- by Don Harris
Our family loves to journey to Galicia, a place where we can relax, enjoying life among cordial Celtic fisher folk and those who work the fields and tend the flocks. There is nothing quite like wandering the rias, or fjords, formed by mountain streams as they wend their way to the sea.
We love to drive along the lapping tidelands and the wave-pounded cliffs of Galicia. It is there, by the cliffs, that young men risk their lives to harvest seafood treasures from the ocean. Seafood, shellfish, octopus – it is all there in amazing abundance, celebrated in more than 300 gastronomic fiestas each year.
Central to the culture and piety of the region is the Camino de Santiago, where for 1,000 years, people have walked from all over Europe to Santiago de Compostela. Many years ago we traveled deep into the mountains on the eastern edge of Galicia, to visit the rustic pilgrimage way-station of Cebrero, with thatched shelters dating back to pre-history. Within the wind-swept chapel we saw what is believed to be the Holy Grail.
Santiago de Compostela is the amazing medieval pilgrimage site along which our family has journeyed many times. We always spend some time in the cathedral where the relics of Saint James lie. It is hard to put into words the effect of visiting a holy spot which has been visited by countless faithful for over 1,000 years. In addition we always find the granite arcades and the cobblestone streets of Santiago de Compostela alive with young university students and international pilgrims relaxing at the end of their journey. The scallops are amazing, and we think Galician bread is the best we have ever tasted.
Invariably we drive through the lush meadows and hidden valleys on our way to the city of Lugo with intact walls from medieval times. The municipal market is always bustling with local shoppers buying fresh produce from the local countryside, mellow Tetilla cow’s milk cheeses, countless shellfish and fish from the local stores, and bottles of light sparkling Albariño wine.
"My grandfather was from Galicia. His name was Jose Limia. He migrated to Cuba when he was a young man of about 18 years old. He met my grandmother, married her, and stayed in Cuba for the rest of his life. He would have visited his beloved homeland if it weren't for the unfortunate change of government in Cuba that wouldn't allow him to leave to visit Galicia. We celebrated this Christmas with Galician wine I ordered from La Tienda. It was very special to us. Thank you for the lovely information you write about Galicia. My other grandfather was from the Basque area his name was Carlos Solloa. I hope to one day soon to be able to visit Spain with my mother. That would be a very special day!Thanks, Norys Solloa Schmitt"
"Thank you for writing about Galicia, it is the Province where my father was born and where we vacation every 2 years in the month of August. My father was born in a small town in the hills of Galicia named "Seixido ( say she tho). I am 48 years old and have been going to Galicia ever since I was 8. There is no place like Spain. There is no beauty greater than Galicia. I have many family members there and plenty of friends I've known since childhood, so when I visit, it is the best time. The food is the best I ever tasted and especially the bread. I have visited Santiago De Campostella several times, and it truly is a spiritual city. I do plan on going there every year after I retire... Thanks again for this article on such a beautiful place. "
Danny Vaqueiro, California
I share your enthusiasm for Galician media even though I don't have any family who lived there. Two of my grandparents are from Norhthern Ireland, so I guess you and I share Celtic roots!
A couple of years ago my wife Ruth and I spent two weeks in February just wandering around the little fishing towns on the rias. So beautiful. We also have returned to Santiago many times. It truly is a spiritual city, pretty much unspoiled by commercial interests.
We just got back from Lugo last month, where we visited the small bakery that makes our Pan Gallego - Galician bread. They make it by hand and then flash freeze it for our enjoyment. If you haven't tried it, I think you'll be in for a treat.
To be able to go back to your family roots on a regular basis is a great privilege, and it says a lot about your loving family that you enjoy them so much.
"I was born in Sada, Galicia. But my birth certificate reads A Coruna. From Spain my parents and I went to Argentina (Buenos Aires) in 1947 and we lived there for 14 yrs till 1962 when we arrived in the USA in March and been living in New York ever since except for the time I served in the USA Army in Vietnam. "
Joe F. Casal, Woodsburgh, NY
You and your family had quite an adventure before finally settling in the US. I am sure that at the beginning your family had no idea where life would lead them.
Thank you for your service – those were difficult times and we were dependent upon people such as yourself during your service in the Army.
My very best to you and your family.
"My father was seventeen years old and my mother was five when they went to Cuba. My father was from Burgos and had several brothers. We have never met. My Mother and all her family members were from Viana do Bolo. They never went back. I have visited Galicia and Burgos, loved both places. As a "media gallega" I love the chorizo espanol, and the bread, I have ordered both, I like the Palacios. Thank you, I share your love of Spanish customs and products.
Elena Santamaria "
Elena Santamaria Killian, Forest,VA
"My father was born in Boveda, Galicia. I have visited there with my wife...and spent time at the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. It was a spiritual experience...never to be forgotten. I know what the word SOUL means. Galicia is where my soul came from."
Ricardo Carballada, Whispering Pines, NC
It sounds as if part of your soul remains in Galicia next to your grandparents, and you carry their love and caring with you. Galicia is an enchanting land.
"My grandfather was born in Galicia in 1898. He fled Spain when he was 12 years old since the government was conscripting even teenagers. He later became a US citizen. I hope one day to visit Galicia. There is a very small town with the same name as my grandfather, Randulfe. You should organize tours! Love your store, especially paellas on Friday."
Linda, Williamsburg, VA
"Linda, thanks for your kind comments. I am not sure that I am up to leading a tour -- lots of responsibility and details! But I would be glad to sit down and plan a trip for you. By all means you should return to Galicia. The cost is negligible when you consider what an life-long enriching family experience.
I look forward to seeing you at the store. Do drop by if I am in my office."
"I enjoyed reading these comments. My father was from Castro Caldelas and my Mom from Vigo. I now see I'm not the only one with " la morrina" so typical of the celtic soul. I want to add my vote for La Tienda sponsoring trips to Spain. It's a natural with your extensive knowledge. Wines and tapas tours...hmmm. Sign me on."
Olympia Taboada, Elizabeth City, NC
"Thanks, Olympia, for your words of encouragement. We will keep an eye out for excellent tour opportunities, but I don't think we will lead an official one. We do go with different friends now and then.
"My paternal grandfather was born in Galicia. In the early 1900s he migrated to Cuba and married my grandmother, the Cuban daughter of Spanish immigrants from the Canary Islands. My maternal grandparents, were born in Cuba of Galician parents. Spanish food has always been present at our table, whether it was a tortilla de patatas, caldo gallego, or a plate of tapas. When I was a young girl in the 1970s, we left Cuba and settled in Madrid, but then shortly after we moved to the U.S. Several years ago, my family and I visited your store in Williamsburg, Virginia. We loved it so much that now we order regularly by mail. It is amazing how food can bring back so many memories like the pan con chorizo my mother use to make for me when I came home after school for the “siesta” break. I would love to visit Galicia someday and search for the “lost” relatives I have never met. "
Mini Gomez-Novoa, Germantown, MD
Thanks for sharing your family connections with Spain, especially Galicia. It is a region close to our hearts. I hope you get a chance to visit soon, it is a beautiful part of Spain.