“Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.” – Richard Feynman
I moved to Santiago de Compostela nine months ago this week. It seems fitting that I reflect? I’m not too sure, it seems that bloggers are great at reflection! I thought I’d jump on that mindful-bandwagon! If you had asked me nine months ago if I would ever say that I love Galicia (or even if you had asked me in January), I would have laughed in your face… And now, I’m afraid I can’t stand by that reaction. I have actually fallen in love with Galicia. I couldn’t understand everyone when I got here telling me how wonderful, beautiful and amazing Galicia is when it was raining for weeks on end and it looked a hell of a lot like the Irish countryside. My colleagues and I had to conduct oral exams in January and we asked one of the students if we gave them €60 million euro, would they leave Spain and never come back – and their answer? They said they could never leave Galicia… Not Spain, no, just Galicia! However, now I have to agree, don’t get me wrong, I will leave! But I do agree that Galicia has a certain charm about it and I can’t put my finger on what it is but here we are, I love it!
For anyone who doesn’t know, Galicia is the most North-Western region in Spain (above Portugal). It has a population of about 3 million people and it’s capitol city is Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is the end of the famous Camino de Santiago (which I’ll be doing 115km’s of in June, I just bought my hiking boots this week – agh, wish me luck!), 80% of the population speak Galician, there are over 750 beaches and it is home to the best fishing industry in Spain (which is famous for it’s seafood, so go Galicia!).
This week was one of my favourite weeks here having had two of my best friends come to visit, one after the other. It was the perfect way to celebrate being here for 9 months (already!). So having played tourist with Clare and Áine for the week – I thought I would add to my Galicia series here on Imperfectly Free and talk about my Top 6 Favourite Things to do in Santiago de Compostela.
- Call into the Cathedral – if you happen to be here on a Friday evening, go to the Botafumeiro mass at 19.30. It’s extremely impressive and it’s actually worth sitting through an hour long mass in Spanish for. A group of about 10 men come out onto the front of the alter at the end of the mass and swing a giant thurible of incense by means of a pulley system. It swings at about 20 metres and it picks up great speed… every time I see it I think it’s going to hit the roof!
- Pick up pulpo & guzzle Godello – As I said, Galicia has the best fishing industry in Spain and Galicia’s famous dish is a wooden plate of boiled octopus or pulpo… It sounds terrible but it’s the most delicious thing. Again, had you asked me a year ago if I would ever like to sit down and eat a plate of octopus, I’m sure I would have been disgusted and now… I get cravings for it! Send help! Godello is a Galician white wine that they don’t seem to export very much of – they keep the best for themselves. It’s delicious and the cost of living in Galicia is so cheap you can get a good bottle of it for about €3.
- Fly by the Farmers market – speaking of pulpo, some of the best pulpo you can get is at Abastos market. The market is open Tuesday to Saturday from early morning until 3PM. See it at it’s best on a sunny Saturday afternoon when it seems like everyone that lives in the city is there. All of the elderly farmers come in from the country side to sell the very best of the local produce. I would recommend trying their famous pimientos de padrón while you’re there too.
- Chomp on Churros – San Pedro Churrería is apparently (according to my friend Maeve, who is a Santiago encyclopedia) the only churrería in Santiago that make their churros from scratch. It’s a lovely local café full of Galician old men and women socialing, reading the paper and sipping coffee every morning. Their churros are to die for. If I was you, I’d recommend going and ordering a café con leche, zumo natural and una docena de churros. Yum, yum, yummyyy! 12 churros between two is loads and not enough at the same time. Don’t forget to ask for chocolate to dip ’em in too!
- Taste Tortilla in La Tita – another wonderful excuse to get a glass of wine. On Rúa Nova in the Old Town, there are two little cafés called La Tita. Both are owned by the same people and have the same premise but I’d recommend going to the new one. The staff are wonderful! Tita is famous for their tortilla or Spanish omelette. All you have to do is order a drink and they’ll bring your free tapa, which is always tortilla and it’s the best Spanish omelette you’ll taste in your life. The only downside? It will ruin all Spanish omelettes for you for the rest of your days. No other restaurant or human can make tortilla as well as the people in Tita. Tapas are always free in Galicia too, so you can feed yourself for your holiday off free food if you so choose.
- Foliada in Casa das Crechas – I kept the best ’til last! I don’t think I can do Crechas justice just by writing about it. It’s really an experience that needs to be seen to be believed. Áine will back me up on this one. Casa das Crechas is a traditional Galician pub where on a Wednesday night from 10.30PM ’til about 3 or 4AM a live traditional Galician band play. The band, Banda das Crechas (which literally translated from Galcian apparently means Bitches Band) were formed in the bar, and every Wednesday they have a session. It’s similar to Irish traditional music but 100 times livelier, louder, messier and the crowd is almost always younger. I could talk about it until the cows come home so I will leave it at that and just say that I have gone every week since I found out about it. It’s genuinely the highlight of my week, as sad as that sounds! The bar is on Via Sacra and admission is an extortionately under priced €1 in.
I’ve cut it short at 6 and I feel like I’ll be doing another one of these posts because there are so many great things to do here. But for now, if you have 3 days in Santiago – you’ve got your work cut out for you. If you think you’ll be bored in between all of the eating and drinking (or need a work out!), have a look at my post about the wonderful parks that Santiago is luckily spotted with and you can visit those in between. If you visit, I’d love to here all about it. Get in touch – we could bump into each other at one of these spots! I’m always available in the usual spots: insta, facebook, twitter or snapchat (imperfectlyfree).