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!

Food Pleasures in Paris

Paris, cafe, France, the life, chairs, red, ambience, food, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

There are SO many places to go and enjoy a meal or a drink in Paris.  Whether it be haut cuisine, a pastry, a glass of wine, or coffee, you will never run out of options in Paris and, many of the options, are quite good.  Exploring these places is one of the guilt-inducing pleasures of any trip to the City of Light!

Paris, cafe, France, the life, chairs, red, ambience, food, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Cafés in Paris always beckon!

What grabbed my attention and palate?  Here they are…

Hot chocolate anyone?

My all-time favorite, and I have tried hot chocolate in quite a few places, is Angelina’s in the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, just across the street from the Tuileries (226 rue de Rivoli, 75001).  Conveniently, they also have great pastries so I can kill two birds with one stone…  I wish it had an outdoor sitting area but given where it is, that is not possible.  It has become a little over-priced due to people like me raving about it.  I am sorry…

Paris, Angelina, hot chocolate, pain au chocolat, breakfast, food, Paris, France

Hot chocolate and pastries in Angelina’s in Paris, France. Heaven for ilivetotravel!

Best little former secret family restaurant

Well, I say former because I have even seen it on Anthony Bourdain’s travel/food show a couple of years ago…  But I went there before the show, for the record! This place called “Robert et Louise” is a little gem of a restaurant in Le Marais district (64, rue Vieille-du-Temple 75003).

Robert and Louise were the owners who started the restaurant in the 1950s.  Robert has since passed away and I believe the restaurant is owned now by others.  But, last time I was there, Louise still lived above the restaurant and would come down to get food…

The place is tucked away on a street with small antique shops, etc. but on a part of the street that at night is completely dead… except for Robert et Louise.  The red and white checkered window curtains hide the restaurant from the passerby.  You almost have to know it is there.  My friends Chris and Wendy had discovered it two days before and took me there.  The place would not pass governmental health regulations in the U.S. and I am so glad it is not in the U.S.! (Please don’t be scared away by that statement.)

The dish to go for is the steak to share by 2 or more folks – it is cooked in the fire pit right next to the main wooden table in the back of the restaurant (there are normal tables in the front of the restaurant).  The fire pit, the nights I have been there, is fed by wood from a crate that the cook is breaking apart as needed to keep the fire going.  The fire pit is located next to the small sink used by people to wash their hands (yes, this may sound gross to some but you will soon ignore it once you begin to enjoy the casual, non-touristy ambiance and eat the food!).  Another spot in the back is the salad maker who is also the potato cooker.   (The first I went the lady who cuts the meat was having a heated argument with the salad/potato-maker; she was the one with the big knife.  We prayed they were only arguing about how much seasoning the meat should have…).

The dishes are simple but when simplicity is delicious, who needs anything else!    Advice:  Go early to avoid a long wait since the place is small and no one is in a hurry to leave.

A Supermarket with Flair

Paris has les Grands Magasins, the big fancy department stores that everyone wants to go shopping at.  Galeries Lafayette near the Old Opera is my favorite.  Colognes, clothing, you think?  NOOOOOOO!!!  The food section!!!  It has a supermarket in it, as do other big department stores in Europe.

Galeries Lafayette, Paris, food, France, photo, spices

The spice section at Galeries Lafayette

But this one has a special place I like to go to every time I go to Paris.  Their focus is Spanish ham  (I forget the name, if it has one; but print the picture below if you are going and you will find it!).  They serve other things but I love going to it to get me some Spanish ham, paired up with a good red wine!!  You sit at the counter, order, and people-watch while you enjoy.  Or tweet 😉

Galeries Lafayette, Paris, food, France, photo, spices, ham, Spanish

My hangout within Galeries Lafayette

And… More Chocolate!

I have to say that a real treat in Paris for any chocolate-liker (and, definitely, for chocolate-lover!) is to try the fine chocolates at any of the fine chocolate makers in the city.  Some are on or near the Rue St. Honoré.  Viator.com also offers some chocolate tours that are well worth the price.  No need to name names, try any of the “maisons du chocolat“, and you will NOT be disappointed!  I highly encourage tasting with a theme in mind whether trying only pure chocolate, trying different ones with different perfumes, trying only ones with nuts, etc.  It can be overwhelming and you cannot have too many as they are filling!  Bon appetit!

Hugo and Victor, Paris, France, chocolate, chocolatier, maison du chocolat, delicacy, food, photo, delicious, decandent

Pieces of heaven at Hugo & Victor

More about Paris and places to eat at from my friend’s Chris’ guest writeup!  Check it out, lots of good info for those planning – or wanting – to go to Paris!

 

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