The Mystery and Beauty of Galicia

Old Sep 18th, 2016, 07:36 AM
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The Mystery and Beauty of Galicia

I recently spent a couple of weeks (separately) in the Galicia region of Spain. This region had been calling to me for some time. Ever since hearing it described by a young woman I was tutoring in an English immersion program in Spain, who was from the area. She described it as a green, wet area with beautiful coastal views, excellent locally produced white wines, and tons of fresh seafood (the region's specialty is pulpo or octopus, grilled and served warm on a wooden platter with olive oil and paprika).

I am a sucker for all wet, green areas that serve up great seafood and are on the coast. I've always been a fan of Northern Coasts vs. Southern Coasts. A hike along a windy green grassed cliff above crashing waves and the smell of salt and seafood in the air is my idea of heaven. Throw in a thriving local white wine industry (Rias Baixas region is spectacular for Albariño) and I'm already packing my bags.

Having been in the wine industry for 14 years, I'd drunk my share of Rias Baixas (pronounced Ree-ass Buyshass) Albariños. But I'd never thought about where the region was in relation to the rest of Spain. And how hard it might be to get to from the rest of Spain.

Google doesn't populate results that include Galicia unless you are specifically looking for Galicia (or one of the cities within it) so even during my research on regions of Spain to visit it hadn't really come up. If you aren't already looking to visit a place in Galicia or to do the Camino it likely won't come up on your radar.

And this is just what makes this region so magical and such a rarity in 2017 in Spain (the most visited European country in the world after France and the 3rd most visited country in the world).

Galicia is not a touristy region. At least not for Americans or the rest of the world beyond Spain and Portugal and the few random Brits that make their way over (having presumably figured out it's the only coastal area in which they won't fry themselves in too much sun and where everything costs 1/4 what it does at home).

The exception to Galicia's non-status as a must-visit region is, of course, the Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrimage route that has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity over the past 30 years and sees 10s of thousands of tourists/pilgrims per year. The pilgrimage ends (as it did originally when religious pilgrims sought out to visit the remains of St. James that were rumored to have been buried there) in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

This keeps Santiago de Compostela on the map as a major destination (if one is already looking to do the Camino...) and thereby also some neighboring areas through which the Camino runs. But if you veer away from the Camino spots (and those are mainly only touristed in the summer or early Fall) you'll find a whole different side to Spain. One without the polish of more heavily touristed areas.

During my recent trip to Sanxenxo and Rias Baixas vineyards, Ribadeo, Rinlo, and Cathedral Beach and the Ribeira Sacra areas of Galicia I had an entirely new type of 'Spanish' experience. Not only were the lack of crowds, lack of easy-to-find accommodation and lack of functioning GPS (particularly in Ribeira Sacra) a big change but the fact that I was surrounded by an entirely different language most of the time (unless I was being served-because they could see I wasn't Galician so they'd speak Spanish) made it feel as if I was in a tiny country of it's own.

Gallego (Galician) is very similar to Portugese and of course being located so near to the country there are other similarities between the cultures as well. You'll also see more Portuguese tourists in Galicia than any other nationality. Though everyone in Galicia speaks Spanish as well (except a few very old people who have never left Galicia, didn't go to school, and only hear Spanish on television like my boyfriend's grandmother).

I really like the Gallego culture and diet as it's far more my speed than the more popular and well known areas of Spain. Gallegos move a little slower, have a simpler life (and simpler means less technologically advanced very often as well as less commercially focused due to primarily geographic and economic factors) and eat lots of seafood. They also drink more white wine than any other Spaniards I've met. In fact most Spaniard men I meet don't drink any white wine, nor do many of my Spanish women friends. They drink beer first, red wine if they are drinking wine, or a cocktail.

The exception to these trends are those who were raised in white wine focused regions like Galicia or Rueda. In Galicia more than 90% of wines produced are white. And therefore, the people drink white wine. It's the norm. This doesn't mean they don't also drink a lot of beer though. It's still the bevvie of choice for most men in Galicia (my bf included though he loves Galician white wines too) and of course, Estrella Galicia, one of Spains most popular and largest names in beer, is made in Galicia.

My first stop in Galicia was a small beach city called Sanxenxo. While not my top choice for the type of city I'd normally visit, I was invited by a Spanish friend (along with a group of others) to stay in her family's apartments there. It so happens that Sanxenxo is in Riax Baixas and thereby very close to some good vineyards.

I'll continue this post with Part 2
Brooke_Herron is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2016, 09:46 AM
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Brooke, thanks for this report on an area we enjoyed tremendously. You have captured so many reasons that it touched us ( including the delicious grilled octopus) and I eagerly await more segments.
We traved there from Porto after two and a half weeks in Portugal.
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Old Sep 18th, 2016, 11:38 AM
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Happy Trvlr- oh how lovely! I would have loved to spend more time in Portugal. Sadly I only got a few days in Porto but I plan to head back soon, to some rural areas and road trip from there to Galicia.

I look forward to finishing my account over a few more posts (I'm not thrifty with words...I've found it's impossible even when I try)

what were your favorite areas of Galicia?
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Old Sep 18th, 2016, 01:00 PM
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As we have relatives in Galicia we have visited many times, including two weeks ago and Brooke's description is very accurate.

Galicia was and remains one of the poorer regions of the country, thus choice of wines, by a wider group, is a new sophistication.

Most restaurants still ask tinto o blanco.

There are many wonderful beaches in Galicia known to the Spanish and few others. Two of the more beautiful beaches are Islas Cies off Vigo and Praia das Catedrais near Lugo. But there are many others. Trip report in a few weeks when we return home.
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Old Sep 18th, 2016, 05:32 PM
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Santiago really tugged at our heart strings and we saw the scallop shells as we left Galicia, and traveled across northern Spain. We have travelled all over the world and our experience in Galicia is one of our fondest travel memories. I can still see the vines in the vineyards propped with posts made from granite. I look forward to traveling along with you via this report.
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Old Sep 18th, 2016, 11:35 PM
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Great report! Have been wanting to go to Galicia for some 20 years, but have so far not made it further out the coast than Llanes. So many other great places along the Northern coast and inland, but this helps put focus back on Galicia.
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Old Sep 19th, 2016, 02:59 AM
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I 'm sure all the details of your report will help others. I was fortunate to be able to take an off-the-beaten track trip through Galacia a few years ago, and all of it was a discovery because there is so little written about this beautiful region, and I can honestly say there wasn't one bit of it we didn't enjoy. As a European neighborhood it has a very distinct personality, and although the places we want only occasionally saw American tourists, every one was very helpful and we got lots of great tips from locals about eating regional specialties found nowhere else on the planet and memorable "not-to-miss" sights that are not listed in guidebooks (if you can even find a guidebook for Galicia that isn't all about the pilgrimage!).
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Old Sep 19th, 2016, 07:42 AM
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Brooke how nice to see a trip report about Galicia. We visited there a couple of years ago, and loved it, along with all of northern Spain.
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Old Sep 19th, 2016, 07:48 AM
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Bookmarking! Wonderful report. We'll be there this November for a short time. Interested in the wines as well as experiencing the magical "sense of place" as you describe it.
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Old Sep 24th, 2016, 09:18 AM
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I've just started planning a trip to Northern Spain for next summer. I hope you are going to describe some more places.
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Old Sep 29th, 2016, 04:56 AM
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HappyTrvlr- you don't see that type of vine-training in many areas of the world do you? I loved the fact that when touring through the vineyards we walked UNDER the vines rather than through them. Though I studied wine-and worked with many vineyards in U.S and France I'd never seen this type of vine-training in person and it was awesome. not to mention that the shade under the vines was welcome as we were there on a hot day!

frencharmoire- you are right about the lack of cohesive information about the region. one typically reads about the Camino. If you read about anything else, maybe it's Cathedral Beach, or an overview of the region and it's wines on a site like Lonely Planet (which actually has a little article on Rias Baixas and Galician wines but they do not cover the region in it's entirety).
What areas did you travel to when you visited? Would love to hear your favorite spot.

kathleen- oh that 's lovely! Feel free to email me/facebook me or message me on my blog (which also has photos of Rias Baixas in a recent post and I will be adding my Ribeira Sacra photos to soon) if you want to chat about your trip before you go or if you have any questions I might have answers to.

Isabel- I just posted a Part 2 to this report, covering my experience in Rinlo and Cathedral Beach. I can't post photos on here but go to my profile or email me at adifferentkindoftravel AT gmail.com if you'd like me to link you to some Instagram or FB photos from my trip. I'll have a Part 3 soon, covering the Ribeira Sacra region of Galicia.
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Old Sep 29th, 2016, 03:22 PM
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I've had the good fortune to live and visit Spain many times over the years and Galicia has become my favorite region. It is only becoming "discovered" by tourists! In my opinion, it still has its own genuine and unique flavor. The camino has become so popular that I dread to see this popularity spread throughout Galicia. I no longer enjoy visiting Santiago!
San Sebastian and the Basque region was my previous favorite but it is now overrun by the invasion of tourists from outside of Spain. I think I'm moving on to discover the region of Asturias.....sshhhhhh!
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Old Sep 29th, 2016, 05:40 PM
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Why bother?
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Old Sep 29th, 2016, 10:08 PM
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?????
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 08:10 AM
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Another Galicia lover here, my favorite area in Spain. I've had the good fortune to visit many times, some times in connection to the Camino , other times on its own. My selfish side wishes that it becomes undiscovered for hordes of tourists, but my better side is happy that others come to enjoy it. I look forward to the rst of your report.

Chapla, I understand what you say about Santiago. I first went in 2002 and it was practically deserted from tourists. Now its a different story, you get lines even to go into the Cathedral.
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 12:15 PM
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Cruiseluv- I didn't feel a huge connection with Santiago either. Mostly because it's a real city with plenty of modern shops and chains and stuff (in the new downtown area-not the old town) and I've been in so many hundreds of European cities that they all feel the same to me now unless they are small, and almost devoid of chains (I know I know that's not possible). My bf loves it though (he's Galician) and lived there for 5 years. Spanish don't have the same love we do for all things old and crumbling and non-modern. Quite the opposite in fact much of the time. We all love what is rare or special or that we weren't surrounded with and feels like the norm right?
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 12:19 PM
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In fact all of my Galician friends absolutely love Santiago!
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 05:13 PM
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Oh no, I still love Santiago (when I talk about Santiago I'm referring to the old city, not the newer part which I seldom venture into). But yes , the ticky tacky stores seem to have multiplied and the hordes of tourists as well. Don't get me wrong, I'm a tourist so I shouldnt begrudge others from enjoying it. For many visits , my preferred time in Santiago was to go late at night to Plaza do Obradoiro and look up at the Cathedral's spires bathed in light. Now unfortunately the're partly covered by scaffolding.
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