Europe, Galicia, Portugal, Spain

From Porto to Vigo

December 7

After a two days of exploring in Porto and a full day in Braga and Guimarães, I slept in on my last day here and requested a late check-out. I also had homework to do for my last graduate class of the program I’m in, so I needed a few hours to get that finished. By early afternoon, I had packed up my things, found a place to have coffee, walked through some celebrations in the streets, and made my way to one of the last sites I would see: the Portuguese Centre of Photography.

This museum is housed in the old Cadeia da Relação prison, which was used until the late 1900s. You can see class differentials in the different floors of the old prison; wealthier people had private or semi-private rooms upstairs while lower class people were in crowded areas in the basement. In addition to the history of the prison, there were some remarkable photography exhibits on modern topics, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I finished here, a violent downpour of rain had begun. It was the type of rain that even with an umbrella you will be dripped wet after 10 seconds outside. So for about a half hour, I huddled in the entryway of the museum waiting for a pause in the bad weather to make a break for a bus stop or taxi to bring me somewhere else. The rain did not seem to be letting up, so eventually I made a run for it and made it to a bus stop. From here, I hailed a cab and went towards Palacio Da Bolsa Porto.

This is the old stock exchange palace in Porto. I had tried to go here the previous day but ran into issues with available tickets and tours. When I arrived, there were no more English tours for the day, Spanish tours were sold out, and you couldn’t explore independently. I accepted it wasn’t meant to be and walked outside and spent some time admiring the Jardim do Infante Dom Henrique across the street.

At this point, it was around 5 PM, and my train to Vigo wasn’t until a little bit past 7 PM. I was close to the Ribeira district, so I decided to venture back down there again to find some things I hadn’t gotten the day before. With the poor weather, the streets were pretty empty. Around 6 PM, I decided to make my trek towards the train station. To my dismay, I had a nearly impossible time trying to get there. The bus system was in disarray due to construction, walking was too far, no cabs were coming by or answering their phones, and no Ubers were accepting rides. After about 30 minutes of trying to figure out back-up plans and repeatedly try those options again, I finally had an Uber accept. He arrived in the nick of time and got me to the train station.

From here, I got on my train ride to Vigo in Galicia, Spain. This is a city about 45 minutes from where I lived last year in Pontevedra. When I arrived, it was around 11 PM. It was still pouring, and I was soaked from earlier waiting in Ribeira. But, I was determined to see the famous Vigo Christmas lights. Last year, I was not permitted to leave my city during Christmastime so I was unable to see the lights, but Vigo is famous for them worldwide. After checking into my AirBNB, I walked about 45 minutes downtown to some of the main streets where you can see the lights.

Whoever wants to see heaven has to come to Christmas in Vigo.

Mayor Abel Caballero

The Vigo mayor has been committed to having the most Christmas lights in the world. It spains 350 streets with 1000 trees, 2700 ornaments, 11 million lights, and a multi-million euro annual budget. I wandered through Rúa do Príncipe, Rúa de García Barbón, and the Alameda da Praza de Compostela.

After I enjoyed seeing the lights and was thoroughly soaked more, I made it back to my AirBNB to grab a few hours of sleep before getting up bright and early.

December 8

I met with another auxiliar, Jennifer, who I had only ever talked to on social media. We met for a coffee at a favorite local place and talked about life in Spain, life back in the US, the program, and the future. After a few hours there, we walked towards the Vigo train station where we parted ways.

Having coffee in Galicia, hearing Gallego, and getting back on board the train routes I frequented many times last year filled me with nostalgia. I arrived in Pontevedra where I met one of my teachers from last year, Aranza, who had so kindly held onto some of my belongings while I was in the US for the summer. We had a coffee, caught up about life, and practiced conversation in Spanish and English. ‘

After she left, I had to wait until 11 PM that evening for my bus to Madrid. I had a very difficult time piecing together the most realistic way to get back to Cartagena. At this time, I had not used Bla Bla car much, but I wish I had investigated it a little bit more. Flying was not an option due to my belongings (I refuse to pay suitcase fees that are more expensive than the cost of the flight) and I had to navigate around a training that I had online from 3-9 PM today and tomorrow. While I figured I could attend it on the train, the schedule ultimately didn’t work out for that to happen either. So, I attended the first day of my training, and then boarded the 11 PM bus to Madrid. We arrived around 7 AM, and then I had a short break to stretch my legs, have breakfast, and get on my next bus to Cartagena. It ended up being about 14 hours on buses, traveling over 1000 kilometers diagonally across Spain. It was truly a brutal experience and one I hope to never repeat. But, Thursday afternoon, I made it back, and my bed never felt more comfortable.

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