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
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
- 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
Sample travel budgets to Santiago
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
- New York to Madrid or Barcelona, $797.00 USD (KLM, via
- 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)
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
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.
A Spanish Time Table
||7:00 - 8:00
||+ 1 h
||10:30 - 11:00
||+ 3 h: Aperitivo
||13:30 - 15:30
||+ 1 h
||19:30 - 20:30
||21:00 - 23:00
||24:00 - sunrise
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,
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.