Friday, 24 August 2007

Santiago de Compostella

This post covers our week in Santiago de Compostella in Galicia, Spain.

Santiago has been our base for the coming week. As part of my 2nd year Spanish studies with the Open University, students have to spend a week in a residential school at the University of Santiago. We arrived here at lunchtime on 18 August and headed into town to collect a letter that Sarah’s mum had kindly forwarded on to me. We had difficulties finding the post office as it is being renovated and has temporarily relocated. The letter Karen had sent me was a attendance form which I had to have completed when I registered at the uni.

We went to the tourism office and stocked up on maps for Sarah so she wouldn’t get lost if she ventured out. We went to a supermarket to stock up on some food for Sarah for the coming week – most of which she hasn’t eaten! Since her chef has abandoned her this week she has had to fend for herself, making such delicacies as salmon and egg fried rice, brie croissants, cauliflower cheese, tacos and chicken and bacon salads. We parked up Ace near the halls of residence where my classes took place.
Above: The Cathedral in Santiago
Below: Santiago at night

The residential school has been very enjoyable on the whole. On Sunday we went into Santiago in groups to discover more about the town and have a look around. On Monday we went back in to tour the cathedral. On Tuesday we had lessons in the morning then all piled into coaches for the afternoon / evening visit to the city of La Coruna.

Wednesday was a fairly easy day, lessons in the morning followed by a free afternoon. Sarah and I made the most of this and got dressed up and popped open a bottle of champagne my Uncle Neill had bought us in January when he visited Wolverhampton. We walked into town and took some photos then decided on a restaurant nearby. We had croquettes, prawn and crab omelette and garlic prawns. It was great food, although the prawns were almost inedible because of the sheer amount of salt on them!

Thursday was a very busy day for me, lessons most of the day with a few breaks here and there, then at night we had a lecture about a region of Ecuador which was pretty boring. From here we headed into the restaurant where instead of the usual buffet of fish, rice, seafood, meat, salad and chips, we had tapas laid out on tables – chorizo, calamari, tortilla Espanola, croquettes, bread, chips with garlic mayonnaise, jamon Serrano and cheese among other things.
Top left: Bars and restaurants of Santiago
Left: Santiago (St James) himself (he was Jesus´s cousin ya know...)

Galicia is a region of Spain which has Celtic roots and during the food 2 locals played traditional music on a bagpipe and drum. It was almost like being in Scotland! After this we drank some strong local alcohol which was being brewed in this cauldron type vessel with lemons and coffee beans floating in it. A spell was cast over the alcohol, witches feature heavily in the local superstitions here.
After this it was time for the photo contest, there were about 20 photos chosen from 10 photographers as the best submitted. I had 4 in the top 20 so was quite happy with this! There were 3 categories, La Coruna, Santiago and Group photo. I was quite disappointed not to have won the Santiago category but ended up winning the group photo category with a picture I had taken of some of our students riding a broomstick in town with a witch!

For Sarah, the week consisted of doing word searches, cross stitch, cleaning and re-arranging the van, watching movies on the laptop, finishing off her books and getting very stressed about the mosquitoes in the van (latest count is 15 dead bodies).

Every night except one we slept in Ace, going into the student halls to shower and to check emails now and then. The food was pretty good, although a bit repetitive, and everyone in my group was really friendly. Students ranged from their early 20s to their early 70s. In our group we had a retired pediatrician, a retired maths professor, a languages teacher at an exclusive boarding school (fees are 23,000 pounds a year!), a stockbroker who lives in Spain, a German woman who lives in Spain and does post-production on tv series and movies and a Spanish guy who lives in the Netherlands and works for Iberian Airlines. I feel I have improved my Spanish this week, though I think if I am to continue onto the 3rd level next year, I will have to improve a lot over the winter!
Top left: La Coruna
Left: Vera, Martin and Holly in La Coruna

Tomorrow (Saturday) we will head off towards France, the land of free places to stay, hurrah!

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