Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Santiago de Compostela

It’s been a crazy two weeks.

Whenever Wendy and I go on a trip, I bring along a little voice recorder I bought for the staggering price of thirty nine dollars before I came here. The thing has been invaluable. It is a little scary though. If I go too long leaving notes on the recorder, I’m deathly afraid of losing it and all the great material I dictated.

Yesterday I finished a two week stretch of transcribing seventy-one notes from voice to text. Thirty-seven pages of single spaced prose is now safely ensconced on my computer.

Just in time to make more.

This weekend Wendy and I are heading to Santiago de Compostela for the July 25 Festival, Día de la Patria Galega y Día del Apóstol Santiago (Galicia Day and the Apostle St. James’s Day). Santiago is in the very north-west corner of Spain, right on the coast. The best seafood in Spain is on this corner of the map. And we do love our seafood.

Even the seafood in Spain is different, and one more reason I love the variety of living on two continents. Here, the primary seafoods are Pulpo (octopus, usually served on top of boiled potatos and sprinkled with paprika) mussles served both hot or cold, calamari (squid rings usually lightly battered and fried) and percebes (barnacles.)

When we return to the states next week we'll be gorging ourselves on lobster, blue crab and fried clams with a ton of tartar sauce. None of which they serve here.

Variety truely is the spice of life.

Santiago (somehow Spanish for Saint James the Apostle) was named after the belief that Saint James was buried there. It is believed he came to the spot in the last years of his life and preached there until he died. Other legends suggest his body was shipped to the town after his death. Regardless of the way, the nine hundred kilometer route to Santiago has been a major Christian Pilgramige for over a thousand years.

John Adams tells the story better than I.

“We were informed, ... that the Original of this Shrine and Temple of St. Iago was this. A certain Shepherd saw a bright Light there in the night. Afterwards it was revealed to an Archbishop that St. James was buried there. This laid the Foundation of a Church, and they have built an Altar on the Spot where the Shepherd saw the Light. In the time of the Moors, the People made a Vow, that if the Moors should be driven from this Country, they would give a certain portion of the Income of their Lands to Saint James. The Moors were defeated and expelled and it was reported and believed, that Saint James was in the Battle and fought with a drawn Sword at the head of the Spanish Troops, on Horseback. The People, believing that they owed the Victory to the Saint, very chearfully fulfilled their Vows by paying the Tribute. ...Upon the Supposition that this is the place of the Sepulture of Saint James, there are great numbers of Pilgrims, who visit it, every Year, from France, Spain, Italy and other parts of Europe, many of them on foot. ”

—Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society,

We leave tonight on an overnight train and we are very excited. Wendy has been buried at work and just finished a major project. I have been writing my ass off and struggling a little bit with anxiety this month and we both need the break. It’s going to be day after day of seafood, historic buildings, wine and beach. Tons and tons of voice notes. I think I‘ve actually got enough material for the book that I can start putting together all the disparate pieces.

I will not be bringing my computer so will be out of contact until Monday morning.


  1. Eating Octopus is akin to eating a dog.
    They are way smarter then you think they are.

  2. Yaakov Ben-Zebedee (James the Greater)
    aka: Iakob, Iakobos, Yacob
    Jacques in French, Jacobus in Dutch,Jacob in German, James in English, Iago or Diego in Spanish.

    aka: Sant’ Iago Matamoros (killer of the Moors)
    Sant’ Iago Mataindios (killer of Indians in Peru)
    Sant’ Iago Mataespañois (killer of Spaniards in Mexico)

  3. Jamie, Look me up when your back in the states. Let's grab lunch.... I'm thinking lobster at the Indian place.
    ;-) Like you said - Variety truly is the SPICE of life!