Everyone who loves Spain loves the south and the islands.
But be warned. Spain is much more than sun, beach and sangría.
It is also mists, bagpipes, cider, honey and rain.
If you wish to discover a different country that will literally leave you gasping in astonishment at the colours, the sights and the gastronomy, I’d point you north.
If you’re a bit more adventurous and like a combination of history, old cobbled streets and plenty of charm, plus some of the best food in the land, then I say come to Galicia, in the northwest.
It is a region which perfectly combines authenticity, the old and the new, meigas (witches) and miles of breathtaking coasts. And nothing beats Galician seafood! You will have all you like, from their traditional ‘polbo a feira’ (octopus with cooked potatoes, seasoned with olive oil, salt and hot paprika) to prawns, calamari or any other succulent variety. Leave culinary cowardice on your kitchen table if you desire to feast on these delicacies!
Lugo has yet another feature to set it aside. It is the city which has the only Roman wall in the world totally surrounding its old town. You can walk atop it and circle the historical centre with its cathedral, dating from the XXII century and picturesque streets, shops and cafés where you will seldom hear anything but Spanish, or most probably Galego, their own language.
Forget international cuisine for the most part and try their local products. It has delights for all who dare to go ‘native’. You can enjoy seafood, just like everywhere else in Galicia, and also more rustic delights like ‘pote galego’, a type of soup made with pulses, turnip greens and potatoes. The bread is usually artisan made, a blend of wheat and rye flours. There are many types of pies, or ’empanadas’, such as sardine, stewed meat, cod or even octopus! Yes, it is a big thing in This corner of the world! Many have looked at it with disgust only to fall for it with a passion… I know. I am one such person. Let me just say that all sorts of pastries abound, from puff pastry, to cheeses, to its famous ‘tejas’ or tiles made from almonds and honey, a crunchy delight with which to end any meal. Try any good local wine to intensify the experience.
If you are interested in walking/ hiking routes, Lugo is on the Camino Primitivo, or the Primitive Way of Saint James, that goes through the city to Santiago de Compostela. This is one of the main attractions of Galicia and fills the cities, the towns and indeed the villages along the way with pilgrims from all over the world.
If you can spare a day, go to O Cebreiro. This tiny village in the mountains of southern Galicia is full of quaint corners and it is a true pilgrim center. When I went last week, on the sixth of July, no less than a dozen nationalities were given accommodation on their way to see the patron saint of Spain, Saint James, or Santiago.
To the weary traveler, to those who think they’ve seen it all, to those who are jaded and bored… I say, come to Lugo, come to Galicia.
Northern Spain and its many corners, beaches, sunsets and culinary wonders will leave you wondering that you hadn’t yet found your way north and will probably be the start of a quest to delve deeper into the roots of traditions that speak of ancient times.