Spring Break in Spain, Part 2 — Galicia

27 Feb

Part 2: Pulpo en Orense, nubes en Santiago = muy tipico. / Octopus in Orense, clouds in Santiago = very typical.

the Roman bridge

Still reeling from an awesome time in Bilbao I hopped on a train at 9:15am on Sunday morning and stayed on the train pretty much all day until it arrived in Ourense at 6pm. (Sidenote: Galicia has its own language, Gallego. In Gallego the city is spelled Ourense. In Castellano [Spanish] the city is Orense without the “u”.)

I was actually looking forward to the train ride; it’d give me an opportunity to see some of the north of the country, somewhere I never made it to last year. And I’d have time to read and relax and maybe attempt to read a Spanish newspaper. They played “Meet the Parents” and “Notting Hill” (both in Spanish) on the train so that was entertaining and took up a few hours. Last year I loved watching movies I was already familiar with on Spanish television, it was definitely good practice for my Spanish.

When the train pulled into the station in Ourense my friend Julie was waiting for me. Julie and I met last year during what was possibly the best two-week stretch of my life: CIEE orientation and Spanish classes in Sevilla before starting my job in Huelva. It was during these two weeks that I also met my close (American) friends from last year: Brittany, Alicia, Ashley, Katelyn, and Amanda. It was just an awesome time of adjusting to being in Spain, brushing up on my Spanish, discovering Sevilla, and making friends.

Julie and me on the Millennium Bridge

Julie spent last year in Malaga and then received a placement in Ourense, Galicia for this school year. After our time together in Sevilla Julie and I only saw each other one other time when Brittany and I visited Malaga in December (2009) for a fun-filled weekend. But we’ve kept in touch and I told her when I came back to Spain I definitely wanted to come visit since I hadn’t been to Galicia before… So there we were, reunited a little more than a year since we last met.

From the train station we walked to the center of town to get some food at a restaurant in the mall—one of the only places open on Sunday, AND serving food at 6:30pm! Quite a find in Spain! I ordered a large salad with shrimp and avocado, definitely something I couldn’t normally find in Czechland. Oh, and I also ordered some croquetas, one of my favorite Spanish foods–had to get my fill in while I was in Spain.

Before we went to bed that night Julie’s roommates, two Spanish guys, asked if we wanted to watch the Superbowl with them. We declined, both of us were tired and neither of us particularly cared about the teams playing. But the two of them stayed up until 4am watching the game and eating snacks, how funny.

the Millennium Bridge

Julie had to work on Monday morning so I had a leisurely morning after which we went for a delicious lunch at a place that does “Menu del Dia” where you can choose from a few options for a starter, main course, dessert, coffee, and beverage all for 12 euros. Incredible! From there we walked around town, and crossed a few of Ourense’s bridges, which will probably stick in my mind as the landmarks of the city. There is a typical large train bridge, a Roman bridge that dates back to the 1st century, and then next to that as a nice juxtaposition is the modern “Millennium Bridge.”

At night we met up with some of Julie’s friends for wine and tapas. At the first restaurant we went to we had some of the most delicious tapas I’ve ever had anywhere.

"la bomba" and chorizo

One was called “la bomba” (the bomb) and it consisted of a large ball of deep-fried mashed potatoes with shredded spicy pork meat in the middle and spicy brava sauce on top. And we also had some chorizo in a wine sauce. Oh. My. God. So good.

It had also been decided that I need to try the pulpo (octopus) of Galicia. So the second stop of the night was “Casa do Pulpo”—House of the Octopus.

We accidentally ordered a ration of octopus instead of only a small plate, so we were brought this: (apologies for the fuzziness, something is wrong with my auto-focus when I try to take close ups)

And I found this little leg in there:

And it wasn’t so bad! It actually had a nice crunch to it! mmmm! My overall evaluation of the pulpo was that it’s not terrible, but it isn’t something I would go out of my way to order too often. The taste was alright, nothing too strong, and mostly enhanced by the tasty olive oil it was bathed in. But the texture was a little too close to rubber for me to really enjoy it.

The next morning I had to pack up and get ready to go to Santiago de Compostela because in the evening I had a flight from there to Sevilla. It would have been nice to spend more time in Galicia (especially since Julie is a wonderful hostess!) but my itinerary didn’t leave room for more than two days. Before heading out of Ourense Julie and I went to a cafe near her house for some coffee and a sandwich for the road. Julie also recommended their napolitana pastry. I usually don’t like eating pastries as breakfast (all the sugar goes right to my brain!) but this was AMAZING. It just tasted so fresh and the chocolate inside it was soooo creamy. My mouth is watering right now as I type about it. It was so good I thought about ordering a second one to eat on the bus, but decided that crossed into the “zone of excess.”

I arrived in Santiago in the early afternoon and met up with Meredith and Amanda, two other Americans who I knew from last year that are teaching in Galicia this year. Meredith picked me up at the bus station and walked me through town to the impressive cathedral of Santiago, the end of the famous pilgrimage.

Amanda and Meredith

We stopped at a bakery so I could try a tuna empanada, another typical food of Galicia. Then we met Amanda for a coffee and churros (with chocolate, of course). It was really nice getting to catch up with both of them. Meredith I hadn’t seen since our time in Sevilla. And Amanda I had last seen when I was in Malaga (she was one of Julie’s roommates last year). So it had been a while, but it was great chatting with them and hearing about their experiences this year. They both said that while Santiago is a beautiful place the weather is absolutely miserable (it is the only place during my trip that I had cloudy weather and a little drizzle). They also noted (as did Julie) that the people in the north aren’t as open and friendly as the people in the south.

My short stop in Santiago left me wanting more, and I am definitely contemplating a trip to do the Camino de Santiago in the future. It was so nice to reconnect with some friends from last year, and I will get a chance to spend more time with Julie because she’ll be visiting the Czech Republic in April during Semana Santa! I can’t wait to return the hospitality.

After coffee with Meredith and Amanda I took a bus to the airport and bid adieu to northern Spain, on my way back to the south…

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