! Visiting the host family was fantastic- They were once again wonderful hosts and treated us like royalty. Definitely a highlight of being there. In addition to wandering the old town and the waterfront boardwalk, they took us on a day trip. We went to PuentedeUma, and old aqueduct / bridge and we had lunch on the water. Then we headed to an old monastery which is currently being restored. On Sunday afternoon we attended the local team soccer game and, even though the score was 0-0, there were still some exciting moments and it was fun to see the energy of the fans--not fanatical like the Brazilians, but passionate about their sport and their team.
It was also interesting to see how different their way of life is from ours. They live in the city center. There are a multitude of city parks and places to go for a walk and gather with friends. They shop for fresh food every day. Every Sunday the whole family gathers to have lunch together. They have a car but almost never take it out of the garage. They go to work around 9am, come home for lunch from ~2 to 4, then go back to work for a couple of hours. After work they go out for tapas or have dinner at home. But one thing struck me--they connect with family and friends every day. This seems like a very healthy and enjoyable lifestyle to me.
Galicia is famous for shellfish, and besides “pulpo a feira”, we also ate percebes (barnicles), many varieties of clams, navajas (razor shellfish), scallops, mussels and cigalas (giant prawns with claws- sort of a mix between shrimp and lobsters- very sweet meat - yum!)
. All fresh and delicious, usually very simply prepared (usually steamed or sauteed) with olive oil and garlic. My other favorite food is chorizo. I remember when I was in La Coruna 21 years ago, eating chorizo and manchego sandwiches and thinking I had died and gone to heaven. I cannot duplicate this sandwich in the US. The combination of their special bread and the flavor of the chorizo is different. If you know where to get authentic Galician chorizo and bread in the US- please tell me!!!
And the whole “tapas” tradition is more than just about filling your stomach. It is about migrating from bar to bar, eating one or two tapas and a half beer at each place and, I suspect, trying to figure out where your friends are on this particular evening… If you can find a table with chairs available, you can sit there, but mostly you just hang out at the bar. Tapas can be for lunch, or appetizers before a late night dinner or as a dinner substitute. There is no bad time for tapas! It is a great way to spend an evening and a very social activity.
If you are a shellfish lover, you are doing yourself a complete disservice if you do not put Galicia (and the whole coast of northern Spain) on your list of “must visits”. We have decided that La Coruna is currently on the top of our list of foreign cities where we could live (if only there were jobs, oh well!). It is a nice sized city of ~ 200,000 inhabitants, with miles of boardwalk along the water, beaches, running paths, a beautiful old town, and oh, did I mention the FOOD?? J It is also the least touristy place we have visited so far-- so quick, get there before the masses discover it (I’d be happy to lead a tour--new employment opportunity???)!! The reason I even know about La Coruna is because 21 years ago, I was part of a Rotary Club exchange program the summer between high school and college where I stayed with a family for 1 month and then the Spanish student came to stay with us for 1 month. It was a life changing experience that opened my eyes to the wonders of international travel--I guess you could probably trace some of our current exploits to that experience