We decided to visit Ourense next although it was only ever going to be a short visit. The route we chose took us down the Canon de Sil. Oh, but I could do that journey every day. Some of the views were stunning. There was one viewpoint at the top of the canyon which I didn’t see until it was too late and then; we were sailing past it with no possible turning point for many miles. Even so, I would have continued until we could turn around and drive back up to the viewpoint but Vanya wouldn’t have it. She was almost on the floor having kittens at the thought of our going back up.
Entering Ourense we found a quiet aire, at which to overnight, on the north side of the city next to the fire station. The aire suited us because it is only two to three kilometres from Ourense’s old town (the Casco Vello) where we could find something to eat and drink. We had googled where to find the best tapas and discovered that the best restaurants are on either Lepanto Street (Casa Tonita for its Poached Eggs), San Miguel Street (Paris for it’s Garlic & Oil Potatoes and Ocugumalo for it’s Mushrooms & Prawns) and Hornos Street (O’Souto for it’s Mashed Potato & Beef and Atarazana for it’s Scallops). All three streets are to be found by the Cathedral which would serve as a great reference point and perhaps provide for some spiritual fulfilment too – only joking Vanya!
We locked the Van up and set off in the direction of the Cathedral, crossing the Mino river by the Ponte Vella (the High Bridge); otherwise known as the old Roman Bridge except, it is not an old Roman bridge. It is a medieval bridge with five arches that was simply built on the site of an earlier Roman bridge but; why ruin a good story with historical facts? It is now a pedestrian bridge and it provides fantastic views across to another of the eight bridges in Ourense which cross the Mino river – the Puenta Milenio (the Millennium Bridge). Our route to and from the old town took us under the Millennium Bridge and, for such a modern structure, it really is something quite different and therefore rather special.
It proved very easy to find the Ourense Cathedral (Catedral de Ourense or Catedral do San Martino) and I was pleasantly surprised by it’s very simple Gothic design and unusual octagonal lantern tower. I don’t know what it looks like inside. As has so often been the case during this tour, the doors were locked. We actually saw more of one other very impressive looking church in the old town, the Iglesia de Santa Eufamia, when we stopped just short of the Cathedral for a drink.
We hadn’t completed a circuit of the Cathedral before we found ourselves on Hornos Street and, almost immediately thereafter, on Lepanto Street. Scallops were a non starter because Atarazana was closed but the other bars on our list were open and there were plenty more to choose from. The approach here was different to Logrono. In Ourense, one sits at tables outside the tapas bar and are served by waiters whereas in Logrono one invariably stood outside and ordered food and drink through windows or across bars. This being so, in Ourense there is neither the same movement between bars nor as much interaction between diners and staff as was the case in Logrono. For me it wasn’t bad; it was just different. I think Vanya favours the more informal and friendly approach we experienced in Logrono but, we both very much enjoyed our evening in Ourense and we particularly loved the Tempura Prawns at Vinoteca Taperia. One final observation regarding our tapas evening in Ourense, Ourense still holds with the tradition of providing at least one free tapas with drinks (twice we were given free tuna empanadas). You don’t often see that nowadays in the larger towns.
Okay, so I found the Cathedral and I found the tapas bars. Unfortunately, I failed to find any of the thermal baths which are dotted all over the city but, the fact is, my sense of direction didn’t stretch that far and couldn’t without my first imbibing an Estrella Galician beer, a glass of Ribeiro red wine and a few Albarino white wines (and by then it was too late). Next time? Meanwhile, the Chavasqueira – Outariz Pools were the closest to where we were parked, being on the northern bank of the river and west of the Millenium Bridge.
After we had taken our fill of tapas and the Albarino, we had just enough time and energy for a last look around Ourense’s lanes before heading back to the Van and, in my case, a wee dram. It was a great evening.