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Thursday, 09 February 2017 14:19

Calendar 2018

 

Tour No. Tour Name Dates Price No. Days/Nights Spaces Available
Tour 1 Hiking Tenerife Island: Lava, Sea & Stars 15-21 Jan 2018 2325€ 7 SOLD OUT!
Tour 2 Camino de Santiago (Pamplona to Santiago) 2-12 May 2018 3475€ 11 SOLD OUT!
Tour 3 Camino de Santiago (Pamplona to Santiago) 6-16 June 2018 3475€ 11 1 Spaces Available
Tour 4 Galicia: Hiking From Sea to Mountain 3-10 July 2018 1975€ 8 2 Spaces Available
Tour 5 Galicia: Food & Wine Journey 3-9 Sept 2018 2625€ 7 SOLD OUT!


To book a tour, please click here.

Published in Calendar
Tuesday, 15 November 2016 10:32

R&K Know Before You Go Galicia

R&K Know Before You Go Galicia

The travel journal Roads & Kingdoms asked Nancy to write an insider article about Galicia in their "Know Before You Go" series for the November 2016 launch of their book Grape, Olive, Pig. Here's a link to her article:

View Article

Published in Latest
Wednesday, 14 October 2015 12:26

Coastal Corner

Galicia Coastal Corner by Nancy FreyAuthor: Nancy L. Frey, PhD Date: June 2004
Publication: Spanish Magazine, No. 5, pp. 16-26
Article Title in Publication: Coastal Corner  
Galicia: A view from my room
By Nancy L. Frey, PhD

I live in a little Galician fishing village on the northern shore of the Ría de Arousa, one of the Galicia’s highly scenic tidal estuaries (called rías). From my window Galicia spreads out before me. In the harbour, the small red wooden dornas are haphazardly moored, moved only by the tides. Retired fishermen stroll up and down the boat ramps and head off to the local bar for an afternoon of intense card playing.  On the port’s new side blue and white iron hulled fishing boats prepare to head off for another night in the open Atlantic. Making their way through a maze of rocky shallows and islands, small fishing boats, with a flock of seagulls in hot pursuit, return to port further inland passing a natural breakwater that separates the powerful ocean from the tranquil estuary where hundreds of mussel platforms serve as incubator for one of Galicia’s many seafood delicacies. Endlessly rolling green mountains gently rise out of the water and continue in folds as far as the eye can see. Dense forests hide the Megalithic burial chambers and Iron Age settlements found littering the mountaintops and hillsides. A few scattered villages, white amidst a sea of green, sprinkle the upper reaches while lower down a patchwork quilt of worked fields separated by stone fences and stands of trees surround the numerous towns clinging closely to the shoreline.

Galicia forms the northwest end of Green Spain – the name typically given to the wet, verdant, temperate and highly scenic band of hilly countryside that faces the Atlantic along Spain’s northern shore and includes Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. Three of Galicia’s four provinces (Lugo, A Coruña and Pontevedra) face the sea with vast inland extensions while landlocked Ourense shares an undulating border along the great Río Miño with Portugal to the south. Galego, one of Spain´s four official languages, is spoken throughout the region especially the rural areas. Despite the economic boom which swept across Spain since the 1970s, Galicia still retains a strong hold on its traditional roots  - an economy tied to the sea, its rich grazing lands, and small scale agriculture in a rocky, unforgiving countryside. Unlike the Basque Country further east, which industrialized quickly and rapidly in the 19th century, Galicia continues to surprise for its lack of visible industry outside of the few urban centres.  Widows dressed in black still usher cows along the busy secondary roads. Only 30 years ago Galicians in the eastern sierras stopped living in pallozas, round thatch-roofed dwellings, as they had since pre-Roman times. And, since at least the 13th century, the ubiquitous rectangular hórreos (granaries), topped with cross and phallic pyramid for fertility, have kept the winter’s store safe from rain and rodents.  It is precisely this anachronistic rural quality that contributes to the allure of Galicia.

In Iberia Michener calls Galicia the ‘granite land’ and comments on the large of percentage of arable land occupied by stone walls. While exaggerated, due to the vagaries of geography, history, agricultural practices, and inheritance norms the dispersion of Galician villages is striking. When crossing Spain’s centre you typically drive through extensive fields of cultivated cereals and then reach a compact village wrapped around a prominent church. Not in Galicia. Galicia has some 32, 400 settlements – cities, towns, villages (pueblos), hamlets (aldeas) and even places (lugares) of two or three houses – each surrounded by small family plots, pasturelands, rough gorse and broom ridden hills and woods. While its total extension (some 29,000 sq km) accounts for only 6% of Spain’s whole territory, the number of settlements accounts for 48% of Spain’s villages, towns, etc! Land reform changed this pattern to some extent (that´s why you´ll see strange rectangular plots here and there).

I see this curious dispersion clearly from my window where many small ports hug the Arousa estuary’s long shore. Most Galicians live along the coast. Of Galicia’s seven major urban centres, four are coastal: A Coruña, Ferrol, Pontevedra, and Vigo. Only A Coruña and Vigo manage to reach 250,000 souls. A Coruña thrives as a major shipping port, province capitol, and cultural centre with excellent museums, the oldest Roman lighthouse in Europe and the expansive Riazor beach integrated into the urban landscape. A walk down A Coruña´s picturesque waterfront Avenida da Marina reveals Galicia´s best example of multi-paned, enclosed galerías or sunrooms – it’s a virtual wall of glass. Vigo maintains Galicia´s largest fishing fleet as well as the Citroen car plant giving it a busy, industrial feel. Head down to its historical quarter, though, and you´ll find outstanding seafood in the small bars on its Rúa Pescadería (Fish Market Street).   The rest of the population concentrates in inland Ourense and Lugo.  Finally, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia’s capital and important university town since the 15th century, has historically been the region’s religious and cultural heart.  It’s the one town not to miss if you visit Galicia. 

Compostela has attracted pilgrims and travellers since the 9th century when a local religious hermit discovered the remains of Santiago (known in English as the Apostle James, the Greater). News of the discovery quickly spread and soon faithful came in masses from all points of the Christian world creating the network of medieval pilgrimage roads known as the Caminos de Santiago.  The pilgrimage’s popularity put Galicia irrevocably on the European map and was in large part the source of the region’s medieval splendour leaving the countryside filled with innumerable churches, monasteries and masterpieces of art and architecture in the villages and towns through which the pilgrimage ways pass.  The pilgrimage reaches its apex of splendour in the Apostle’s city and on the sublime Praza do Obradoiro where the great powers that have influenced the city over the centuries all find a place: the Romanesque cathedral with its soaring Baroque façade; the magnificent 15th century Reís Católicos hotel founded by the monarchs Isabel and Ferdindand as a pilgrims’ hospice; the imposing neo-Classical Raxoi palace cum modern-day city hall; and the university’s Colegio San Xerome with its well-carved neo-Romanesque portal. Listen on the plaza (and down the historical quarter’s beautiful arcaded streets alive with outdoor cafés) and you´ll hear local street musicians playing the gaita (the Galician bagpipe) and benefiting from the acoustics provided by the arch of the Archbishop´s Palace. Music fans will enjoy the Galician folk groups Milladoiro and Luar na Lubre as well as bagpipers, Carlos Núñez and Susana Seivane. Many of the instruments played by these groups can be found in the Cathedral´s masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture, the Pórtico da Gloria, in which the 24 Wise Men strum, blow and animatedly usher souls to heaven.

Looking south from my window, part of Galicia´s 1200km of rugged, indented coastline fringed by 50 islands, greets my eye. From the sky the Galician coast appears to be a piano keyboard with the rías separating the high mountains. The coast is typically divided into three parts: the densely populated and highly touristic Rías Baixas (Lower Estuaries); the most rural and undeveloped Costa da Morte (meaning Death Coast); and the Rías Altas (Upper Estuaries) which have the best surfing waves, Spain’s highest cliffs and share the border with Asturias.  The crown jewel of the Rías Baixas recently became Galicia’s first national park (Spain’s fourteenth) - the Atlantic Islands National Park - founded in 2002 and composed of the Cíes, Sálvora and Ons islands. Most prized is the Cíes archipelago easily accessed by ferry in summer from Vigo or the summer resort town of Baiona. Known for their blinding white sand beaches, crystalline waters, great walking trails, and abundance of rare flora and fauna, two of its islands are connected by a sandy isthmus and stone walkway.

The Death Coast, named for its treacherous waters and shipwrecks, is home to Fisterra (or Finisterre in Spanish), the medieval end of the earth.  In the untidy fishing port, sardines, brought fresh off the boat on ice, are grilled to perfection at one of the small bars. In the port’s roundabout, there’s a granite monument depicting a man holding a windowpane and a suitcase.  He gives testimony to the long and sad history of Galician emigration in which 1.5 million Galegos have packed their bags and sought their fortune elsewhere since the 1880s. Galician handicrafts are kept alive in the nearby 14th century Vimianzo castle.  All summer long basket weavers, potters (from the nearby pottery town of Buño), linen weavers, wooden shoe cobblers, lace makers and jet artisans are busy at work.

Along the Rías Altas a must stop is the Praia das Catedrais (Cathedrals Beach) during low tide when the ocean reveals a series of natural arches and caves.  At San Andrés de Teixido, located on a steep cliff and one of Galicia’s most curious shrines, pilgrims leave wax body parts in hopes of a miraculous cure. As true of all the Galician mountains, semi-wild horses range here. 

Annual round-ups (known locally as the Rapa das Bestas) are held all over Galicia and form part of the hugely popular cycle of fiestas or celebrations. Galicians have a knack of turning anything into a motive for a fiesta whether it be food (everything from pigs’ ears and barnacles to octopus and the delicious local green pepper Pimientos de Padrón), saints’ days (the most famous is the vibrant 25 July celebration of James in Santiago), historical incidents (a Viking attack in Catoira has been recreated since 1961), political protest, music (the International Celtic Music Festival in Ortigueira) or a traditional holiday such as Carnival (those of southern Ourense province take the cake especially Laza village). If you hear canon fire at any time, especially the summer, don´t be alarmed as that´s the Galician way of letting you know the fiesta has begun.  My favourite fiesta comes up in July when seaports shut down to celebrate their patroness, the Virxe do Carme (Our Lady of Carmen). In Muros, her statue is processed out of the church to the port where fishing boats, decked out with flowers and brightly coloured streamers, await to accompany her in a circuit around the harbour as she blesses the sea. Fishermen on the boats throw floral wreaths to the ocean in her honour.

Life in the little port below my window is always a feast for the eyes. Gone are the days when the village beach reached the front doors of the fishermen’s houses and the dornas were sailed and achingly rowed in the rías.  But, what hasn’t changed since time immemorial is Galicia´s fame as a seafood mecca.  Each day I watch the white fibre-glass boats, painted bright red on the inside and powered by out-board motors, zip out to the nearby islands working Spain´s richest and oldest sea beds in search of tasty crustaceans, molluscs and cephalopods: almejas or clams (razor shell, wedge, carpet shell), berberechos or cockles, mejillón or mussels, ostras or oysters, vieira or scallops, zamburiñas - a delicious, petite scallop,  erizos or sea urchins, crabs (diminuitive nécoras, robust buey or ox crab and the highly prized centollo or spider crab) as well as bogavante and langosta European and spiny lobster, chopo or cuttlefish, calamar or squid, and pulpo or octopus.  Right now it’s percebe (goose barnacle) season. These succulent, finger-sized (and rather grotesque looking) crustaceans grab a huge price at the fish market and are usually ordered by the gram in restaurants.  The clam and cockles season preceded the barnacle. To get clams men stand in their small boats for hours on end combing the seafloor while women work the estuaries at low tide bringing in cockles by the bucketful (sometimes carried on their heads!).  In Santiago de Compostela the restaurants (there are at least 25 in about 50 metres of street) along the Rúa do Franco, such as O 42, display their tasty offerings in refrigerated window cases and let you hand pick your lobster or crab from the bubbling aquariums.

Archaeological evidence indicates that hunters and gatherers worked the rich tidal estuaries since at least 15,000BC digging up and scraping off the rocks delicious morsels-of-the-sea long before people were being buried in the fascinating megalithic (4000 to 3000BC) burial tombs (called dolmens) found preserved and scattered around the western half of Galicia or living in the nearly 5000 fortified villages (castros) inhabited by warrior Iron Age peoples (1800BC to 200AD), including the Celts, which completely cover the Galician territory.  The mountain-top Castro de Santa Tegra looking down on A Guarda and Portugal as well as the impressive seaside Castro de Baroña are both worth a visit.

Galician seafood’s great fame is partly due to the simplicity of preparation. Forget about specialty stores or adapting recipes. Mussels and barnacles are steamed with water, salt and laurel leaf.  Cuttlefish are floured, fried and served with a squeeze of lemon.  Octopus (pulpo a la gallega) is boiled in huge copper pots, cut with scissors onto round wooden plates, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned with marine salt and sweet and spicy red pepper (pimentón). Outstanding fresh fish (hake, monkfish, sea bream, sole and bass just to name a few) are typically grilled, served a la gallega (with olive oil seasoned with garlic and paprika), a la romana (egg battered and fried), or, the fisherman’s classic, caldeirada (a mixture of fishes and potatoes slowly stewed). If you want to take a taste of the sea home, the canned seafood produced here is also outstanding. Look for Luís Escurís Batalla’s excellent hand-packed products.

With this seafood cornucopia it’s easy to forget about Galicia’s inland offerings. Hearty pork dishes to kill any hunger reign: lacón con grelos (pork shoulder with greens), cocido (every pig part imaginable and chorizo sausage slowly boiled and served on heaping platters with cabbage), caldo gallego (broth soup with greens and potatoes).  Empanadas (using both wheat and corn flour) are delicious meat pies filled with just about anything - outstanding local veal, tuna, cod with raisins, clams, or octupus.  Galicia’s four cow’s milk cheeses, especially the creamy breast-shaped tetilla and smoked San Simón varieties, are not to be missed. Galicia also produces excellent white Ribeiro wines in the warmer, southern climes along the Río Miño and notable white Albariño wines in the Rías Baixas.

If I look out the back window, it could be anywhere in Galicia´s interior. Small garden plots divided by granite stone walls and planted with corn, potatoes and long leafy greens make a chaotic yet beautiful quilt of tilled fields. I see fig, lemon and laurel trees as well as two kinds of willow (one used to fashion baskets) along the brook. There are also stands of oak and fragrant pine and eucalyptus trees - the latter planted extensively (and to the detriment of the environment) for paper and pressboard.  Ornamental gardens have excellent examples of magnolias, camellias, hydrangeas and rhododendrons – species all brought at the end of the 19th century and planted in the gardens of rich return emigrants and wealthy local families in their huge manor homes called pazos. Missing from the scene are chestnuts. The best examples are in my favourite lost corner of Galicia:  the Serra de Courel mountain range which lies just south of the Cebreiro mountain pass in Lugo province. Great groves still thrive producing outstanding sweet chestnuts. Some of these nuts wind up roasting on Madrid´s streets in winter. Until the 18th century chestnuts were the major carbohydrate – and thrown into stews, boiled, eaten raw, roasted - before the easily cultivated potato became a dietary mainstay. In some regions of Galicia, potatoes are called castañas de terra (earth chestnuts).

Heading up Lugo province is an old Roman city founded in a sacred forest once dedicated to Lug, a pagan god.  Lugo’s claim to fame is its intact 3rd century Roman wall ringing its historical quarter. Named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002, walking along the top of its 1.2mile perimeter gives a voyeur’s view into the chaotic city and its magnificent cathedral, dilapidated historical quarter, elegant 18th century avenues, private school yards, open fields, huge magnolias and the quirky evolution of slate (the province’s dime a dozen building material) tiles used to roof houses! Romans came to conquer these prized Galician lands once rich in gold, tin and silver. They ended up exploiting not only the gold and molluscs but also its thermal waters. Down by the Río Miño remnants of Roman thermal baths exist alongside the modern spa, Balneario de Lugo, where the water emerges at 43.8 degrees Celsius

If I listen, rather than look out my window, I hear another element of Galician reality: the cement mixer’s whir, the clanking of chains on huge mobile cranes and the sound of hammers busy at work. Next door an elegant 40-apartment, granite-faced complex quickly went up taking the place of rundown port buildings. Construction and real estate speculation are two very popular activities especially on the coast and the outskirts and bedroom communities of the major cities. Unfortunately, uncontrolled building has resulted in cases of unappealing urban sprawl and rural development with little aesthetic uniformity. Nonetheless, a wide array of properties from new and used coastal apartments and chalets (modern, usually, second homes) to 18th century pazos to chunks of undeveloped property (finca in the country and solar in the city) to run-down rural stone cottages and stunning multi-story houses in the centre of the region’s numerous historical quarters are waiting for either massive restoration or gentle fixing up.  If you are looking for an affordable, run-down property in the boonies then head to the hills of Lugo or Ourense province where entire abandoned hamlets are for sale. The restoration of farmhouses, pazos and other buildings of historical import into rustic lodgings and elegant hotels, called turismo rural, has been a major thrust of the tourism industry. The Galician government provides grants to restore historical properties intended for this type of tourism. The website www.turgalicia.es lists all of these lodgings. Thirty minutes east of Santiago, find the elegant Pazo de Andeade and enjoy its peaceful ample gardens and outstanding kitchen.

Spain´s expanding economy of the 1990s provoked a building craze and explosion in the real estate market all over the country.  In comparison to the rest of Spain, Galicia continues to be a good place to buy: the average price of used property in Spain in 2003 as a whole was 1330 Euros per sq m whereas in Galicia it was 852 Euros per sq m.  In 2003 the price of second-hand property rose 17% on the national level while in Galicia it only rose 5%, the lowest in Spain. 

To help facilitate the sale of property inmobiliarias (real estate offices) abound.  Many of these companies have websites and display properties with photographs to facilitate your research.  For example, the website www.tusinmobiliarias.com has listings all over the region and branch offices in Santiago, A Coruña, Pontevedra, and Vigo and publishes a free monthly newspaper with property listings.  The more ample bi-weekly publication, Galicia Inmobiliaria, is available in kiosks for 1 Euro.

When buying an old house or undeveloped property be sure to check very carefully that what you are being sold corresponds with the paperwork documenting the property and that construction is permitted.  Many properties, especially country fincas, have never been registered in the local registry and may only be documented through a will. A Galician law enacted in January 2003 regulates uncontrolled building to maintain an aesthetic norm outside city limits and in rural areas.  In some instances, real estate agents have kept properties on the market that at one time were legal but are no longer according to the new regulations. The town hall in which the property is located can assist you.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is that I can’t enjoy the view from my window every day. Galicia is green for a reason and when the waves turn white and the winds and clouds threaten from the southwest, I know it’s time to batten down the hatches and enjoy a steaming bowl of caldo gallego inside while the winter storm roars on.

Published in Other
Wednesday, 14 October 2015 12:18

Galicia Coastal Corner by Nancy Frey

Galicia Coastal Corner by Nancy FreyIn the June 2004 issue (No. 5, pp 16-26) of the English lifestyle and property magazine Spanish Magazine, Nancy published the following article about living in Galicia. The magazine is now out of print and so we are making the article available here. I was asked to describe the region as a non-native resident as well as provide hints to prospective residents (thus the focus on the housing industry and property market at the end). At the time we lived in the small fishing village of Aguiño (Ribeira, A Coruña) at the very tip of the Ría de Arousa.

Here is a scan of the original magazine article. To make it easier to read, I’ve included a printable version of the text at the end. When I received the magazine with my article, I got a huge surprise when I discovered that the editorial staff at Spanish Magazine had not used my carefully written photo descriptions and instead had made up there own! Thus there is at least one grevious error: On page 24, on the left hand side, there are three small photos of Galician architectural elements. The top and the bottom are stone houses and the third, in the middle, is an horreo – the typical Galician corn cribs that are elevated on stone pillars and rectangular to prevent the dried corn from going bad and getting eaten by rodents. The photo description says:

Typical stone built gallego houses, some of the most rustic being built on stilts.

 

The description implies that this corn crib is a dwelling! Galicia does have rustic charm but that’s taking it a bit too far! Boy, was that embarrassing! Unfortunately, the magazine never rectified their mistake nor offered an explanation. By the way, the beautiful photos all came from Galicia’s tourism agency – TurGalicia (also not credited by the magazine much to my chagrin!).

Enjoy the article and come visit us some time here!

Read Text-only version here

Published in Latest
Thursday, 17 September 2015 13:23

Calendar 2017

 

Tour No. Tour Name Dates Price No. Days/Nights Spaces Available
Tour 1 Compostela (Leon to Santiago) 1-7 April 2017 1875€ 7 Sold Out!
Tour 2 Camino de Santiago (Pamplona to Santiago) 3-13 May 2017 3475€ 11 Sold Out!
Tour 3 Camino de Santiago (Pamplona to Santiago) 31 May - 10 Jun 2017 3475€ 11 Sold Out!
Tour 4 Galicia: Wine & Food Journey 1-7 Sept 2017 2625€ 7 Sold Out!
Tour 5 Camino de Santiago (Pamplona to Santiago) 27 Sept - 7 Oct 2017 3475€ 11 Sold Out!


To book a tour, please click here.

Published in Calendar
Tuesday, 15 September 2015 11:26

Food Notes: Pear & Plum Jam with Port and Mint

Food Notes: Pear & Plum Jam with Port and Mint
By Nancy L. Frey, 15 Sept 2015

In August Jose and I picked crates of fruit at his mother’s ancestral home in Melón, Ourense, Galicia. We decided to make jam. I looked on-line for a pectin-free recipe and came across a great site called Northwest Edible Life (www.nwedible.com) where we found exactly what we were looking for. We made a delicious jam following her basic jam recipe that we’d like to share with you.

Pear and Plum Jam Before


We’ve included before, during and after shots of the jam. We used 1kg each of Stanley prune plums and Dr Jules Guyot or Limonera pears. The Stanley plums are an European variety with a much funnier and descriptive name in Spanish -  cojones de obispo (bishop’s balls) due to their shape and color (Roman Catholic bishops wear purple robes). Who Stanley was or what his nether parts looked like, I don’t know! The sweet and juicy Limonera is ideal when ripe.

Pear and Plum jam


We macerated the fruit with sugar for 18 hours and then slowly simmered until soft. For extra flavor and a bit of “zing,” as the recipe author suggests, we added Tawny Port wine we picked up in Porto, Portugal on our Camino in Portugal tour last July. For our dry zing we used peppermint from my herb garden where I grow both medicinal and culinary herbs. The zings are subtle yet add noticeable and delicious undertones that allow the plum and pear to shine and resonate. Enjoy this idea!

Pear and Plum jam Finished

Published in Latest
Tuesday, 03 March 2015 13:08

On Foot in Spain

Nancy and Jose

Cultural anthropologist Nancy Frey PhD, and writer, mountaineer Jose Placer!
Both Nancy and Jose have always held both walking and learning close to their hearts.
Their paths crossed while Nancy was conducting her doctoral dissertation research on the Camino de Santiago in the hamlet of Roncesvalles (Navarre) and Jose was just beginning a 450 mile walk across Spain.
Their paths rejoined a month later in Santiago de Compostela and since then have not diverged.

Together they co-authored the chapters on Galicia, Cordillera Cantabrica (Picos de Europa) and the Camino de Santiago for Lonely Planet’s Walking in Spain (1999 and 2003) and co-authored Lonely Planet's 1st edition of Walking in Scotland (2001).
Nancy and Jose started On Foot In Spain Walking & Hiking Educational Adventures in 1999. They have three children, Jacob (8), Marina (3)and Sam (born 11/27/06), and live on the Galician coast.

Nancy L. Frey, PhD

Nancy on top of Mt. Dana, Yosemite circa 1978Nancy’s love of hiking grew from annual summer trips to Yosemite led by a Dad who always knew the name of every tree and who reveled in leading his children to inspirational points. Thus it wasn’t too surprising that when she selected her subject material for her doctoral dissertation in cultural anthropology (UC Berkeley) one very attractive element of it was the prospect of traversing the north of Spain on foot.

Since her first walk in 1993, Nancy has walked the Camino de Santiago numerous times and cycled it as well. In her book on the modern day journey, Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago (UC Press, 1998), Nancy brings to life the contemporary way by discussing pilgrims' motivations, mishaps and discoveries while walking as well as providing insights into why the route is so popular today.

Nancy has also lectured for ElderHostel and Smithsonian Institution on their educational tours in Spain, Portugal and France. She has also taught a course on the Camino de Santiago at the University of Santiago and is currently researching the relationship between landscape and experience.
In her free time she enjoys reading, swimming, SCUBA diving, kayaking, tending her flower garden and cooking savory pies and tarts.

Jose Daniel Placer
Jose Daniel PlacerA native of Santiago de Compostela, Jose received his law degree from the University of Santiago and then made a 180 degree turn away from lawyering and back to his real passion: children and the outdoors.
He has taught outdoor education and coaches soccer, basketball and volleyball.
With Europe as his backyard, Jose has hiked extensively both within and beyond Spain since he was a teenager.
Despite having enjoyed the Italian Dolomites, and hiking in the Alps while studying law at the University of Passau in Germany, his favorite stomping ground continues to be Spain’s Picos de Europa.
Jose especially enjoys writing short stories, carpentry, restoring furniture, working his garden, kayaking and mountain biking.

OUR PHILOSOPHY
on Foot in SpainEach time we set out on a trail we go with the idea that to walk is to learn. Slowing down to the rhythm of your feet inevitably brings more to your immediate attention and consequently allows for greater speculation and wonder.

On our journeys into northern Spain’s exceptionally beautiful back roads we want to give you the opportunity to challenge yourself physically (without overdoing) and at the same time pique your curiosity by pointing out the not so obvious as well as providing insights into the wonders of the everyday.

Art, architecture, anthropology, folklore, history, Spanish fiestas, cuisine - we interlace them all into each day of your tour. Our carefully designed walks, combining charming accommodations in rural inns, monasteries, and hotels with the finest in local cuisine, will immerse you in the riches of northern Spain’s culture life and landscapes.

Nancy and Jose's children

 

Find out more about On Foot in Spain......contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Latest
Thursday, 19 February 2015 15:17

Galicia: Food & Wine Journey

Galicia: Food & Wine Journey

Jose and I have long wanted to share the wealth and quality of Galicia’s prime resources with our clients. Galicia is well-known within Spain for its food culture (see Nancy's article about Galicia for Roads & Kingdoms) as well as its rich cultural heritage and inspiring interior and stunning coastal landscapes.. We have designed a tour to bring you into close contact with the production and enjoyment of its foods and wines focusing on what they do the best: take fresh local products and transform them into straightforward and simple delicacies. Each day we will take walks in the countryside to enhance the food experience and allow you to enjoy Galicia’s breathtaking scenery. This unique tour brings you into close contact with Galician food culture, especially along part of its rich 1200km coastline famed for its stunningly beautiful tidal estuaries known locally as rías.

The tour starts in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia’s political and spiritual capital, where we will explore the famed public market and have a cooking class with a local chef and ends in Galicia’s vibrant port city of Vigo about and 1hr and 15 min south of Santiago.

From Santiago we head west to the coast to spend two nights in the small rural yet maritime Sierra de Barbanza area. We will visit a cannery to hear about one of Galicia’s main seafood industries: the production of first-class canned seafood including mussels, clams, cockles, octopus, tuna, mackerel, squid, hake roe and scallops. We will also take a small boat out into the fertile estuary to visit the aquaculture platforms that produce Galicia’s famed mussels.

6 Day 4  9 Day 6

We then move south along the coast to spend three nights in the small town of Cambados which hosts the annual Albariño Wine Festival in August. Our accommodation is a restored manor house that also produces its own albariño wine. Over those three days we will dine in two of Galicia’s 13 Michelin-starred restaurants – Yayo DaPorta and Culler de Pau. In Cambados we will join the local mariscadoras (shellfisherwomen) to learn about their trade of clamming firsthand as well as have a cooking class for one of our evening meals. We will also have a wine tasting at a local winery to learn about albariño production.

Our last day, we visit an apiary to learn about Galicia’s bees and honey production. We then head to Vigo, (pop. 280,000) and say farewell as we enjoy a show-cooking experience in another Michelin-starred restaurant Maruja Limón.

Tour duration: 7 days & 7 nights

Walking Level:  Easy. We will be walking between 1.8 and 5.5 miles / 3km and 9km on a daily basis on well-marked trails.  Walking surfaces vary considerably from asphalt to sandy beach, to forest track and stone and dirt country lanes to pebbled tractor track. Some of the trails have loose cobblestones on the tracks that can be difficult to navigate and require concentration while walking. The countryside is mostly rural, coastal and forested.  Expect rolling hills with some brief ascents/descents of five to ten minutes in length. Walking poles are recommended for the uneven sections.

Walking Days: 7 total
Distance: 37km/23mi

Group Size: The tour will be limited to a total of 10 people to ensure a very personal, hands-on experience.

Dietary Restrictions/Limitations/Allergies: The Galician diet places a heavy emphasis on meat and fish. While vegetables are, of course, incorporated into the menus, all of the Michelin meals and cooking classes utilize both fish and meat into the dishes we will be preparing. Please let us know of any food intolerances/limitations/allergies when booking and we will advise you accordingly.

Departure Dates 2018
3-9 Sept 2018
Price: €2625
BOOK NOW FOR 2018

Tour Price: 2625E per person in double accommodation
Single Supplement: The single supplement fee is €215 for this tour.

What is and isn’t included: Two cooking classes where will prepare three-course meals (starter, main and dessert and wine): Santiago de Compostela, Cambados (Days  1, 5). Two mid-day meals in Michelin-starred restaurants (Days 4 and 6) with gastronomic tasting menu and wine sampler.  One evening show cooking gastronomic menu at another Michelin-starred restaurant (Day 7). Wine tours and tastings in three venues (Days 1, 4 and 5).Visits: Market, cannery, grocery store, boat excursion into the estuary, fisherwomen’s on site clamming activities and apiary. Meals included: Breakfasts from Days 2-8, Picnic lunches – Days 2, 3, and 5 (with lunch on your own in Pontevedra on Day 7), Michelin lunches – Days 4 and 6 , Dinners- Days 1, 2, 5 and 7 (nights 3, 4 and 6 are not included and you can explore on your own). Jose and Nancy will accompany the group at all times. All transport is included from start to finish as outlined in the itinerary, as well as all entrance fees to museums and activities.
Tour does not include: Airfare to Spain is not included nor is insurance or transportation to and from the starting point (Santiago de Compostela) and ending point (Vigo, Spain). Personal amenities such as drinks and snacks at end of walks or in free time are not included.

Weather: In September plan on mostly sunny weather with some cloudy skies and a chance of rain showers sometime during the week. Morning coastal fog is possible. Summer temperatures oscillate between 13-28ºC / 55-80º

Daily Itinerary

 

2 Day 1Day 1 –Santiago de Compostela
Meet in Santiago at 2pm for our orientation. Walk through Santiago de Compostela’s historical quarter focusing on the food culture and its importance in Spanish and Galicia daily life. En route we’ll stop at a wine bar to have a tasting of three Galician wines with a local wine specialist. Afterwards we’ll walk to the cooking school and prepare our dinner with a well-known local chef. (Walking distance: 2.5km/1.5mi)

 

 

 

3 Day 2Day 2 – Sierra de Barbanza Area
Morning visit to the Santiago de Compostela public market to see the vendors selling everything from fresh fish, meat, vegetables, cheese, cold cuts, flowers and nuts. Transfer to Pobra do Caramiñal to visit the Luís Escurís Batalla cannery where we’ll see how one of the area’s top producers create their very high quality, artisanal seafood products.  Afterwards we’ll have a sampling of these delicious products. Transfer to our coastal walk. We’ll have our picnic en route and then finish our walk. Shuttle to the hotel and free time. We’ll have dinner in town enjoying local specialties. (Walking distance: 7km/4.3mi)

 

4 Day 3Day 3 – Sierra de Barbanza Area
After enjoying spectacular views from the area’s highest hill, A Curota, we will head to Pobra to visit a grocery store and learn what it’s like to shop like a Spaniard/Gallego. After a short hike we’ll have our picnic and then take a boat out to visit the aquaculture mussel platforms. Galicia produces 98% of Spain’s mussels and Spain is the world’s 3rd producer. Return to the hotel and free time. Dinner in town to explore on your own tonight (return on own by taxi). (Walking distance: 6.5km/4mi)

 

 

 

5 Day 4Day 4 - Cambados
Shuttle south to Cambados, Albariño capital of the Rías Baixas D.O., and walk a beautiful section along the coast. Perhaps we’ll see the kelp that may form part of one of our Michelin meals. Lunch at the Michelin starred restaurant Culler de Pau. Chef Javier Olleros pours his love of the ocean and his dedication to acquiring fresh, locally produced foods into these memorable dishes. Check-in to the hotel and visit the hotel’s wine cellar and vineyard that produces albariño (white) and espadeiro (red) wines. You can wander down to Cambados on your own tonight. (Walking distance: 3.5km/2.1mi)

 

 

7 Day 5Day 5 –Cambados
We hike along the ‘watermill route’ to the Armenteira monastery. In Galicia the watercourses were lined with watermills to grind corn, wheat, rye, barley and other grains for breads. Picnic along the river. Return to the hotel. Shuttle to a Rías Baixas winery to learn about local winemaking practices and to taste three different wines they produce. We then drive to the delightful Quinta de San Amaro to have a cooking class and dinner with a local chef. (Walking distance: 9km/5.6mi)

 

 

 

10 Day 6Day 6 –Cambados
Free morning. When the tide is right, we will visit the shellfisherwomen of Cambados who created a cultural association to transmit their knowledge of the sea and their profession to the public. These women are working professionals who clam. We will visit them while they are working and learn about clamming in Galicia. Afterwards we will have a leisurely lunch at Chef Yayo Daporta’s Michelin-starred restaurant of the same name. His creativity and innovation with traditional materials is inspiring and delicious. You will have the evening on your own tonight in Cambados. We have a Galician surprise for you tonight waiting when you get back!(Walking distance: 3km/1.7mi)

 

11 Day 7Day 7 – Vigo
Shuttle to the apiary Apípolis where we will learn about Galician bee keeping and honey production. You’ll have the opportunity to don a beekeeper’s outfit and enter in the apiary to see the bees working up close on the panels. After sampling honey products, we’ll talk a beautiful walk down the Río Lérez into the medieval town of Pontevedra. Enjoy lunch on your own in the popular eating district. Shuttle to Vigo where we stay in a beautifully restored building in the historical quarter. We’ll end our Galician food journey with a show-cooking experience at the Michelin-starred Maruja Limón restaurant in Vigo. (Walking distance: 5.5km/3.4mi)

 

Published in Itineraries
Friday, 03 January 2014 20:50

2013 On Foot in Spain “Year in Review”

 

June 2013 Walking Death Coast Near Cabo VilanIt’s been another great year thanks to all of you who make On Foot in Spain possible! Putting together our own 2013 On Foot “Year in Review” has brought back wonderful memories of amazing luck with rain seeming to be all around us except on top of us in both April and October, unbelievable wildflowers in June along the Camino, the richness of harvest time in Portugal and the stunning views in the Basque Country and Galicia that fill the heart and soul. One of the things I love about leading On Foot in Spain tours is that I am constantly taken back and reminded of what is most important in life: friendship and caring about one another, beauty found in nature, the thrill of knowing and challenging one’s body, the appreciation of the simple pleasures in life.

Memories flood into my mind of these simple pleasures from this last season – swimming in the cold, refreshing mountain waters of the Lor River in Galicia; eating one of Jose’s picnics after a long walk; leading people over a hill where I know a glorious view awaits them; getting to take my shoes off to walk down pristine Traba beach and watching the others ahead of me doing the same; foraging on blue berries, blackberries, grapes, apples and all the other gifts of the Camino; sharing some of these moments with Sam and watching him absorb it all like a sponge; hearing the storks from their weighty nests high upon the church towers; gorging on cherries in June in the Bierzo valley; milking sheep and tasting the fresh milk; listening to people’s stories and sharing my own…

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words so here is a collection of images from 2013 that we hope you will enjoy.

Nancy & Jose

View 2013 Year in Review Album

Published in Latest
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 20:43

Galicia: Sea to Mountain Hiking

Galicia

Isolated coastal walks, abundant and varied seafood, ancient mountain villages, Celtic remains!
The region’s geography has historically imposed isolation upon Galicia leading to its singular character today: a well-conserved prehistoric past (petroglyphs, dolmens, and castros, Celtic remains), a high dispersion of the population (of the 63,000 communities in Spain more than half are Galician but only account for 6% of Spanish territory), the development of an unique language - Gallego, an economy based primarily on the exploitation of the sea and soil, an original vernacular architecture (country mansions, roadside crosses, granaries, monasteries) and an endless number of legends, fiestas and traditions uniquely Galician.

Map of GaliciaWe start on the region’s largely desolate Costa da Morte (Death Coast) and spend 3 ½ days exploring its most famous granite mount and an unforgettable section of coast characterized by long stretches of white sand beach, pine forest, small fishing villages and pounding waves. We then move to the region’s extreme east along the Sierras Ancares and Courel and pass the other half of the journey walking along densely wooded river paths, visiting and learning about villages (and their traditions) that have one foot in the medieval past and the other in the present, and exploring the area’s gentle heights. Also expect to savor the freshest seafood and shellfish prepared with simplicity and extraordinary good taste, thick vegetable soups, a wide assortment of rich crusty breads and smoked, smooth and creamy cow´s milk cheeses as well as spring fed and mountain raised beef and pork stewed and roasted to perfection.

8 days & 8 nights

Level: Medium

Walking Days: 7

Total Distance: 57.9 miles/92.5 km With optionals: 62.1 miles / 99.3 km

Groups: If you have a group of four (4) or more and the dates are not available when you would like to travel, contact us and we can try and schedule a tour adapted to your dates.

Tour size: For logistical reasons, this tour is limited to a maximum of 7 participants.

Weather: In June some rain showers during the week are likely and temperatures range from 15-23C/60-75F. In July and August expect sunny weather from 60-80F/15-30C with a chance of showers some time during the week.

What is and isn’t included:
Trip price includes accommodations (double occupancy), all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) each day (except one lunch and one dinner), all entry fees, pre-departure information, experienced guides, support vehicle, all transportation during the trip. Airfare to Spain is not included nor is insurance or transportation to and from the starting and ending point (Santiago de Compostela). The single supplement fee is €120 for this tour.

Departure Dates 2018
3-10 July 2018
Price: €1975
BOOK NOW FOR 2018

Daily Itinerary

Coastal walkDay 1 - Santiago
After a brief introduction to the tour, we'll take a walking tour through the magnificent Romanesque and Baroque Cathedral, the medieval quarter and then through the Museo do Pobo Galego (the Museum of the Galician People). We'll also offer an optional ascent to nearby Monte Pedroso which affords beautiful views of the city and its surrounding valleys and hills.

At dinner tonight expect to enjoy your first sampling of Galicia´s specialties, such as pulpo (octupus), steamed mussels, clams in fisherman´s sauce, empanada (stuffed bread), razorshells, green peppers from Padron, tortilla español (potato pancake), and more...Walking Distance: 2.8 miles / 4.5 km With optional 5.9 miles / 9.5 km.

Day 2 - Finisterre
Costa da MorteWe leave Santiago and head west to the Costa da Morte and the small fishing village of O Pindo. From the village we ascend to A Moa (2056’/627m) the highest spot of the mysterious and magical granite Monte Pindo, called the Celtic Mt. Olympus and famed for the numerous legends associated with it.

Throughout the ascent we’ll have spectacular views of the coast and ocean. We’ll picnic on top and then continue our loop walk descending above the canyon of the River Xallas, the only river in Europe which ends as a waterfall to the ocean. After the walk we transfer to nearby Cape Finisterre, Spain´s historical land´s end. We spend the night in a renovated historical building with views to the ocean and the castle of San Carlos. Tonight we dine in small local restaurant specializing in the locally caught seafood and then head to the lighthouse for the sunset. Walking Distance: 6.2 miles / 10 km.

Day 3 - Laxe
From Finisterre we´ll shuttle to Laxe stopping en route to visit the 12th century Moraime monastery and the enchanting Our Lady of the Boat Sanctuary located on the edge of the sea in Muxia. In Laxe, a fishing village in the middle of the Costa da Morte, we begin our walk. From the port we ascend out of Laxe and then maintain the ocean on our right side, sometimes within feet of us, the rest of the way. Reaching the long, pristine white-sand Traba Beach, we’ll picnic and then continue along narrow fisherman’s trails.
Only 30 years ago they were used by milkmaids carrying the daily load on their heads between Laxe and Camelle. Our day’s destination is the hidden fishing village of Camelle, home to one of the Death Coast´s most eccentric individuals - Man, the Aleman. Unfortunately, Man died in 2002 but his bizarre open-air museum still stands. We´ll return to Laxe and offer an optional excursion to a nearby megalithic dolmen (burial chamber) and a stroll along Laxe´s pier to watch the arrival of the fishing boats and the unloading of the daily catch. Walking Distance: 6 miles / 9.3 km With optional 7.1 miles / 11.4 km

Day 4 - Laxe
We´ll shuttle back to Camelle and continue our coastal walk observing the abrupt and dangerous rocky outcroppings off-shore that are responsible for the area’s most dramatic shipwrecks.
The trail passes the English Cemetery where in 1890 the English vessel the Serpent went down with all 175 hands except three. We’ll also pass the Monte Branco (White Mount) so named because its sides are made from the sand blown up the hill during the fierce winter winds. Finally we reach the stately lighthouse of Cape Vilano and picnic at its base. The adjacent islands are home to numerous rare and endangered sea birds.
Continuing to seaside Camariñas, we´ll make a stop to visit the workshops of the lacemakers where they practice this centuries old art. Upon return to Laxe you can enjoy the village on your own or join us for an excursion to the medieval castle of Vimianzo where local artisans have set up a crafts faire to demonstrate the production of the region´s handicrafts: wooden shoes, baskets, ceramics, silver and jet jewelry, linen, stone carving, lace and leather crafts. Dinner on your own. Walking Distance: 8.3 miles / 13.3 km

Day 5 - Piornedo Piornedo
We’ll round out our walk along the Death Coast by returning to the Cabo Vilano lighthouse and walking to Camariñas along the coast, passing the 18th century Sovereign Castle (now in ruins). The castle’s stones were used to build the village’s port. Walking Distance 4.8 miles / 8 km. Saying goodbye to the coast we head inland to the eastern sierras stopping for lunch in Betanzos, a lovely riverside town that maintains its medieval urban plan (1.5 miles / 2.4 km).

A bit later we stop for coffee in Lugo and take the unique opportunity of circumnavigating the city along the top of its still intact 2nd century AD Roman walls, named in 2001 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking Distance: 1.4 miles / 2.2 km Once installed in Os Ancares, in our mountain lodge. Walking Distance: 7.7 miles / 12.6 km.

Day 6 - Piornedo
Today’s inspiring loop explores the Ancares Ridge around its most emblematic peaks offering unbeatable views. We’ll share the mountain walk with local bovine, roe deer and the path will be dotted with dozens of different wildflowers. We return to Piornedo, called the pre-Roman hamlet, where only a few years ago its inhabitants lived in pallozas, circular stone-based dwellings with thatch roofs divided internally with space for both the human and animal occupants. We will visit a palloza museum, discuss the mountain culture and then dine on interior Galicia’s hearty cuisine. Walking Distance: 11.5 miles / 18.5 km

Day 7 - Vilamor Lor River’s serpentine twists
We head south to the next most important range O Courel and enter the steep Devesa da Rogueira forest, the only one of its type in Galicia that is a mix of both Atlantic and Mediterranean ecosystems due to its unusual geographic and climatic conditions.
As a result the forest is home to a vast range of plant and animal species.
We’ll picnic at an unique spring, famed for its medicinal properties, with two distinct water outlets from the same rock but with a distinct odor, color and taste. One is iron based and the other limestone. Tonight we lodge in a casa rural, a rustic home converted into charming lodging in the heart of unforgettably rustic Vilamor which sits high above the Lor River. Walking Distance: 9.3 km / 15 miles

Day 8 - Santiago de Compostela
The last day we set out from our lodgings and head down an ancient path used by villagers following the Lor River’s serpentine twists. We'll linger in chestnut forests, reach mountain hamlets, cross over home-fashioned wooden bridges, continue through narrow canyons and even head to the ruins of a castro, a pre-Roman village strategically located high on a rocky outcropping surrounded on three sides by the Lor River. Return to Santiago and farewell dinner in the historical quarter. Walking Distance: 5.4 km / 9 miles.


Galicia - Photo credit: Jose Placer

Published in Itineraries
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