple of us took off in a chase for some hot chocolate and “churros” (fried sticks of dough and sugar; a favorite of mine from my childhood).  Let me tell you, this hot chocolate is not of the watery style.  It is THICK – and delicious.

churros, hot chocolate, food, foodporn, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Galicia, Samsung Galaxy

Churros and hot chocolate – the real reason the pilgrims came!

Great vibe to the town – charming architecture and streets

The great Cathedral of Santiago is not the only main architectural piece in this city.  I love its side streets with or without arcades and the many small and big plazas all around.  In fact, it is the whole town, not just the Cathedral or the plaza in front of it that is a World Heritage Site!

Plaza de Platerias, south facade, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

Hanging out at Praza de Platerías along the south face of the Cathedral

university, north facade, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

University building facing the north side of the Cathedral

Dakar, Santiago de Compostela, café, architecture, travel, food, photo

I ate at this café called Dakar 20 years before!

Santiago de Compostela, café, architecture, travel, food, photo

Small plaza and cafés near the Cathedral

The grand plaza in front of the Cathedral is named Praza do Obradoiro, which best I know means plaza of the workshop.  It is large and pretty plain except for the buildings around it:  the Cathedral, a palace, and a hostel built by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand, back in 1492!

Plaza do Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, architecture, travel,photo, Canon EOS Rebel, arcade

Entering Praza do Obradoiro from the northeast corner

Plaza do Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, architecture, travel,photo, Catholic Monarchs, inn, Olympus

The inn built by the Catholic Monarchs, now a parador

Plaza del Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, España, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

Looking around the Praza do Obradoiro – Rajoy Palace

From here, once can admire the façade of the Cathedral (which was undergoing repairs/restoration) and then go into town in any number of directions.  The site of the Cathedral has been the site of a church since the 9th century.  Construction of the current church began in 1075 (!) and the church was consecrated in 1211 – THAT is patience!  Of course, it has been added to in the many centuries since.  It looks like a massive complex.

Praza do Obradoiro, Cathedral, façade, west facade,Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

The massive west façade of the Cathedral

Praza do Obradoiro, Cathedral, west facade,Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

Looking closer at the main façade ‘s exposed towers

Praza do Obradoiro, Cathedral, west facade,Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel

Detail of the Cathedral from the side

We stayed at a monastery-seminary called Hospedería San Martín Pinario next to the Cathedral but not within the Praza do Obradoiro – great location!  The rooms, as can be expected, are spartan but clean and functional.  Aside of the massive size of the building, I was surprised at the VERY wide hallways.  I wonder why they made them like that?!

Hospederia San Martin, Santiago de Compostela, hotel, seminary, monastery, travel, photo, Olympus, spartan

Room at the Hospedería

Hospederia San Martin, Santiago de Compostela, hotel, seminary, monastery, travel, photo, Olympus, spartan

One of the massive hallways, this one in the lobby

And the family connection

I mentioned meeting relatives earlier.  The story behind that is that my great-grandfather was born right outside of Santiago in a rural village named Bastavales (made famous in Spain in a song).  I had visited the hamlet 20 years earlier but, unprepared and not having a car, I got to see the church where he likely was baptized and walked past houses in which he and other relatives likely lived.  Years later, I made contact with the parish to see about getting a copy of the records of his baptism, etc. and got some good information, courtesy of the local priest.  I guess he told some of my great-grandfather’s local relatives about my inquiries – years later they reached out to me and we got to meet by letters, email and a phone call.  So, I made it my purpose to go meet them in this trip.  After the tapas lunch, I headed to a house in Bastavales using a taxi.  Back in 1994, I had taken a bus and had taken a while.  Now, with a brand new highway, it took about 15 minutes to get there.  Sweet.

It was really neat to meet one of my grandmother’s younger cousins (only two were alive at this point; my grandmother had been born in Cuba and never got to go to Spain so she never met any of her Spanish relatives), a lovely lady with blue eyes named Flora.

family, Bastavales

My grandmother’s cousin and her granddaughter (my 3rd cousin?)

I also met one of her sons and two of her grandchildren.  She shared some family history and showed me some photos.  Also, she pointed at a distance at the house where my great-grandfather had been born.  I only had a couple of hours to spare and they did not have a car readily available so I had to be satisfied with having seen the house from a distance.  I also saw the church I had visited 20 years earlier and noticed that I had walked in front of the houses she was pointing to after I got off the bus and walked a few kilometers to get to the church…

vines, green, Bastavales, Galicia, Spain, photo, Olympus

The side garden of their house has vines! Beautiful spot

wine press, Bastavales, vineyard, Galicia, Spain, photo, travel, wood, Olympus

Showing me the old wine press they used to use – pretty cool!

This week some other relatives have contacted me and have sent me photos they scanned of my grandmother.  Apparently, she kept in touch with them (though her dad died in Cuba when she was a toddler) and sent them pictures of her as a young woman.  They actually sent me a copy of the little “souvenir” with her baby picture issued when she was baptized; her dad must have sent it to Spain!  I realized with the info they gave me that she had been sending pictures and writing to them because her grandparents were still alive.  I was glad to hear she had some contact with them.

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This was a special way to end the Camino:  a pilgrimage to meet relatives my grandmother never met. I love Santiago de Compostela and now I must return to meet these other relatives that have given me such a wonderful gift.  And this will give me more time to explore Santiago more and keep enjoying tapas, hot chocolate and churros!

On the Camino de Santiago: Day 6 from Salceda to Lavacolla

Camino de Santiago, church, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Day 6 saw our last full day of our walk along the Camino de Santiago as Day 7 would be a short day.  Day 6’s walk took about 5 hours (perhaps about 18 km) not including our lunch stop at Amenal.  I felt both excited at getting close to the finish line and also a little bit sad that the end was so close.  We left the hotel (and our luggage) in Salceda after a good breakfast and walked a few minutes to get back on the Camino.  Along the way, I had been collected the needed stamps on my “credenciales” (pilgrim’s passport); these are required to be able to get the “Compostela” certificate upon arrival at the offices in Santiago de Compostela.

Camino de Santiago, passport,Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

The pilgrim’s “passport” (credenciales) that you must stamp every day

Camino de Santiago, passport, pilgrim,Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Proudly showing my stamped “credenciales” (or pilgrim’s passport)

Sights along the Camino

As usual, our way was a mix of fields of flowers, small forests, farms, and churches.  And the ever present signs pointing the way.  Here are a few of the images from this day in our trek.Camino de Santiago, nature, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Camino de Santiago, yellow flowers, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Beautiful field of yellow

Camino de Santiago, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Camino de Santiago, flowers, hydrangea,hortensia, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Canon EOS Rebel

Hydrangeas were popular along the way

Camino de Santiago, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Just keep following the signs…

Camino de Santiago, church, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Church

Camino de Santiago, church, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Camino de Santiago, church, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Cemetery

An amazing place to stay:  Pazo Xan Xordo

Once we got to Lavacolla, a stone’s throw from Santiago’s airport actually, we walked a little bit to get to our lodging for the night:  Pazo Xan Xordo.  We were wowed by this 17th century home and farm with its own chapel and beautiful gardens.  This place was a real dream!

Camino de Santiago, hotel,Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Pazo Xan Xordo and its front patio

Camino de Santiago, church, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Chapel near the front entrance of Pazo Xan Xordo

Camino de Santiago, church, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

The inside of the chapel

It also has a small restaurant but it was not open for dinner so our host dropped us off and picked us back up for dinner in town, where we celebrated being so close to finishing with a great dinner and a dessert I had not had, but seen often, yet:  ice cream cake!

Camino de Santiago, restaurant,Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

The final dinner on the trail (in Lavacolla)!

Camino de Santiago, ice cream cake, dessert,Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

The ice cream cake

A perfect ending to another great day along the Camino!

Camino de Santiago, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Yours truly

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Read more about my Camino:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 7

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