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Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Sunday, May 17, 2015 07:49:08

ANTARCTICA & IBERIA 2015: 11 Galicia & Asturias, Spain

Saturday, May 9, 2015

After taxiing to the train station in Porto I had a bit of a panic when I couldn't find the track I was supposed to leave on, however after some pointing from a guard I realized I was in the wrong building, so made a mad dash managing to board just before the train left. It was a commuter type train to Vigo in Spain, where a change to a deluxe Spanish train got me to Santiago de Compostela. There was no indication at all when we crossed the border into Spain, and if it were not for signs being in Spanish one would not know the difference. I'd thought of spending a night in the port city of Vigo, but after a walk around there seemed to be little of interest other than the port

There has been habitation in the area of Santiago de Compostela since prehistoric times when the area was settled by Celtic peoples. The Romans had a settlement from the first until the fifth century AD. Somewhere between 820 and 835 the body of the apostle Saint James was discovered, along with two of his disciples, so a church was built in 915 for the relics, but it was destroyed by an invasion in 997. The huge cathedral was begun in 1075 and the town became a focus for pilgrims from all over. It currently has a population of about 100,000, and a university with 30,000 students that dates back over 500 years. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia

Hotel Compostela is located near one of the entrances to the old historical city centre where there are a lot of bars and restaurants. It has nice rooms and a super helpful staff. A walk through the narrow streets got me to the biggest cathedral I have ever seen. The area has a monastery, a posada, a convent and many other buildings related to the cathedral. This is the end of a major pilgrimage route. There were huge pilgrim groups walking en mass, so the best thing when meeting them on a narrow street was to duck into a doorway and let them go by - there was no going through them

Dinner was at a seafood tapas restaurant, followed by a walk through the fair grounds where there are rides and other circus type attractions. On the top of the hill was a giant Ferris wheel, which I rode to get a birds eye view of the city. A mother and daughter were in the same basket as me, and kindly explained the various sights of the city. Mama was scared to death, and I think talked continually to keep from thinking about the height. My Costa Rican Spanish is serving me well here

Sunday, May 10, 2015

There wasn't much sleep last night, as my room is above a small park where there was a lot of loud partying until after 6 AM when the sun came up - likely university students. Most of the morning was spent sleeping and catching up on the computer. I had an omelet and fresh squeezed orange juice as the only person in the hotel restaurant before heading off to walk the residential part of the old town I'd not visited yesterday

There were very few tourists in the area, so it gave me a chance to talk to the locals and bar tenders in the frequent pubs. Bocas (free snacks with each drink) are still the custom in this area. This used to be normal when we arrived in Costa Rica, but now bocas are all for pay. In one spot a bowl of pasta, a big dish of green olives and a dish of potato chips were served with my 1.50 euro beer

After returning to the hotel for a siesta, I went back to one of the restaurants only a couple of minutes from the hotel for dinner. The place was packed, with no outside seating available, so I took a table inside. There are three fellows who run the place, one being the chef, and they were running flat out, but the one I met during the day saw to it I was treated like royalty. He had recommended a local pork dish, which was superb, and one of his colleagues suggested an amazing wine to accompany it. Although I was stuffed they insisted I have a complementary desert which was unbelievably delicious, accompanied by a local brandy. They charged about 24 euros, including a beer to start and several glasses of wine! I have really enjoyed the people in this town, very friendly and helpful

Santiago de Compostela is what I would call a one day town, unless you simply want a very pleasant place to just relax. It is possible to see all the important sites in half a day, the other half would be doing what I did today, off the tourist route

Monday, May 11, 2015

A taxi took me the short distance to the train station to catch the 8:34 AM train that runs back and forth on good track through hills and over valleys to Ourense. As with all trains I've been on this trip it is electric. We arrived 14 minutes late, a cause of some concern as I had only a 5 minute connection for the train to Leon, however they held the train, which was on the adjoining track. This is the first time I've experienced a train late leaving or arriving in either Portugal or Spain. Another difference with trains in Spain is that they tend to fill double seats regardless of the number of empty seats, where in Portugal I never had anyone sitting beside me - passengers not travelling together were spaced apart

The next leg of the journey was up winding valleys with clear, clean rivers and alongside beautiful lakes in forested, lightly populated, hilly countryside, finally ending in flat farm land. It was a beautiful sunny day with blue skies, something I've been fortunate enough to experience on most of this trip..The train had a cafeteria car for the almost 4 hour trip, however arrival was 15 minutes late

I had a couple of beer and a light lunch in the Leon station before boarding the last train for the day, which left on time, so I can't say "the main claim to fame of the train in Spain is late again"! I thought it would be a smaller local train for the 2 hour trip, but it had 10 passenger coaches. The route went through a range of high snow capped mountains, where the ride was a lot rougher as we passed tiny mountain villages..The mountains were a surprise to me, I had no idea there were such high mountains in Spain other than a Pyrenees

Arrival in Oviedo was within 5 minutes of on time, and a taxi got me to the hotel. I'm staying at the Husa Santo Domingo Plaza Hotel, which is an amazing bargain at 39 euros per night. My large room has a king sized bed, large desk, arm chairs, safe, individual air conditioning/heat and full bathroom with bidet, bath and shower. For anyone headed this way it is highly recommended. The phone number is 34 985 207880 and email is

It was a 10 minute walk to the old city, where I visited the most important sites in the evening. The historic centre is not as large as some and there were not a lot of people. The main cathedral is big, and has its accompanying convent and monastery. There were about a dozen restaurants with outside seating and many bars that served bocas. On the other side of the old city are two city blocks with side by side sidrerias, or cider bars. It comes in litre bottles, and is poured by holding the glass as far down as possible in one hand, while the bottle is held as high as possible in the other. Buckets are at each table to catch the cider that misses the glass. The cider is cloudy, and slightly bitter, but obviously very popular with locals, as there are statues made from empties, and one wall of the airport is done in the bottom of cider bottles

On the way back, very near the hotel, I found a little pub of only 27 sq meters (291 sq ft) in size, but unbelievably popular. The tables outside were full, and patrons inside shuffled around to make space for me. The owner poured, made bocas and was waiter all on his own and everyone seemed very content - they were all locals

Theft can't be much of a problem here, as the hotel has the main entrance on the first floor, but is built into a hill so there is a back door which is left unlocked until midnight on the third floor. It saves walking up all the hill to the old city

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Principality of Asturias is an autonomous community that was a kingdom in the middle ages with a coastline along the Bay of Biscay. Oviedo is the capital. The area has been inhabited by humans since homo erectus in prehistoric times, and has four world heritage cave painting sites. The first native culture was that of the Asturienses and then the Celts. Romans conquered the area 29- 19 BC. The Moors, who took most of Spain in the 8th century, never completely took this area, and it became a refuge for Christian nobles, becoming a kingdom in 722. Eventually it became part of the Kingdom of Spain, with the hereditary heirs to the throne being known as Prince of Asturias from 1388 on. The population of Oviedo Municipality is about 225,000 and that of Gijon 278,000

Today I walked the quiet streets of the old town, the pedestrian shopping areas and a park, eventually getting back to the little bar near the hotel where I sat in with the locals, sipping beer and reading the newspaper. The owner's wife Irene and their 4 year old daughter were there. Irene's dad was a US serviceman married to a Spanish woman. She went to school in Ohio, so spoke English. Her husband, Alejandro, speaks only Spanish

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The taxi ride to the train station this morning was in very heavy traffic, I didn't think we'd make it to the train. At the station the extremely rude man in the ticket office told me to use an automatic machine to buy my ticket. I tried to figure one out, but it did not have Gijon, my destination, on it, so I went back. This time the miserable bugger waved his hands in annoyance and told me I went to the wrong machine! Eventually, after comparing notes with a lady who was having problems with the adjoining machine, we both managed to get tickets. We got to the platform about one minute before the train left

This is a commuter route between the two largest cities in Asturias, with three coach trains running about every half hour, so it turned out that missing the train would not have been a big deal. The cost is only 6.30 euros for a round trip ticket. It takes about half an hour, including stops at half a dozen towns along the way. Gijon is a beach resort in the summer months, but is mainly a mining center with hundreds of mines and a lot of smokestack industry surrounding it

I hired a taxi driver named Evilio at the train station to show me the town. I was a bit concerned when he left his meter running, but in the end the trip cost half of what I was willing to pay. He was a super guide, and spoke Spanish so clearly that I had no trouble understanding him

Gijjon has a small historic center which had few people walking around, it is mainly a residential area of narrow streets and includes a red light district. The Roman baths were interesting, they are underground but well lit and have a 10 minute video with explanations. The various beaches of Gijon are golden sand, and apparently crowded in the hot months, but today was overcast and drizzly. We drove around the beautiful old university and stopped for photos in various places before returning to the train station. The city streets are very clean, as they were in Oviedo. Unless someone is interested in staying at a downtown beach, it would be better to stay in Oviedo and take the train - it took less that half a day before Evilio couldn't think of anything else to show me

Back in Oviedo I walked some of the pedestrian shopping streets near the station looking for a good restaurant. I selected a seafood one, deciding to treat myself to what would prove to be my last meal in Spain. It consisted of beautifully done prawns, clams, then seafood soup finished with a desert and excellent white wine

I taxied back to my neighbourhood pub for a couple of beer and to say goodbye to Alejandro and his wife. Back at the hotel I had a three hour siesta before getting ready for a 5 AM start tomorrow

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hotel checkout was quick and the taxi arrived 5 minutes early. The long drive to the airport was reduced to about 25 minutes by a speed of 130 kph (81 mph), but the price was high at 60 euros. Formalities were quick and easy although it was necessary to wait as neither check in nor security opened until one hour before the flight. Business class on the A319 had three seats across on each side of the aisle, but there were few passengers so each had their own 3 seat section. The crew were great - the stewards were dressed in full suit and tie and a snack with drinks was provided. The 1 hr 5 min flight was on time

Madrid airport is huge, with very few employees visible, so it is almost impossible to find someone for directions and the signage can be confusing. I found a combined Iberia/British Airways information place and the attitude was that I was an inconvenience to be tolerated - somewhat similar to yesterday's train station. There is only one Iberia lounge in the entire airport, and when I found out where it was it was a long walk back. For the interest of those travelling this way, it is on the left side almost immediately after you enter an enormous shopping area. The lounge staff were great

The lounge was big, with separate self serve liquor and wine bars and a good selection of food. Internet is free throughout the airport. The flight to Miami on an Iberian A330-300 was excellent. Each business class cubical had acess to the aisle, so no near to climb over anyone to leave the seat, and the food, service and wine selection were excellent. Each unit has a good sized TV screen with a good selection of up to date movies, plugs for electric devices and comfortable flat beds. The flight was on time

There is a non-stop flight to Costa Rica on Iberia that left before my flight to Miami, however the price was 40% less to go via Miami and then to Costa Rica on American Airlines. They continually price the non-stop flight very high - it would seem they are looking for an excuse to discontinue it

There was no need to go through security again after the domestic flight to Madrid for any international flight except to the USA. For US flight there is a special security zone that does not open until just before the flight, so it is not possible to arrive at the gate early. A business class lane got me throught quickly. In Miami my Goes/Nexus status got me through immigration and customs quickly, but because my boarding pass was issued in Spain and did not say TSA cleared on it I had to go through regular security

The lounge in Miami was typical, with cheese, crackers and apples available but food items were offered for sale on a menu. A coupon good for one drink and one for a bottle of water was presented once I was checked into the lounge. The flight was on time, however I turned down the one choice of a meal. Once in San Jose our caretaker picked me up at the airport for the short ride home