Monday, September 20, 2010

Santiago de Compostela

Three weeks in and 2 ‘friendly’ games under my belt, I’m finally starting to acclimate to my new life in Spain. Last Saturday we beat a league rival quite handily, but this weekend let a closely contested match get away from us. A turnover plagued, defensively soft second half sealed our fate, as we lost on the road to Pio XII by 7 points.

I had a solid game, but couldn’t figure out why I spent most of the second quarter on the bench. Shooting a high percentage from the floor with 0 fouls, I was frustrated with not being on the court. Nevertheless, after halftime I played the majority of the final two quarters and put up respectable numbers (14pts, 7rbs, 2 blks, 6/10FG, 2/2 FT) against the preseason league favorites.

After the final horn had sounded, the team and I headed to the locker room for our post game chat and shower. Looking to the stands, I signaled to fellow Vancouverite Levon Kendall, letting him know I'd be a minute. Conveniently, Levon plays in Santiago de Compostela for Obradoiro C.A.B. of LEB Gold. With permission from the team, I was allowed to stay in the city as long as I found my way back to Ferrol for practice Monday night. This would be my first excursion outside of Ferrol and I was excited to spend it with a friend.

Saying goodbye to the team, we hopped into Levon’s Prius and departed the gym. After a tour of his apartment and taking a few minutes to freshen up, we decided to head to Santiago's Old Town for dinner and late night tapas. This was an experience in itself. The Spanish social scene is much different than that of North America. People go out to dinner late...10pm kind of late. Strolling the narrow cobblestone streets, we eventually selected a cute restaurant in the center of town. Taking advantage of the mild evening, we sat outside and people watched while enjoying a delightful seafood dinner. Being adventurous, the both of us sampled a signature Galician dish - Pulpo a la Gallega. It was…interesting. The texture of octopus is definitely not a favorite...

Wrapping up our meal with a café con leche around 11:30pm, it was on to Levon’s teammates’ apartment. After introductions all round, we watched college football on ESPN while prepping for an evening out. Apparently midnight was too early to arrive at the popular bars, thus we waited until after 1am before checking out the city’s nightlife. Enjoying the company, we shared various overseas stories and before I knew it, it was time to make a move.

Back in Old Town, the fellas knew their way around, navigating the narrow maze of streets to a busy bar in the basement of an old building. Upon our arrival, everyone literally stopped and stared at us. With the two guys having to duck on entrance (6’8” and 6’10”) and myself following at 6’1”, the short Spaniards weren’t sure how to react. Once everyone had a chance to look us over, they went back to their drinks and previous conversations. Aside from being scrutinized at times, I really enjoyed the bar. It had good music, cheap drinks and a great atmosphere. At one point in the evening a girl came up to me and bluntly stated, “you’re not from here.” Hmmm...thanks for pointing that out. I don’t think she meant to be rude, but she didn't understand why we were all so tall. After satisfying her curiosity, I was back on the dance floor doing what I do best. Slowly the bar crowd began to dissipate and it was time to move to the next place…at 3am. Ugh!

Once again following the guys down narrow alleyways and side streets, we arrived at an underground salsa club. It was awesome! I spent most of my time swaying to the music while watching various young couples dance at a frenetic pace. They were amazing! Salsa dancing looks tough - I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll be able to master before leaving Spain.

With the 3 of us starting to fade, we decided to call it a night around 4am and started the trek back to Levon’s apartment. Traversing the uneven cobblestones street, I suddenly realized my phone was ringing. Confused as to who would be calling me at this ungodly hour, I was surprised to find it was my good friend Lindsey (who also is Levon's friend) calling post-Husky football game. It was great hearing a voice from home and it topped off a successful evening.

Finally back at Levon’s flat, I set my alarm for 11am. Knowing I’d be tired in the morning, I mentally prepared myself. I would not allow myself to sleep away the day. While in Santiago, I wanted to wander and experience the historic town before having to depart. Waking up less than 6 hours later, I quietly crept out of the apartment and left Levon a note. We’d meet later in the afternoon for lunch.

Pulling out my journal, I found my bearings a started the 15 minute walk to downtown Santiago (spending about 2km on the actual Camino de Santiago). Navigating the narrow streets, I found Rua do Franco (main street) and started to wander up and down the different roads, snapping photos and sampling baked goods. Following St. James ‘hikers’ and bikers down one particular street, I was taken aback when the confined alley suddenly opened up into Praza do Obradoiro, home of Santiago de Compostela’s massive cathedral. To say this monument is impressive is an understatement. I’d say it’s only second to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The thing is enormous and is apparently one of the most impressive cathedrals in all of Europe. After witnessing it, I have no doubt that's true.

Enjoying the view, I sat down at a nearby café for a café con leche and worked on my tan while gazing up at the impressive cathedral. After a short rest for my complaining feet, I called Levon. We decided to rendez-vous on Rua do Franco for a late lunch. Enjoying another great meal in the sun (30°C, 85°F) while people wandered around us, we eventually joined the masses and strolled the historic city, eventually making our way back to the cathedral’s main square. Once again impressed by it’s size, we snapped photos, chatted with some Aussies and inquired about cathedral tours. Unfortunately they were booked for the day – so it's the first thing I plan to do upon my return. Making our way down a quiet street, we walked around a park that provided stunning views of the cathedral from an incline. Tired from a late night and long day, I glanced at my watch. It was time to head to the bus station.

Saying our goodbyes, Levon and I briefly chatted about future visits. I’ll definitely be returning to Santiago soon and recommend it to anyone if ever visiting Northern Spain. Only a 1 hour bus ride from Ferrol, it’s a cheap and easy commute. I have a feeling I'll know the city very well before I returning home to Vancouver at the end of the season.

Back to work,



Lindsey said...

guess you aren't the only one that can be jealous! A night out with Levon and Dubby? I can't believe I missed it!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

so happy to see you finally were able to absorb some of the fabulous Spanish culture and were able to explore a new city! and you have a friend close by, done and done. If you keep writing these fab blogs you're gonna make me miss Spain/wanna visit you so bad that I'll be there before Christmas ;) Misssssssss youuuuuuuuuuu besasos (besos y abrasos) JWOWWW