A Travellerspoint blog

Galicia :)

Once my gracious hosts, Isabel and José, picked me up from the airport they told me our first stop was going to be the old city of Santiago. What an incredible little place! This place has so much rich history! Camino de Santiago or The Way of St. James refers to the pilgrimage routes that lead to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great (which is located exactly where I was! :D). This place attracts people from all over the world. The coolest part is people still do the pilgrimage route today. They say some people do it for religious penance, some do it for spiritual cleansing, and others do it simply for adventure. The most popular trail is from France, but some do it from other parts of Spain. Whichever route they take, I give these people major props. I'd actually like to do it some day. There are spots you stop along the way and people stamp your book to prove that you completed the whole trail. You know you've identified the "walkers" when you see people with large backpacks at the cathedral. Every time their spotted, people erupt with cheers and applause. Very cool.
This cathedral is absolutely stunning!! The architecture is ridiculous and everything about it is just beautiful. I've included pictures below :)

Isabelle and Jose's home in Galicia is gorgeous and has the most amazing view. Galicia is definitely a lot greener than Madrid :). Though the weather was a lot cooler/cloudier than Madrid, I welcomed the change. It was great to see another area of Spain. Another difference was the language. I was just starting to improve my Spanish when everyone here speaks the Spanish dialect of Gallego. :O lol but it was interesting to hear a new language. During my stay, I was taken to beautiful beaches, historical sites, and simply unbeatable views throughout the coast. This is also a fisherman place, so needless to say, I ate ALOT of seafood, trying many things for the first time! Goose barnacles? Yep. It sounded a lot lovelier in Spanish ;) and I decided not to ask WHAT I was eating before I tried it to ensure that I would indeed try EVERYTHING lol

One of the epic places we went to was a little ways from the house. We needed to drive on a windy road... on a cliff ... in the fog ... Oh and did I mention all of the streets are built for one way traffic? Lol it was a little terrifying but the pace in this "pueblo" is very slow so I was just praying that there wasn't a careless driver coming in the opposite direction! But when we got to the top of the mountain I understood why I was brought to this wonderful little place. San Andreas de Teixido. It is a sanctuary dedicated to Saint Andrew. It is at the foot of the Atlantic Ocean and actually located on the highest cliffs of Europe. Isabel and Jose told me that I absolutely needed to visit this temple. The Galician legend says that if you do not visit it once in your life, you MUST visit it after death. Furthermore, you must drink from the fountain called the "Power of Three Pipes", which I did! Lol

I was lucky enough to experience two festivals during my stay as well. First, after meeting Isabel's wonderful family, we all took a walk to watch the festival of the Virgen Del Carmen, which is the sailors patron saint. During our short walk to the harbor, I saw families dressed to the nines and bars packed with people. Everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) waits excitedly at the dock for her statue to arrive via a large boat. Her boat is preceded by a few other boats. A loud siren goes off as she is hoisted off the crane. There, a number of men are waiting to carry her a few blocks down. As she is being carried through the streets, dancers dressed in all white are leading the procession. At the location where the Virgen del Carmen statue is placed, these dancers perform a traditional Spanish dance.
The other festival I saw was the Ortiguera Festival. The music performed here is Celtic folk. Though I am not a fan of this genre of music, I genuinely enjoy music festivals and am always down to try something new. My week here ended with a relaxing Saturday night, enjoying cheese and wine while watching one of my favorite movies, Pretty Woman .... in ENGLISH!! :)

My takeaway from Galicia: the people are super friendly, the food is incredible, the beaches are gorgeous, and the views everywhere are exceptional.

Santiago

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Views from the casa :)

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Goose barnacles!

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San Andres de teixido

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Festivals

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Beaches

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Posted by meg elizabeth 17:00 Comments (0)

Toledo

This morning, we woke up early to go to Toledo. I've heard many things about this beautiful city and was told I can't leave Madrid without visiting it and I now understand why. It used to be the capital of Spain and has a lot of rich history. Unlike Cartagena and other cities that have been rebuilt over the centuries, Toledo has remained rather untouched. And it's still breathtaking! We drove to a few "prime photo spots" before parking the car and walking through the old city. The architecture was just so incredible and the streets were buzzing with locals and tourists alike.

Random thought: I stopped in a McDonalds to grab a coffee and I have to mention I'm still not used to the way they serve coffee here in a Spain. I'm used to my daily large Dunkin iced coffees. Those who know me well know I love (&need) my coffee. I ask the cashier if she has cafe frio (cold coffee). She says she can give me cafe con hielo (coffee with ice) & I say perfect. But, she gives me a medium sized coffee cup with ice and less than half a cup of coffee in another cup. This is not the first time this situation happened. Coffee is always served in small doses :/

Then we walked to the Cathedral. Being Sunday, it was closed to the public/ tourists looking to take photos, but opened for those attending mass. We peeked in and took a seat to listen to the mass (as well as admire the inside). It was absolutely beautiful! The architecture was so incredibly impressive! Unfortunately there were many guards inside enforcing the rule of no photos! But I still have the images engraved in my own memory :)
Then we had some excellent tapas at a restaurant called La Abadia.

The next day, the girls and I drew "portraits" of one another on the chalkboard and played some good 'ol twister :). Then Celia and Natalia put on dance performances for me. They sang and danced to one of their favorite songs "Colganos Tus Manos". It has actually really grown on me. If anyone wants to have a listen it's by Carlos Baute. :D

Tomorrow I leave for Galicia!!!! :)

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Posted by meg elizabeth 17:00 Comments (0)

Shop til ya drop ;)

We took a trip to the supermarket to pick up food and then came home to relax for a bit. C and the family left to spend the day at a friend's house. I took the train to El Callou, near Sol, where I went the other day. Sylvia met me in front of a store called FNac. She told me she was only going to speak to me in Spanish. Which she did, and she would also repeat what I did not understand in English. She took me to the best stores. Amazing fashions for good prices. Though it still takes me a minute to realize how much money I'm actually spending since everything is in Euros. I had a little too much fun in Zara :O lol but I'm love with my purchases :). Time flew by and before we knew it, it was 9 p.m. Sylvia took me to Fuencarrall, a street filled with trendy boutiques and tapas bars. We visited a few more clothing stores and then we walked to "Círculos de Bella's Artes." She wanted to take me up to the roof, where you have amazing views of the city. But, it being a Saturday, just before sundown, the line was very very long. We decided we will come back another day (a weekday).

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Posted by meg elizabeth 17:00 Comments (0)

Feliz Cumpleaños

The girls and I spent the day going over English vocabulary and making art. We looked up how-to-draw different animals on the internet and some websites gave us easy step-by-step directions and we followed along to create our own. Very fun!
Later on, C's family came over to celebrate her nephew's 18th birthday. Important age, it's pretty much our 21 :) it was really nice meeting her family. They were all so sweet! But C told them they had to speak to me in Spanish because I'm trying to improve mine. So numerous times I had to reply with Que? (What?), Uno mas (once more), & despacio por favor (slow please :P). It's frustrating when I can't understand and I feel bad making everybody repeat sentences or speak real slow but they were patient and genuinely wanted me to learn. :)
One of her nieces, who is 17, was very sweet and told me she spent a year in the states. She lived with a host family in North Carolina and attended high school there in an effort to learn English. I was blown away when she said she did this at 15 years old! Very admirable if you ask me. When I asked her what she thought of life in the U.S, she said she loved it & it was just like in the movies!! Lol though she said she could not even look at pizza or burgers anymore when she returned to Spain. The nieces and nephews who just graduated high school began discussing summer memories. A week in Mallorca, Spain is the general post-graduation trip for them. Ahh it sounded like so much fun!!! I immediately thought about my first trip away with friends after high school- the Bahamas, what an amazing trip that was!!!!
Apparently, at the all-inclusive hotels that they stay at in Mallorca, the Germans and Spanish did not get along so well and they actually had to stay on different floors- crazy right?
Her niece Sylvia asked me if I wanted to go shopping in the city tomorrow so she can show me all the good stores and sights. Yesssss ! :D

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Posted by meg elizabeth 17:00 Comments (0)

My first solo city experience...

The girls and I had a very productive day. After breakfast, we created people out of play dough and made jewelry. Celia(who I found out is a gymnast) performed a rhythmic gymnastics routine for Natalia and me. :D

Today I travelled into the center of the city for the first time alone. The experience was a bit different from my NYC subway commute. First off, the machines are in Spanish, but thankfully J told me to get the "10 trips" card because it's the best. And thankfully he told me I need to keep it handy because you also need to use it when you exit the station. Also, unlike in NY when ALL the doors open at every stop, you must press a button if you want to enter or exit the train. Thankfully I witnessed other passengers do this prior to my stop so I wasn't the silly American staring at the door waiting for it to open. But, other than that, it was pretty straightforward. I needed to transfer to a different train twice, but it was easy to follow the signs and I made it to Sol (the very touristy center of Madrid). Picture Times Square. It was mobbed with people. Thankfully my destination was staring at me as I exited the station. Orange, a mobile phone store. I needed to purchase a SIM card for my international unlocked phone I bought back in NY. I walk in and show the woman my phone, and ask in my best Spanish possible if she can assist me with this. She immediately asks me if I have my passport. I reply "no" because I honestly had no idea I needed it. I tell her I have my drivers license and she gives me the "yea I don't think so" response. Fabulous, waste of time. Mission not accomplished. But I saw an h&m next door so I thought why not shop? Lol but I didn't find anything there so I hopped back on the train and headed home. Whatever, at least I got experience on the metro right?

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Posted by meg elizabeth 17:00 Comments (0)

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