About Spain & Santiago

The Conference’s Planning Committee considered that a piece of information on peculiarities of the venue would prove valuable in taking this important step. This essay intends to inform the prospective scientific pilgrim on the idiosyncrasy of Spain as a venue and how it will translate in the conference program. In order to so, we also try to answer two likely questions: how to get there, and how much will cost to get to and live there.

Santiago de Compostela can be reached by plane, train, bus, or foot – through the Santiago Way. The airport, located about 10 km outside the city, is a small one, but offers several connections a day to Madrid or Barcelona, where international destinations can be reached, as well as regular flights to London, Brussels, Zurich and Paris, among others (cf. www.aena.es/ then select Santiago). In fact, visitors who hub through a third city may consider this as an opportunity to take a few days off to visit Barcelona, Madrid and its beautiful surrounding cities (three medieval cities within 100 km of Madrid, Segovia, Toledo and Avila, declared World Heritage cities; yet more exotic Seville is only two hours away by the fast train, AVE, connection). Travel costs ranges broadly depending on the port of origin: low-fare airlines now connect Spanish airports, including that at Santiago, with major European cities for under 100 € (1 €~1.2 US $). Intercontinental flights are more expensive, although European low-cost airlines are also now getting there (cf. links below). A non-exhaustive search through the internet delivered sample prices that suggest that getting to Santiago will not be far more expensive than, for instance, traveling coast-to-coast within the USA. The excess costs will be compensated for week-long attendees, by the cheaper accommodation, which ends up taking the lion’s share of the budget to attend any ASLO meeting.

Spain is a country that has quickly covered the leap between a malfunctioning old country, at the dictator Franco’s death 30 years ago, and a modern country that works (for an update survey on Spain cf. http://www.economist.com/surveys/). Yet, Spain still differs from many countries in Europe and elsewhere in many ways, remarkably the peculiar way the key events of the day are spaced around the clock. Unprepared visitors are often horrified at how long hours Spaniards seem to be prepared to fast in between meals, no doubt a reminiscence of Inquisitorial times, and often starve or submit their health to considerable risk in trying to emulate them. In fact, the key to such behavior is not to be found in penitence or physiological endurance but in the fact that the appetite is entertained by many small bites, the almuerzo and tapas, enjoyed in the interim between meals. These small snacks, particularly the tapas, offer magnificent opportunities to socialize with colleagues at the meeting and continue scientific discussions or venture into other topics equally broadening to our intellectual horizons.

Our advice to visitors is that they try to accommodate to these schedules, which can have the benefits of alleviating jet lags for eastbound intercontinental travelers by about 2 hrs. To help make this possible, the Committee has planned some deviations from general ASLO conference schedules to accommodate the meeting to the Spanish idiosyncrasy described above. This will include a day starting with the poster session (9:00 to 11:00), including continental breakfast offered at no extra cost to participants. The plenary speakers will then initiate the oral sessions at 11:00, with an enthusiastic, well nurtured audience, and this will be followed by parallel oral sessions, interrupted by lunch break (13:45 – 15:30), to end at 19:00, with a coffee break in between. Receptions and cultural events will then be organized to entertain the group until 20:30, when participants may want to venture into the tapas outings preceding dinner (Boxes 2 and 3). Santiago de Compostela boils with activities at the time of the meeting, such as high-quality street events (every evening, including music, dancing, theater, etc.), rendering street walking a “happy-happening” experience.

This arrangement strives to highlight posters, which will be met by participants at their most energetic time of the day, rather than tired after a day-long of attending to exciting sessions, and ensure that even the most enthusiastic practitioners of tapas, compounded with jet lag, get to the Conference Hall on time to attend the plenary lectures.


  • Madrugada: the time in between sunrise and breakfast.
  • Desayuno: Breakfast. Typically a continental breakfast.
  • Mañana: the time interval in between breakfast and lunch (also meaning tomorrow, and, in some extreme cases synonym of never)
  • Comida: lunch, traditionally consisting of two courses, a piece of fruit and coffee.
  • Tarde: the time in between lunch and dinner; e.g. “buenas tardes” = good afternoon and good evening.
  • Cena: dinner, traditionally lighter than lunch
  • Noche: the time in between dinner and sunrise; e.g. “buenas noches” = good night.
  • Tapas: Snacks eaten with a glass (or many) of wine or beer
  • Caña, una: a glass of draft beer. Jarra is a double caña (approx. a pint).
  • Vino, un: a glass of wine, red (tinto) or white (blanco), the request can be qualified with the denomination of the particular wine: Rioja, Ribera de Duero, Ribeiro (local), Alvariño (higher quality local wine), etc., or yet the brand requested, if known.
  • Ración: a cooked dish often shared amongst several people.


Sample travel budgets to Santiago de Compostela

Air fare
A query to a single web page, www.travelnow.com, for the dates of 2005 ASLO meeting (but in 2004) delivered the following roundtrip fares:

  • Miami to Madrid or Barcelona $986.62 USD (direct, carrier Iberia)
  • New York to Madrid or Barcelona, $797.00 USD (KLM, via Amsterdam)
  • Seattle to Madrid or Barcelona, $995.62 USD (Delta Airlines, via New York)
  • Los Angeles to Madrid, $1,002.62 USD (Delta Airlines, via New York)

But, Spanish travel agent quote prices below 600 euros, roundtrip, for either one of these trips, so it is possible to do much better. The system is crazy, as I did query, for instance rates from a US destination to Santiago and I got $4,000 USD and then $800 USD when booking to Madrid (Santiago to Madrid roundtrip is about 150 euros).

European trips are much cheaper, e.g., Copenhagen to Madrid roundtrip from 99 € (Air Europa)

Living Costs
ASLO is working with a local arrangements hotel broker to assist us with our housing needs. We will have rooms being held in 10-12 hotels with rates ranging from 48 Euros to 132,000 Euros including breakfast and shuttle transportation service from the hotel to the convention center and also to the center of the city.

The actual range possible in Santiago is wider, extending from 25 €/person in double occupancy in a comfortable, if spartan, hotel to 180 €/person in Parador de Los Reyes Católicos, a hotel founded by kings Ferdinando and Isabela in the late 15th century.

Continental breakfast for about 1.5 – 2 € in bars and cafés (more expensive at hotels), set three-course lunch menus at most bars and restaurants for 6-8 €, and a nice dinners starting at 15 – 20 €. Prices include tax

Prices of hotels and restaurants typically include tax (VAT or IVA), which is 6 % for hotels and restaurants. Tips are expected in restaurants, albeit not mandatory, and ranges from 0, if you were not satisfied, to a generous 6 - 10 €. They are not proportional to the bill or to the size of the group. Prices tagged on shops are in general final (i.e. include taxes).

A Spanish Time Table

Event   Weekday   Weekend
Desayuno   7:00 - 8:00   + 1 h
Almuerzo1   10:30 - 11:00   + 3 h: Aperitivo
Comida2   13:30 - 15:30   + 1 h
Tapas   19:30 - 20:30    
Cena   21:00 - 23:00    
Acostarse   24:00 - sunrise   +2 h

1. the meaning of “almuerzo” differs across Spain, in some areas is equivalent to the “comida”, and yet in some others refers to a mid afternoon sandwich.

2. the “comida” is traditionally the main meal of the day, whereas dinner is a lighter meal.

Tapas, A Brief Introduction

Tapas are small food snacks for individual consumption accompanying a glass of wine or a glass of beer. The name (tapa = lid) derives from the custom to place these snacks in small dishes that covered the glass, likely to prevent the visits of suicidal dipterans, which abounded in Spanish bars in the past. The range of items that can be found as tapas is simply incommensurable, including fish (anchovies, sardines, cod, salmon), seafood (squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels), vegetables (olives, potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, almonds, nuts, peppers), meat (veal, multiple pork parts including viscera), each of these cooked in multiples ways: dried, marinated, fried, boiled, stemmed, grilled, hot sauced, cooked in omelets, croquettes, pastries, pies, served as salad, etc. Indeed, the international rise of Spanish modern cuisine is to be credited to the creativity devoted to and inspired in tapas.

Tapas are offered for free and are, consequently, not displayed in price tables, nor are they subject to choice: the choice relies in choosing the bars offering the best tapas. In turn, the word ración (plural raciones), defines a larger dish of the same items that can be found in tapas that needs be ordered, and therefore paid for, and are therefore displayed in price lists and menus. Indeed, raciones are often shared between groups going for tapas and often form the first course of meals, particularly dinners, where commensals share a number of them. The free nature of tapas is now being jeopardized by a savvy behavior of bar tenders who delay the appearance of tapas on the hope that starving groups will order raciones. The presence of small dishes by the side of glasses on the counter provides good evidence that tapas should come, so hold your raciones order.

“Ir de tapas” (to go for tapas, sin. picotear) now generally refers to bar hoping, drinking wine or beer, along dedicated tapas routes found in almost any Spanish town and city. Ir de tapas is a strongly social activity, rarely done in groups < 3, and represents an opportunity for informal chat with friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Ir de tapas typically involves visiting a number of bars (at least three or four), where a glass of wine (a “vino”, or beer, caña) and the corresponding tapas are consumed, with payment generally organized on a rotatory basis, whereby each person hosts the group in a particular bar. A consequence of this habit, as the mathematically-inclined reader correctly guesses, is that the number of bars visited increases proportionately with group size, as it will be offensive to deny any group member the opportunity to host. The residence time in each bar is, accordingly, short, typically on the order of 30 min, and the group usually gathers itself around the counter.

“Tapas bars” can be classified into many types: bodega, indicative that primarily wine (primitive) is served; vinoteca, indicative that expensive wine for delicate noses is served; mesón, reminiscent of wine, sausages and dry meats; bar, generic; club, to be avoided; café, self-evident; etc.

Santiago de Compostela offers tapas circuits that are demanding even for the most enthusiastic and experienced, best equated with rallies to the extent that the most popular tapas route in Santiago is popularly referred to as the “Paris-Dakar” circuit, as the bar on the top of the street (now a fashion shop) was named “Dakar” and that by the end of the street, as it yields to the Herradura park, is still named “París”, the circuit involving a stop at each of the 50+ bars in between them. Alternative, less demanding, tapas routes are also available. For tips on tapas in general and in Santiago visit the links below.


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