Galicia – the Switzerland of Spain – is the small portion of land that blocks Portugal’s northern border from touching the Atlantic Ocean. It is hilly (hence the Swiss reference), with a fascinating landscape that is matched by its unique history.
I am here, with colleagues from around the world, for an executive committee meeting of the International National Trusts Organisation (or INTO). We are being hosted by one of our member Trusts – the Tesouros de Galicia – and several of my colleagues joined a contingent from Tesouros de Galicia in completing 140 kilometers of what may be Galicia’s most famous pilgrimage: the Camino de Santiago that ends at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
After a much too complicated trip to arrive (never fly Ryan Air – for those of you old enough, think a bad People’s Express experience), I joined my colleagues in Santiago de Compostela for our first meetings at the Facultad de Geografia e Historia, Praza da Universidade. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have any facilities in my college that looked like this – and especially not the History and Geography departments!
We left later on Saturday to go to Mondariz, a beautiful little town that along with Santiago and the nearby city of Vigo, made up a trio of must-see places for the Edwardian tourists of Britain in the early 20th century. Thanks to our hosts, we were able to stay in the beautiful and historic spa known as Balneario de Mondariz. The spa put us in a bubble in the middle of the troubled Spanish economy, but it didn’t take a long walk away from the town center to see the abandoned homes and poverty.
The spa features the waters that were once enjoyed by the King of Spain and Edwardian tourists from England. The buildings are beautiful and nestled in the countryside. This view of a chapel in the mist was what I saw when I opened my window shades in the morning.
There are several wonderful buildings once – or still – associated with the spa, including the old hotel, and the grounds.
The springs themselves are highlighted within a publicly accessible building, seen at the top of the post and here (where the water bubbles beneath the sign).
After our meetings wrapped up, we toured two local Galicia landmarks: a late Medieval castle, and a wonderful set of ruins – the Castro de Trona dating back more than 2,000 years.
And yes, when the meetings and tours were over, I was able to “take the waters” as they say, at Balneario de Mondariz. What a relaxing way to end the day and prepare for dinner with good friends and colleagues from St. Lucia, India, England, Scotland, and more.
Yes, I was floating around somewhere under that dome. Ahhhhhhhhh.
Perhaps I’m now ready for three flights and all-day travel to get home tomorrow evening.
More to come…