Saturday, 14th July 2012 – The Weekend Starts Here
The sun! The sun is out!
It had good timing too, as we’d planned a day out for Saturday: Take the train to Santiago de Compostela, about 90 minutes away, to spend the day wandering the old city.
After getting to bed after 3am it was a slightly delayed, slightly hungover but mostly tired group of 3 who met up again at something like midday. It might’ve been slightly later, I can’t remember, in fact I’ve no idea if we even did anything before getting to the station. Maybe we met at the flat for a cup of tea. Fair to say I was a bit slow that morning. I’m sure Kerryn & Dave walked far too quickly for what was about a kilometre of walking, if not a mile.
Anyway, we had a nice brunch at the station. I remember feeling much better after that. I remember the chocolate doughnut, that was more solid and less ‘fluffy’ than a UK doughnut which was nice.
The station had moved, it was a surprise to see the old one demolished when I passed it on the bus on Thursday. The new one is a modern prefab building in a different place, an awful concrete and glass structure but it has a nice airy cafe on the inside with a nice selection of things. It was funny because while we were there the TV was showing the news and suddenly London popped up. “The Olympics are less than 3 weeks away will they be ready? Will there be more riots? Here are some random Londoners – are you excited?” It was quite funny seeing it reported in another language and that people outside the UK were making a fuss about it too, not just us and our media!
Just after lunch we boarded the train, it was already after 1pm by then but that was fine. No hurry. I was on holiday and the Spanish stay up late. It was comfortable too, it had air-con (as you’d expect in a hot country) and there were reclining seats and power sockets.
It was clear I wasn’t the only tired, hungover one! A lazy day on a train was a good idea. It took about 90 minutes to get to Santiago and we spent the time staring at the scenery, talking a little, playing with cameras and reading a book on photography that Kerryn had brought. Fair to say, once you got used to the differences compared to home and moved away from the fantastic-looking bay, the inland scenery was a bit repetitive but every now and then a real gem would appear, like this one at Pontevedra.
On the other hand, some of the small towns and villages we passed were looking very run-down, quiet and tatty and there were a couple of road projects which had just been abandoned mid-construction.
Santiago de Compostela
After 90 minutes we arrived fairly well rested and emerged into the warm sunshine. Despite Vigo being the largest city and A Coruna growing quickly, Santiago de Compostela remains the capital of the region of Galicia. When you leave the station you immediately walk uphill through typical modern Spanish streets, then suddenly you cross a road and you’re in amongst historic old buildings just like the ones in Vigo, but lots more of them. It was clear Santiago’s old town was on another scale. We took our time wandering around and Kerryn bought a local cake we all shared – almonds!
Turn a corner and suddenly there’s courtyard and a tower.
That’s nothing though. Just around from there is the main square and which houses the front of the same building, which is the Cathedral, and it is HUGE.
Also in the square facing the cathedral is the home of the regional government of Galicia, and between them sitting opposite us is a hotel I think.
The Cathedral is the destination of the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James), which was a Catholic pilgrimage originating in the 9th Century. Originally you would start at your own home and walk all the way to Santiago! Nowadays it is as much a tourist journey as a religious one, so it is open to anyone wanting to complete the challenge for their own reasons. It featured in the Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez film, ‘The Way’.
The more famous of the routes is the one leading from the Pyrenees over 1000 km away! Today there are a number of starting points along the route so you can take the journey for any distance you like. Kerryn & Dave walked it from one of these intermediary points a few months prior, staying in hostels along the way, and I think they did it for about 3 weeks?
There were several groups of people in walking gear with their backpacks, lots of them were school groups, as well as the usual tourists. Wandering among them were people in costume.. spot the guy in brown.
We ambled around and played with our cameras.
Just around the corner, down some steps we stopped for a cold Coke at a cafe. Sitting outside but slightly in the shade to get some respite from the sun. It was fantastic to feel the sun’s heat all day but you needed a break and rehydration. As we were there this guy with a guitar was in the opposite corner singing songs in Spanish, then all of a sudden we realised he was singing in English.. he was doing The Beatles. Eventually he comes over with his hat asking for money, he seemed quite well-presented for a busker but we were happy to give him some as he was very good. Kerryn & Dave talked to him in Spanish, he turned out to be a really nice guy and he said he wished he was from Liverpool just like his heroes The Beatles! Then he stood near us, dedicated a song to us and played Strawberry Fields Forever, before finishing up and walking away with a smile.
We walked around for another hour or two, heading around the little back streets to explore. Somewhere we heard some loud music so went to have a look – and there was a fashion show happening in another square! We moved on, it was a bit loud.
We sat at another cafe for a late lunch. A panini and a beer I think it was. Just as we’d ordered, our friend showed up! He played a few songs and worked the rest of the tables. He said hi to us and left us be.
After a look along some of the shopping streets in the old town, but being mostly broke on having spent the money to get here (and with other things coming up), I didn’t buy anything. I regret not buying more local cake.
A great day in Santiago. Relaxing, with enough walking to do you good.
On the train ride back the light was fantastic, I took a few photos:
Back In Vigo
It didn’t end there. We were hungry, not hugely so but still wanted to have some dinner. We were at a bit of a loss for where to go once we were back we walked around looking for somewhere. I wanted to have something Spanish as I wasn’t sure if I’d get another chance.
Tapas! A few plates of cheese and other things. And lots of red wine. Since the Galicians are proud of their local signature dish I was recommended that, I don’t normally like octopus or mushroom but I tried it and the sauce they use is amazing, it was lovely! Alas, it appeared on a huge plate and I was the only meat-eater present, we ought to have asked for a 1-person size. Nonetheless I did my best and cleared a good half of it! If you’re ever in Galicia ask for ‘Puplo a Galega’ or ‘Polbo a feira’.
The net result of this was that I ate waayy too much. I think the others did too.
Next stop: to meet some friends of Kerryn & Dave in a pub in the old town. A stein of beer was had. Nibbles were had. The thing to note here is that in parts of Spain when they serve you alcohol they always leave you little plate of nibbles, could be olives or nuts or whatever. In Galicia they are quite generous with them. When there are nibbles in front of me I will have them, doesn’t matter if I’m not hungry. Can’t help it.
So anyway at 3am the place closed and chucked us out, some of the group went home including Kerryn. Dave, myself and two other blokes found ourselves in another bar with a glass of Jameson’s. A full one, no mixer apart from ice, for 4 Euros. [How do they make a profit?]
I got back to the hotel at 5am.
The man on the desk said in English with a knowing smile, ‘good morrrning!’. I just shook my head and said ‘whiiiskey’ as I got into the lift.
Octopus, wine, beer and a lot of Jameson’s. No wonder I was ill overnight.