Tag Archives: galicia

Galicia Profunda (Pontevedra, Ourense, and a little bit of Lugo)

El tiempo vuela…


Plaza America (Vigo).

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were a wonderful time nonetheless and it was great to spend time with the grandparents and hear their stories of when they lived in New York.  Andrea was positively hyper due to gifts from Papa Noel and the sugar rush from all of the turron.  A day later, it was time to bid farewell to everyone (and avoid an Iberia strike) and head back to the US.  Saying goodbye at the airport was extremely difficult (we were all crying), but I try to remember that it is not a true goodbye and I will see my Spanish family again sooner than I expect.

…and I’m back!

Normally, my plane rides are pretty eventless.  Yesterday, however, I had the honor and distinction of sitting next to this Catalan guy who proceeded to tell me how odd I am (“So, my kids want to go to the US to study and you want to come HERE?”) and that I speak in circles (“like a typical Galician.”).  Deep down on the inside he must have really liked me though, because 7 hours later (well, 9 if you count the delays), I had an invitation to visit him and his family in Barcelona.  Next summer!


All of the delays meant that getting to my connection was going to be tricky.  After running at light speed to the extreme end of Terminal 4 (Gate 92, to be exact) and not allowing myself to be distracted by the faint smell of coffee and remembering how badly I needed one, I was the final passenger on the flight headed to Vigo.


50 minutes later…and I arrived!  I can’t even put into words how happy I was to see everyone.  Hugs, kisses everything.  Their first reactions as we made our way into the parking garage:


“Oh wow, you’ve gotten so skinny.  Are you eating at school?  Do your parents know how much weight you’ve lost?”

“What happened to your Spanish?  You speak with an American accent now!”

“Do you have a boyfriend at school?  Why not?  You know, if you return to Vigo next summer, you’d have an internship AND a boyfriend.”


I’m glad that parents are parents no matter where in the world you are; I love it. 🙂


So not only am I odd, but I am a great distraction tool.  Little Andrea was so excited that she was unable to focus for her evening classes and the professor told her it was better to stay home.  So of course, I was up with her, and she was telling me all about the past few months and planning all of these adventures for us.


I also met one of Mary’s students last night.  Her younger sister is looking to move to Chicago for her PhD and wants to know more about the city before enrolling in the short exchange program.  It looks like I’ll be meeting with the two of them next week.


Next week, I’m headed to Terras Gauda to speak with some of the directors, I’ll be meeting a couple in Vigo that knows “everyone” in the wine business in Rias Baixas, and I’m headed to a reception for female entrepreneurs in Vigo.


Because I did not pack my 60D and my new super-wide angle lens for nothing, I’m hoping to head to Leon for a day and a half with my good friend Laura!  Salamanca was going to be a bit far for such a short trip, but next time that we’re both in Spain together, I will pay her a visit.  (After typing this, I realized that I forgot to pack the cable for my camera so I’ll have to add photos once I’m back in the US.  Oops.)


Did I mention how horribly jetlagged I was?  I was practically sleeping at the dinner table last night.  I’ll have to cut this short, but after a glorious 12 hours of sleep, it’s time for a coffee and to get to work!



Fiesta de San Juan

So first and foremost, I have been having problems connecting to the internet this past weekend.  It’s been extra-frustrating because I wanted to share my San Juan experience with you all!  (I also need to post updates of my weekend in Malaga.)


The fiesta de San Juan is celebrated in many Spanish-speaking areas and countries, but in Galicia the traditions are especially important.  The holiday is linked to the summer solstice.  Bonfires symbolize a “cleansing” for the people who see them – meaning they are starting the year off anew.  And it’s not just branches that you’ll see burning; you’ll find students eager to burn their textbooks in the bonfire.  I’m sure that after passing their exams, they’d also like to start off new!


In Galicia, at midnight on the 24th day of June, massive bonfires are lit on the beach.  Additionally, it is very traditional to eat sardines for dinner and to drink queimada (a mixture of orujo, fruit, and sugar that is burned – but as you burn it you have to recite some wiccan chant).


Melinda and I headed to Playa America to celebrate San Juan.  There were so many people!  The evening was definitely geared towards the younger crowd, with lots of boardwalk games and prizes to keep everyone entertained before heading to the actual beach.  Although I didn’t see any queimada prepared on the beach, there were lots of mojitos and caiprhinas to be had.


The bonfires themselves were quite a sight to behold.  The flames were at least 10 feet tall and throwing off A LOT of heat.  (Which was good – the beach gets quite chilly at sundown.)  Kids on the beach were making mini-bonfires of their own.  Apparently, jumping over the bonfire means that you will have good luck in the coming year.  I didn’t do any jumping, so I hope this does not put a damper on any luck I may or may not have…


I was unable to camp out on the beach overnight (many people just sleep in tents), due to an exam the next morning.  Bummer, I know.  But at least I finally experienced one of Galicia’s most important festivals.


The fires will burn all night.

A Day in the Life…

What a busy week it has been!  I’ve just completed my first week of classes; it’s mentally exhausting to sit in class for 4+ hours every day, trying to absorb as much information as possible.  Most of the time, I need an afternoon nap to feel refreshed enough to tackle the assignments and review my notes.  It’s really important that I do not fall behind though – on August 19, the Cervantes Institute administers an exam for a certificate in Spanish (DELE) that is globally recognized.  If I want to study at IE in Madrid for a semester, I need to pass this exam!


In the midst of all of the studying, I’ve been able to go on a few small excursions in Vigo and Gondomar.  The pictures below were taken at the Count of Gondomar’s mansion.  The mansion was constructed in the 16th century; the park and surroundings have the feel of an old horror movie (especially since we visited at dusk).  It’s a shame that the buildings have not been maintained over the years; I believe that the property could make for a great museum.

Oriana knows of the best places to find churros in Vigo.



Speaking of hiking through parks, I’m convinced that walking around Galicia is better for you than a P90X workout.  All I do is walk up hills with a minimum of a 30 degree grade (or so it seems).  At least I can be one of those parents that will tell their kids, “When I was your age, I walked uphill to class, 6 kilometers under the beating hot sun…”


Ah yes, and I’ve been eating very well.  Jose, the father of the host family, is an outstanding cook.  We’ve made a deal that he will teach me a few of his specialties (apparently top-secret) if I do the cooking one day.  No pressure or anything!

Filloas: Spanish Sweets 101

Food is a quintessential part of any celebration, and Carnival is no exception.  Filloas are typically prepared in Galicia around Carnival, although when I was in A Coruna for a fiesta this past summer, there was a vendor making these delicious crepes on a hot stone. (This was actually my first time trying filloas!)  Just in time for Mardi Gras, I’ll give you the background story on filloas and share a recipe; the custard filling is an extra treat!

Filloas seem like a fancy name for crepes, right?  Filloas are made with flour and water, no butter.  Crepes are usually made on a flat hot plate, but in Galicia you will sometimes see a certain tool, called a parrumeira, which aids in filloas making.  (If Williams Sonoma ever starts selling these, let me know, but I won’t hold my breath.)  There are some areas of Galicia that actually maintain the Celtic tradition of using an actual heated stone, rather than an iron or plate, to make filloas.  If you’re like me, and not fortunate enough to have a hot plate or parrumeira at home, a skillet and good wrist technique will work just fine.

Filloas have quite the history; evidence of this treat goes back as far as the Roman Empire.  The Romans used flour, honey, milk, spices, and eggs, which are still some of the most common ingredients used today.  As the Romans conquered most of Europe, they took their food with them.  The Romans pushed tribes, such as the Celts, into smaller and smaller territories.  Some of the Celts eventually settled in Northern Spain and Portugal and incorporated their traditions (i.e., cooking on granite).


There are many iterations of filloas recipes floating around, but to make one of my favorites, you’ll need the following:

2 eggs

250 grams flour

1/2 liter milk (I find this makes the filloas tastier than using water)

Zest of lemon

1 tbsp sugar

A pinch of salt

The worst part after “partying” is the cleaning up…

Fill the filloas with the custard and then sprinkle with cinnamon and powdered sugar.


Have you had the opportunity to be overseas for Carnival?  If so, how was your experience?  Have you tried filloas or any other traditional Carnival/Mardi Gras food?  Leave me a comment and let me know!



Spanish Immersion Program – April and May 2011

My wonderful host family is very involved in hosting Spanish workshops for English speakers throughout the year.


Throughout the months of April and May this year, they will be featuring weekly Spanish immersion courses at Lamacido in Galicia. A minimum of 6 people are needed to form a group and there are two levels offered: Pre-Intermediate and Intermediate Advanced.  


It’s an awesome way to not only learn Spanish, but to go on local excursions in the area.  Galicia is home to so many UNESCO World Heritage sites, as well as a little (sarcasm) wine region known as Rias Baixas.


If I can find 5 of you guys to come with me in May, it would be a good way to extend my stay a bit!  Leave a comment if you’d like more details.

Empanada Gallega: Spanish Cuisine 101

One of my favorite memories of spending so much time in Spain was waking up in the morning to run my errands.  Unlike the supermarkets and convenience stores that we have in the States, stores in Spain specialize in the type of goods offered or sold.  (Sadly, this is starting to change – I saw many more hypermarkets creeping up on my last visit to Spain.  Also, El Corte Ingles now has a supermarket section in many of its stores, further forcing small businesses and mom and pop shops out of business.  Hey Walmart, sounds familiar, right?)  Most of us love the idea of convenience and one-stop shopping.  I, however, love to interact with each of the shopkeepers as I buy my fruit, fish, and ibuprofin (each of which requires a visit to a separate shop).


What are your favorite fillings for empanadas?  Do you have the patience to try this at home?  Or are you just saddened that for other parts of the world, that small businesses and community may soon be obsolete?  Leave me a comment and let me know.


On Dreams, Goals, and the Year of Action

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho, “The Alchemist


2011 is what I have dubbed as “The Year of Action.”  It’s become common to hear people talk about their long-term goals, their dreams, what they ultimately aspire to do or be as though it is some unattainable, unrealistic, out-of-reach end state.  I’ve grown tired of forming conditional statements: “IF I do this…”  There is no “if.”  I WILL do this.

Almost time to surrender the passport…

What am I doing exactly?  I am going to live in Spain this summer, where I will be enrolled in various business and legal Spanish courses.  I also plan to network and make contacts while I am there.  There will be plenty of opportunities for fun because I am only kilometers from the Rias Baixas wine region and the beach.  Seems easy enough – all I do is fill out a few forms online and I’m living the good life in Pontevedra, right?


I wish!  The planning process itself has taken a few months – securing a host family and obtaining an acceptance letter from the university.  From there, I have been taking the necessary steps to apply for a visa.  The first step was having an FBI background check performed and getting fingerprinted.  (You can read my Yelp review if you need a little comedic relief.)  Next steps will include scheduling an appointment at the Spanish Consulate, getting interviewed, and paying for all of these courses (ouch).


Inevitably, there are moments when excuses and doubt surface, both internally and from others discouraging me.  


“Dana, you’ve been so busy with work, do you really have time to do this?”  

“Dana, this is really expensive.  Are you sure this is how you want to spend your savings?  Do you really think you’ll be fluent when you come back to the States?”  

That’s all in my head, but when others say, “Dana, you’re committing career suicide.  Why would you leave your current situation for something where the magnitude of the benefits is unknown?” I feel as though I am making the wrong decision.


Whenever these thoughts arise, I have to ignore them and even prove them wrong.  Okay, I’ll stay up an hour later each evening if it means I need to devote more time to confirming logistics for my trip.  I won’t go out as much on the weekends or make any more Louboutin acquisitions in order to save money.  And because fluency is one of my top-priority goals, I am determined and will do everything in my power to practice once I’m back in the States.


When I first started the “living abroad” process, it was extremely daunting and borderline intimidating.  It’s a lot to risk.  But then I thought ahead to 30 years from now.  Inevitably, I would feel regret and be unable to live with myself for not living life to the fullest, allowing fear to paralyze me, or disregarding my dreams.


As Coelho also said, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”  I am looking forward to my time in Pontevedra and am sure if nothing else, it will make for a good story or two.


What are you doing to pursue your dreams?  What will you be up to in 2011?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.


Percebes: Galician Seafood 101

Percebes.  Son de puta madre (No, that’s not profanity, it’s slang for “they’re awesome.”) 🙂

I’ve searched high and low for places in NYC to buy percebes.  I haven’t found a retailer in NY that sells them, but if you check out La Tienda, you can order them online.  It was my first experience with the canned variety, and although the consistency of the flesh is not as firm as the fresh percebes, they were enjoyable.


Has anyone else had percebes?  What do you think of them?  Leave me a comment and let me know!