19.01.2013 - 22.01.2013 8 °C
Santiago de Compostela
We decided to spend Michelle's birthday weekend here in Santiago de Compostela located in the region of Galicia. It was very long 5 and a bit hours train ride from Madrid. They even put on a movie- Tin Tin's adventure (in Spanish) and you get free headphones . We actually arrived an hour later- due to some odd technical problems during the start of the journey but spanish trains usually run pretty much on time, so pretty unlucky for us this time. We're fairly sure we jinxed it as we'd started telling everyone how efficient and reliable they are...
It has been raining since we've been here but the sun decided to come out for Michelle's birthday. Apparently she went to church the day before and asked for a sunny day on her birthday and looks like that is what she is getting . We started Michelle's birthday with a champagne breakfast (actually they serve us champagne for breakfast every morning), a visit to St James tomb in the cathedral next door and a stroll in the park. Michelle stuffed her face with some chocolates and we finished the day with a yummy expensive dinner at the restaurant located in the basement of the hotel which used to be the stables .
Our hotel: Parador de Santiago (Hostal dos Reis Catolicos)
This is Quintara Square- the centre of the city. To the left of the photo is Raxoi Palace; to the right of the hotel is the Cathedral
Half of the reason that we actually came this far north was to stay in a fancy 5star hotel for Michelle's birthday. I (Blake) got to stay in a converted cave in Italy for my bday and Michelle chose a 500 year old building, which is the one of the world's oldest hotels, for hers. It's a royal hospital built by the Catholic monarchs in 1499 to provide shelter & medical treatment for pilgrims who had completed the Camino- the pilgrimage route to Santiago. The building was like a city on its own- with its own priests, health workers, apothecaries, accountants & administrators. It even had its own jail, wine cellar, stables, medicinal garden & dwellings for the staffs.
It was later also a orphanage & then turned into a luxury hotel & museum . As guests of the hotel, we have access to all areas to the hotel. If you are not a hotel guest- u have to pay Euro 3 if you want to check out the place.
Our bodyguards during our stay here: ie. the local police
Hallways of the more expensive rooms:
There are 4 courtyards- Our room looks down onto one of these courtyard:
Strolling around the hotel..
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
We actually pop into the church on Sunday- but there were so many people attending the noon mass service, so we left and return the next day when there's not so many people. So this Cathedral is the burial place of St James the Great (he was one of the apostles of Jesus- if you didn't know, like Blake).
So according to legend, the apostle St James brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula and was beheaded in Jerusalem. His remains were later brought back to Galicia. His tomb was rediscovered in 814 AD and after some locals witnessed strange lights in the night sky- they recognized this as a miracle. So the Bishop at that time had informed King Alfonso II of Asturias and Galicia of this event, who then ordered the construction of a chapel on the site. Legend has it that the king was the first pilgrim to this shrine. It was only later, on the orders of King Alfonso III of Leon that the Cathedral was built. It is now a major pilgrimage site.
St James's tomb (in the crypt below the altar); & Blake standing inside altar (sort of).. but it's all gold in there.. amazing:
Strolling round town
We spent our last day getting lost in the small alleys around town. My (Blake) brain hasn't quite adjusted to curvy roads, pretty used to the roman grid layout so my "follow this road in this direction" gets a bit confusing when the roads circles in on itself. Either way, we found the Galician folk museum which was supposedly a 'must do'. It was really a terrible museum if you don't speak Spanish or Galician though. So we were in and out in about 20minutes! We headed back through the local markets that we saw along the way and checked out some of the cool meats like whole skinned rabbits and buckets of pigs ears. We just took it easy for the afternoon and rested rather than seeing the monastery as we're a bit monumented out at the moment (as you can imagine, about 240days of sightseeing can get a bit repetitive).
On the left is a pie (tuna pie- taste like my (Michelle) mummy's curry puffs!!)- i think its empanadas which is a savoury pie; On the right is Galician style octopus with paprika & potatoes (The octopus is slimy on the outside and firm on the inside... kinda strange); the most tender grilled squid we've ever had; mussels
We saw this in Madrid. Blake looked it up and its goose barnacles!! Looks like alien claws. But they actually taste like abalone.. Euro100/kgs!!!! So if you don't mind splashing around some money for it.. definitely should try it .
Michelle's birthday dinner:
We ordered a 3 course set menu (plus a complimentary local champagne & entree- salmon terrine). Plenty to eat.
Entree: scallops; marinated sardines. Mains: fish & shell fish stew; pork. Dessert: Sherbet (with very alcoholic local liquor); cheesecake
Thanks Blake for splashing out on my credit card this weekend- everything has been charged to the room, might get a heart attack when we check the hotel bill when checking out. But it was all worth it .
Next stop Leon- to visit Jade's Spanish family. Its a hard life.. ahh.. We might even get to see some snow.. apparently it was snowing in Leon.