Back in February over Valentine’s Day weekend, schools were given Friday off for Carnival. Carnival is essentially like Halloween in Spain in the sense that everyone dresses up in crazy costumes. For this long weekend, I decided to visit my friend Erin in Galicia (for only 40 euros roundtrip! By far the cheapest flight I’ve ever paid for). Galicia is an Autonomous Community in Spain in the very northwest, just above Portugal. Since it is located on the northern coast, it is known for it’s delicious seafood, particularly pulpo or octopus, as well as it’s rainy weather. With it’s rainy weather comes a beautiful green countryside which contributes to its reputation of being the “Ireland of Spain.”
I met Erin last year when she was living here in Madrid with me but for her second year she decided she wanted to change regions, thus ending up in Galicia. Erin now lives in Santiago de Compostela, which is the capital of Galicia. I also took a day trip to A Coruña, the second largest city in Galicia, even though to me it felt even larger than Santiago. It was on the coast so it had beautiful views of the water, a port, and a lovely old town.
For the rest of the weekend, Erin showed me around Santiago. On Saturday night we traveled to a teeny tiny town nearby to see their carnival festivities. There was a headless horseman, old women dressed in neon tutus following the dance steps of a younger girl on stage as if it were a fitness class, and children dressed in medieval clothing on horseback reciting poetry VERY loudly (seriously, they should have turned down the mics!). It was pouring rain so everyone stood under a large tent.
My flight on Sunday wasn’t until late so we had all afternoon to tour. Besides its endless supply of pulpo, what Santiago de Compostela is most famous for is being the final destination of the Camino de Santiago or the “Way of St. James” which is a Catholic pilgimage that originated in the 9th century and is still a popular thing for people to do. In fact, one of the teachers I work with at my school does this pilgrimage every summer and he changes his starting point and route every time. How long it takes depends on the person’s route and how fast they walk, but this teacher in particular does it for a full month! Since you can do this pilgrimage at any time during the year, I was excited to see some real pilgrims in Santiago. When the pilgrims arrive to Santiago, they go to the cathedral in the center of the city because the remains of Saint James are inside. Sadly Erin and I were not pilgrims, but seeing the inside of this cathedral was necessary. Fortunately the weather cleared up and we were able to take a rooftop tour of the cathedral which gave us gorgeous views.
My Galician weekend was a great escape from the city life. When I travel, I tend to go to the big cities and I often don’t realize I’ve been spending the majority of my time in cities as opposed to nature. So when I breathed in the fresh Galician air and saw the green rolling hills of the countryside, I realized that it had been a long time since I’ve been in nature and it felt great!