Tuesday, September 6, 2011

All roads lead to Santiago, pt II

I don't think I knew what it meant to "walk somewhere" before I got to Spain. I mean, I'm not the kind of person who will drive the 200 yard distance from her house to the neighborhood pool, but I'm also not used to walking on rough cobblestone roads til my feet blister all over. So in addition to being a crash course in Spanish culture and history, Santiago was also a crash-course in bipedal endurance. I passed...but just barely.

From Monday to Friday, we had classes (Spanish history and Spanish literature) from 9 am to 1 pm. That would be all well and good if the monitores (guides) didn't take us out til at least 3 am every night. I'm an eight-hours-a-night kinda girl, and four hours left me completely catatonic. I did my real learning after my afternoon siesta, when we went on walking (duh) tours of the city.

Tour guide speaking insanely emphatically about Baroque architecture
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My not-so-baroque nails and lefty ballpoint pen stain on my ring finger
My first jarra de sangia...perfect way to end a long day
My favorite tour was of the cubierta (roof area) of the Cathedral. The view was absolutely incredible, and it was fun to walk around on the dangerously sloped roof. There's no way something like this would exist in the US--there was not a single guard rail in sight!

Note the program director awkwardly walking into the shot...
Stripey friends! Kat in yellow, Danielle in red
View of Santiago...more red, white, and blue than I expected in Europe ;)

One of my biggest fears before coming to Spain was that I wouldn't like the food. I'm not a picky person, but I like to eat healthily and I'm not the biggest fan of seafood. I was told that vegetables didn't exist in Spain and I would subsist solely on french fries and churros. Well, vegetables certainly are scarce in Galicia (unless you count oil-drenched pimientos de padrón [tiny spicy green chili peppers]). But it turns out, I actually like seafood! Chipirones (squid) are absolutely delicious, and I've even started to like gambas (shrimp) because here they are fresh and not at all chewy. But the one food I'm about ready to wage a vendetta against is pulpo (octopus). Traditional Galician pulpo is simultaneously bitter and spicy, tasting more than faintly of bacon. But the worst part is definitely the texture. If I wanted to eat erasers, then I could get them for a hell of a lot cheaper, and erasers don't have SUCKERS that can potentially LATCH ONTO YOUR THROAT if you don't chew them thoroughly enough (and since chewing is an intensely laborious/nauseating task, it's tempting to just swallow the pieces whole).

Pulpo--this picture doesn't do justice to its repulsiveness

On Wednesday, we toured yet another church, la Iglesia de Santo Domingo, which is now a museum. In Galicia, the people speak a dialect called gallego, and although in most places signs/menus/pamphlets are in both gallego and castellano (Castillian Spanish), this church/museum was entirely in gallego. I can read gallego, because it's very similar to castellano, but it's pretty time-consuming. So instead, I just took a lot of pictures.

Tomb of a famous Galician
A locked enclave of the church

On the walk home, I met my first Spanish kitty!

Thursday was incredibly rainy and cold. Apparently Galicia has a climate similar to that of Washington state, but since we arrived during a heatwave, the thunderstorms took us by surprise. We took a bus to a brand-new building on the outskirts of town called the Cultural Center of Galicia. It's supposed to be a library/museum, but since it's so new, the library is sparse and the only museum installation was of...typewriters. The external architecture of the cultural center is striking--I guess it's called the Guggenheim Bilbao of Galicia--but since it was absolutely miserable out, I didn't get to look at it much.

Cultural Center library

Typewriter ribbon cases
My last name!
Since Thursday was the eve of my birthday, I was dragged to a bar called Coffeepop to celebrate. It's a cute little hole-in-the wall place frequented by Santiago's gay population (hence the DJ's penchant for playing Madonna, Elton John, and Lady Gaga). Everyone counted down to midnight, then serenaded me with the "feliz cumpleaños" song. I was afraid this birthday would be lonely, but the people in this group are the best I could have asked for. Even though I'd only known them for a week at this point, they felt like old friends.

Lucy & me

On Friday night, my girlfriends took me out to a fancy crêpe dinner. I'd never had dinner crêpes for dinner, and they were exquisite...but not as delactable the chocolate ice cream/banana/Nutella crêpe we ordered for dessert!

Adorable card my friend Kat made for me. I'm an old woman now! 20 years old!
Birthday toast!
In front of the Cathedral after dinner
Saturday was exam day. Yes, for some reason, the program thought it would be a great idea to give us exams a) on a SATURDAY MORNING and b) after only a week of classes... but thankfully, the exams were open-dictionary and open-topic, and even open-note for the lit exam. After the tests were done, lunch was eaten, and a hefty siesta was taken, we headed out again for a last hurrah in Santiago.

Me & Kat

Kat, me, & Eliza. Ignore my wrinkly skirt...I tried to iron it with a curling iron. Didn't work too well.
About half the group!
Sunday was our last day in Santiago, and sadly it was mostly spent packing. In the afternoon Sami, Eliza, and I went out for coffee and to explore the Parque Alameda, a park with beautiful wide tree-lined paths and stunning views of the city. Then at 8 pm--an early dinnertime by Spanish standards--the whole group headed out to Tafona, one of the most swanky restaurants in Santiago. Here was the menu:
  • bread with roasted vegetables 
  • lobster carpaccio with arugula and lime-basil sorbet
  • scallops with chorizo crumbs and paprika
  • cod with garlic mousseline and romescu (traditional andalusian sauce)
  • chocolate lava cake with Bailey's Irish Cream ice cream
The lime-basil sorbet was TO DIE FOR. The pictures I took didn't turn out at all, so you'll just have to imagine the absolute decadence of this meal.

Amazing views while walking to dinner
With the chicas before dinner

I woke up early on Monday morning to finish packing before heading to the airport to fly to MADRID! The week in Santiago was absolutely incredible. I never anticipated I'd adjust to Spanish culture so quickly and meet so many ridiculously fun and kind people...and that I could do so much learning and exploring in only one week. I can now navigate Santiago's streets, museums, churches, and restaurant menus...that's a more valuable education than I could ever get in a classroom.


  1. Totally gorgeous post. Looks like you're having tons of fun!

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  3. I don't know if you're ever going to want to return to the States. You're having way too much fun for it being the beginning of your junior year! ;-) I'm so glad you're loving your adventure. Start gathering recipes!