This article from Monica Adorno takes us to Galicia in Spain where she visited Santiago de Compostela for the Feast of St James, wandered around the old streets, visited the famous cathedral and ate some goose feet at the best restaurant in town.
Good history, good eating and great living; Spain is famous for doing these things and Galicia, with her fierce Gaelic heritage and her shire-like landscape, is no exception. Sometimes you visit a country or a region where there’s a palpable sense of identity; where the locals are inherently proud of their roots, and the feeling is contagious. If you’re lucky, something will click and you’ll connect with a place to which you had no previous ties. The region of Galicia, Spain, that sits at the north-west corner of the Iberian Peninsula, is one such place.
My boyfriend and I arrived in Santiago de Compostela last July. We arranged the holiday so that it coincided with the Festival of St James, celebrated each year on July 25. Last year the festival fell on a Sunday meaning that the dramatics and the exuberance were tripled. This doesn’t happen often and the next one, known as a Holy Year, is due in 2021. The festival was marked by an impressive fireworks display and other symbolic gestures. The local families who can be more reserved here than in other parts of Galicia were out enjoying the day’s activities and it was clear to see that it’s a fiesta that brings people together.
Santiago de Compostela is famous as a place of pilgrimage that millions have travelled to for over a thousand years to pray to the apostle St James whose remains, legend has it, were taken there for burial (Chaucer’s Wife of Bath made the trip). Neither the boyfriend nor I are particularly religious and like many others we made the trip to enjoy the magnificent Baroque and Romanesque architecture, the art, the history and the museums. The entire city is a World Heritage Site, which is a testament to its medieval beauty.
On our first day, having made no arrangements, we decided to spend the afternoon exploring the city. It would be a shame not to get lost in the maze of winding arcaded streets and granite buildings. We walked to the Old Quarter where the pièce de résistance is the magnificent cathedral. Described as the ‘Romanesque jewel within a Baroque case’ it looms impressively over the Praza do Obradoiro, flanked by giant bell towers. We went into the cathedral (entrance is free) and did a guided tour of Las Cubiertas, the cathedral roof. The guide took us through the upper floors of the cathedral interior and once on the roof, the boyfriend and I took in a panoramic view of the labyrinth below.
Back outside and feeling peckish we went in search of some tapas and strolling along la Rua Nova we came across Don Gaiferos, which locals and tourists describe as one of the best restaurants in the city, next to the Church of Santa Maria Salome. I ate estofado de carne, a delicious local stew, and the boyfriend, ever the adventurer, ordered the exotic sounding percebes which translates as goose barnacles. His plate arrived piled high with what looked like small dragon feet which he had to suck the meat out of. These claws don’t come cheap at 30€ for a small portion but they’re a local delicacy and worth buying if only to say you ate dragon feet (though that wouldn’t be strictly true).
Dining in Galicia can be pricey but the food is fresh and everything is so good that to deny yourself these pleasures is sheer madness. For a quick snack try the cheekily titled Queso de Tetilla which literally translates as cheese of small breast and are shaped like them too. The boyfriend, rather predictably, couldn’t resist bringing a bag home.
Author Bio: Monica Adorno is a snowsports writer living and working in London. She spent her university days hitch hiking across Central America and South East Asia. She plans to conquer Mount Everest and marry explorer Bruce Parry!
My thanks for this sponsored post to MyDestination Galicia, where you’ll find comprehensive information on all things Galicia
Photo Credits: Cathedral by bernavazqueze, other photos from MyDestination Galicia
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