If you really want to experience a culture you must live it. That is what I did in December and early January when I had the privileged of “house and pet” sitting for the owner of La Cala A Pilgrims Inn, in Oia, Spain. https://lacalainn.com/ Situated just north of the Portugal border, this sea-side community of 3,000 people was my home during Christmas, New Years, and my birthday! My main responsibility was to care for Mia, the dog, and Sissy, the cat, and to host any pilgrims that might stop for the night. Given the very rainy winters in Galicia,, only three pilgrims stopped for a night, giving me plenty of time to explore the area.
A rain it did. Nearly every day, until my last two, it rained. Several coastal storms hit the region as well. But with the rain, came beauty. Green fields, fresh breeze, and stunning waves. Since I was not familiar with the area, I choose not to drive, even though I had access to a car. Therefore, I walked everywhere. Daily routine started with a morning hike up a very steep cobblestone road to the bakery, then another block to a small market. Afterwards Mia and I would continue another half mile to the fish market and the produce market. By the time we returned home, we had walked over 1.5 miles. This was repeated every day, although fish market was closed on Monday and all stores closed on Sunday.
During the rest of the day, Mia and I would walk along the coast, sometimes following the coastal route of the Camino Portuguese, other times just climbing along the rocky shoreline. Most days I walked over six miles. The people of Oia were so lovely. Everyone greets you when walking past. Even though I only speak a little Spanish, it was enough to communicate. I met many expats from around the world who had decided to make Oia there home.
Henriqueta’s, the local bar/restaurant, was my second home. It opened at noon most days. Wonderful Spanish wines flowed like water and were always accompanied by tapas. The holidays were a cultural learning experience. Galicia is heavily influenced by the Celts and bagpipes are the main instrument of the region. Papa Noel” traveled through the town before Christmas day but the main holiday is January 6 with the arrival of the Three Kings.
I can’t express how friendly everyone was during my stay. The pharmacist who cared for my knee after a nasty fall and the owners of the fish market and produce store all treated me as they would any local. Did I miss my husband and cats, of course, but thanks to technology we stayed in touch.
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