The final stop on our Galician road trip (read parts one and two here) was Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia, and the most visited city in the region. We arrived at our hotel, located right in the center of old town, near the famed Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, with just a few minutes to spare before our lunch reservation. We freshened up a bit and were off again.
I had enjoyed the pulpo we had in Lugo so much that when I saw it on the menu at Restaurante Curtiña, I had to have it. We started with a platter of grilled veggies and a plate of pork shoulder with a fundido of Arzúa Ulloa cheese. When our pulpo arrived this time however, instead of being served in sliced chunks as we’d had before, we were served half of a grilled octopus…whole (er, half, as the case may be). If you read my blog regularly, you know I love to try new foods and I consider myself fairly adventurous with most things food related. Though I have to tell you, seeing that octopus was a bit unsettling.
The fact that looking at a whole damn octopus, all floppy arms and suckers, was unsettling made me think about why it was unsettling. Something that always surprises our Spanish friends when we tell them is the fact that in U. S. supermarkets, meat is rarely or never displayed in a way that resembles an animal, “with no faces” we say. People don’t want to look in the eyes or see the protruding tongue of the animal that will become their dinner. Is it because it just plain grosses us out to see dead things or because if we had to look in the eyes or see the hoof of the dead animal we were about to eat, we maybe wouldn’t want to eat as many dead animals? I don’t know. Food for thought (see what I did there).
I took a second look at the octopus and thought to myself, “Ok, let’s do this,” then hacked off a couple of tentacles and gave one to Phil and one to myself and we dug in. It had a similar delicious taste as we’d had before but this time it had been grilled over an open flame and had a bit of a steak-y flavor to it.
After lunch we walked over to the Cathedral. It was early evening by this time and it was closed but nevertheless remarkable. The outside is magnificent. In the square outside of the cathedral, we saw other tourists starring at the cathedral as well, some pilgrims (the name given to those who walk the Camino de Santiago) with their walking sticks and backpacks, relaxing after finally reaching their destination.
After the Cathedral, we walked on and wound up in front of Monasterio de San Martin Pinario. The grand front doors were closed but Phil spied an entrance on the side to the museum. We went in and upstairs found a small art gallery exhibiting primarily contemporary and camino-related paintings and sculptures.
We went back downstairs and entered into the church. Holy moly. The alter was HUGE even by European catholic church standards. Typically, there is some sort of barrier prohibiting the public from entering the area behind the alter or rooms beside it. This church had no such barrier. The tiered choir seats behind the alter were just as impressive as the front had been.
After exiting the alter to the room on its right, we discovered yet another grand, impressive room with domed ceiling filled with sculptures and huge paintings. Up another flight of stairs we went exploring; a room full of taxidermy animals, a room filled with priests’ vestments, golden chalices, incense and candle holders, and large crosses, and another room filled with various bottles that looked like an old laboratory. We ended up near the top of of the church’s domed ceiling, in an area that was backup choir seating. Old, wooden, lattice separated the area from the church and altar below. It was really cool being able to wander around the little hidden areas of the church. I always want to do that in old churches and the areas are either locked or section off which only adds to my curiosity.
After wandering around the church for quite a while, we decided to head out for a couple of drinks. Still quite full from lunch, we figured we would perhaps get some raciones later in the evening. Well, we did not need to order any raciones as we were consistently served very generous, delicious, gratis tapas/pinchos with our drinks.
The next morning, after breakfast and a quick walk to look at the cathedral once more, we grabbed our bags, walked to the parking garage, and set out, homeward bound.
Phil wrote about our Galician road trip here. Check it out for more photos and a different perspective.