If I blogged for a living, I would starve to death...my consistency at posting has been terrible lately! But, in my defense, I had a laptop death, resurrection, and then a partial laptop death, so my focus has been more on dealing with that than getting my backlog of blog posts done. Finally, I have some free time to post about all of the amazing adventures I've gone on since April...celebrating a milestone birthday in magical Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain, an amazing food tour around Galicia, which is the second best thing I've done since living in Spain (my time with Esme Tours in Pozos is still numero uno), a hike on the outskirts of Madrid, and a Memorial Day weekend trip to France. First up...Santiago de Compostela and the incredibly beautiful and delicious region of Galicia.
Because my birthday happened to fall during Semana Santa when pretty much everyone travels and costs skyrocket, I ended up staying in Spain and decided on Galicia after hearing from numerous people what a special place it is. And, they were 100% right! As soon as I landed, I felt a sense of calm and loved the cooler air and smell of pine trees. The region of Galicia is green and lush and, with a strong Celtic influence, feels a bit different from the rest of Spain. The area is known for stunning beaches, as well as for having the best seafood not only in Spain, but all of Europe. I based myself in Santiago de Compostela, which is the reputed burial place of Saint James the Great and the final destination for those that undertake the pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago.
The massive Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, which was sadly under a ton of scaffolding
After wandering around a bit to get my bearings, it was time to finally sample some of that amazing seafood I'd heard so much about. Since I had a food tour scheduled for the next night, I decided to hold off on Galicia's most famous dish, octopus (or pulpo), and go for one of my other favorite dishes...razor clams sauteed in olive oil oil and garlic.
Octopus is the star of the show in these parts
I could eat these every day!
Day two was my actual birthday and I started the day with drinks at yet another beautiful parador in Spain, the Parador de Santiago de Compostela. I highly recommend sitting on the outside terrace, having some wine, and taking in the incredible views of the Cathedral. Then it was time for more seafood...Galician scallops (vierias a la Gallega) and baby squid (or chipirones).
This may not look that impressive, but, trust me, it was delicious!
Not even one ounce of guilt while eating these yummy baby squid
After a quick siesta, it was time to meet up with Karima, my food tour guide for the evening from Devour Galicia. She was delightful and full of knowledge about the area and took me around to numerous places to sample the best of the local food. We started with the ever-present tortilla and a licor de hierbas, one of three licors that are typical to the area and are used as a digestivo after a large meal.
Next up, was a stop for wine, jamon and a local soft mild cheese called Tetilla for its, umm, resemblance to the shape of a breast. I had Albarino wine, which is native to the area, along with wine produced from the Mencia grape, another local product. The Galicia region produces outstanding wines, with Albarino probably being the most well-known. Fun fact...former President Barack Obama is a fan of the red wine from nearby Ourense. Another standout in Galicia is their empanadas. We stopped off at a century-old store run by a brother and sister and sampled one with tuna and one with cod and raisins, which tasted much better than it sounds! It was time for something sweet, which we found at a chocolate shop that's been open for fourteen years and run by two friends. Because it was Easter week, there were no shortage of adorable chocolates on hand.
While heading to our next location, we got caught up in a Semana Santa procession. While I've been told its a much bigger deal in the south of Spain, it was still amazing to witness the pageantry and music of the procession.
The next place offered up several signature dishes of the area...caldo gallego, a traditional soup dish in Galicia, cockles, octopus and a local white wine served in a bowl rather than a glass. The octopus was, hands down, the best I've ever had. Its definitely true that the seafood in Galicia is the best in Europe.
I don't think I can have pulpo anywhere else now but Galicia!
Walking home full and happy after the tour
Santiago de Compostela is a magical place...and I haven't even recapped the day I spent in the surrounding area seeing the beaches, drinking more Albarino wine and eating freshly-steamed mussels on a boat. Spending four days in Santiago de Compostela and seeing all of the pilgrims finishing the Camino was truly inspiring and made me want to walk at least part of the Camino next year. If you haven't been to northwest Spain, then you should definitely make a beeline there asap. Its beautiful, green, inspiring and has the absolute best seafood around.