Travel

Oh finally, A Coruna

 

 

 

 

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I wanted to go to the end of the Earth, but that was just a tad farther away than we had time to do in our driving itinerary, and since I had not yet touched the wheel and had no intention of doing so….A Coruna was our own version of the end of the Earth. 

This trip happened so long ago that the details are blurry but mainly it was misty and rainy and we struggled to find pintxos with the same ease as some of our other stops. Perhaps it was bad timing on our part, but we did eat more excellent sea food and crisp dry white wine- the famous Albarino. 

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We gobbled up these peppers like we had not eaten in weeks. There was just something perfect about them.

As we made our way down the promenade alongside the beach we stopped at a museum “The House of Man” Casa del Hombre which had some interesting interactive science exhibits.  

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Making our way towards the 2,000 year old lighthouse- the oldest in the world! It is called the tower of Hercules and apparently when it is open you can go up a lot of steps and have a great view but we did not do that. Walking up the path to get there was a journey in and of itself and I enjoyed the view as rain misted over us non stop. I remember having an incredibly sad moment looking out onto the water thinking that this was the end of my trip and the end of my experience in Spain. The end, the end, the end. Fini, finnis, finito. 

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Having seen most of the recommended sights, our number one focus was finding a great restaurant for dinner to really cap off the trip with excellence. Budget out the window, let’s go to THE best restaurant in town according to TripAdvisor. As I was feeling sad and for some reason rich it seemed like the best plan. 

I actually just looked it up again to remember the name and it is ranked # 3, but Artabria is # 1 to me. 

This little morsel came before we even ordered. Que rico whatever you are!

This little morsel came before we even ordered. Que rico whatever you are!

Salmon rolls of some sort. Delicious. Perfect.

Salmon rolls of some sort. Delicious. Perfect.

Those little green guys were filled with octopus aka my new best friend to my tummy.

Merluza in a creamy garlic sauce (I think…). Those little green guys were filled with octopus aka  new best friend to my tummy.

Meat with a plum sauce.

Meat with a plum sauce.

Dessert- always.

Dessert- always. Chocolate mousse. 

The best kind of art.

The best kind of art. A queso cremoso with mango and red fruits. 

The restaurant.

The restaurant.

Just some recognition of its amazing-ness.

Just some recognition of its amazing-ness.

For being at a fancy restaurant on a weeknight (maybe a Tuesday or Wednesday) it got pretty full. I figured maybe we would be alone and it would be weird, but it was awesome and the staff were so nice and spoke with us about the terrible rainy weather and their insanely awesome food.

They were quite humble about all of their rankings and did not seemingly know that they were ranked so highly on TripAdvisor but let me tell you if a restaurant like this existed in Chicago I would not be able to afford it or get a table at it. This place is reasonable and not just because of my rich feelings.  Of all of the food I have eaten in my life it ranks up in the top 5 or 10. I have eaten a lot of great things so it’s really hard to say but I would recommend going to Artabria in La Coruna Spain whenever you are able to. 

 

And that ladies and gentlemen concludes my final journey through Spain. I still had some goodbyes in Logrono to attend and seeing the fiestas of San Bernabe that I had missed the first year, but I really could not have wished for a better last trip than discovering the beauty, the rain, and the food of Galicia. 

Besos

 

 

 

 

 

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Where it started and ended: Santiago de Compostela

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We clean up pretty nicely

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Pink blazer saves the day

 

I wasn’t going to go to Santiago originally. I had this thought that if I made it there it would be because I did at least part of the camino. I have realistic expectations of myself and my capabilities, and I know that time, lack of foot comfort and my iffy about camping attitude are not the ingredients to being a successful peregrino. So it was going to be another place where I was like oh yeah, I’ll go back. I am going back to Spain of course. However….being that I was already over on that side of Spain with a car and that ever lovable time….well here’s the trip.

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Being in the plaza with all the walkers, bikers and other tourists was a trip in itself. Some groups of people came attached to each other like five year old children on a  field trip holding a  rope and singing a song I had never heard before. Other people were doing what I imagined I would do- laying down relieved. Most people were just pushy and it was kind of annoying to try and have any kind of peaceful thought provoking experience when it seemed like this was nothing more than the largest ball of twine in Spain. All a big show made popular by some religious freak, but there I was. Part of it. I even bought something at the gift shop and lit two “candles”

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Candles lit for special people

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Here, you can enter and touch St. James James! Well, I don’t honestly even remember what the wait was for because everyone was so pushy and the people watching was way more interesting.  My memory is weak now, but I do remember being by a group of older ladies. Actually, a majority of the crowd were older ladies having some kind of ladies visit/vacation. Perhaps their version of Vegas. Unfortunately it seemed wrong to complain about clusters of shrunken perfume reeking vessels cutting me in line to see something I wasn’t exactly waiting my whole life to see. What was another five minutes…plus we already ate lunch so I was content.

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After a good amount of walking about, I can say that Santiago is a nice city and has some charm aside from just the cathedral, but I really would not plan on spending more than one day there. Luckily Diego booked us a special place to stay, and it goes down in the history of my life as one of the best places ever and solidified the happiness and joy of the whole trip.

http://www.bachao.es/

It is a rural house just outside of the city and you get to it on a tiny winding road. You’ll think you have arrived a few times, but you haven’t until you’re pretty sure you are just driving deep into an unknown forest, and then the property just pops up like a glowing and beautiful siren calling to you except you aren’t in the Odyssey and everything will be okay if you just follow the two overly friendly dogs that just ate half of the snacks that fell out of your side car door. (ehem, Jimena).

We went all out on our room and got the giant suite because you know we had to have the best after camping….

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We feasted on our St. James cake in bed along with other bits of food we had been schlepping around with us and totally passed out with big plans to explore the beauty of the grounds in the morning.

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These two dogs may look like your average fools, but when we asked about a good route to walk and see the river, the owner said oh just follow the dogs, they’ll lead you. Even if you don’t want them to, they’ll go with you. So with no actual idea of where we would go, and with the hope of ending up back at the house we let Jimena and the other old mystery dog lead us down to the river. Really legitimate.

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Before we started off on this journey I personally wished that I had had the appetite of Michael Phelps upon seeing the breakfast buffet….yet the word buffet does not do this spread justice because for some reason buffet has come to be an ugly word for me. It brings to mind Old Country Buffet…which I used to love and I think goes without saying why I perhaps have grown to not love it.  IMG_5158 IMG_5159

They had the most amazing homemade tortilla, yogurt, fresh juices, jamon, olive oil, toast, coffee, really great coffee…..just all you could ever want in a breakfast. I wish I had taken more pictures now but I felt like enough of a dork taking this one because I was trying to keep it cool like this was the kind of trip I go on all the time. And I was wearing a Pull & Bear windbreaker with the American Flag on it and that was probably enough.

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Jimena flouncing about. IMG_5171 IMG_5172

Really she was a decent guide but she could have gone with a few less bathing breaks. IMG_5181 IMG_5182

My pictures aren’t doing the justice I want them to to the scenery. You just have to go to know. I think it was also the feelings I was having at the time of the trip that made the green greener, the river more beautiful and the rain even rainier. I just know that I’ll always love that day and smile when I think about it. Thank you to the kind people at the Casa do Bachao, and thank you to your wonderful dogs that crack me up.

I am finally coming to the actual final leg of the trip: A Coruna.  I am way late on all of these but it wasn’t that long ago that I made the final payment on the rental car.

The one year anniversary of my sisters wedding also just came and went….and it will be one year ago that I flew back to Spain for the second time to meet my crazy high school students. I’ll make sure and wrap it up by next weekend.

besos

 

 

Where it started and ended part 1

Living in Spain for 2 school years I encountered a lot of great reasons to live there, and reinforced reasons I went in the first place. The only thing I knew for sure was that I had to pay homage to Vigo in honor of a Spanish professor at the University of Iowa whose love for Don Quijote affected me permanently.

I remember telling a lot of people that I had to go to Vigo the first year I was in Spain and they were like….why? It’s not a huge city, not particularly beautiful, no must see cathedrals or anything; but for me it was something to connect me to Don Quijote in a way more than seeing the windmills could have (although I have to go back and see those too).

It was going to be my own Camino de Santiago that involved no walking, hardship, or purposeful spiritual revelations (but maybe i’ll go back and do that too).

I was going to take a train, but luckily my most amazing Diego was able to join and drive and help me navigate the interesting world of renting a car. The actual rental place was not going to accept my American credit card- HOWEVER, when I rented the car online I could- and still picked it up from the same place. Moral of the story is never take no for an answer. (The moral of SO many stories by the way).

Our first challenge was figuring out the best route and stopping points. We settled on Ponferrada to lay our weary traveling bodies before we set off for Vigo and Las Islas Cies the next day.

Ponferrada is not a place I had ever heard of before, and it’s not exactly a destination you would stay for a week, but you could have a great weekend here despite it’s small size. First of all, free and delicious tapas when you order a drink- and pretty good size. Second, a castle! Third, great views- situated in a lush valley. There is also a fair amount of good shopping and excellent restaurants that we didn’t even have time for. I know by the end of our short stay we said it was a place we would go back to. If you are in Spain, check it out!

The journey begins in Logrono

The journey begins in Logrono with my amazing driver. 

IMG_4933 (2)Below, a church built into the mountainside along the way. This is also when I was yelling “Buen camino” to people biking and walking in the rain. I felt guilty being so comfy in the car so yelling made me feel better. IMG_4941 The Castle in PonferradaIMG_4947 IMG_4951 IMG_4954 IMG_4958 (2) IMG_4954 IMG_4959 (2) IMG_4961 (2) IMG_4965 (2) Don Quijote!!IMG_4966 (2) Castle ruinsIMG_4969 IMG_4971

IMG_4981 Inside a cute tapas bar that had quotes from famous authors and thinkers all over the place. Great wine, great food. IMG_4985 IMG_4988

 

This is just part one of our trip that included Vigo, Islas Cies, and Santiago de Compostela. Shout out to my girl Leslie also for lunching with us in Leon, another highlight of the trip and a great city in Spain.

besos

 

Santander

 

 

 

 

 

Santander was on my “list” of places to visit in Spain last year. It’s not too far away, has a beach, and I wanted to put an image to the bank that denied me. Ibercaja all the way.

I have my cousin Caroline to thank for the small connection that made my trip possible. She had studied abroad and stayed with a family that I knew about in case of any kind of strange emergency. The emergency was that I wanted to visit Santander by myself and thought it would be convenient to not stay in a lonely hotel or be forced to make friends in a hostel when I just wanted a trip that was all mine.

In the end I did become fast friends with her two daughters that graciously showed me around the city and took me out to go “prom” shopping, eat rabas, and experience that on and off rain that this coastal city is known for.

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I love seeing large groups of old people sitting.

I love seeing large groups of old people sitting.

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Funicular, that says Animo!

Funicular, that says Animo!

View from the top of the animo ride.

View from the top of the animo ride.

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A garbage can

A garbage can

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A rock shaped like a camel :)

A rock shaped like a camel 🙂

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Casino

Casino

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The first day I arrived was right around lunch time at 3 p.m and they had cooked a lovely meal for me. When asked what kind of food I liked to eat, I said the only thing I wasn’t a fan of were…anchovies, funnily enough in the city where anchovies are as popular as bread or water.  Otherwise for all those who care to know, I DO eat mushrooms now. It’s still not a conscious choice, but if they are on the plate I will eat them.

 

After some walking around and seeing the water, it was time to eat again. My favorite hobby for real. We went into a bar the girls often go to and they happened to be having a special  “theme.”

I’ll preface the revealing of the theme by explaining that I told the family just one thing about Logrono…

“it really only has one famous thing; “calle Laurel”  for famous pintxos and excellent Rioja wine.” 

I came from Logrono to try pintxos from.....Logrono.

I came from Logrono to try pintxos from…..Logrono.

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Well we sat down and noticed these little postcards with the typical Calle del Laurel tile which I initially didn’t register as odd. So upon deciding what to eat I could choose between things that I could eat anytime I want and things I didn’t go crazy for after reading. I can’t even remember what pintxo I ate because really It was not as good as the Laurel pintxos.

I was holding out to try the famous “rabas” or calamari anyways. The form of rabas is different than calamares. They are longer stretched out pieces which I guess tells you they are fresh and more care was taken in preparing them.

With a squirt of lemon and  a cana  (a beer) or a rueda (white wine). Perfection.

Rabas!

Rabas!

In front of my new mansion!

In front of my new mansion!

 

Santander is not a huge city. It has a more stretched out form because of it’s coastal position, but In two days I was able to see the most important sites of the city.

I think one of the best parts of the trip was speaking exclusively in Spanish for the whole weekend, which in Logrono among my U.S friends and what with teaching English…. doesn’t always happen. I know that my Spanish level increased a lot in my second year but I still hope to go back to Spain one day and not teach English. I loved the teaching part, but I since never studied to be an English teacher I’m ready for the phase of my life where I teach Spanish.

Thus, I’m back home in Chicago embarking on a Masters of Ed journey while training to teach Spanish at a CPS school.

Class starts Monday and I am anxious in a good way about the workload coming towards me. It will feel nice to be the student again.

 

To keep my sane and happy I still have more overdue blogs to write about my journey through Galicia and my very USA homecoming.

 

 

besos

 

Kaixo again San Seb

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I studied abroad in San Sebastian the summer of 2009. I was hesitant about studying abroad at all, but how bad could a posh coastal town in Spain be right?! Well it actually took being away from San Sebastian to realize how precious it is.

I met a lot of great people there, and living with a “host family” aka Maite was the right choice in retrospect in terms of discovering my independence and actually speaking Spanish, but I was pretty lonely there. I didn’t ever form the life I have here in Logrono, and I didn’t meet any new basque or Spanish friends…

I also never realized that San Sebastian was expensive. I didn’t know what to expect from Spain, so I thought that’s how the prices were- not far off from Chicago I guess…but compared to the rest of Spain eating out can really break the bank and the pintxos are much more of a gamble than Logrono. (In my opinion).

They all look beautiful, but really who cares how it looks once you are chewing a squishy egg ham cake that seemed normal but turns out to be eggy to the extreme x ham + egg.

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The weather predicted was for a chance of sun, but mostly cool. We got lucky on Saturday and  sat on the beach with some sandwiches for a few hours, but  of course none of us dressed for the occasion or brought towels.  We made do sitting on our scarves and jackets but I happened to be wearing a onesie/jumper/romper type thing and tights…talk about not going to the bathroom with ease.

Luckily Spain is cool with semi/ total beach nudity, and I did a quick job taking off my tights and no one really saw me minus one particular pervert baby that watched the whole act. I swear, one button was popped and the baby’s eyes were like lasers piercing my soul.

Once we said agur to pervert baby and the sun was starting to disappear we headed to the “fun fair/ attractions park” on top of Monte Igueldo.

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Adorable! And NOT pervert baby.

It's almost impossible to take a bad picture of this.

It’s almost impossible to take a bad picture of this.

Here is the view at the top of Monte Igueldo. Aside from being a photographic dream there is a cute little carnival with some lame children’s rides that of course my friends and I had to do for old times sake. There is a roller coaster that has been running since roller coasters were invented. It is quite rickety and the only thing between you and falling off the side into the bay of Biscay is a thin chain. In the U.S I’m sure there would be many legal issues with this but here in Spain: No rules, no problem.

botellon

botellon

Where I lived for 2 summery months with Maite

Where I lived for 2 summery months with Maite

Where I came to LOVE pintxos and Txakoli

Where I came to LOVE pintxos and Txakoli

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Playa Zurriola. The surfer beach.

really a gamble

really a gamble

really a weird choice that I made.

really a weird choice that I made. The “ham cake”

really pintxos.

really pintxos.

The best part of the whole trip is that since we’d all been before we didn’t have any obligations to do anything or see any sights. We went with the flow. I guess I did obligate everyone to walk by the apartment I lived in…and drink txakoli, but that was because what else did we have to do besides absolutely nada? Nada. It was funny that after four years It still felt familiar. Four whole years it took me to travel to a city that is about an hour away. That’s some kind of accomplishment.

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Agur and eskerrik asko ( Bye and thank you)- The thank you is pronounced like “A scary Costco” which is easy to remember because Costco while awesome is scary. So many large items.

Up next, Santander! Just trying to hit up all the playas despite the fact that I have minimal interest  in swimming and sand 😉

besos