Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Daytrips: What to Pack and Where to Go (Spain Edition)

As I may have mentioned before, this is not my first time in Spain so naturally I have taken all sort of trips around the country, both long and short. With friends and going solo. I am currently on a solo day trip of own right now but I utilized the time on the train ride there to compose this blog entry for you.

Let's begin!

A few do's and don'ts:

DO go on a daytrip to a town (or city) that is less than or about 3 hours away.

DO go alone if you are confident enough in your language skills and aren't shy about asking a stranger where the nearest (insert location here) is. You never know what wonderful kinds of people you'll meet and get into conversations with! Use your best judgement with people and know when to break an interaction off.

DON'T take a day trip somewhere if it will take more than 5 hours to arrive there one way. You will most likely not see everything you want to see or will try to fit too much into one day and could miss your train or bus back home.

DON'T take a day trip to a town that speaks a regional language or little to none of your native tongue if your Spanish skills are shaky. Exception: if the town or city is more touristy and so English and other languages would be spoken, go! Just remember to use common sense wherever you go and go to the tourist office if you need help finding a place. Or use your trusty friends, Google Maps and the Internet! ;P

Don't leave the house without these essentials:

1) Money belt and/or wallet (with the necessary tickets, cash, cards and passport or national ID card tucked safely away in the zippered pockets)

Chances are you won't need your passport for a day trip but if you live close to the boarders of Portugal or France, take it with you!

2) Reusable Waterbottle

3) Camera + extra batteries or smartphone + cord or portable battery charger (plus the necessary power converter plugs)

Can't leave home without my Pentax Optio 8.1 MP or my Lenmar Portable USB Charger.

4) Non-perishable snacks

5) Medicine (aspirin, allergy medicine or inhalers)

6) Travel toiletries (tissues-which can act as toilet paper-,lotion, hand sanitizer, scissors, tweezers, a comb or brush, hand wipes, resealable sandwich bags-for snacks or leftover uneaten food-)

A few extra essentials as seen in the picture: sunglasses, flashlight, band aids and deodorant (couldn't hurt!)

7) Waterproof rain jacket or heavy coat (depends on the season and location of the city or town you plan to visit)

Don't leave home without one of these if you plan to travel to Galicia! It's a must.

8) Umbrella (depends on season and region. This will be #1 on the list if you plan on visiting any city or town in the region of Galicia. Check the weather!)

9) Reading material (books, magazines, guidebooks or ebooks and audiobooks)

El Hobbit is in Spanish and the Learn Portuguese book is well, in Portuguese, haha.

10) Plastic bag with extra change of clothes or for dirty clothes. (This one mainly applies to those who are taking a day trip that involves some type of outdoor activity or hike. Cross this one off your list if you don't foresee yourself getting wet, muddy or sweaty on your day trip).

Pretty self-explanatory but I wanted an excuse to show you how ugly the colors on the Gadis bags are...

11) Your imagination and sense of wonder! Take the time to get to know they city you're in and talk to a few locals if you can. It's fun to see the sights and be a tourist but it's much more worthwhile if you can do that and get to know the place on a more personal level.

And that's all I've got! What would you add to this list, if anything?

Tell me in the comments below!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Galicia: First Impressions

This coming Tuesday the 28th will mark one full month in Galicia for me. I have never been to this region before but I heard nothing but wonderful things about it when I received my placement n this region with the North American Language and Culture Assistant program back in May 2014. Even the horror stories of how it rains for days here sin parar in the wintertime didn't scare me off. I was living in sunny Northeast Florida in my college city up until the spring of this year when I moved back home to Ohio and needed a change of pace as well as climate. A nice long stint in Galicia seemed like the perfect spot for me, and even if I do get tired of the rain, I can always jet off to a new location in Spain for the weekend or cross the border into another European country and explore til my heart's content. Speaking of the rest of Europe, I have some trips planned, but before I can take them, I had to adjust to this new-to-me sub-culture of Spain and get settled into a rhythm and daily routine myself.

Here is a short list of my impressions of Galicia and how it differs from the rest of Spain (in my opinion). Keep in mind that I am more used to the Spaniards in the South - primarily Andalucia - who are a lively and boisterous group of people and Galicians are quite the opposite. I'm learning to appreciate both cultures in different ways and I'm glad I am out of my comfort zone here. That's not to say that I don't just about get googley-eyed when I met an Andaluz here in some part of Galicia, haha!

Anyway onto the list:

1. Galicians are more reserved and may come across as cold when you first meet them. They are not quick to give their opinion on a certain topic and often add, "Well, I don't know," after giving you their opinion. I think it's because they want you to form your own opinion of a place. That's not to say that they aren't proud of their region -they really are! They seem to be a little more modest to me. Galicians are also not as likely to make eye contact with you or smile at you when you pass them on the street unless they know you personally or are related to you. You have to make the effort to get to know them and once you do, you will have a friend for life.

2. Saying chao vs. saying hasta luego. This is more of a difference between the colloquial phrases used in Galicia compared to Andalucia or Madrid and not the people themselves. Well, maybe that's part of it too. You hear the locals saying 'chao' more often than 'hasta luego' but it depends on the part you're in. I am used to saying 'ta luegooooooo and really carrying out the last 'o' as they do in Andalucia. However, I like these distinct differences in the use of the language as it helps me separate my experiences and memories in both regions a bit better.

3. It is so green, foggy and mountainous in this region! I also knew this by doing a ton of research before arriving in this beautiful land but seeing it with my own two eyes was a whole different story. Take a look for yourself:


4. The smaller the town you visit, the more gallego you hear in the streets and stores. You can also find it spoken in small shops in bigger cities (spoken by older people more but young people too) which I love! In just the past two weeks I had small conversations with two people in Gallego (Galician). I could get the gist of what they were saying as I also speak conversational Portuguese which sounds a little similar to the language. It was so much fun though my vocabulary is very limited right now, haha!

5. The food is so varied and rich - and not to mention cheap here! I am living in a part of Galicia that is known for its seafood and I couldn't be happier. I have been putting off trying pulpo as the best pulperías are a ways away from me in the city center (and not to mention cost a bit more per plate/tapa)...but I will try it soon! I have tried many other typical dishes which I will share more about in my next post!

Feel free to add a comment about YOUR favorite place in Galicia or Spain in general if you have been here.

Hasta luegoooo....er, chaooo! :-)