Sunday, January 29, 2006

 

Thinking of visiting Santiago de Compostela

Here are a few things worth knowing.

There is an international airport on the outskirts of the city with carriers including Spanair, Iberia and Ryan air.

Santiago is Galicia’s capitol and most visited city.

The traffic in Santiago is in a constant state of grid lock, so take a bus, taxi, or park outside the main sightseeing areas.

The city’s large cathedral is claimed to hold the remains of the apostle St James.

Mot of Santiago’s “of interest to tourists” buildings are found in one of the 4 squares built around the cathedral.

The name Santiago de Compostela is said to originate from a Latin term describing a star field or series of lights that appeared to a hermit above the “then lost” tomb of saint James. This point is the current day location of the cathedral.

The other famous Santiago is in Chile.

Friday, January 27, 2006

 

Fraga!

I’ve been doing a bit of reading about Mr Fraga, the former president of the Galician Xunta on and off over the last week or so.

It is hard to figure him out. He was a fascist in the Franco regime – and not just an insignificant number, but a major player and policy formulator. He spent some time as Spain’s ambassador to the UK and was then an important figure in the transition from the old Franco regime to the democracy that Spain now enjoys.

In the democratic era he formed the “peoples party” (that was in office until elections last year) which he left some time ago for a career in regional politics. Yet despite this he is adamant that the Franco era, and everything it stood for, was worthwhile and something he is proud of.

It is hard to determine whether Fraga is still a sheep in wolves clothing or simply an astute political animal who has adapted and evolved with the time. In any event his political career now looks to be at an end. He was beaten in last year regional elections and, although still holding some “honorary” government titles, is at over 80 years of age on the last lap of politics if not life itself.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

 

What I have been up to

I read with near disbelief the visitor stats of a moderately large, but high “google” ranking site about Spain the other day. They claim to get 50k visitors per week which sounds completely implausible. Perhaps the figures were page views which I can just about comprehend, but unique visitors, and for a site with just a few hundred pages, it sounds unlikely! I guess I must be going wrong, but what more can you do than be on page one of your main searches on the big three search engines.

I have now started the writing of the all new Santiago de Compostela section for galiciaguide. Unlike those of Pontevedra, Lugo and Ourense, the scale of this one means that it will be worked on and up loaded on a piecemeal basis rather than as the finished article. It will no doubt be a good couple of weeks before I have anything ready and looks like been a long term project. I am also starting to work on the area about Spain “as a whole” and have just added a new opening page.

Incidentally click on the title above to be taken to www.theentertaineronline.com

Monday, January 23, 2006

 

Renting a car in Galicia

I mentioned flights to Galicia (Santiago de Compostela to be precise) a couple of threads ago, so I thought I would continue the holiday planning theme by moving on to Galician car rental.

Car hire in northern Spain is certainly more expensive than it is in the south and that can probably be out down to the fact that tourist hire is more limited. Rates therefore tend to be geared more to the business user. That said you can still get some good deals.

Ryan Air (and I am certainly not plugging them) offer a deal if you also book your flights with them. Last year their car provider was Hertz and their prices were competitive, but you can do better and Holiday Autos is probably the cheapest source.

Holiday autos use a range of different providers and at the time of booking you will not know which one it will be – it will however be a large national or international chain.

If you want to be extra smart (and you are booking from the UK), rent your car via the budget airline Jet2. If you do this the additional “daily excess” charge that you can add or decline at pick-up is tagged on for free. You also get one extra driver, again F.O.C.

All the major car hire companies have desks at Santiago airport so pick up and drop off is straight forward.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

 

A couple of recommendations

Having spent several weeks in Noia over the last 6 years I have naturally acquired a subjective liking for certain establishments serving food and drink, so here they are.

As I have mentioned before, the best taps bar in Noia is “la Para”. This bar is not like those of southern Spain and in fact has only 5 different dishes, but all are served in meal sized proportions. My top recommendations are the lomo (pork) and calamares (squid), both with a lager and some crusty bread.

Another favourite of mine, which initially sounds a bit down market, is a pizzeria called Mama Mias. This establishment is really more of a bistro style restaurant and serves a lot more than just pizzas. It is excellent value, has a great atmosphere and is busy to bursting on most nights. (Left the medieval area in Noia)

For a drink there are a host of bars in Noia’s medieval district and also around the alameda (town square) and most are pretty good. They also serve taps and ice creams.

For a more up market dinning experience, and one that takes in the Galician speciality of seafood, a restaurant called “Ferrador” is a good bet. It is a bit pricey, but you can have lobster, crab, shellfish or better still a platter with a bit of everything.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

 

San Martino church, Noia

The church which appears as my profile “pic” (left) is actually an old church in the town of Noia and was built in 1434. It sits at one end of the town’s “Tapal” square and was originally the church used by the regions Arch Bishop. Today it is still in active service and the plaza in which it is situated also has a couple of bars facing on to it. The church is quite famous and is perpetually photographed by visitors.

A friend of mine who hails from Noia tells me that the original design showed the building with two steeples, one either side, but that the right hand one was never constructed.

Above, a close up of San Martino churches circular window.

Behind and to the left of Saint Martin’s is the main old street of Noia’s medieval district and this is populated with tapas bars, the best of which is “la Para” (in our opinion) although many would disagree and go for the bar opposite called “la Tasca”.

The reason I have not included a photo of myself is simply for the benefit of anyone reading this – I don’t want to scare you off.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

 

The negative effect of success

When I started galiciaguide.com (in March 2005) the site had a basic html look with a blue, green or yellow background to each of its dozen or so pages. The site only used to get 50 to 70 visitors a week (mainly about Noia), but I would get an email from one of them every other day.

Now, some months down the line the site has around 250 pages, a professional look, more unique visitors in a day than I used to get in a week, sometimes a month, but the casual emails have stopped.

I guess that the conclusion has to be that when a site is obviously one of personal interest, visitors are not intimidated by sending you an email telling you what they think, or even suggesting content. On the other hand if the site gives the impression of being professionally designed and run, it clearly makes people less inclined to drop you an email.

Whilst I welcome the number of visitors, which seems to increase on a near daily basis, I would not say no to a return to the days of regular emails. That said I have just had two in the last couple of days, one from Canada and one from the USA, so perhaps I should be thankful for small mercies.

Monday, January 16, 2006

 

Flying to Galicia from the UK

I have mentioned this before, but thought I would add a refresher.

With a connection

Flying indirectly with a connection can be done from just about any international airport in the UK.

The Connection, be it from within Spain (e.g. Barcelona or Madrid), or prior to reaching Spain, (e.g. Ireland or Portugal) can be arranged with a carrier or independently. Once this was the cheap option, but now it is really just for those who find it hard or costly to get to Heathrow or Stanstead. Prices this way are sub £200 with tax etc, but connections can be missed if there are any delays. The journey also runs to a good 6 or 7 hours and you are against the clock when making the connection at your interim airport.

Direct

If you can make it to the “greater London” area, then you have two direct options which are both highly competitive. They are Iberia from Heathrow and Ryan Air from Stanstead, both are now similarly priced and a return can be as little as £100 if you book early enough.

The Ryan Air option is the reason that the prices plummeted, they gave Iberia some competition and did it in their usual “no frills” way, but their “no seat allocation” boarding approach results in mayhem every time. That said flying time is sub 2 hours, so you should be able to put up with anything at that price.

Iberia give you slightly more and we have used them without any problems, but they don’t have a great reputation, so it is a question of swinging one way or the other. Better still check for who is the cheapest for any given flight time.

The destination airport (in Galicia) is just outside the regional capitol of Santiago de Compostela. Car hire, buses and taxis are all available there although pre-booking would be advisable.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

 

Nothing much

Our neighbours just got back from a Christmas break in the south of Spain where the temperature was peaking at 32 degrees centigrade (well into the 80’s Fahrenheit).

This contrasts sharply with the northern territories of Spain where the temperature can reach sub zero and warm clothing including jumpers, coats and umbrellas are part of the staple diet for this time of year.

It is fast approaching the point (now we are in 2006) where we are going to have to start looking at dates for our summer excursion(s) to Galicia. As yet we have no fixed plans, but I favour trying to spread a vacation across the last week or two of July and then into early August – this is generally the best time for hot weather. I also want to avoid the Noia festival in late August which, although fun in one way, causes us sleeping problems if we stay in the main town itself.

The new A Coruna section is now up on galiciaguide.com, so take a look.

Monday, January 09, 2006

 

What to expect from Galicia’s beaches

When it comes to out and out good looks, the beaches of Galicia are just about as good as they get. Furthermore finding that special deserted, or abandoned spot is not that difficult.

Galicia’s beaches tend to fall into 2 categories. Those looking out to the open ocean and those that are somewhat sheltered and lie in one of the coastlines many small bays (known as rias). If you opt for the former you will get sizable waves, strong currents on some beaches and very cold water. If on the other hand you find a beach that nestles in its own cove, you will miss out on the waves, but benefit from shallower and less “system shockingly” cold water.

Many of the beaches found in the bays are very tidal and a large expanse of sand can quickly disappear as the level and shallow beach area is submerged under water –usually only 3 or 4 feet deep.

Beaches tend to fill up from about 4.00pm onwards, so if you want an early tan, don’t expect many other sunbathers. Also check to see if the beach you are thinking of using has lifeguards, all but the most popular don’t.

Friday, January 06, 2006

 

The tower of Hercules

The tower of Hercules or “torre de Hercules” is an ancient lighthouse in the bay of la Coruna and has occupied its present spot for around 1900 years. It was originally built by the Romans, although at that time it had an external encircling flight of stairs and ramps that had a constantly burning flame at the top.

Today the tower is the most recognised symbol of A Coruna city and appears on the town shield. In addition to looking at the lighthouse you can also pay to enter and climb it and there is an open circular walkway at the top from which great views of the city and surrounding areas can be had.

The lighthouse is still operational and sits monumentally on the headland that separates the two main bays of the city. (photo August 2005)

Monday, January 02, 2006

 

Sarria

Sarria is a town of around 16k inhabitants in the Lugo province.

In real terms Sarria does not appear on the tourist map, it is more of a satellite town. It lies some 45 minutes from Lugo city, has no medieval district and little in the way of real heritage, save for a convent on the hills above the new town. It is also far from attractive and relatively modern.

In Galician terms however Sarria is an important location when it come to antiques, art and anything of old – at least in the context of old furniture and antiquities. If the “Antiques Road Show” airs in Spain, Sarria would lay claim to be one of its collectors mecas. It also has a particularly good pizza bar on one of the town’s main streets which I can definitely recommend – especially if you are starving as we were.

So how and why would a tourist encounter Sarria? Well Lugo has a large monastery at Samos and Sarria is on the Lugo to Samos route!

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