A Travellerspoint blog

Rias Altas, Galicia

Ribadeo and Ferrol

semi-overcast 23 °C

These "high" rias encompass some amazing landforms. As the bus neared Ribadeo, we glimpsed great mud flats with lines of water cutting through. The land on each side, presumably once water's edge, was now covered in crops. Gradually, the valley became an expanse of water often disappearing up some other small river valley. We came down put of the forests and farms onto the town of Ribadeo. This has a charming marina, fishing port and, across the river, more commercial Loading areas and what appeared to be ship building.
The town has had times of great prosperity with buildings reflecting when money came in. We spent quite a lot of time on the central plaza with its somewhat battered but still impressive architecture, as (specially for us ;) there were musical and art events. One evening, we nursed beers and applauded a local hip hop band. Definitely picked up a few subversive and provocative words in the rap! Dancers put on a great old school show, strutting their stuff, which comes naturally to some Spanish boys. Then came the main show, an experienced group who rocked the square.
Our small hotel is off a side street with glimpses of the water nd the elegant bridge. It was built in the eighteenth century and provided stores to the ships in the port. Nice to open the shutters, lean out and imagine the bustle.

Ribadeo is famed for its attractive beaches on the Atlantic, so we caught a bus to Praia das cathedrales where water has worn the slate rock into arches, only visible at low tide. It is the end of summer, and locals were all enjoying the day at the beach.

There were not so many people the next morning as we arrived at the tiny rail station to catch the narrow gauge train west. All two carriages arrived and for three hours it threaded along the coast or occasionally inland. Great views of sea, villages and forested hills. And out at Ferrol on the next great Ria.
Ferrol was more pleasant than suggested. It is very dependent on business in the port and fortunes fluctuate with government decisions. We chatted with one man who proudly told us he helped build the Canberra here, and another Australian who visits regularly to follow a huge ship building construction contract. Jobs are down at present, but the town seemed prosperous.
A boat trip down the ria to the sea gave us a better idea about why Ferrol had been such a protected port, lots of forts and cannon to keep out those invaders from the north and calm water in the bay. Much of the central town was planned and built in a rush when the navy and arsenal arrived so there are many charming examples of the galleried facades which became very fashionable throughout the region. Lots of photo opportunities as another variation appears.
The fishermen still bring in their catch and unload on the dock for sale. They were using scoops on long handles, we think for clams. And over the other side are enormous cranes with serious sized loads.

To reach A Coruna, we took a bus "por los pueblos", via the towns, rather than the rapid route. Two hours and some winding back roads, a market and a couple of great little estuaries and the city was in sight.

Posted by woylie 05:27 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Lucus Augusti

Lugo

sunny 24 °C

Lugo, once a Roman city, where Rua Nova is still the street on a line between here and the next Roman city, now A Corunna. The inner area is still ringed with a stunning complete wall, mostly of stacked schist , elegantly rounded towers and arched portals. Inside, floors can suddenly reveal a window down to Roman mosaics, a wall, a fresco- fragments of what stretches below in all directions. And over this is the life of a modern city with two thousand years of building styles rubbing shoulders. We walk along the top of the wall and look down to slate roofs and then out to a modern city of apartment blocks.

Although this is part of one of the camino routes, there are fewer obvious peregrinos and most map carriers ( a clear sign of tourists) are Spanish. And so we have specially enjoyed contacts with the more limited number of English speakers here. They always apologize for their poor skills!! there was the passionate archaeologist we met , down a narrow stair to dimly lit treasure of mosaics and fresco; a young man who returned to run the family business from time in Rotterdam and Edinburgh; and Patricia who came from Romania to study to teach English and waitresses to live as well. She spoke disapprovingly of the level of corruption here:)

There is a definite style with a preference for strong colors and careful grooming. Men do the sweater thing across the shoulders with flair, and their are some serious pockets of "ladies who lunch" with jewels, elegant outfits and meticulous hairdos. Everyone has amazing smooth tans. Shoe shops are in great abundance with lots of Spanish products. Children are started young, with stunning outfits and shoes as they do the evening walk. I have never seen such gorgeous baby clothes.

And then, straight out of central casting, a couple of elderly women in total black. We muse over their destination. Is it the fresh produce market or into the cathedral which mixes a steady trickle of the devout as well as tourists? Both?
That market, like all we've seen, is a delight with stacked regional cheeses and cured meats in stunning profusion. I am determined to try the local morcilla, black pudding/chorizo style. Wine is a staple, available in supermarkets even in small casks, priced from very low and up. The house wine has been often poured from an unlabelled bottle- uncle Alberto's? Usually, quite acceptable. And then there are the liqueurs called orujos, which are traditionally home made. We have tried a couple, and been wary of their power.

In the search for experience, we have checked out some Rioja reds. Very nice! We know we are not buying at the top of the market, but E15 or so buys a mature, interesting and complex drink to match to local food.

The bus took us today over the hills to the north coast. Steep slopes covered with forest, deer crossing signs, timber mills and many small clusters of houses. Some great twisting roads and layers of hills in the distance. Once again, we were the only tourists on the trip. I am getting really good at interpreting transport timetables and we rate the estacion de autobus in each town. And often choose hotels by how easy it is to navigate from there.
Busses here are cheap, on time and comfortable. To be recommended!

Posted by woylie 10:35 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Rocks and traditions

Santiago de Compostela

sunny 26 °C

Granite just doesn't float, but that did not stop the enthusiastic efforts to rock a stone boat at Muxia today. A local tradition associated now with a saint and needing a walk to the coast. There were walkers everywhere as a consequence, especially because we also travelled to Finisterra. Some determined hikers add this to their Camino. We went by bus! The views were wonderful and the Atlantic looked deceptively tranquil today, for the Costa da Morte. A special place even if it is not the end of the earth.
One of the most delightful sights was after diving down lanes shaded by arched trees, beside chestnut groves, to walk across a very old stone bridge. The river churned past a couple of ancient mills, over boulders, past a cluster of lovely stone buildings including a classic column of a whitewashed dove cote.

Santiago has so many charms. Intriguing streets, tales to match, and sights like the city from the roof of the great cathedral! Worth the climb up narrow endless stairs. But it also offers a gallery of surrealist works and the stupendous Ciadade of Culture, a cluster of stone faced buildings which is a sculpture in its own right. Quite breathtaking and obviously one reason for the Crisis!

We even formed part of the huge cheer squad assembled in front of the cathedral to send off the cyclists in a stage of the Vuelta. What a buzz to stand next to the GreenEdge team!

Oh and then there's the vino, and the seafood. Only big hassle is that evening meals do not start until close to nine, and siesta is observed by businesses and museums. It does mean things are very peaceful for us in morning walks.

We are off inland tomorrow to check out some Roman and Celtic ruins, and see a bit more countryside of Green Spain.

Posted by woylie 10:55 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

A city of bridges

Pontevedra

semi-overcast 23 °C

Hola from Espana

Pontevedra spreads on both sides of the river with eight or nine bridges to choose. Drawn by a market, we crossed by a stunning cable suspension bridge which hummed in the breeze. Women in aprons sold bunches of fresh fruit and vegetables and mysterious bottles we later found were their own liquors. Stalls were heaped with cheeses and salamis and massive stacks of jamon. There was lots of knowledgeable squeezing and sniffing. But then came our octopus moment, at a pulperio. Outside a big tent, octopus were being cooked in big drums, hauled out and roughly chopped. A portion heaped on a wooden platter, drizzled with olive oil and smoky red paprika was dropped onto the trestle table for us to share, together with great chewy bread and white ceramic bowls for red wine. The wine was so dark it was opaque. The noise was tremendous, the pulpo was good and we could see why pulpo Gallego is esteemed.

Pontevedra has some lovely plazas in the old city, which are part of daily life, not some tourist zone. One day, there was a thumping basketball carnival set up, and music on others. Lots of kids and families meeting up, until about 8 when the youngest left. A really nice way to end a day.

Using the local bus, we explored along a Iittle of the rias baixas, to visit Combarro. This is a tiny fishing village of great charm in its oldest winding oldest streets, with lots of the local horerros or stone storage "sheds". We were early enough to enjoy the calm water of the sheltered bay, the quiet back lanes and local chat before crowds arrived. The next bus took us all the way to the end of the peninsula to O Grove. The route went past good beaches, lots of people taking advantage of them, and wound in and out of grape covered slopes.
The next day, we found a different bus to get to Cambados, for a pleasant wander along the bay, and out to ruins of an island watch tower. Lots of mention of the dastardly Sir Francis Drake!
We could see why this area has attracted so many invaders, with easy access via many rivers, good sheltered bays, farming country and forested hills. We enjoyed a super lunch of fresh tiny squid and sardines and salad.

There are lots of posters around for the Vuelta! Have to arrange to be in the right place for a stage.

Meeting so many helpful or friendly people, which makes traveling easier, from finding a laundry to knowing which bus to catch.

Posted by woylie 10:10 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Drumbeat

Viana do Castelo

sunny 23 °C

The drums started as we booked into our hotel in Viana do Castelo, on the mouth of the Rio Lima. We soon found we had arrived on the
last day of a festival which ends with the return of the fishing fleet and a procession to take the local Virgin back to her church. Teams of drummers vied for supremacy, winding through small streets, accompanied by a local version of a bagpipe. The town was dressed to impress, especially young women in the colourful traditional garb. in the fishing quarter. The narrow cobbled streets were painstakingly and skilfully decorated with colored salt. The drummers suffered for their art, strapped wrists, sweating profusely, and exhausted after hours of thudding on some very big drums. The festivities drew big crowds who then moved on to some local music performances.

This morning, the town was very quiet and we wandered to admire buildings from the time when the fishing fleets went out to Newfoundland for cod, and before that, off to explore for spices and gold. From the top of the local hill , reached thank goodness, by a funicular rail, we could see the Atlantic coast and the river reaching the sea. Fantastic views and no pain! I like this town.

Tonight is recovery time due to a shared portion of a local specialty. The dish of about seven different types of meat in chunks or sausages was delicious but we still had to walk afterward. Vegetarians must find it challenging here. And I wonder about the cardiac health of the nation! Then there are the desserts!! Today, we lingered to watch some cyclists lined up outside a pastelaria which sells cakes and pastries. Cyclists are always a sign of important food sources. We realized there actually was a very big crowd waiting to get in to this shop. I think the big attraction was biscotti. Mmm...

Posted by woylie 13:41 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

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