Getting Behind…

8 Jul

So clearly I’ve been getting behind in my blogging. Somewhere after San Sebastián I lost the plot and got consumed by driving and getting to the next place.

Here are some highlights:

Biarritz

After San Seb. we headed to Biarritz to drop our friends to the airport and we stayed the night.

Stunning location on the Basque Coast. Check.
Beautiful young people sunning themselves. Check.
Snotty French waiters and mediocre food. Check. Check.
All the makings of the perfect holiday resort.
It is beautiful, no doubt but I’d be hard pressed to spend a week here I think.  We did have some amazing mussels in blue cheese sauce that were to die for. They were really small and tender but overall the food here was nothing like we’d been eating in Spain and was quite a bit more expensive.

The spectacular beach at Biarritz

Further down the coast toward Spain, the town of Saint Jean de Luz is a much nicer town with a more homey feeling. The beach front isn’t as impressive but I enjoyed the town itself more with its little shops and bakeries.  I have always wanted to go here because when I was a child my family stayed in the next town on the Spanish side – Hondarribia and we could see Saint Jean from there. As a young child I always found it amazing that you could look across the water and see another country.

Beachfront houses at Saint Jean de Luz

Bilbao once more

I have some family friends/relatives in Bilbao so we met them for lunch. Despite their best efforts to direct us to their home via an exit name that did not exist, we inevitably ended up lost in Bilbao. After several attempts to locate each other via telephone they eventually ended up coming to find us so that we could follow them to their apartment where we could eat lunch. Bilbao sits in kind of a hole in the landscape and they live at the top so the view from there was quite something. We could see all of Bilbao and even the Guggenheim from their balcony.  The ‘small’ lunch as they called it consisted of ham, chorizo, ensaladilla de Rusia – a kind of potato salad and asparagus. Then for the second course, yes, I did say second course, they provided some delicious meatballs called albondigas in a very rich tasty sauce.  This was followed by cheese of the Idiazabal variety which is typical of the Basque country. To paraphrase Van Morrison….now the eating has begun.

View from the terrace of my family friends in Bilbao

Gijon
We said our goodbyes and headed to Gijón – a beach town on the Cantabrian Coast in Asturias. It was lovely to have some fresh air after all that driving so we walked up and down the beach front and had a small dish of clams before taking a pretty early night.

Sunset at Gijón

Almejas a la Marinera on the Gijón Beachfront

Galicia
I am a ‘gallega’ by birth so we were returning to my homeland. Galicia is a very green and very beautiful, not very industrialized. Much of it lies on the sea and the reputation for quality products from both land and sea is known throughout Spain.

We were ultimately heading to Grandma’s house in Noceda a small village near Lugo but with a stop in Santiago de Compostela.

We stopped about noon at a beach called Praia os Catedreis or Cathedral Beach which is known for its spectacular formations. Sadly the tide was in and we didn’t get the full effect but beautiful it was just the same.

Praia os Catedrais


Lost Once More…Santiago

Our plan was to have lunch with some cousins of mine in Santiago and then head to Grandmas. But once again, a combination of lack of local knowledge, confused instructions and communication issues resulted in us being lost at our destination and spending about an hour trying to find where we were going to go. Super G was quite frightened at one point as we navigated the small streets of Santiago with me driving, speaking in Spanish to my cousin on the speaker phone both of us shouting at each other which is more the Spanish way of discussion.

Eventually I gave up with trying to find our destination and we simply abandoned our car in the nearest public car park and took a taxi to the restaurant we were to meet them at.  This meal was so simple, but so enjoyable.

Grilled Octopus (Pulpo)
Salad
Red Peppers stuffed with Cod
Pimientos del Padrón, a local specialty – small green peppers that are fried. It is somewhat of a lottery as some are extremely hot, others are not. But both are delicious.
Tortilla Española – until this point I had been very disappointed with the tortillas we’d had in other places. This is a dish that my mother makes all the time and sorry but the others had not been up to scratch. But this one was more like the one I remember and was delicious. The flavour of the eggs was incredible and the colour was really rich and yellow, almost orange.

Pulpo a la grella

At this point, my cousins were ordering dessert, which was really quite unbelievable, but despite our protests out came a dessert plate with various things to try including delicious strawberries covered in chocolate as well as chestnuts in chocolate and creme caramel.

Dessert!

Paseo Por Santiago

Some of you may have heard of the Camino de Santiago which is a religious pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James the Apostle who is believed to be buried at Santiago. It is said that the remains of the saint revealed themselves in a field of stars or Campo do Stella from which comes the name Compostela. This has been a route for pilgrims since at least the 13th Century.  This year is a Jacobean Year or Año Santo which occurs in every year that St. James Day, the 25th of July falls on a Sunday. The next one will be in 2021.  So many more pilgrims will come this year than in others.

My youngest cousin Faia was an excellent tour guide deftly walking straight past any signs that said ‘prohibido’ or ‘guests only’ to show us lots of secret corners of Santiago – a truly magical city. She also showed us the ‘insider tricks’ like lying on the ground in front of the Cathedral and looking it upside down, which is what locals do.

Baroque Facade of the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela

The Upside Down View

Cloister in the Hospital de los Reyes Catolicos

Library at the Universidad de Santiago

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One Response to “Getting Behind…”

  1. super "G" July 18, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    I was not frightened in Santiago while you were on the phone and shifting gears and changing lanes………I was scared to death.

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