An acquaintance was in Spain traveling for a month, and she ventured to Ourense for a week in April. It was cool to have a visitor because it made me see Galicia with fresh eyes again. Now, I don’t know if she was being completely honest, but she said Galicia was her favorite part. I had an odd sense of pride ;-). She’s an outdoorsy person, and Ourense in good weather is great for walks/runs/bike rides/being in nature.
While she was in town, we had a few adventures. We finally went to my neighborhood tapas place (my male roommates frequented it, but I’d never been), called Luxxury II for who knows what reason. We arrived in the middle of a soccer game on TV so we had a real immersive experience. When you order one drink there (for example a small beer or glass of wine), you can go up to the counter and choose 3 tapas (for example, empanadas, tortillas, pieces of bocadillos/sandwiches, small cupcakes . . . ). When it came time to pay, I asked the guy for the price. He told me 2.70 euros, which I was a little surprised about for one drink,
but it turned out to be for both of our drinks plus what amounted to half a dinner (!). Oh, Ourense! I love your prices!
I came down with a stomach virus (either from my roommate or the fifth-graders) before we planned to visit my school, so unfortunately I couldn’t show her my beautiful commute to school, the village, or the quirky kids. That afternoon I was feeling better, so we walked out to the Outariz hot springs (termas). We didn’t go in because I was still carrying germs. Then we took the tourist train back (0.85 euros). A different day, we did go to As Burgas hot spring (terma), which is a 10 minute walk from my house, but it’s more like a well-heated outdoor pool than small ponds.
On a day with sunny, warm weather, I also showed her the walk along Rio Lonia, my favorite. Then we went up beyond where I usually hike. So many flowers were in bloom—spring was in the air! On the days when I was at work, she hiked up Montealegre, ran along the Rio Miño, and explored the city center.
our not-going-out spirits and my illness, we didn’t end up going out at night in Ourense, but if we had, I would have taken her to the most “my-style” bar in Ourense, Auriense. It’s the kind of place that has live music on the weekends, but tables to sit and chat. The tables have glass with artwork for sale underneath, but it’s also dive-y looking . . . a bit of a Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh-kind of place. Second place is El Pueblo, but it recently moved, and I haven’t been to the new location.
We went to one of my language exchanges with two Galician women in a café called La Coruñesa, which is probably my favorite café in Ourense. Second place goes to Café Bohemio. Both have ornate decorations with polished dark wood. The servers at both places are really friendly, and usually you get a good little snack with your drink. Anyway, after our language exchange, my Galician friends offered to drive us to Allariz and Ribadavia that weekend.
I’d already been to Allariz twice, but it was my first time in Ribadavia. I’d easily go back. It’s a cute little town to
walk around. There is a Jewish neighborhood that still exists, but Jewish people were forced to leave and haven’t returned. A lady does sell traditional Jewish pastries and cookies, and we bought a dozen different ones to try. They were alright. There’s also a castle you can tour, but we just circled the outside of it.
Then we walked along the river past lots of scenic vineyards (this area is known for its Ribeira wine) to a village with a church from the 9th
century (San Xes, in Francelos). We were a bit lost and asked a couple of old-timers where we needed to go to get to the church. One of them (as Galicians apparently are known to do), led us there and told us about his life and lots of other history of the church and town (in Galician, so I only got some of it). The village is probably the most rural place I’ve walked around in Galicia. It’s hard to get to the countryside without a car. As we walked through the village, two separate older women poked their heads out into the street to check out the ‘commotion’. Not much happens on
Sundays in Galicia, especially in villages.
Another day, we took the bus to Santiago de Compostela. It was rainy, but that’s typical for the city. We met a friend of mine who lives in Monforte de Lemos. We didn’t do a ton of touristy stuff. We saw the Cathedral, the last stop for pilgrims who have taken the Saint James’s Way (Camino de Santiago) for hundreds of years. We did a quick tour of the Galician Center of Contemporary Art (free) and walked around the old town.
My friend had some friends he plays padel (a Spanish racquet sport) with in Monforte. They’re from Santiago, and they took us around. First, they had us go in the Museum of the Galician People, specifically to show us these strange staircases. It used to be a monastery (I think), and each staircase leads to different floors. What a hassle if you have to deliver something to a different floor—you have to go all the way back down and then all the way up a different staircase! But they are cool-looking!
The couple is learning English, but more comfortable in Spanish, so there was
a good deal of translation both ways so that everyone could understand. We went for drinks at a hotel which had a beautiful outdoor garden terrace, with a glassed-in section for the inevitable rain. Next, we went to more of a regular place so that my friend could try Galician specialties. We had zorza (spiced pork, which isn’t only Galician), French fries (side dish to the zorza), pulpo (octopus, here with paprika), pimientos de Padrón (roasted green peppers originally from the village of Padrón), and one more thing I can’t remember. That was not a great meal for my already-weakened stomach! That evening at home we just watched a Wes Anderson movie and continued to digest that meal.
Even though I didn’t know this visitor very well, it was nice to have a ‘home-person’ here to show around and hang out with. I even started waving at cars to thank them for letting me walk across the street because my brain mistakenly thought I was in America again. (Normally here I just walk across like it’s no big thing that a car flying down a hill has just slammed on the brakes in order for me to
stroll across the road. They’re pretty great about yielding to pedestrians.) It was a quick adaptation, but the time flew, and soon I walked her to the bus station to fly away to Barcelona. I had one month left in Galicia (this round).
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