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Archive for the ‘Camino 2015’ Category

Thursday, May 28, 2015

An excellent strategy for learning or improving foreign language skills is to immerse oneself in media of the target language. Newspapers, television shows, blogs, YouTube,  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat, the list of resources available online goes on and on. In my case, I’ve been working to improve my Spanish language skills and begin to learn the Galician language, so I’ve been utilizing all of the above to improve my fluency and at the same time learn a bit more about Galicia.

Come e Fala (Eat and Talk) is a culinary themed weekly talk radio show on Radio Galega, based out of Santiago de Compostela, that I first discovered via Twitter. It airs from 1 – 2 p.m. on Sundays in Galicia, which is 4 – 5 a.m. Arizona time. Due to that early hour, I have never actually listened to it live (except when in Galicia), but rather listen to it later in the day or week as an online podcast. Last April, the two chefs that opened A Horta do Obradoiro appeared on Come e Fala and it just sounded like a place that I would like. The show’s host, José Manuel García, then made this great video introducing the place:
A Horta do Obradoiro  on YouTube: Comer e Falar con José Manuel García en A Horta do Obradoiro

So, the night before I was about to complete my second Camino (the Portuguese Route of the Camino de Santiago), I was staying in a hotel with about 8 kilometers left to walk to the Cathedral (the Camino’s end point). I needed to go into Santiago to find a pharmacy for some supplies for the wounded toe, so thought I might as well enjoy a nice meal. Surely nobody could find fault with this logic! And I knew just the place.

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  The restaurant had been open only a few weeks at the time of my visit, but the service was extremely polished and I would have never guessed.

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There are two sides to the menu: Raices (Roots) represents more traditional Galician fare and A nosa cociña (Our kitchen) is where the chefs show more of their creative side.

The specials board (above, left) titled O que o mar nos deu (that which the sea has given us), was a long list of seafood specials. I arrived at 8 p.m., the very beginning of the dinner service, hence the empty dining room (above, right). By the time I left the place was nearly full. It was a chilly evening so I sat in the dining room, but there’s a beautiful garden space outside (just on the other side of the window you see in the photo above) that would be absolutely lovely in nice weather.

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Gazpacho amuse to start, compliments of the kitchen. Fresh and light!

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From the specials board: Croquetas de bacallau – Salt cod croquettes. I wish I had taken a photo of the insides of these wonderful little croquetas. Perfectly creamy and so, so flavorful.

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From the creative side of the menu: Listado en tempura, guacamole e tomato picante – Tuna tempura over guacamole with spicy roasted tomato. This was just excellent and it paired nicely with the Albariño wine I had with the starters.

 

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From the traditional side of the menu:  Polbo a Mugardesa – Octopus Mugardos style. Mugardos is a charming coastal fishing village on the northern coast of Galicia, near Ferrol (the starting point of the English Route of the Camino de Santiago). Called Pulpo a la Mugardesa in Spanish, this regional recipe is made of octopus stewed with potatoes, onions, red and green peppers, garlic, and paprika. This dish was delicious and one day I would love to try the version as they make it in Mugardos.

 

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Filloas acarameladas – Caramelized Galician crepes for dessert. This was my first time tasting this classic local specialty, but certainly not the last. These were filled with custard and then brûléed to caramelize. Fantastic!

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Kike Piñeiro, Vanesa Vera Avola, and Eloy Cancela in action! It was a pleasure to watch these young talented chefs running the kitchen at full steam.

A Horta do Obradoiro is located just a few steps down from the Praza do Obradioro the main plaza which faces the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela (the ending point of the Camino de Santiago) and is right across the street and just a few doors down from the only Michelin star restaurant in Santiago de Compostela, the legendary Casa Marcelo. That’s a lot of talent on one street, and makes this area a real culinary destination in Compostela.


A Horta do Obradoiro
Rúa Das Hortas 16, 15705 Santiago de Compostela, Spain (map)
+34 881 03 13 75

Website: www.ahortadoobradoiro.com
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/ahorta.doobradoiro
Twitter: www.twitter.com/HortaDObradoiro

Kike Piñeiro Instagram: www.instagram.com/franciscokikepineiro
Kike Piñeiro Twitter: www.twitter.com/FranKikePineiro
Eloy Cancela Twitter: www.twitter.com/eloy_cv

Come e Fala – Airs every Sunday on Radio Galega with podcast available on the website.
Come e Fala Website:  www.crtvg.es/rg/programas/come-e-fala
Come e Fala Facebook: www.facebook.com/comeefala
Come e Fala Twitter: www.twitter.com/comeefala1

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dear reader, you may have noticed that my posts are not in chronological order. It was my original intent to write posts in the order in which they occurred, but that plan went out the window and I’ve just been writing about each place as the inspiration strikes. Today, it occurs to me that I really can’t go one more week without showing you the beautiful meal at Casa Solla that I had last year right in the middle of my walk on the Camino de Santiago, on the Portuguese Route. This was my first Michelin star fine dining experience in Galicia and it set the bar high.


On this particular Tuesday, had I walked into the town of Caldas de Reis early, around 12:30 in the afternoon. I could have continued walking in order to make for a shorter stage the following day, but decided instead to call Casa Solla to see if they had availability for lunch. They did! After a quick shower and change of clothes, I arrived at the restaurant in Poio, located just outside of Pontevedra, for my 2:30 p.m. reservation.

 Exterior signage at Casa Solla

My corner table – what a view!

I can think of no better way to kick off this afternoon meal than with this beautiful glass of Raventós i Blanc De La Finca, an elegant and serious cava (Spanish sparkling wine).

In addition to a full traditional menu, there were three tasting menus offered. After not much deliberation at all I selected the middle one, El menú gastronómicoun viaje de temporada (The gastronomic menu – a seasonal voyage), which was described as nine courses plus snacks/appetizers and chocolates served with coffee.

The table setting was clean and simple; the potted cactus made me feel right at home (since I live in Arizona where cactus abound). The first amuses to arrive were really something special. At the top left (above) is a romesco ‘peanut’, top right a cheese ‘olive’, and in the shell plate at the bottom a ‘taco’ made out of a thin slice of what tasted like radish and a tiny piece of toast with two small dollops of fish pâté. Just one or two bites each, these innovative little tastes did impress.

 

A cup of tea?  No, this was actually intensely flavored onion broth served in a beautiful  Sargadelos (or, if not Sargadelos, at least Sargadelos-like) teacup personalized with the name Casa Solla. I savored the rich, intensely flavorful, and soul warming ‘tea’ before the main courses began to arrive.

 

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Choco en ensalada cítrica (cold cuttlefish citrus salad). So light, so fresh.

Vieiras y zamburiñas en degustación (tasting of two kinds of scallops)

Served on this rock. With tweezers. There’s a first time for everything and this was definitely the first time I’d eaten with tweezers. Each separate preparation of the different types of fresh local scallops was unique, and each one was better than the last. Phenomenal.

IMG_3406Called simply la patata (the potato) on the menu, these fried potato batons were topped with “ketchup”, a tiny fried onion ring, and edible garlic flowers. Pretty and satisfying.

IMG_3409El pescado del día, esparrago blanco amargo y salsa rojo picante (Fish of the day, bitter white asparagus with spicy red sauce and macadamia nut). The fish of the day was a lovely local San Martiño (John Dory), from the ría (estuary) that I could see from my window seat.

IMG_3456Why is it that things prepared tableside seem to taste better? Perhaps even better yet when they are smoked tableside. Filloa-fajita de ‘raxo’ adobado y ahumado was takeoff of fajitas using the Galician filloa (crepe) as the tortilla dotted with sauces and edible flowers then topped with intensely flavored Galician style marinated pork that received a final bit of smoke tableside. This may have been my favorite plate of the day.

 

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When in Spain, I generally like to focus on Spanish wines but this Champagne was suggested to accompany the fish courses, and I was wise to not turn it down. With the heavier meat dishes, this Mencia (think Pinot Noir) from Ribeira Sacra region (located in the southeastern part of Galicia) made for the perfect pairing.

 

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Taco de vaca y puré de berenjena asada (Beef and roasted eggplant purée). While the menu refers to this as a ‘taco’, it was just a perfectly cooked tenderloin atop roasted eggplant purée.

 

Beautiful, simple cheese cart. While I may have wanted to spend the entire rest of the afternoon working my way through all of these cheeses, I allowed the server to make a selection of just four cheeses for me.

 

IMG_3461Three (yes, three) seasonal desserts. First (bottom) cleverly presented balls of pear “caviar” with lime zest served in this ‘imitation caviar’ tin, even served with a mother of pearl spoon for effect. The dish at the top right was simply called ‘mandarin’, an extremely light and fluffy mousse-like concoction with an lovely fresh orange flavor. The top right was my favorite, though. Lianzo de primavera (spring canvas) was a beautiful mélange of fresh spring fruits topped with ice cream quenelles and more edible flower petals served on an actual canvas. I loved the fresh, light ending to this beautiful meal.

 

The coffee service (right, above) was served with even more sweets, an assortment of chocolates in several different forms (left, above). Whimsical, fun, and delicious.

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And with that, the check arrived and signaled the end of a magnificent dining experience in Galicia. Chef Solla wasn’t in the restaurant on the day of my visit, so I did not have the pleasure of making his acquaintance. In his absence the entire team did a marvelous job, exactly as one would expect from a restaurant of this calibre.
Chef Pepe Solla is also part of GrupoNove.  As mentioned in my earlier posts about YayoDaporta Restaurante and A Estación, Grupo Nove published a book in 2015, Nove e
a Nove Cociña Galega, Cociñeiros, Paisaxes e Productos
, featuring all of the various chefs in the group. Each chef is profiled in the context of the landscapes, products, and producers that are meaningful to them, personally. In the book, Chef Pepe Solla is pictured on A Lanzada beach near O Grove, Galicia [the landscape], featuring local mackerel (fish) [the product] and a local fishing company committed to integrity, the sea, and the chef [the producer].

Casa Solla
Avenida de Sineiro, 7, San Salvador de Poio (Pontevedra), Spain (map)
+34 986 87 28 84

email: correo@restaurantesolla.com
Website: http://www.restaurantesolla.com

Facebook: Casa Solla
Instagram: www.instagram.com/pepesolla

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EDIT: A Estación closed in March of 2017.  See Bido Restaurante in Coruña. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

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“Hola. I don’t have a reservation …. but I do follow you on Instagram”, is how I introduced myself to A Estación chef and co-owner of Beatriz Sotelo when I arrived without a reservation to this Michelin starred restaurant on a quiet Saturday afternoon last year.

I had completed my second Camino, walking the Portuguese Route from the Portuguese/Spanish border some 115 kilometers (72 miles) to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, just the day before so a celebration was in order. After we chatted about Instagram, social media in general, and the Camino for a few minutes, restaurant founder and co-owner Juan Crujeiras came out of the kitchen to say hello to chat a bit. After this extremely  warm welcome, we took a photo (below) and then it was time to embark on what was to be a fabulous meal.

 

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Juan Crujeiras, MyLifeOnVacation, Beatriz Sotelo

A Estación is located in the former train station of the town of Cambre, Galicia (hence the name; A Estación is Galician for “The Station”), just a little past the airport outside of A Coruña. As a matter of fact, it’s situated only about 1 km from the Camino Inglés that goes from A Coruña to Santiago. Behind the bar near the front entrance is a large sign for a despacho billetes (ticket office) and the “station” theme carries into the comfortable dining room which is arranged in such a way that it actually looks and feels like the interior of a train car. Charming.

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Absolutely gorgeous cheese table. Several local Galician cheeses featured, including my favorite San Simón da Costa (front center).

A Estación offers an 11 course tasting menu (with optional wine pairings available) in addition to a full menu. Many of the starters are also available in half-size (media ración) portions and items from the tasting menu can even order a la carte. Since I was dining alone and wanted to be able to try various dishes, several starters in the media ración size were chosen. All were excellent; thoughtfully prepared, perfectly executed, and among the most memorable dishes I have enjoyed in Galicia.

(left) The simple, elegant place setting. (center) What better wine to accompany this lovely Galician meal than another nice Albariño? A glass of this lovely García Caamaño from the Pazo de Rubianes winery made for a perfect pairing with the seafood dishes selected. (right) A tasty variety of snacks to start: cured local olives, seasoned popcorn, and hummus with crispy breadsticks. A second round of amuses, not pictured here, included a small piece of empanada and a cup of soup.

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Vieira marinada, caviar Persé, holandesa de cítricos y margarita

Since the scallop shell is the symbol of Saint James (Santiago), and featured prominently on all of the paths of the Camino de Santiago, it seemed only appropriate that my first dish would be a media ración of marinated vieira (scallop) served elegantly over a citrus hollandaise and topped with Spanish Persé caviar, a bit of scallion, and edible flowers (yellow daisy petals, actually). An absolutely gorgeous plate with phenomenal flavor and textures.

Salmón marinado y ahumado al momento con milhojas de manzana y requeixo de A Capela

This media ración of marinated and smoked salmon with milfollas (very thin layers) of apple stuffed with requeixo da Capela (a local sweet ricotta-like creamy cheese made with raw cow’s milk) and walnuts was up next. The salmon was revealed from under the smoky dome with a flourish. Perfectly prepared and playfully presented, this salmon and its accompaniments have been stuck in my memory ever since.

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Rape asado, arroz cremoso de pulpo y emulsión de ajada

Galicia is known for an abundance of high quality pulpo (octopus), so I didn’t hesitate to order this dish where octopus was featured twice and paired with monkfish. Thin slices of cooked octopus were arranged in a rectangle (or perhaps it was a thin slice of an octopus terrine?), topped with an intensely flavorful creamy Spanish rice studded with more chunks of octopus, a perfectly cooked piece of monkfish (rape), and a garlic emulsion garnishing the plate. I absolutely loved the combination of the flavors and textures of the pulpo and monkfish in this dish and the generous dollop of that garlic sauce.

Tarta de chocolate hecho al momento con helado de yogur y chocolate blanco y café

Everything on the dessert menu looked so tempting. One offering was even a “gin & tonic in cake form”. This is the exact moment when I was wishing for a dining companion so we could get two different desserts to share. Since there was only to be one dessert, I decided on this chocolate cake “hecha al momento“. Think of a rich chocolate lava cake, deliciously gooey in the middle, served with white chocolate frozen yogurt sprinkled with chocolate pop-rocks (what a delightful surprise!), atop a coffee sauce that was brushed on the plate.

Coffee service came with a nice little assortment of petit fours. The check presented in an elegant wooden box. 

In addition to the very warm welcome from the chefs, the entire staff was friendly, courteous, and went about their duties with a calm elegance during both of our visits. I wasn’t surprised to read earlier this year this insightful newspaper article about their maitre (maître d’ – head waiter) in the local newspaper. In the article he explains a bit about his role as head waiter at A Estación where he serves as the primary liaison between the guests and the kitchen, discreetly helping guests to ensure they have a nice time while enjoying their meals. Dining at A Estación was such a wonderful experience, I knew before this meal was even finished that I would be returning.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

As the title of this post indicates, I did return to A Estación again. Just a few months later my husband and I visited Galicia together so that I could introduce him to my favorite little corner of Spain. We began that trip by attending the Festa do Mariscos (Shellfish Festival) in O Grove, where I just so happened to run into Chef Crujeiras who was there judging the best mussel dish cooking competition on Saturday night. We had a friendly chat and made a plan for us to visit the restaurant later in the week.

Unfortunately, I had fallen ill in O Grove on Monday night. On Wednesday evening I was still quite unwell, which tempered my excitement about returning to A Estación quite a bit. Not wanting to deprive my husband of the experience of dining here, I pulled up my bootstraps and set out to enjoy as best I could, given the circumstances. Chef Sotelo was not in the restaurant the evening of this visit but Chef Crujeiras was. It was nice to see him again and exchange a few pleasantries. After amuses that were quite similar to those received a few months earlier (and described above), we began the meal in earnest with a couple of classic appetizers.

(left) jamón Iberico (Iberian cured ham) accompanied by (center) toasted pan de molete bread and tomato jam and (left) zamburiñas (variegated scallops) with a crunchy onion topping. Two very simple, high quality dishes.

left – rape asado, arroz cremoso de berberechos, emulsión de ajo – limón
right – atun rojo a la parrilla, semillas, setas de japón y crema de apio-nabo

First to the table was the rape asado (roasted monkfish) served with a delicious creamy rice with berberechos, greens, all atop a lemon garlic cream. Next was the grilled sesame seed crusted atun (tuna) steak served with Japanese mushrooms and a creamy celery root sauce. This dish also received high marks. The sesame crust was perfectly crisp while the tuna remained rare in the middle, just as it ought to be.

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For dessert – local Galician cheeses accompanied by a glass of port wine.

While not in the mood for dessert myself, my better half opted for a cheese plate. The cheese cart this evening was quite similar to the one pictured above during my first visit, and from it came a very nicely composed plate featuring three cheeses and three sweet accompaniments. Of course, I really wish I had been feeling well enough to enjoy this second visit a bit more, but I’m so happy that my husband was able to experience A Estación for himself. He was quite impressed and I’ve no doubt we will make another return visit in the future!

Since these visits in 2015, I’ve kept up with the two chefs via social media, primarily Instagram and Facebook. In addition to social media, Chef Beatriz Sotelo can also be found in the regular media, on local Galician television as the host of her own cooking competition show called Gastrópodos. In each episode, she travels around to a different part of Galicia in a refurbished 50-year-old English bus to discover a unique ingredient common to the area she’s visiting, and then has a cook-off on the bus with a different local chef each episode. Judges aboard the bus declare a winner at the end of each episode. It’s quite entertaining, and she is a natural. The second season of Gastrópodos is airing now (the fall of 2016) on the CRTVG television network.

Chef Juan Crujeiras has also been keeping busy. Among other things, he is in the process of opening a new restaurant located in the city of A Coruña. At the time of this writing, the location of the new place has been announced (near the Plaza de Vigo), but the name has not yet been revealed (although there are hints being posted on Chef Crujerias’ Instagram account). All reports indicate it will open towards the end of September 2016. I will edit this post with the information once it is known. EDIT: About a week after this post was published, the name of the restaurant was announced.  The name is BIDO, which is the Galician word for “birch”, as in the tree. One newspaper article explained that the restaurant will feature media raciones so patrons will be able to try several dishes, which is exactly my style of dining. If I’m lucky, it will be open in time for my next visit back to Galicia in September. Best of luck to Chef Crujeiras in this new venture!

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The chefs at A Estación are also part of GrupoNove.  As mentioned in my earlier post about YayoDaporta Restaurante, in 2015 Grupo Nove published a book, Nove e
a Nove Cociña Galega, Cociñeiros, Paisaxes e Productos
, featuring all of the various chefs in the group. Each chef is profiled in the context of the landscapes, products, and producers that are meaningful to them, personally.

In the book, Chef Crujeiras is pictured next to a stream in a mountain forest near the town where he grew up in the Coruña province of Galicia [the landscape], featuring the highest quality fresh-baked wheat, corn, and nut breads [the product] all baked by Mocho, the restaurant’s baker [the producer]. Chef Sotelo is pictured splashing in the sea near her hometown in the Pontevedra province of Galicia [the landscape], featuring the Galiña Piñeira, a native Galician breed of chicken which is prized for the quality of its meat [the product], that was saved from extinction by a local veterinarian [the producer].

Marmontaña (sea and mountain) exemplifies Galicia itself, geographically speaking, so it seems quite appropriate that these two themes are at the heart of the cuisine at A Estación, and the soul of the restaurant itself given the provenance of the two chefs.


A Estación
Estrada da Estación, 51, Cambre (Coruña), Spain (map)
+34 981 67 69 11

email: estaciondecambre@gmail.com
Website: link                           Menu: link

A Estación Facebook: Restaurante A Estación
A Estación Instagram: www.instagram.com/aestacion

Juan Crujeiras Instagram: www.instagram.com/crujeiras
Juan Crujeiras’ new restaurant: BIDO (scheduled to open September 2016)
Marcil  de Adalid, 2-4, A Coruña, Spain (map)

Beatriz Sotelo Instagram: www.instagram.com/beatrizsotelo
Beatriz Sotelo on Gastrópodos – CRTVG: www.crtvg.es/tvg/programas/gastropodos

 

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Date of visit: Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Welcome to Restaurante O Refuxio

After a whirlwind day seeing so many great sights, it was finally time to sit down to a nice dinner.  I had selected my accommodations for the evening (Casa Goris) based upon its close proximity to the restaurant, knowing that it was likely to be a late evening.  Well, eating at 11:30 p.m. is late to me … but is a completely normal time to cenar (have dinner) in Galicia!

We had actually stopped by Restaurante O Refuxio earlier in the day to confirm the plans for dinner with Natalia, the owner. Meeting her was absolutely lovely and I learned later that she took over running their restaurants (there are two additional smaller locations) in 2007 when her grandmother retired.  O Refuxio is known for serving traditional Galician dishes with a modern touch.  It was nice that when we got to the restaurant after the Luis Davila / Carlos Blanco show, everything was all set for our degustación tasting menu.

 

A nice amuse to start.  Little toasts with paté … and a bit of caviar!

 

Zamburiñas! Little bay scallops grilled on the shell on the plancha. So good!

 

And a salad to keep it light … topped with the most delicious grilled shrimp.

 

Almejas a la marinera.

Oh my!  Historically, I’ve not been a huge fan of clams (more into mussels), but this trip to Galicia has me changing my ways.  This dish of Almejas a la Marinera was fantastic!

The bread isn’t pictured, but you know we went through a basket of it while sopping up that delicious sauce!

Served on Sargadelos plates, puro Galego!

 

Seafood rice.

I didn’t think the clams could be beat, and then this seafood rice came out. Soupy and rich, and with a surprise in the middle, a nice sized scallop shell.  It is tradition to carry a scallop shell when waking the Camino, so since I was going to be walking on two different Camino routes in the coming days, the shell was pulled aside to be washed up for me to take with.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take it with me when we left.  Well, that just means I’ll have another opportunity to get one the next time I return to Galicia!

Surprise! Scallop shell in the seafood rice. Would have been perfect for the Camino.

 

By this time we were getting stuffed, but this steak with veggies was excellent!

 

Chocolate desert!

 

Homemade tiramisu. Rich and decadent!

Whew, what a meal!  We didn’t finish until 1:30 a.m., so I was very happy my room was so close by.  A good rest was necessary for me to prepare for another big day in Galicia on Sunday. On the agenda: A visit to O Grove, Illa da Toxa, a memorable meal at d’Berto, and a quick trip back up to A Coruña to catch Deportivo La Coruña’s last home soccer match. Whew!!


Restaurante O Refuxio
Bispo Xosé Dieguez Reboredo
36590 Vila de Cruces, Pontevedra
+34 986 583 572

Website: www.refuxio.com
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/orefuxio
Instagram: www.instagram.com/orefuxio
Twitter.com: www.twitter.com/orefuxio

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Saturday, May 16th, 2015 

It was 2:30 in the afternoon by the time I made it out to the La Coruña airport to pick up my Avis rental car, a cute little white Fiat 500.

 

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Beep, beep. Cute car, but not much vroom, vroom.

One thing that surprised me this year is that I met several people who had actually been to Arizona.  When I visited Galicia last year and would mention that I was from Arizona everyone knew where it was, often saying “ah, el Gran Cañon”, which they knew from TV and movies.  But this year, I was surprised when a gentleman working at the airport started telling me about his experiences visiting Arizona, Route 66, the Grand Canyon, and Southern California in his annual trip to visit the United States.  He even planned to return to Arizona next year to travel all of Route 66.

With the destination plugged into my Map app, I set off in the trusty little Fiat, a car I would drive for the next 15 days.  What was supposed to be a quick 1 hour and 15 minute drive from the A Coruña airport (located in the A Coruña province of Galicia) to Casa Goris (my hotel for the evening, located in a little place called Merza, between Silleda and Vila de Cruces, in the Pontevedra province) somehow took me a few minutes more than 2 hours.

It took me 1 hour to get to Santiago de Compostela, and another hour to Casa Goris. Perhaps a couple of wrong turns … and I did make a stop for the bathroom (and directions!).

 

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But the views were beautiful – photos taken while driving 65 don’t do justice.

A little before 5 p.m. I finally arrived at Casa Goris, a charming and quirky little family run Casa Rural.  A casa rural is a rural B & B, usually (almost always) family run.  There are so many charming casas rurales in Galicia (one website showed more than 700!), I was so happy to get to stay in several more during this trip.

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Front entrance of Casa Goris.

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My cute second story room. So charming!

After dropping off my bags, I went to meet up with José from Turismo Verde de Galicia.  Turismo Verde de Galicia (Turvegal) is a group whose goal is to share information about the history, culture, and traditions of Gaicia and to highlight otherwise little-known special places that may be off the beaten tourist path. Those were exactly the types of places we spent the rest of the afternoon visiting.

One of the traditions that I was excited to see was the very unique handmade wood and leather clogs (zocos) at eferro.  Elena Eferro is a third generation shoe maker, still working in the old fashioned methods to make these gorgeous, playful boots by hand. They have recently celebrated 100 years in operation!

The business was started in 1915 by Elena’s grandfather, Perfecto, who sold the clogs door to door until 1936 when the shop moved to the area where the current workshop is located. While these boots fell out of fashion for a bit in the late ’70s, they are now all the rage – a blend of classic traditional design with modern style and innovation (those patterns! those colors!), not to mention being very comfortable. Elena wasn’t in the shop on this Saturday afternoon, but we had a very nice visit with the folks who were minding the store.
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This way to eferro …

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Gorgeous handmade boots all lined up.

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How cute! Little “piggies”!

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Actual treadle sewing machine.

 

All the tools of the trade!

 

Ready to put me to work?

 

John Deere boots! Should have gotten this pair to take back to Iowa!

Our next stop was a short drive away, the beautiful Mosteiro de Carboeiro, an historic late Romanesque / Gothic style Benedictine monestary founded in the 10th century (the year 936).  It may have been in its heyday between the 11th and 13th centuries, but I’d argue that it had a pretty good year in 2015 when it was featured in Enrique Iglesia’s video, “Noche y de Día”.  As a matter of fact, the video does an excellent job featuring many beautiful areas of Galicia (there are so many!), and is worth a look:

Full video for “Noche y de Día”, Enrique Iglesias: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=m3We7p78XTo

Short video of Enrique thanking Galicia: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VnyuJYerWBc

Exterior, entrance

Beautiful interior

 

Interior

The light is amazing in here – too bad I only had my iPhone.

 

More exterior views.

View from the second floor tower.

 

Exterior

Beautiful hiking opportunities around the property, along the Deza river.

Our next stop was along the river Ulla, to see a picturesque Insua, a river with little islands. There was a stone marker on display with a lovely poem written by the famous Galego author Xosé Neira Vilas about the river and this area, his homeland.

The river Ulla.

Beautiful ode to his homeland, a poem by Xosé Neira Vilas. “Water, stone, sun and wind …”

It turns out that Mr. Neira Vilas lives just a short distance from where we were, in the village of Gres.  So, what the heck, we stopped by to see if he was at home.  It turns out he wasn’t, but it’s a very nice spot with a beautiful view.

Sign on the Xosé Neira Vilas Foundation building, which houses a small museum, library, and events space.

Beautiful views!

From every direction beautiful views!

 

I bought a copy of Señor Neira Vilas’ most famous book, “Memories of a Peasant Boy”. It’s written in Galego, so I haven’t quite read it yet!

By this time, it was getting to be evening and we had tickets to see a show in the nearby town of Silleda.  Artist Luis Davila (whose daily cartoon strip appears in the  Faro de Vigo newspaper) and actor Carlos Blanco have a show that they perform periodically called “Menu del Día”.

 

“Menu del Día”

The format was something I’ve never seen before.  The artist, Luis Davila, was seated at the drawing table using the computer to draw (from scratch or expanding upon an existing cartoon) images which were displayed on the screen behind actor Carlos Blanco, who had the microphone and spoke to either the cartoon itself (explaining or expanding upon the joke), or relaying his own stories of growing up and being Gallego.  One particularly memorable skit had Mr. Blanco donning a typical housecoat worn by the Galician grandmothers as they work around the house (speaking with a grandma voice and everything).

I should probably mention here that this entire performance was in Galego (Galician) language.  While my Spanish is somewhere between “fine” and “I get along ok”, I only understand as much Galego as I do because it’s like a cross between Spanish and Portuguese (I majored in Spanish and studied Portuguese for two years in college).  Even with that, this was a fast-paced, energetic show.  Immediately afterward, I reported understanding about 50% of it.  As we told more people about the show, I fessed up to understanding less and less – it was probably more along the lines of 30% that I understood from a language perspective, but the energy and history and emotions being conveyed transcended language.  See the final photo with these two artists dancing along with traditional music, and you get the idea.  It was a fantastic show and the whole crowd truly enjoyed it.

The stage is set. Mr. Davila’s drawing table on the left.

There was a LOT going on here, not that I understood much of this one, but I think the phallic symbol speaks for itself!

 

Here, Carlos explains and expands upon the humor of some of Luis’ cartoons, adding in some of his own anecdotes of growing up in Galicia.

The show took place just days after BB King and a local Galician man called “Zapatones” died. Zapatones was well known for dressing up in a Pilgrim costume around Santiago de Compostela to greet and take pics with arriving Pilgrims. This cartoon shows these two beloved entertainers taking selfies and having a great time in heaven.

 

The two artists together: Luis Davila (l) and Carlos Blanco (r). Those kilts!

Spectacular ending – traditional music and dancing!

It was 11 p.m. when the show ended.  We stopped to say hello to Mr. Davila (José knows him) in the lobby and then, well, dinner of course!  The restaurant, O Refuxio, was fortunately less than 100 meters from my hotel.  I’ll tell you all about it in the next blog post!

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Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Waking up bright and early on my first morning in Galicia (bright and early for me on the first day overseas is actually 10:00 a.m.!), I had a list of things to do before grabbing my rental car and heading out to meet my friend José from Turismo Verde de Galicia (Turvegal) in another part of Galicia.

The first order of business was to get a Spanish SIM card.  In general, one can get by just fine using wi-fi (pronounced “wee-fee“) in Spain, as it is readily available in most bars/cafés and hotels (just ask nicely for the ¨clave¨ or password), and even at the airport.  However, since I was going to be walking alone for at least 87 miles through some unpopulated areas, and traveling by myself across the length of Galicia, I wanted to have data on my phone to be able to be in touch at all times.

Having never changed a SIM card in a phone, I was a bit apprehensive about the process.  But after some internet research on the process in general, and specifically in Spain, of the main service providers in Galicia, I landed on Orange as having good coverage in the areas I’d be walking and a decent plan, price-wise (Vodafone and Movistar are two other popular companies in Galicia).  As it happened, the Orange store was right across the pedestrian street (Calle Real) from where I planned to have breakfast (which may or may not have contributed to the decision).  Since it was after 10 a.m. by the time I got over there, data came before churros.  A very nice lady at the Orange store patiently explained their process and plans and hooked me up with a Spanish SIM card (and a Spanish telephone number) with 2 GB of data for €20, which included a €15 ‘credit’ that went against the small charges I incurred when making phone calls.  In the end, I re-upped for another 2 GB when mine ran out about 4 days before the end of my trip (in Padrón), where I paid another €11 to get 2 GB added.  In all, it cost me €31 for two full weeks of being online whenever and wherever I wanted.  If you were following along with me on Instagram during this trip, the posts from the middle of the forest were actually posted from the middle of the forest.  For me, it was a great deal.  I still have the SIM card, so when I return to Galicia I can pay online (www.orange.es) in advance for some data and be able to be online as soon as I arrive.  With Orange, my SIM card remains good for 12 months from the last re-charge.  When it was time to switch the Spanish SIM for my US SIM on the flight out of Spain, I was at first at a loss since I wasn´t traveling with a paper clip (the tool used at the phone store to eject the SIM).  After a bit of pondering, I came up with the solution … the post from one of my stud earrings!  Worked like a charm and when I landed in the US, I was back on Verizon like normal.

All connected, I was finally ready for my favorite Spanish breakfast:  Churros con Chocolate!

Two iconic places! Bonilla a la Vista to feed the body and Sargadelos to feed the soul – such beautiful things!

 

But wait!  What’s this?  The Sargadelos store is right next door and already open?  Why, yes … maybe I could pop in for a quick browse.  Sargadelos is a Galician ceramics manufacturer that deserves a whole post of its own (I’ll get to it, I promise).  In the meantime, check out the storefront and some of the pendants).

Sargadelos – all manner of ceramics from jewelry to coffee / tea sets, serving dishes, whole sets of china, lamps, you name it and they probably make it. Amazing quality and beauty.


Sargadelos – a classic!

 

I already had the one in the middle, second from the top, that I purchased last year on the English Route. These are all meant to ward against something specific. Mine wards against “Those who make work more difficult than it needs be.” I love it!

 

These are from another line. The animal motifs scare me a bit!

 


Finally! Seated at Bonilla a la Vista!

If you’ve never had Spanish hot chocolate, just imagine making homemade chocolate pudding and pouring yourself a cup of the hot mixture before it sets up.  That’s it.  Thick, rich and chocolaty.  And just begging to have hot fresh churros dunked into it.  Is this starting to sound dirty??  It’s an experience, I’ll tell you!

At Bonilla a la Vista, you order how many churros you want to accompany your chocolate.  This day, I chose 4.  On a previous visit I ordered 3 and left wanting more.  This was perfect!  All of the energy I needed to keep going in my action packed day.

Ahhhhh …. churros con chocolate!

And now for a walk back through the old part of town, and on my way to the Riazor fútbol (soccer) stadium to get a ticket for Sunday’s big match against Levante!

The Obelisk

 

Map of A Coruna

 

Riazor Beach – looking in the direction of the Torre de Hercules

 

Riazor Beach – looking in the direction of Estadio Riazor!

I had checked online a few weeks before to confirm the ticket booth hours on Saturday, so imagine my surprise and extreme disappointment at seeing the sign (below) that the ticket booth was closed. My plan was to leave Coruña shortly after purchasing my ticket so I could return on Sunday just in time for the game (with ticket in hand!). Needless to say, this unexpected closure threw a big wrench into that plan!

I met a very nice couple in the parking lot who offered to use their season ticket status to get me a ticket, but the ticket booths (even the one dedicated for season ticket holders) were all closed. It was an extremely lovely gesture on their part, just one of many examples of wonderful people I met on this trip.


All was not lost. Since I had some time, I went around to the DéporTienda – team shop! Had to get all equiped for the big game tomorrow!

Mural on Estadio Riazor

 

Dépor swag – Forza Dépor!

 

Spanking new Dépor tshirt and scarf.  You’ll be seeing more of these in the future!

Next on the agenda was to visit the Museo de Belas Artes for the wonderful exhibit “O Primeiro Picasso”, which documented Pablo Picasso’s time in A Coruña during his formative years of 9 – 13 years old.  It was extremely interesting both from the perspective of seeing some of Picasso’s earliest works (including homework and a note from a teacher) but also seeing what the city was like at that time (1891 – 1895).  Excellent exhibit.  And because it was the weekend of Galicia’s Dia Das Letras holiday, admission was free (thanks, Xunta de Galicia!).

Excellent exhibit!

 

Beautiful museum – Museo Belas Artes

 

There is another museum in Coruña in the house where Picasso actually lived, which I did not visit this time: Casa Museo Picasso.

A blog I follow via Instagram, Mis Lutier, had mentioned this quaint cafe, Miss Maruja.  It was located just around the corner from the museum, so a perfect spot to get a bite of lunch.

Miss Maruja – A Coruña

 

As you can see, I’m delighted by this sentiment: “The first 40 years of childhood are the most difficult” … how true!

 

Lunch: A toasted slice of really good Galician bread topped with melted cheese and jamón serrano. Perfect!

 

View of Riazor beach and stadium on the walk back to the hotel.

 

Modernismo / Art Nouveau buildings in the old town. In varying states of disrepair …

 

This stately place is in excellent repair.

 

Back again through the Obelisco Plaza, right around the corner from my hotel, and across from the Jardines de Méndez Nuñez.

 

So, one last stop at Hotel Lois to gather my things, and to lament to the fellow checking me out of the hotel about my bad luck with the fútbol tickets.  Naturally, he and one of the restaurant patrons were convinced that the poor American lady just didn’t understand where to go. I produced the photo above showing the posted notice, and they were also stymied that tickets weren’t being sold the day before the last home game of the season (not to mention that it was a key game in determining the team’s relegation status!).  Nonetheless, they wished me luck getting a ticket the following day and I was off by taxi to the airport to pick up my Avis rental car:

Fiat 500! Ready to roll!

 

And so I was off to Vila de Cruces to meet up with José of Turismo Verde de Galicia as the Saturday adventure continued!

Bonilla a la Vista
Calle Real, 54, A Coruña, Spain

Miss Maruja
Calle Zalaeta 20, A Coruña, Spain

Sargadelos
Calle Real, 56, A Coruña, Spain

Orange
Calle Real, 63, A Coruña, Spain

Turismo Verde de Galicia
www.facebook.com/TurismoVerdedeGalicia.Turvegal
www.paseargalicia.com
www.twitter.com/turvegal
www.instagram.com/turvegal

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So, where did we leave off?  I must apologize, dear reader, for the long (long!) delay in returning to the blog to tell you how my trip to Galicia in May 2015 went.  I really left you hanging there, and I am sorry!  So, I’m going to do a day-by-day recap starting now.  I’ll date the entries with the actual date being discussed so there’s less confusion.  Enjoy!!

Friday, May 15th, 2015 – Arriving A Coruña

There were some beautiful views on the approach into Coruña:

The square things in the water are shellfish farms. Galicia is absolutey known for its excellent shellfish – mariscos!

 

Towards the top in the middle is the beach at Cabañas, on the Camino Inglés. Towards the bottom are Mugardos and Ares, which I hope to visit the next time.

The wonderful thing about summertime in Galicia is that, compared to where I live in Arizona in the southwestern United States, it remains light out very late. So when my flight arrived around 8pm I knew there would be time to get out and explore a little while on my way to dinner.

I did have a moment of worry (note, not full blown panic, at least!) at the A Coruña (LCG) airport when my suitcase didn’t come out on the carousel with the rest of the bags. It turns out that luggage coming from the United States goes through a different area. I did find it … all by its lonesome on a separate carousel in another room.

Lonely little suitcase, the only arrival from the U.S.

LCG has free wi-fi so I was able to get online while waiting for my bag and send a couple of messages with the news of my arrival.

The ride into Coruña was uneventful, save for an interesting conversation with my Portuguese taxi driver. (Side Note: this was just the first of many interesting and sometimes enlightening conversations with taxi drivers)  Part of this friendly taxi ride conversation was about my visit, where I explained that I was there to walk the Camino. He commented that “anglo saxon” husbands (such as those from Great Britain, the US, Australia, etc.) must be less jealous than Spanish husbands. He could not imagine his wife leaving for 2 weeks to go walking around another country without him. To each his own, we agreed. He was kind enough to point me to the parking garage that I would need a few days later (at the Hotel Blue in Coruña), before dropping me at a different hotel I had selected for my first night.

Passing by the Port of A Coruña on the way into town.

Hotel Lois is located just two doors down on a pedestrian street, Rúa Estrella, located at the start of a long stretch of a really fun part of the old town with lots and lots (and lots!) of restaurants and bars. It is a lively scene on any night of the week with most places spilling out into the streets (pedestrian and non). The hotel was a very comfortable, small, (10 room) establishment above a restaurant of the same name (Restaurante Lois), done in a simple modern style.  My room had a nice little ‘gallery’ room, which is a balcony enclosed by framed glass, typical of the style of buildings in A Coruña.

 

Restaurant & Hotel Lois (black awning) – Restaurant on ground floor, hotel above.

A Coruña is called the “crystal city” due to the ubiquity of this modernist style of building, built in the late 1800’s / early 1900’s.  The view from my room was absolutely lovely.

Typical Coruñese building with framed glass galeries. Beautiful!

On the walk to dinner, I passed through some of the nice squares in the old town.

 

More typical Coruñese façades, and a very nautical themed statue. Trident!

I even saw one of the players from the local soccer team, Deportivo La Coruna (Lucas!), walking through the Obelisk plaza (below).

Obelisk – I have a photo of Lucas too, but it seems kind of stalker-ish to post it.

ah, Art Nouveau!

 

Art Nouveau façade detail

 

Plaza Maria Pita at dusk.

 

Maria Pita, herself

knock, knock

After a wonderful dinner at El Descansillo (that will be another post!), the view in Maria Pita square during the stroll home is perhaps even more beautiful after the sun goes down.

Nighttime Art Nouveau building detail.

See next post for details of my first fabulous meal in Galicia – El Descansillo.  The first of MANY fabulous meals!

 

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