Barcelona’s funky Christmas traditions: Caga Tío and the Caganer

Celebrity Caganers.  Yes, that is Darth Vader, along with a stormtrooper, V, and Superman, and yes, they are pooping.

So, a question: how often do you express gratitude for your bodily functions?

The Catalonians of Spain do so with such enthusiasm that they incorporate it into their holiday celebrations.

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Porto, Portugal: Learning about port wine

Wooden barrels containing Sandeman Port


We love “how-it’s-made” tours, especially when the trip includes free samples of, say, alcohol.  We’ve taken a bourbon tour in Kentucky and craft beer and whiskey distillery tours in Seattle, and we’ve learned the insider info on making hard cider in Virginia.  It’s an enlightening way to increase your knowledge about the history and production of your favorite products while also getting the hands-on experience of trying the goods.

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One day in Porto, Portugal

The Rio Douro, with the Atlantic Ocean beyond; photo taken in Vila Nova de Gaia (across the river from Porto), where we stayed.


Everybody, and I do mean everybody, that we met who had been to Porto said that we must visit the city.  People raved about it.  It was highly recommended for its food, culture, beauty, and friendly people, so we made Porto our first stop in Portugal.  Unfortunately, we only had a day to spend there, but that didn’t keep us from experiencing as much of the city as possible.

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Random facts about Portugal

Map of Europe, with Portugal and Spain highlighted in red. Source: CIA World Fact Book maps


The last leg of our European trip was to Portugal.  We had a promise from our Portuguese friend Paulo that if we visited he would show us around, so we took him up on it.  First we visited Portugal’s second largest city, Porto, and after spending a few days there, Paulo picked us up and took us to Viano do Castelo, the town where he had been born and raised and still lived.

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Camino del Norte, el Fin (Part 2): Cathedral de Santiago and the gigantic Botafumeiro


November 6, 2015

Last day in Spain, continued:

After a wonderful tour of Finisterre and Muxía, we got back to Santiago just in time to attend the Friday night Pilgim’s Offering mass at the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, a service that honors the peregrinos arriving in Santiago.  The mass is held daily, but the Friday night service is special because the church brings out its gigantic Botafumeiro.

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Camino del Norte, el fin (Part 1): Finisterre and Muxía

November 6, 2015

It was fitting that we would spend our last day in Spain visiting two of the places where many pilgrims choose to end their Camino: the beautiful coastal locales of Finisterre and Muxía.

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