Perhaps one of the least known regions in Spain is Galicia. Situated in the northwest corner of the Peninsula above Portugal, Galicia is far from, well, anything. Well off the beaten tourist track, unless you are walking there on the battered dirt roads of the Camino de Santiago, Galicia remains one of the few undiscovered, untouched regions in Spain; they even have their own language! Once you arrive in this verdant green land, it feels like you have stepped out of Spain entirely. Traveling to Galicia was one of my very first trips in Spain in 2007, so I have very fond memories of it. Now when I want to get my fix and read about la vida gallega, I hop on over to Alisa’s blog to read about her experiences and adventures as an American expat in Vigo.
1. Describe Spain in 3 words
Work to live.
2. What’s your favorite food in Galicia? Where’s the best place to find it?
That’s got to be the empanadas, definitely, although there are lots of great foods in Galicia! There’s this one restaurant in the village where I work (A Cañiza) called Imperio, and I go there as often as I can to have a chat with the owner/waitress and eat the awesome empanadas, made fresh daily. It’s melt-in-your-mouth delicious, filling, and extremely cheap–if I only get empanada and a drink (which is hard to do because they also have tasty desserts, but bear with me), it only costs me around €4.
3. What do you think is the most beautiful spot in Galicia? Where can you find the best view?
Gosh, this is hard. There are SO MANY beautiful spots in Galicia. I’d say it’s a tie between As Illas Cíes and A Praia das Catedrais (that’s Cíes Islands and Cathedral Beach in Galician). The Cíes are basically paradise, with the bluest water and the whitest sand I’ve ever seen. They’re also a natural preserve, so they remain mostly free of human influence. Cathedral Beach is a neat beach up in the north of Galicia where, when the tide goes out, the rocks on the beach appear like the spires of cathedrals sticking up in the air. Very cool stuff. As for the best view, I’d have to say it’s from the top of Parque Castro in Vigo, where there are the ruins of an old fortress. I like to go up there and watch the sun set across the water.
4. How did you end up in Vigo? What made you decide to move to Spain? Why did you chose Galicia?
Well, life is mostly chance, right? I ended up in Galicia because the Ministry of Education chose it for me! I had wanted to go back to the Basque Country, where I studied abroad, but I’m actually really glad I got placed where I did…not that Galicia is better than the Basque Country; in fact, it’s very similar in many ways. However, it’s much cheaper, which I definitely appreciate, especially on an auxiliar’s salary.
I came to Spain in the first place (I’m sort of embarrassed to say) because I needed credits in Spanish for my major, and Spain is close to France (where I actually wanted to go). I wound up liking it all right, but also being homesick during my study abroad experience. Then I got home and reverse culture shock hit me hard, and all of a sudden there was nowhere I wanted to be more than back in Spain! So I applied to be an auxiliar de conversación, and here I am. I’m definitely glad I gave the country a second chance, because this time around it definitely captured my affections and I don’t want to leave anytime soon!
5. Name one thing to do or see in Galicia that is not in any guidebook
Almost nothing in Galicia besides the Camino de Santiago is in any guidebook, so this one is pretty easy. There are tons of places to go on beautiful hikes amongst the greenery in the mountains, which I definitely recommend. I also would say it’s worth it to spend some time in the small seaside towns around Vigo, like Cangas and Baiona, just walking around by the water, checking out the castle (in Baiona), and eating some fresh seafood. One more thing, try a traditional Galician quemada! That’s alcohol, put into a small pot with spices and fruits, and then burned until it’s palatable. But remember, it’s not a real quemada unless someone chants over the pot in Galician about witches and spirits!
6. Name one thing you dislike about living in Galicia
It’s sort of annoying to be so far away from everything else in Spain, with few close transportation connections. But I try to remember that if Galicia wasn’t so isolated, it wouldn’t be so different from the rest of Spain, and it’s uniqueness is what makes it so special! People also tend to complain about the rain and cold, but being a Midwesterner, I’ve got thick skin and it doesn’t bother me that much, plus it contributes to the greenery of the area, which I find really beautiful.
7. Name one funny cultural mishap, misunderstanding or downright silly moment that’s happened to you in Spain
The other day, I came upon some Spanish friends trying to make hot dogs. They had the dogs all ready and were going to put them in the buns, but I found them trying to cut out the center of the buns with an apple corer. That sort of worked, but then the hot dogs wouldn’t go into the hole they made, so they decided to lubricate them with ketchup to make them fit. This was all too much for me, and I burst out laughing. I think they were a little miffed when I showed them that all they needed to do was cut the bun open with a knife. Much easier that way!
Keep up with Alisa’s adventures in Vigo and around Galicia on her blog, Alisabroad!
Have you ever been to Galicia? Are you an expat in Spain? Want to be featured on my Expat Files? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org