Ever since we departed France back in early November from Lourdes, we've completed parts of the famous route of the pilgrims, the Camino de Santiago . Even stepping out to tread some of the pilgrims steps ourselves across the Pyrennes towards Spain, but then our travels took us south towards Valencia and then up through the beautiful country of Portugal... so it's been a brilliant experience to finally arrive at the inspiring Santiago de Compostela.
Lying some 600km north west of Madrid, it's really only a relatively short 150km trip from the border between Spain & Portugal near the anicent fortrified town of Caminha. But Santiago de Compostela, Galicia's main city of the region, just amazes from the moment you step into the ancient old town... A winner of the European City of Culture (like Porto) it's easy to see why the (Number #1) reason people visit, is to catch a glimpse of the magnificent architecture across the entire old town. Twisting narrow alleways, resplendent in their Christmas decorations match the ancient weathered rock that forms water fountains, churches or even the impressive stone steps across the city.
But it's clearly not just the old town, its main attraction is the spellbindingly beautiful Cathedral (Number #2) reason) the eventual destination of those walking the Camino pilgrimmage... It really must have been a truly staggering site years ago as it still invokes powerful feelings as you glimpse inside... the sheer amount of gold gilded ornamentation, decoration is awe-inspiring... especially as you get to walk inside the main altar or into the crypts (& even the roof top tour)
Although the (Number #3) reason is seasonal, it is still worth mentioning... the Nativity display in December inside the cathedral would probably fill a small tennis court and can be viewed from many different angles... it's complexity and story telling kept our girls entertained for over 30mins... running around to find the view of the kings, or Mary/Jesus and the shepherds... The view of the entire town of Bethlehem really amazed us too, it brings home just how important it is to reinforce the 'real' Christmas message not just the inevitable onslaught of presents... another great chance to add that into the 'Road Schooling' curriculum we are developing from across Europe.
Santiago de Compostela is believed to be the place the Apostle James died, hence the pilgrimmage to this NW corner of Spain... The name of the city even means 'St James of the Field of Stars'...So the Number #4 reason is the actual Camino de Santiago Routes... people start from as afar as away as Dublin, Ireland but others come from much closer... to acheive the certificate to show you have completed the Camino de Santiago, you have to either walk 100km or cycled 200km of the route... Each part of the route is marked with yellow scallops/arrows and you need to have your Camino Passport stamped daily enroute to Santiago de Compostela... So if you want to join the people above who'd completed this feat, visit this website for more information or simply take yourself to Sarria and make a start...
Our final reason for visiting is our Number #5, the magnificent approach to food that the Galicians take in Santiago de Compostela... From the chance to pick your meat at restaurants (literally it sits in front of each restaurant in cabinets) to the amazing array of seafood this region is famed for.... this whole city positively bristles with culinary intent... If you want a few tips of where to eat then look no further than these 4 old town eateries (San Celemente (big portions), Tita (best Spanish omlette in Galicia), San Daime (good tapas) & Caballo Blanco (excellent selection).... we'd love to give you directions, but that's half the fun... so try walking the streets until you find your favourite (or discover one of the above!)
So where's the best view of the cathedral? Well look no further than the Alameda Park...If you want to know a trivia fact about Santiago? Then ask where the world's first ever travel guide was published, and tell them to look no further than Santiago's 'Codex Calixtinus'... It really does have a little of everything and has easily risen to feature in our 'Top 10 Family Experiences from across Europe'... we hope you enjoy it too!!
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