After a 3 hour drive through heavy rain and some misty mountain scenery, we arrived in Santiago de Compostela, the famous pilgrimage city in Galicia. We found the Hotel Avenida easily, and managed to get a parking space on the street that is free until Monday morning. A local parking attendant came to our aid in deciphering the parking ticket machine. Professing to speak only “un poco inglese,” he then proceeded to explain everything with a very clear and striking British accent, attributable to the British language instructors at the local university. Our room is large and plainly decorated in traditional style with tall French windows opening onto a tiny balcony overlooking the busy street, but absolutely soundproof. The location is perfect, just at the edge of the old town. The first thing we did was to visit the cathedral, which is having some restoration done on the front towers which were covered by scaffolding, but whose interiors are in great shape. We visited the shrine of St. James with its silver casket and marveled at the massive thurible (censer) hanging in the Crossing. Then we walked a short distance away from the tourist center to the tapas bar Casa Marcelo. This used to be a Michelin-starred restaurant, but I’m assuming the economy made it more advantageous to convert it to a tapas bar (didn’t confirm the reason). The food, a combination of Spanish and Japanese, was delicious. We had croquetas of mozzarella and bacalao, spicy tuna tartare over rice, carnitas, and veal shu mai. For dessert we had a berry mixture with clotted cream. With a bottle of Ribeira Sacra, the bill came to 61 euros, higher than most tapas bars, but the food was superior and we were quite satisfied. After lunch we strolled about the old town in intermittent showers.
Dinner was at Acio, a lovely place on the ring road not far from the Cathedral, but out of the tourist zone, and appears to be frequented by locals. The menu is more interesting than the typical traditional ones. The amuse-bouche of mushroom creme was heavenly. Then we started with Galician beef tartare, prepared tableside, and squid with cabbage and sweetbreads and a squid ink sauce. These were just astounding, but the piece de resistance was the grouse. This is something one rarely sees on menus anywhere, and the chef knows how to do it perfectly. It was suitably gamey and served with an intense sauce, and with roasted chestnuts, chestnut puree and quince. For dessert we had the specialty, pumpkin souffle topped with vanilla ice cream. A wonderful, intense Ribeira del Duero 2012 was the perfect accompaniment. The blll for all this? 113 euros. Also, I should mention that the service was exceptional. A wonderful and memorable experience.
This morning we visited the Pilgrims’ Museum, then took advantage of a spell of sunshine by strolling around the old town and through the Alameda, a beautiful lush park with grand views across the city. Then back to the hotel so I could continue this post.
For lunch we tried Caney, a tapas bar that is one of the few places open on Sunday. It looked promising as it was recommended in Michelin and Tripadvisor, but alas it was totally forgettable.
After lunch we headed to the Monasterio de San Martin Pinario. Below are some photos.
The church is open to the public (2.5 euros per person), but the adjoining seminary is not accessible. Although the architecture is more rustic than the Cathedral at Burgos, the altarpieces and decorative work are strictly over-the-top Spanish Catholic baroque, with all the prizes from the Cracker Jack box thrown in, and gilded to boot.
Dinner tonight was at Dos Reis in the Parador. While not exceptional, the food was very good, and the setting in this historic building is very nice. We had Jamon Iberico with pan con tomate, octopus pressed and sliced very thin, served with a fish pate and herring caviar, hake in green sauce with small clams, and turbot with asparagus and tomato. The fish dishes were perfectly cooked, i.e. not overcooked. For dessert we shared the Saint James cake (almond cake) that comes with a glass of sweet wine. With a bottle of 2011 Ribeira del Duero and water, the bill was 135 euros, pretty good for this caliber of restaurant.
Tomorrow we are off to Salamanca.