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Life on the Spanish coast

Gemma Rae

Faculty: Science and Engineering
School: Life Sciences
Course: MSc Animal Behaviour: Applications for Conservation
Category: Animal sciences

26 May 2023

ARU Animal Behaviour: Applications for Conservation student Gemma continues her account of researching for her thesis in Galicia. This time, she focusses on how she's been spending her downtime in this idyllic part of the world.

Catch up on the second instalment of Gemma's experiences in Galicia.

As soon as I arrived here in O Grove, the connection of this part of Spain to the sea was obvious, from the many fishermen, boats, and mussel farms visible along the shoreline to the chapel covered in scallop shells on the neighbouring island of La Toja (in Galician, Illa da Toxa).

Composite image comprising one general photo of the Chapel of San Sebastián and one close-up photo of the scallop shells covering its outer walls

The chapel of San Sebastián (or Capilla de las Conchas – Chapel of the Shells).

Seafood and shellfish dishes are a staple in Galician cuisine, and there is a festival that takes place annually in O Grove (Fiesta del Marisco) dedicated to the fishing activities of the town and celebrating the productivity of the surrounding waters.

Although part of mainland Spain, Galicia has a completely distinct culture, climate and landscape. During my journey down to O Grove, I noticed how lush and green the surroundings were in comparison to other areas I have visited – it is quite reminiscent of the English countryside.

As you walk through O Grove and across to Illa da Toxa, the scent of pine and eucalyptus form the surrounding forests and salty sea air is ever present and is a unique and relaxing combination.

It makes such a refreshing change to be staying in an area so unspoilt by tourism, and is an opportunity to experience authentic Galician culture.

The beaches and bays are deserted and views of the surrounding Ría de Arousa are picturesque, which makes it a very peaceful place to reflect and relax after working in the lab or field.

As Galicia faces the Atlantic, it definitely wakes me up when I go for a morning swim before work and is a refreshing way to start the day.

View of the Ría de Arousa, Galicia
Composite image of two views of the Ría de Arousa, Galicia

I have found it rejuvenating spending time in such an idyllic and quiet place, and I quickly settled into the easy-going pace of life here. It has made me realise how rushed daily life can be back home and how important it is to slow down and enjoy the present moment (something I don’t do often enough and am going to continue when I return home!).

The people are friendly, the food is amazing, and the surroundings are beautiful. Can’t think of a better place to be based whilst studying for my thesis and am so happy to have discovered this hidden gem! I will definitely be coming back in the future.

In the meantime, I’m heading to my favourite spot at Illa da Toxa for the evening with a very thought-provoking book, Voices in the Ocean by Susan Casey, which explores the complex and sometimes tragic relationship between dolphins and humans.

Susan Casey's book Voices in the Ocean on a towel, with a view of the Ría de Arousa, Galicia and riverside buildings in the distance

I’m excited to continue exploring the area and learn more about Galician culture during the rest of my stay.

Gemma is studying Animal Behaviour: Applications for Conservation at ARU in Cambridge. Find out more about this and other degree courses at one of our Open Days.


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