Wednesday, August 24, 2011

All roads lead to Santiago.

I made my last blog post in Denver International Airport, just several hours into my 46 hour journey...yeah, you read that right, pretty much two full days.

Bye, Santa Barbara!
In the Denver Airport. I'll never understand people who wear heels and nice clothing when they you can see, I like to be as comfortable as possible

I spent two full nights on airplanes/in airports, which means I got a total of about six hours of sleep. Because of a thunderstorm in New York City, our flight to Madrid was delayed by almost three hours. We sprinted through Madrid Barajas Airport, but ended up missing our plane to Santiago by 10 minutes (very frustrating). Thankfully, the airline was very accommodating and immediately booked all 33 participants in the Vassar-Wesleyan Program on a flight just three hours later, and gave us vouchers for lunch at a buffet in the terminal.

My boarding passes
My first Spanish lunch--pollo, papas, piña, ensalada, y una cerveza

I was absolutely exhausted, but after arriving in Santiago de Compostela and showering, I got that "I'M FINALLY IN EUROPE!" adrenaline burst, and couldn't wait to explore the city. Santiago was (and still is) the third most holy city in Europe, preceded by Jerusalem and Rome. It's located in Galicia, the northwest region of Spain, about 20 miles from the coast and 90 miles from Portugal. Santiago is the final destination of El Camino, a religious pilgrimage that starts in France. The tradition of the pilgrimage is ancient, and there are still thousands of peregrinos (pilgrims) today--you can recognize them by their backpacking gear and walking sticks decorated with una concha (shell), the symbol of the Santiago pilgrimage.

I spent the first day taking a small tour of the city with a monitor (guide) named Edgar, who's a student at the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC for short--my UCLA alum parents would be furious...) For dinner, we went to two restaurants for drinks and tapas. I love the Spanish style of eating; they don't nickel-and-dime you for drinks, tips, and appetizers. I tried my first tortilla, which is made of egg, potato, and cheese, and is nothing like a Mexican tortilla! Spain is in the same time zone as most of the EU even though it's much more western, and as a result, the sun stays out until almost 10 pm. I'm a little bit in love with the long evenings.

For my first full day in Santiago, we went on a short tour of the north and south entrances and sanctuary of the cathedral.

La Catedral in Santiago, consecrated in 1128

View from a path leading to the north side of the cathedral

At around 5 pm (after the afternoon siesta--another Spanish thing I'm a little bit in love with, it's like kindergarten naptime again!), the group and I walked 30 minutes to the mall area of Santiago. I bought a cell phone and went to my first Spanish supermercado (supermarket)--kind of like a Walmart, except even more disorganized.

My new Spanish cell phone--I seriously miss my BlackBerry
On Sunday, we woke up painfully early and boarded a bus for the city of Tui, about 90 miles south of Santiago, and toured the city's cathedral and fort.

Shrine from the baroque period

On the fort's main tower--notice how there are no safety guardrails! I'm definitely not in the US anymore.

Con amigas in front of el río Miño--that's Portugal behind us!
We drove across the tiniest bridge in the history of bridges (we were in a tour bus and seriously almost hit about three cars going in the opposite direction) to have lunch in Valenca, Portugal. Seriously, how many times in your life can you say, "Hmm...I really feel like having lunch in another country today. Let's just hop across the border!"

Definitely the best view I've ever had while eating lunch
Proof that I've been to Portugal
 After lunch, we had a few hours to wander the streets of Valenca. All the open storefronts with bootleg Hello Kitty tshirts (Portuguese mistranslation: "Charmmy Kitty") were quaint and highly amusing.

Our next stop was a mountain in Santa Tecla, Spain. I slept on the bus and woke up to look out the window and see nothing but the Atlantic Ocean. As shoulder lane. No guardrails. I think if I wasn't so tired, I would have had a panic attack. Thankfully, we arrived safe and sound, and were treated to the most amazing view imaginable.

I dare you to find a prettier view. Seriously.

I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles...

Mi amor Danielle

And of course, we just HAD to recreate the Jack & Rose pose from The Titanic

Las chicas
Halfway down the mountain, there was the ruins of a 2,000 year old Celtic village. I'm used to Santa Barbara, where the oldest building is from the 18th century, so something from biblical times just blows my mind.

The Celtic ruins
The last stop on this 14 hour trip was to Baiona, Spain, one of the first places in Europe to hear about the "discovery" of the Americas, because Columbus' Pinta landed here. We didn't arrive til 7:30 pm, but it was still warm and really light out, so we put on our trajes de baño and hung out at the harbor's beach.

You can see a reconstruction of the Pinta in the upper left corner

It's taken me a good two days to write this post, which only covers three days of my trip. ¡Increíble! Either I need to get better at this blogging thing, or do less with my days. (I think I'm gonna go with the former.)


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  2. Who knew that 20 years + 1 day after my due date for "my baby" you'd be across the pond!

    We used to make sure I was hugging you at the moment of the anniversary of your birth. Make sure that all your friends are ready to hug you on 8/26 at 9:50 pm (to allow for the 9 hour difference) to replace Dad's and my arms!

  3. Thanks for taking the time to create this blog post, Katie. It is really interesting and I showed it to Connor as I was reading it. I know blogging takes time, but it is a gift that you give yourself down the line. You have captured your impressions of this point in time and it will be interesting when you reread your blog in the future.

    Some of your favorites were my favorites when I was living in Salamanca...tapas, late evenings and siestas :)

  4. RE: Your beach photo - It still cracks me up that MY child is the tan one! Are you sure you're my daughter? Oh yeah, we have the same hair color, cheek bones & chin.

  5. And there was the 9 months + 3 days + 32 hours of labor...
    You were (and are) so worth it!