Trip Start Dec 31, 2002
Trip End Jun 2003

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Thursday, March 6, 2003

Thursday morning found me on a plane on my way to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, a region of Spain above Portugal, with my Italian room mate, Francesco, and my travel buddy, Alejandro of Mexico. Obviously the plane was late - it's Spain - but eventually we arrived. We wandered through Santiago to find a hostel and then headed off to buy umbrellas. Galicia's landscapes are similar to Ireland, rolling green hills everywhere, but this requires lots of rain. It almost seems part of the character of the city...without the rain the city would feel as if it was missing something.

Santiago is famous for its Catedral. The cathedral marks the end of the Pilgrims' march as they walk from France to Santiago - basically they walk across the top of Spain, through the Pyrenees! The cathedral was beautiful. The city had other interesting sights to offer and we spent the afternoon exploring the old and new city. That night we headed out looking for a little fun...we found both little and fun - all the girls in the bar were, no joke, between 14 and 16! Incredible...the discotecas didn't OPEN until 5 (later than BCN, the party city), so we never made it there, but the boys had fun impressing the girls with their foreign accents. Francesco only had to say 'Italian' and all these little girls came over to dance with him. The next night we ended up at the same place because we couldn't find any other bars in the city, but both nights were fun just the same.

Saturday morning we rented a car and headed off to Cabo Finisterre (Cabo = cape). The owner of a restaurant we ate at in Santiago recommended it as a 'must-see'. The drive along the Costa de Morte (morte = dead) was worth it - amazing views of the ocean and we saw a crew cleaning the beaches as a result of the oil spill - but the actual cape was nothing special. Although, I can say that I have been to the most western point in Europe. And I understand why the coast is named as it is - the highway winds through the hills very close to the edge with little guard rail the fog that normally fills the region it would be impossible. After the cape, we continued on to La Coruna where we encountered amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean. That night, as we wandered looking for a destination, we walked right into a huge fiesta for Carnival. There were street parties all over, with many people in costume. It was so fun to see the whole city coming together to celebrate.

Sunday we continued into southern Galicia to Bayona, a small coastal town, and we had hoped to go further along the coast to La Guardia, which is supposed to be one of the hidden gems, but the fog made it not worth it. Instead we headed to Vigo, the biggest city in Galicia, and by far one of the ugliest cities I have ever seen. After 20 minutes of wandering we could find nothing redeeming about Vigo, so we headed on to Pontevedra.

Pontevedra was a charming little place of 50, 000. Nice little plazas and a great cheap restaurant where Francesco was finally able to get pasta - he was in serious withdrawal after four days. The nightlife in Pontevedra was a little lacking, so we hung out in our room. Our discussions of cultural differences led to Francesco referring to North Americans as "barbarians" because we do not use bidets and he does not understand how we clean ourselves after going to the bathroom. He also explained his theory that the most important verb in the English language is 'get' - you can out pretty much any 'little word' after get and create the meaning you need. When in doubt, he uses get. It actually works pretty well.

Monday we made our way back to Santiago to hop back on the plane to Barcelona. Although the weekend was a little wet, well, a lot wet, it was an excellent five days. The Celtic influences in Galicia were evident in the bagpipe players in the street playing for spare change. And, like Catalunya, Galicia has its own language, Galician. No matter how much my Spanish improves, I am always one behind the regional language changes!

Tuesday night we hopped on a train to Sitges, a small city half an hour south of Barcelona for the final night of Carnival. Sitges is the San Francisco of Spain, so the costumes and floats for the parade were elaborate - my favourite was the couple of 50+ men wearing fishnets and thongs! The streets were packed with people celebrating, dancing, and taking part in the festivities. The night ended on a bad note for many though as at least six ESADE students were pickpocketed, including me, losing wallets, phones, and cameras. Part of the experience I guess. So, just as I became connected to the world by cell phone, I am again an island...two phones down and three weeks to go.

This weekend is a work/relax weekend to recover. Camille, the French roomie, is hosting a dinner party Friday night, so I am responsible for a French appetizer...not my area of expertise, but a fun way to learn new dishes.

I am missing many of the comforts of home and today the North Americans broke down and had Starbucks. Hope everyone is enjoying the snow!

Hasta luego!
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