Ribadeo (Galicia), Spain August 2021 (Tour 4)

Ribadeo is in Galicia close to the border with Asturias. Vanya had booked us into a small campsite on the coast not too far from Ribadeo and this site (A Gaivota) is within walking distance (at least for me) of a well known beauty spot, the Cathedral Cliffs (As Catedrais), which I have been told is a ‘must see’ in this part of the world. The combination of beautiful beaches and spectacular rock formations are to be found all over Galicia but the As Catedrais are reputedly the most spectacular of all.

After checking in to A Gaivota we crossed the road to check out the adjacent beaches. There are two, the Praia Benquerencia to the left (as you look out to sea) and the Praia de Fontela to the right. Both are magnificent. Not sure if the sea will be warm enough for us but the dogs…

The next day we walked the dogs eastwards past the Praia de Fontela, along an excellent paved coastal path, seeking a beach where the dogs would be allowed to swim. Sod’s law, Vanya turned back with the dogs just a couple of hundred yards before I stumbled across an excellent beach where dogs are permitted (i.e. at the very eastern end of the Praia de Longara, just before the Punta Corveira).

I carried on for quite a way beyond the Punta Corveira, passing across or behind variuos beaches (including Praia da Pasada, Praia de Arealonga, Praia de Reinante and Praia de Moledo) until I reached where the Playa de Las Catedrales would be except the tide was in and the beach and its attendent rock formations were totally underwater. Before you start laughing, I knew in advance that the tide would be in (that’s the power of Google) but I continued so as to determine whether or not Vanya would be able to cope with the walk (she could certainly manage the one way but not the return) and to ascertain if there is adequate parking for the Van in the event we were to drive there (no problem on that count). I’d put in a good day’s exercise by the time I got back to A Gaivota.

We were up early the next morning because we needed to get to As Catedrais for low tide. That meant packing up and getting across to one of the car parks I had checked out the day before by 08.00. We did it and were down on the beach by 08.15 (and that meant we could take the dogs with us too because there was no one around to say otherwise). I’ll let the photos do the talking…

Yes, we were both seriously impressed. We saw the most extraordinary natural rock formations – massive rock buttresses, stone arches at least 30 metres high and large sea caves which stretched deep into the cliffs. Most spectacular and well worth the visit – and free! Moreover, we were lucky enough to have had the place almost to ourselves.

Talking about luck… we discovered later that we should not have been there. We didn’t know at the time but, to stop overcrowding, visits in the summer months and at Easter must be booked online at least 30 days in advance, with tickets being checked on entry. As we walked up back to the Van we saw long queues of people at the entry point to the beach getting their tickets checked. It was just as well that we had arrived half an hour before the ticket collectors or we would have been denied entry. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. Great result.

Cambados (Galicia), Spain August 2021 (Tour 4)

So, we are back in Cambados, in Galicia. We said we would return but neither of us expected it to be quite so soon.

It was a spur of the moment decision. We wanted somewhere back in Galicia, on the coast, where there is good overnight parking with easy access to a village or town centre and, in particular, a supermarket (so as to buy dog food). Cambados fits the bill perfectly. We parked in the aire on the small island just outside the town centre and, that done, set off for something to eat and drink. It was almost like coming home.

I’ll not repeat my description of the town. You can read about the town in the other blog I did on Cambados earlier in this year’s tour. Better still, if you want an expert view on the place, rather than just my initial thoughts, you can google it.

Back in Spain our first thoughts were to enjoy a a few glasses of Estrella Galicia and, of course, some Albarino wine. We did just that. I cannot remember all the bars we stopped in but I recall switching from beer to wine somewhere on the Rua Hospital (or just along from there) and then we paused for something to eat and a really nice (albeit expensive) bottle of Albarino on the Plaza de Fefinans. We finished our evening at the Maria Jose restaurant on the corner of Rua Principe and the Calle de San Gregario. I remember this because it was the first place we stopped at during our first visit to Cambados. We enjoyed two different Albarino’s here but it was the piped music in the Maria Jose that I best recall. It was excellent – the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Kinks and even Leonard Cohen. And I remember the food! The food was unusual but surprisingly tasty. Would you believe I ate langoustine, prawns and mussels all wrapped in the largest lump of cream cheese and then deep fried in a thin crispy batter and served with strawberry jam? Don’t knock it until you’ve had it. It was great!

I don’t remember much of the walk back to the Van but it was late. I do remember getting up early and wandering off in the half light to find a baker because we were after an early start. The less said about that the better but we did make it away by 8am – that’s a record.

Arcade & Vigo (Galicia), Spain August 2021 (Tour 4)

For a while now I’ve wanted to try Vigo oysters. A Spanish chef I saw on tv claimed they are the best in the world so; I have long wanted to compare them with my favourite Cancale oysters. The waiter whom we met a few days ago and who seemed to know this part of Galicia well (despite originally having come from the Angel, Islington) suggested the Arcade oysters are as good, if not better, than the Vigo ones and so it was that we headed towards Arcade (which is pronounced ar-kah-day).

The weather in Galicia was set to deteriorate within 24 hours and it suited us to continue south through Arcade and Vigo towards the warmer weather. So, we drove through Sanxenxo and then on down the coast road with a view to having lunch in Arcade and dinner in Vigo. Another person we met on our travels had provided us with the address of an aire in the centre of Vigo which would suit our needs.

Arcade is a relatively small fishing town (about 5,000 inhabitants) on one of the less well known pilgrimage routes to Santiago (the Portugal Way) and as such the place has not yet been badly affected by tourism. It is not a pretty town but it has a genuine feel about it and the people seem very welcoming. There is a basic but large parking area down by the harbour and nearby are a number of pleasant looking cafe-restaurants all of which were open and advertising oysters as we arrived. We had a brief wander around the town (to exercise the dogs as much as anything) before returning to the cafe-restaurants for a light lunch.

And so to oysters, otherwise known as the truffle of the sea. Although I hadn’t heard of the place before, Arcade is famous for it’s oysters, so much so there is a world famous oyster festival here on the first April weekend of every year. What sets these apart from so many others in the region is, I am told, the confluence of freshwater coming from the Verdugo River and salt water coming from the Ria de Vigo. These water conditions are, it seems, “perfect for farming the particularly succulent, soft tasting mollusc that is the Arcade oyster”. The Arcade is small, no more than 5 or 6 centimetres, with a shell which is almost circular in shape (although nowhere near as rounded as the Cancale oyster). They were served raw with lemon on the side and went superbly well with my Albarino wine. I’d most certainly have them again (and again and again and again) but, for my part, they don’t have as much body and taste as the Cancale.

And Vigo? Well, shortly after settling in to our aire in Vigo (and that was a saga in itself but for another time) it started to rain. Not to be deterred (that’s not true; it was so wet and miserable outside of the Van that I and the dogs would have been happy to stay put but, Vanya insisted) we set off into Vigo for some oysters. Forget it. It was a wet, dismal Sunday night and; while there were a surprising number of people out and about, all prepared to sit and eat under dripping umbrellas, only a few restaurants had opened (and none of those did oysters – we were in the wrong part of the city). No matter, we did what was necessary (burgers washed down with the ubiquitous Albarino) and we made a good fist of it. After all, we are for somewhere else tomorrow – Portugal!!

Punta Faxilda (Galicia), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

From Cambados we moved just 12 miles further south to Camping Monte Cabo, a small campsite on the Punta Faxilda . It is best described as a back to nature type of campsite at the end of a rocky promontory looking out over the Atlantic. Vanya chose it because other visitors had reported seeing dolphins from where they were parked on the site and for that reason she somehow persuaded the Dutch owner to move us to a cracking pitch overlooking the sea. If Vanya wasn’t going to see dolphins while at Monte Cabo, it would not be for want of trying.

The campsite occupies a secluded and beautiful spot just yards from the end of the headland and it was a real pleasure taking the dogs out there some two or three times a day.

I’m not sure if we stayed two or three nights at Monte Cabo (I’m six days or so behind with this blog and losing all track of time now) but, does it matter (?), we weren’t going anywhere until Vanya saw her dolphins and; anyway, it gave us the opportunity to sample some of the excellent food in the campsite bar and restaurant. Ordinarily I’m not a great fan of croquettes but I particularly liked their homemade octopus croquettes.

The track to our campsite from the main coastal road was sufficiently long for us not to be bothered by any noise from the road but short enough for me to walk so as to explore the bays either side of our headland. The road in both directions is full of bars, restaurants and small hotels. There’s no getting away from the fact this is a tourist area.

I walked first to the Nosa Senora de A Lanzada, which is the headland on the other side of the Poza dos Barcos (the bay to the west of our headland). The Chapel of A Lanzada sits at the end of the headland. During the last weekend of every August, the festivity of the Virgin of A Lanzada is celebrated here and “women who wish to end their fertility descend into the sea from here to be bathed by nine waves”. This Celtic rite was presumably adopted by the Christian Church because it worked. In Celtic numerological symbolism, the number nine is sacred and symbolises the nine months of pregnancy. So now you know.

Having completed the walk to and from the chapel I immediately set off in the other direction to view the bay to the east of our headland. This is a much more commercial area which leads on into Portonovo and then Sanxenxo.

Anyway, I’m going to finish this particular entry with just a few more rather random photos…

I nearly forgot to say. We were sitting having a late dinner on the terrace of the campsite bar and some dolphins came by. Vanya was made up!

Cambados (Galicia), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

From Santiago we set off towards Sanxenxo which was recommended as a place to visit by a friendly and very informative waiter at Camping A Vouga. He also recommended Cambados and Arcade and upon learning that Cambados is a small fishing town on the coast road to Sanxenxo, we decided to visit.

Parking is easy in Cambados. There’s dedicated campervan parking on a small island down by the beach very close to the old town (N42.512135 W8.818061) and in no time we were parked up and strolling along the Rua Real to the town’s imposing stone square, the Plaza de Fefinans, which is the centre of Cambados.

I didn’t find out until after we left but Cambados is famous for its oysters. It is also considered the capital of Albarino wines and was declared European Wine Capital in 2017. Moreover, we had arrived in the town just as the annual Festa do Albarino was beginning. What a wally I am for not having undertaken even the most rudimentary research into Cambados before visiting. Had I known these facts beforehand I could well have agreed with Vanya that we reconsider our movements. She had proposed staying on (or at least returning in three days time) after learning that a three day music festival was scheduled to commence that very day in the Plaza de Fefinans. To be fair to me, there was no guarantee that we would be able to secure tickets for the final day and in any event heavy rain was forecast for then. Oh well!

We had a good mooch around the town, taking in the Plaza de Fefinans and the 16th century San Bieto Church and then; found a bar so as to sit and enjoy a glass of Albarino (and accompanying tapas) before continuing our journey down the coast.

By the way, a large glass of Albarino white wine and accompanying tapas cost little more than 1.50 pounds!

Santiago di Compostela (Galicia), Spain July 2021

We very reluctantly left that almost perfect campsite on San Francisco Bay (Camping A Vouga) but with the new Brexit rules limiting the amount of time we can spend in the EU to just 90 days in every 180, it is time to move on.

Our first port of call was Santiago de Compostela. Despite the criticisms I voiced in my last post (Finisterre), I am seriously thinking of doing a Camino next year (I might even create a new route of my own – LoL) and thought it appropriate to check out the finish point of Santiago di Compostela or; should I go on to Cabo Tourinan, near Muxia, which is Spain’s real westernmost point (not Finisterre).

We drove into the outskirts of Santiago and parked up near an Abu Dhabi size shopping mall with a huge Carrefour. I figured that Carrefour would keep Vanya occupied for the time it would take me to walk the six or seven mile round trip to and from the Prazo do Obradoiro where the Cathedral sits (and where the relics of Saint James are supposedly interred). As it happens, I was back at the Van before Vanya had finished in Carrefour.

It was an easy walk to and then through part of the old town to the Prazo do Obradoira and the Cathedral. You simply follow Camino shells until you can no longer see any shells because of the thickening crowds and then; you follow the crowds (especially the scruffier, smellier elements of the crowd) until you can see a cathedral spire or two. Then, there you are, standing on what must be the most wonderful square in the world to those pilgrims or walkers who have just completed a proper Camino. Honestly, the excitement of some of the pilgrims as they approached the cathedral was almost palpable; it was both emotional and uplifting even to an old cynic like me. Well done them!!!

My particular route on to the Prazo do Obradoira took me through a small arch where I was thrilled to hear a busker playing foliada (traditional Galician music which is almost Celtic in style). Just goes to show, you can take the lad out of Scotland but you cannot take Scotland out of the lad.

I had time to explore more of Santiago and when I next pass through here I certainly will but; on this occasion (after taking the obligatory photos), I was content to do nothing but sit and observe. Honestly, it was wonderful. Seeing the different ways that individuals and groups of people were expressing their total joy at having finally completed their Camino was well… sublime. “People Watching” at it’s absolute best.

Okay, so I made time to take a few more photos. Time to move on. We hope to get at least as far as Cambados today.

Ezaro & Finisterre (Galicia), Spain July 2021

We never made it to Muxia. On the way to our first stop at Finisterre, up along the Costa da Morte (the Coast of Death – so called because of the large number of shipwrecks ), we paused at Ezaro and so ran out of time. No matter. Muxia is famous for it’s beaches but we have already seen a great many wonderful beaches and I don’t doubt there will be more.

We paused at Ezaro as much to exercise the dogs as anything although a large sign by the side of the road suggested there was a waterfall in the area and we thought it might be worth a look (once the dogs had burned off some energy). The dogs enjoyed a run on Ezaro’s wide sandy beach and a little paddle both in the sea and a short way up the estuary of the River Xallas. It was as we were walking alongside the Xallas that we again saw the sign advertising a waterfall and the sign confirmed that it was no more than a kilometre or so away. Off we went.

The Fervenza Do Ezaro (to give the waterfall its full name) was formed when the river was dammed and a hydro electric power station was built in the middle of the 20th century. To start with the waterfall was not allowed to flow unless there was an excess of waterflow on the River Xallas but in 2011 pressure from various environmental groups forced the authorities to allow some “ecological flow” to allow local wildlife to recover. Now the 40 metre falls have become a local tourist attraction with viewpoints, cafes, souvenir shops, etc.

And on to Finisterre. During the period of Classical Antiquity, this precise part of Spain was considered to be the end of the world and the place where the sun died at dusk – hence it’s name which quite literally translates into the “End of the Earth” . To reach Finisterre, you simply follow the main road (the AC 445) through the fishing town of Finterre towards the lighthouse along some quite spectacular coastline. Ordinarily, Finisterre would be packed with people because, following the success of the Martin Sheen film “The Way” (which saw him and his fellow pilgrims continue their walk of the Camino de France on through Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre), the extra three days walking to Finisterre has become quite the norm. The place was surprisingly quiet as we arrived no doubt because of Covid travel restrictions. I’m not complaining.

The extra three days walk from Santiago de Compostela has actually developed into yet another Camino (there are a great many of them nowadays as different towns and villages cash in on what has become a tourist phenomena) known as the Santiago to Finisterre Compostela and an office within the lighthouse offers walker certificates. Please do not misunderstand me; I am not having a go at Camino travellers (be they pilgrims or just walkers); I have total respect for all those people who have completed any one of the original Camino’s to Santiago and those who continue on to Finisterre deserve particular credit (I’d like to do it myself) but, it is becoming farcical now with increased commercialism, new routes being developed and/or many of the original routes now paved or covered in asphalt and, worst of all, with an increasing number of ‘pilgrims’ completing the Camino on mountain bikes, etc. It could be cars next.

It is still a pretty place.

San Francisco Bay (Galicia), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

And so we came to San Francisco Bay on the west coast of Galicia. The nearest town of any size is Muros but we were parked a few kilometres further west, just outside of Louro, at Camping a Vouga. It is rare that I make comment about any of the campsites we stay at but both Vanya and I were really impressed by just about everything at Camp a Vouga – in no particular order: it’s location on the beach, it’s views, the cleanliness of the site and facilities, the warm and friendly staff and, let’s not forget, the food and wine in the restaurant – all were superb.

After that first afternoon and evening in Camping a Vouga, during which we took the dogs down to the beach and then enjoyed an absolutely great evening in the campsite restaurant, we decided to stay on for a while and use it as a base to explore the surrounding area.

The next day I went walkabouts. I had no plans to go anywhere in particular. I simply started walking along the road to the west through the nearby village of Louro and then, seeing a fair sized stretch of water to my south (a lake), I beat a path through a thick mess of green scrub to get to it. The stretch of water was as much a marsh as a lake but it proved to be a wetland for birds and it had a great many residents of all shapes and sizes. I sat for ages just watching them.

Eventually I moved on. I found a walkers trail by the side of the wetland which led me over some sand dunes to a long wide empty beach that was the other side of the headland I had seen from our campsite. The setting was beautiful – a bright blue sea, fine white sand and a thick dark green background that was the scrub around the lake. But then, horror of horrors, I noticed I was not alone. There were only three of them but they were all nude and they were all men. I had stumbled upon a naturist beach! Call me a prude if you like but I couldn’t handle it and promptly set off towards that headland which would take me back to Camping a Vouga. There will have been easier paths back but none as quick as the direct course I followed.

So, having decided to stay on at Camping a Vouga and use it as a base to explore further afield, the next day we took a day out to visit Finisterre and Muxia.

Ourense (Galicia), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

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.