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On August 1999 I went to Galicia (Spain) with my wife. We don't like arranged travels and we
prefer to travel on our own, because we think is the only way you can get in touch with
the real country and its people. This way of travelling is harder and more expensive than
others, but also more pleasant, relaxing and, that's the best, gives you a different point
of view on the culture and way of life.
After my experience here you have my advice if you
plan to travel on your own to Galicia. You have to understand that
this is MY PERSONAL POINT OF VIEW and that it is not my intention to
criticize the people or culture of Galicia. You also must take into
account that these observations are from year 1999. Things might have
changed (either in the right or in the wrong way) since then. Furthermore I want
to clearly state that I have no comercial relationship with the mentioned
hotels, restaurants, etc.
(Click on the
icons to find hotels in that city or area)
This time we only had 8 days to stay in the wonderful, humid, and magic Galicia.
Fortunately I had alreadly been there 7 year ago and I knew the most outstanding places to
visit...Anyway, I you want to visit the four provinces (A Coruna, Lugo, Orense &
Pontevedra) you will need at least two weeks (and in this time you will
only have time for an overview of this land....Fortunately it is not so far away from
here, so I plan to go back there again soon.
The saying "Galicia, where the rain is art" must be taken into
consideration..It's a fact that it's raining most of the days except in summer, and even
in this season you had better take an umbrella with you in case it starts
One of the other topics of Galicia has to do with the fact that the locals like to eat
and drink a lot.....Once again it's not a topic, but a fact !!!..If you go to a restaurant
and order a steak and a salade don't be surprised if the waiter kindly
asks you if you are ill....you are supposed to eat two or three "hard" dishes
and to help them "go down" with a bottle (or more) of wine.
This time we slept all the nights at a hotel near Santiago . It was not so bad
idea as I thought in the begining, because this city is located quite in the
middle of Galicia and most of the places to visit are not further away than 100-150 Kms,
and so can be easily reached by car.
If you like a small, restful and familar hotel near Santiago the "Hotel Casa Rosalia" is your choice.
It is located in "Os Anxeles", a small village about 10 Km away from Santiago.
It is an old house with its walls of stones and traditional decoration, but very clean and
well rebuild. Mercedes and Diana, at the reception, will take care of making your stay
The city of Santiago de Compostela is worth the travel by itself. The
best is to wander up and down by the old and narrow streets of the medieval city. I was
surprised on how clean they are despite the thousands of tourists that daily visit the
city...my congratulations to the town council and the comunity of Galicia for the
maintenace of this "pearl".
I you go by car, there are many car parks around the old city, but it's much better to park
it in the campus of the University....It's free, it's a walk away from the center
and further you will have the chance the enjoy the campus itself and it's ancient
buildings. (Thanks to Mercedes for the trick). [9-May-2006 update.
I have been told that it's no longer possible to park in the the campus for
free, now you have to pay a parking fee]
If you can, try to avoid travelling in the "Anyo Santo" (Holy
year), what happens every 7 years or so. The other years there are not so many tourists
and the city is not so overcroweded.
In the "Rua do Franco" street there are plenty of small restaurants where you
can try the local dishes (Mainly shellfish). If you prefer a more a refined one (although
not luxurious at all), don't hesitate to go to the restaurant Alameda, at
the end of that street. I recomend you try the fish with shellfish sauce
together with a bottle of Albari? (the most outstanding white wine from Galicia, to my
point of view). Just a curiosity...you only pay the wine you drink, not the whole
bottle...this tradition seems to be common in some restaurants, and hit me because I had
never seen it in another place.
You should also try the famous cake "tarta de Santiago", made
with almonds. Buy it in some of the bakeries in the old city and avoid
buying those which are sold everywhere (Already packed in a box). This cake lasts for
several days, so it is a good souvenir to take back home and share it with the friends.
Very close to Santiago you have to go to Padron, famous for its writers
(Rosalia de Castro, Camilo Jos?Cela) and for its peppers ("Pimientos de
Padron")... they have the particularity that some are hot, while others are not....so
you never know how is the next one you are going to eat ... (Recomendation: Have a bottle
of wine at hand in case you get one hot :-))
Near Padr? you can eat at one of the better known restaurants of the
area, "Casa Ramallo" at the village of Rois. This is not a tipical restaurant
where you read the menu and order the dishes you like....the normal there is that you
order and start eating a first dish, when you have finished you order the second, after
that (if you are still hungry) you order the third, then the fourth, and so on while you
can eat. (I stoped with two dishes + desert and the waiter looked at me
contemptuously...). Don't even read the menu, ask the waiter to recomend
you the dishes...
A highly recomendable excursion is to drive along the "Costa de la
Muerte" (Coast of death), famous for the many shipwrecks...(when you see
this coast you understand the reason). A good idea is to go to have lunch
in some of the small fisher's villages along the coast. If you end up in Laxe, I
can recomend you "Casa do Arco" (C/Real, 1). The stuffed mussels are
delicious but I don't recoment you the veal chop.
Of course you have to stop at Finisterre's cape. The famous cape
supposed to be the "end of world" (what Finisterre means) in the past...there is
nothing special there, except the ligthhouse and a nice view of the atlantic ocean...if
you can, go there at sunset to watch the sun going down into the ocean...
Don't skip the village of Finisterre, as I stupidly did in my former
travel. It's a nice fishing port with good pubs and restaurant where to eat. I
recomend you "O'Centolo" where I enjoyed a dish of grilled shellfish
and one of the best cakes I have ever eaten, made with cream and pineapple.
The fact is that Finisterre is not the most western cape of continental Europe. The
most western is Touri?n cape, just a few Km to the north. Curiously this place
is rarely visited by tourists.....may be that's the reason why I like it so much :-)
Of course, you are also supposed to go to the capital city of A Coru? . I don't
like this city very much, the old town needs a lot of maintenance and
cleaning....even so it's nice to walk by their streets from the square of
Maria Pita to the the fortress of San Carlos, or by the old fisher's neighborhood that now
is the shopping area. Near the square of Maria Pita there are plenty of restaurants. Very
close to it I went to "Casa Jesusa" (Franja, 8), with affordable prices and very
At a walk away from the city you can visit the "Torre de
Hercules" (Tower of Hercules), an impresive lighthouse with a nice view on the coast
and the town.
Much more interesting are the cities of Ourense , with its curious
sloping square and the river Mi? crossing the town, and specially Pontevedra
with a huge
and very well preserved old-town in wich you can get lost....don't miss this city !
One of the most fascinating aspects of Galicia are the forests..they are present
everywhere and soon you will realize that the gum tree (eucalyptus) predominates. You
could guess this is one of the most representative trees of Galicia, but the fact is that
it was introduced not so many year ago by the industry of wood. I you want to watch one of
the last areas wich is still keeping the rests of the original forests (mainly of oak
trees) you have to go "Las gargantas del Sil", a nice excursion
that takes you from the city of Ourense
up by the banks of the river Mi? and then by the
ravine of its tributary river Sil.
This area is also known as the "Ribera sacra" (Holy riverside), because of the
many monasteries along it. It also denominates the excellent black wine
"Ribera Sacra", of which I have been recomended the variety "Amandi"
(Thanks Diana !)
Posibly the most well-known wines from Galicia are Ribeiro and Albari?. To my point of
view Ribeiro is good, but Albari? is excellent...I was recomented the following
Ribeiro "Emilio rojo" (Pretty expensive) and Albari?s "Pedro de
Soutomaior" and "Martin Codax".
Finally, if you are leaving by the Airport of Santiago you still have a last
chance to enjoy the dishes from Galicia at "Casa Lorenzo", beside the