Picture of the Week

25 August 2020

Week 33: mostly Galicia

Filed under: — Administrator @ 06:11

This was the second week of my two-week summer vacation (I still have about 3 weeks of annual leave left for 2020, but I hope to take some trips to Poland and Denmark during the autumn). Even though we are unable to travel abroad, we decided that we wanted a trip nonetheless, and since Spain is a big country and there are many parts of it which I have not yet visited, we decided to spend the week in Galicia, Spain’s northwestern corner. I have already set up a dedicated gallery from the trip, but in this weekly blog I present pictures that for one reason or another did not fit into the gallery.

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On Saturday, we drove the 1050 km from Alicante to Santiago de Compostela. My wife has been there several times already, including participating in a shortened Camino a few years ago, but for me it was the first visit. We installed ourselves in the hotel about 1 km from the centre, and then went out to explore, starting of course with the cathedral itself:
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During the 2 days we spent in Santiago, we kept coming back to the square in front of the cathedral, Praza do Obradoiro. Besides the cathedral, there is also a magnificent 18th century palace, Pazo de Raxoi:
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The object of pilgrimages for hundreds of years, the shrine of St. James:
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The cathedral was more austere than I expected, compared to other Catholic churches, perhaps reflecting Galicia’s severe climate and the national character which is quite different from the rest of Spain. As is my habit when I visit such places, I lit two candles for my late mother (who was Christian), one on my behalf and one on behalf of my sister (those the two on the left):
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During the day, pilgrims keep arriving at the Praza do Obradoiro, both two- and four-legged ones:
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This is the queue in front of the office where arriving pilgrims get their Compostela, the physical proof of having completed the Camino. “Completed” is a relative term; the classic Camino Francés is about 800 km, but to get your Compostela you just have to walk the last 100 km or bike the last 200 km:
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A family of four on the square:
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Santiago has many small pedestrian streets in the centre, where we would go for dinner, sitting outside of course. The virus is the reason we sit outside, but it has the added benefit of facilitating people-watching. This employee of a creperie was trying to entice passers-by to take a sample of the goodies on offer:
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As always, I was on the lookout for funny signs and little details of interest. An example is this tattoo parlour with the somewhat unusual name “sacred heart”:
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“The sun rises for you, you just have to open the curtains”:
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Another sad sign. This bar has survived the Civil War, the Franco dictatorship, the financial crisis, but not Covid, apparently:
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As befits a university town, Santiago has its share of leftist nutcases. A sticker celebrating the 150th anniversary of Lenin’s birth:
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A call for revolution and an independent Galician socialist republic. You might expect to see this sort of thing in Catalonia, but while Galicia has a strong regional identity and its own language, there is no independence movement to speak of:
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A political statement which my Galician economist Carolina explained to me thus: The politician being ridiculed is the president of Galicia’s government, the Xunta, Alberto Núñez Feijóo of the conservative Popular Party. The top photo on the left shows him on a yacht with one of his narco trafficker friends, the bottom photo shows him trying to put out a forest fire with a garden hose. On the right he is compared to a pig being fattened for another four years:
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One thing Galicia has going for it is food. It has some of the best seafood in the world, but also delicious snacks such as empanadillas, pockets made of thin dough, stuffed with various delicious things. Here my wife is buying a couple in a small shop in the centre of Santiago:
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One morning, we drove out to Finisterre, about 80 km west of Santiago. It is Spain’s western-most point, our equivalent to England’s Land’s End. There is the old lighthouse and a restaurant on the very tip of the peninsula:
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The coastline at Finisterre is rocky and austere, and the fog rolls in from the Atlantic:
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After our two nights in Santiago, we moved on to a town called Mondariz, an old spa with a nearby golf resort, about 100 km from Santiago. The idea was to spend a few days there, enjoying the lush greenery of the Galician countryside, and for my wife to play golf. On the way, we passed the town of Padrón, where we stopped for lunch. The significance of the town for me was that it is the home of the Pimiento de Padrón, one of my favourite vegetables, a small green pepper that is totally delicious when fried in olive oil. While walking around the town, looking for a restaurant, I stopped at this statue of Rosalía de Castro, the first poet to write in Galician (considered an inferior tongue back then), who died in Padrón in 1885. The inscription on the monument explains that it was donated by people from Padrón living in Uruguay, reflecting the history of emigration from this part of Spain:
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Having found a restaurant we liked, we settled down for a lunch starting with the signature Pimientos de Padrón, an almost spiritual experience (I may be exaggerating slightly):
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And continuing with pulpo, another Galician staple:
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A couple of hours later, we arrived at Mondariz Balneario, a typical 19th century spa. The hotel was very nice, and I was pleased to see the extreme precautions–at check-in, they took our temperature, as they did every morning when we went for breakfast; masks and hand cleaner everywhere etc. This is the main spa building:
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The main spring, Fuente de Gándara, a sign with the chemical composition of the mineral water and the indication of disorders for which drinking it is supposed to be beneficial:
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If it tastes bad, it must be good for you:
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Fortunately, there were more agreeable watering holes near the hotel:
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They grow lots of grapes in Galicia and make some excellent wines:
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Since we ate all our meals outside, we were occasionally visited by cute animals during lunch or dinner, like this kitty:
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This dog visited us on a couple of occasions, one evening during dinner and the following day during lunch, at different restaurants. The waiter at the first restaurant told us that the dog just showed up one day, and the locals are taking care of him:
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My wife played golf on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. The Mondariz golf course was a few minutes’ drive from our hotel. We had nice sunny weather during most of the week. Wednesday morning was an exception. This was the view from the clubhouse:
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But rain does not stop a dedicated golfer. Wearing one of my jackets that I keep in the car, my wife played the 18 holes. After all, golf was invented in Scotland, not exactly a sunny place. Here she is, teeing off:
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Within walking distance of our hotel was the river Tea, a nice, wide river with a lovely path running alongside:
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This is the river. Galicia is lush and green, very different from our part of Spain:
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The water, up close:
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The riverbanks are grassy, and we saw a small flock of animals grazing, while their herder was taking a nap:
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On Thursday we drove back to Alicante. I was quite pleased to cover the more than 1000 km in 8 hours. The last few pictures are from a walk around the harbour in El Campello.

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Baños de la Reina (“the queen’s bath”), next to the harbour:
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View of the coast north of El Campello, as far as Benidorm (the tall buildings on the extreme right):
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There are numerous signs like this one, prohibiting jumping into the relatively shallow water from the rocks:
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But this being Spain, compliance with rules is somewhat spotty, something that is also hurting us during this coronavirus crisis:
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As I went back to my car to drive home, I found these three kitties, resting in the shade provided by the parked cars:
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