If Cat Gaa could live two places at once, it would be Seville and Galicia. Our guest writer and expert from Southern Spain faces the dilemma that many of us who live in Spain contend with: we want it all, we want to live in many places. With and abundance of enticing spots to travel and live, Galicia is lesser known to tourists. As a result, it is less crowded, less expensive, and retains it’s pristine beauty. Grab a glass of white wine and a plate octopus, and if you aren’t already in Galicia, enjoy the ride.
By Cat Gaa
If you were to ask a Spaniard what regional characteristics I best embodied, it would be a clear Andalusia. I exaggerate, love both beaches and mountains, speak a crisp andalú and relish in a sevillano springtime.
But my heart almost, almost belongs in another place in Spain: the Northwest corner tucked far into misty valleys, finger-like fjords and an extreme love for shellfish. Galicia is only topped by Southern Spain, but Galizia to the ruddy-faced fisherman who speak in a singsong language and the teenagers with mohawks is more than pulpo and percebes, surfing and Santiago (though that’s a great introduction!).
When my boyfriend was sent on a two-week course there this Spring, I jumped at the chance to show him the beauty of simplicity there, share my favorite tapas bars and stand in the glory of Praza do Obradoiro with him. As I work during July in A Coruña, an ancient city nestled on a mushroom-shaped penninsula, it’s the region where I’ve lived the longest outside of Andalucía. The pulpo (octopus) and percebes (barnacles)? My diet during July. I tried surfing here for the first time and have come to love it like my own. Here are a few of my favorite things about Spain’s untamed Galician region.
In being perched at the top of a peninusla, it’s kind of your duty to hold down the where-land-meets-water fort. Galicia has more than 1600 km of coastline which gives way to the powerful Rias Altas y Baixas Mountains. The sea is as much a part of a gallego’s life as anything – my friend Julie claims her first food was octopus and that along the coastline, much scent of sea salt makes her feel half dead. Galicia’s coasts are home to many of Europe’s blue flag beaches, known for their water quality. I’ve spent many afternoons laying on the rocky beaches of the Orzán and Riazor in Coruña, and looking across to the world’s oldest working lighthouse, the Torre de Hércules.
Further, the Islas Ciès, an archipellageo off the coast of Vigo, claim to have some of the most pristine beaches in the world. It’s not only protected as a national park with a thriving flock of seagulls (sorry, couldn’t resist), but the Guardian UK recently heralded it as the World’s Most Beautiful Beach. While it’s certainly not an eyesore, many of the coast’s rocky beaches are worth seeing.
The Food and Drink
Galicia’s landscape lends perfectly to the regional gastronomy. The coastline and rivers produce some of Spain’s finest seafood and white wines, and by sharing a border with Asturias, there’s no shortage of variety – outside of seafood, that is.
Polbo a feira (Galician octopus), empanada gallega (puff pastry with tuna) and percebes (goosbarnacles) turn up on nearly every menu, and they’re best washed down with a taza, or saucer, of white wine. Albariño is crisp and clear, while Ribeiro tends to have slightly more body. What’s more, one of Spain’s most beloved beers, Estrella Galicia, is on tap here and served with peanuts or the locally fabricated Bonilla la Vista potato chips.
Tip: in A Coruña, Bar La Bombilla gives you cheap milanesa pork loins and croquettes (C/ Torreiro, 6) and my pick in Santiago de Compostela is O Gato Negro (Rúa de Raiña, s/n).
A college friend of mine once told me his grandparents were from Galicia. As I shrieked with joy, I asked him to imitate his intonation. The gallegos have a cheery, singsong-y way of communicating. As one of Spain’s five official languages, it’s taught in schools and newspapers publish this hybrid of Castillian Spanish and Portuguese.
While I can’t claim to be an expert, Galego speakers generally swap j for x, force de, of, and los and las, the, together to form dos and das and add the diminutive iño. Who can really resist a bright boas días and a poquiño of Galician charm, anyway?
The Simplicity of Life
Galicians seem to fall in the same categories when all is said and done, and there are universal truths about them as a people: traditional, steadfastly religious, hard-working, cheerful. A gallego takes pleasure from the simple smell of salt in the air, a good albariño wine and a walk along the port at the end of a long, hearty meal. Some of Spain’s most well-known sons come from this small corner – General Francisco Franco, writer Manuel Rivas, Inditex founder and billionaire Amancio Ortego and Spain’s current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy are all galegos by birth, not to mention the scores that come from Galician roots.
But me, I feel refreshed when I spend time in Galicia – full of life, full of light energy, well-fed on mariscos and white wine. The best of life is here, from the feeling of sand between your toes to hearty laughs while munching on potato chips.
Related Spain Scoop: Regina has loved her visits to Galicia especially the beaches, and of course the food.
MORE SCOOP – This month check out the music fest DO NORTE in Galicia! : http://www.thespainscoop.com/festival-do-norte-2012/
Upon receiving an offer to work at a radio news broadcast center in Chicago, Cat Gaa turned it down and turned up at the Consulate of Spain. Five years and a daily craving for Cruzcampo later, she writes by night at Sunshine and Siestas about Sevilla – toros, tapas and just about everything else – while wrangling kids by day