Unfortunately for Dave and Mag, the weather I described at the end of my last entry persisted for the Saturday evening of their arrival and on into the Tuesday of the next week. Well, that isn’t strictly true as Sunday and Tuesday were actually a bit sunny with cloud but Monday was absolutely awful. Nevertheless we got down to the serious business of having fun.
You will recall that they arrived for the Fiesta de Virgin de Carmen and on the Saturday night, after introducing them to the excellent Tapas, there was a slight break in the rain which allowed us to enjoy that evenings band. We did this partly in the company of three guys from Belize who we think were there on holiday but we weren’t sure. All we know is that everyone enjoyed the music and dancing to the Latin American sounds.
With the cloud break on Sunday 17th July we were able to go for a walk and returned to the boat in time for the boat race. These were gigs very like those I described on the Isles of Scilly except the rowing action was more normal. The races didn’t turn out to be as exciting as we had hoped so it allowed time for a siesta before sampling the town, the fair, the music [not my taste on this evening as it was rather amateur punk] and then the spectacular fireworks – and I mean spectacular. It was fantastic sitting on the boat with a glass of wine for a birds eye view of the best firework display I have seen. It felt as though we were right in the middle of them.
And so, onto the first of the three Rias shared with our guests – Ria de Arousa. Our first sight of Ria de Arousa was more of a peering through the awful mist and rain – though Dave and Mag were peering from their cabin having retired there even more under the weather than the weather! The journey of nearly six hours had been a bit of a bad one with rolling seas and a chilly wind [on our nose of course]. However, Ribeira – our first port of call in the ria – did provide us, at last, with a shop that sold oars – hurrah, and with a fish market and an empanada [pie] shop for the purchase of lunch and evening meal on the Tuesday following a fairly short but pleasant sail to Cambados.
In Cambados we were able to anchor in the working harbour – the pilot had said to use only the outer side of the pontoon for going alongside or to consider mooring stern to with the bow pointing at the harbour entrance. What the pilot failed to mention was that the stanchions which the floating pontoon are attached to were on the outside of the pontoon and didn’t allow space to park – unless the boat is under about 20ft – and there were no cleats anyway to which to attach warps either alongside or stern to. So we anchored. There was some concern expressed [by me] that swinging in wind and/or tide change might find us lying across part of the fairway used by the large fishing fleet but I was “advised” I was being over cautious and as the anchor was in we were staying put! Another yacht did come and anchor further out towards the fairway later that day and there were no shouts at all from the fishing vessels or the tripper boats which sped in and out so I guess Mike was right.
Cambados has several sights worth seeing. First we went to the old fishing village and ruined fort where we watched lots of local people fishing for clams. What a backbreaking task that seems to be and fairly thankless if the fruits of these extensive labours were anything to go by. Most people were just walking about knee high through the water digging with their hands but one enterprising guy had a kind of scissor action shovel which seemed to be working rather better – around two clams with each scoop rather than the single hand picked one.
From there we walked up to the mirador and ruined church and also found a small vineyard producing the Albarino wines which we felt we had to sample. Cambados is the centre of Albarino wine production in Gallicia and most of the producers are just small holders like this one.
On the other side of town is another old part and it was there that we ate on our second evening stay after having another frustrating afternoon in the internet café. Our waiter was friendly and persuasive – so much so that after our choice of mussels was poo pood by him we ended up going with his suggestion of the scallop option instead – of course at double the price
We then moved on to the Illa de Arousa. There are three options for anchoring, two outside small harbours with lots of moorings and the third off a beach. We had already decided that because the weather had improved considerably a BBQ was in order so the beach option was perfect. We did learn that one end of the beach was over rock [either that or our very trusty anchor which had stuck first time every time previously didn’t hold] and therefore after two failed attempts we moved off to find mud/sand. We also found an excellent spot for the BBQ and even for a swim – well all of us that is except Mike who says he is waiting for warmer waters. I don’t blame him as I would describe the swim I had as bracing. In fact bracing became an oft used word as Dave and Mag continued to brave the waters throughout their holiday.
Sangria got us into the mood for a prawn, chicken and salad feast before a very wet trip back to the boat as the waves had got up some what. It felt as though I was wetter after that return journey than following the swim – probably because of the soppy, drippy clothes.
22nd July and Dave’s birthday – so Mike and I got up a bit earlier to sail us down to the next Ria – Ria de Pontevendra – as we didn’t want Dave’s day to be spoilt by another negative sailing experience. However, it was so opposite to our journey to Ria de Arousa. The sun was shining and we had perfect winds for a lovely 3 hour sail. We sailed on genoa alone and, having rounded the ria headland we managed a good 8 knots for the run up to Sanxenxo. The harbours/marinas of Sanxenxo and Portonovo are separated by a small headland and beach and we anchored off the beach but just outside of Sanxenxo harbour.
During the obligatory time post anchoring to ensure it is held fast Mike decided to drill holes into the oars we had bought at Ribeira so that they could be secured into the rowlocks. However, having done this he then decided that we didn’t need to take them as there was only a very short journey to the harbour wall and back and the sea was calm. Wrong decision!!!!! What he failed to remember was that the outboard runs on fuel and that there is always a chance of the fuel running out which is exactly what happened on our return journey. We had had a great four/five hours walking to Portonovo and around Sanxenxo and sussing out the restaurants for Dave’s birthday meal when we decided a short siesta was in order before sprucing ourselves up for the evening out. Dave, Mag and I boarded the tender and set off – for around 5 yards and then stopped. Now, whilst Dave has more of an affinity with the pig than Steve, he still doesn’t feel he and it are entirely compatible and thought that the engine had just stalled. But at the fifth stall we realised that the only option was to hand paddle back to Mike on the harbour wall. When I say wall – what I really mean are the rocks which create the breakwater under the wall and which are a bit jagged and slippery. We had to land here because of the beach being out of bounds to all but swimmers except through the fairway which was right at the other end of the beach. The three of us managed to get out of the pig as Mike had decided to do a lie down and paddle trip. But this was not to be as the wind was too strong and would have carried him out to sea…..
…. and so, Dave to the rescue. Much against Mag’s wishes he stripped and jumped into the water to swim to the boat. He then found plastic bags to wrap the oars in, a bungee cord to tie them together and took a rope from a spare fender to tie the whole lot to him. Then, now wearing his trusty goggles, he made the return swim to shore. Needless to say there was celebrating that night.
On the day following their arrival we had eaten Seafood paella which Dave enjoyed very much and he decided he would like this again for his birthday so we made our way to the fish restaurants along the harbour. There were one or two which had taken our fancy but we were surprised to find that not only these, but all of the restaurants along the harbour, were full – and there must have been at least a dozen with tables inside and out – and sometimes on an upper floor as well. We had realised that Sanxenxo was a holiday town and had seen lots of people on the beach earlier but I don’t think I have ever seen as many people all clamouring for restaurant tables as there were that night. The Boxing Day sales have nothing on this – not that I have even been to a Boxing Day sale. We finally managed to find an outside table, possibly by just sitting at a free one when there were some people waiting inside. We told ourselves they were waiting for an inside one as it had gone a bit chilly. So, back to the paella. I had wondered whether we would have any luck in this department because paella is more often eaten at lunch time by Spanish families and also, with such busy restaurants I guessed they wouldn’t have the time to make one from scratch. And so it proved. Our waitress was trying to wait patiently for Dave and Mag to rethink their choice and was offering alternatives – in Spanish and at a rapid rate. She mentioned a seafood platter and as this was only marginally more expensive than the paella Dave agreed – after all we didn’t want a repeat of the mussels to scallops alternative with the resultant bill. I am not sure what Dave thought he was getting but what came was perhaps more than bargained for. There was lots of digging around and cracking of claws and Mag declared that she would never again have a meal with so much food that needing peeling – but we had a great laugh and all in all it’s a birthday that Dave is unlikely to forget especially as he also had a birthday cake which Mag had been given by an apartment salesman – and therein lies a tale which is hers to tell!
A short trip up the ria the next day brought us to Combarro where we stayed for two nights. Before setting out though, we motored into Portonova marina for water. On our walk the day before Mike had gone into that Marina and asked a helpful man if it would be ok for us to take water if we weren’t staying. They had the usual charades conversation with Mike interspersing those words he knows and learning a new one – “barco” – for boat and getting permission. So, the following day we berthed alongside the first hammerhead, the chap came down and recognised Mike and again gave us the go-ahead. However, our departure from the hammerhead was somewhat hampered by a fairly stiff breeze across the beam and a catamaran berthed in front but Mike developed what he terms a “ferry glide” out.
Whatever it was it worked a treat and shows that watching what other boats do – including ferries – can come in very handy.
Combarro is a gem of a town with the largest selection of stone granaries in Gallicia lined up along its waterfront. It has interesting twisty narrow streets and small squares and a whole range of bars which were variously sampled during our two night stay – the most memorable of which had a mermaid on the wall and some red wine which will forever remain in Dave’s nightmares.
Combarro is also placed very nicely for a trip to Pontevedra. We were trying to make up our minds about walking or catching the bus when we realised that the sunday service didn’t start until after 11.00 so, having got up early for a full day trip, we opted to walk. We were really pleased when about a quarter of a mile out of Combarro we came upon a walking route which took us off the main road and through small pretty villages running along the edge of the ria. We were doubly pleased when we came across “Casa Laura” for coffee. Mike went in to order and in due course out came the waitress with four coffees. This was followed by a freshly baked, sliced baguette and some jam. “Did you order breakfast” we asked but Mike said he hadn’t. However, the bread and jam was then followed by four slices of cake and four glasses of peach juice. We really did wonder whether the young woman had mistaken what Mike had asked for but he insisted that she had repeated his coffee order and when we got the bill for €4 we realised that we had found the best coffees ever and, what is more, it was excellent coffee.
Pontevedra itself lies at the end of the Ria de Pontevedra and used to be a prosperous, medieval fishing village. It has now lost most of its walls but the old city has retained its flag-stoned walkways, stone houses, balconies and squares. The modern city on its outskirts was not so attractive but well worth the twenty minutes it took to walk through [once we had found our bearings]. We followed the Rough Guide recommendations and had a drink at “Os Mantas” which was to be found in one of the squares. There was a flea market taking place which put to shame an English car boot sale by the sheer audacity of the things people were prepared to bring for sale but it was fabulous for people watching. The second find of the day was our tapas lunch at “O Cortello”. Apart from us, the only customers were two friends of the proprietor with whom he shared lunch and they then paid for it all? Having said that the prices were so reasonable that they probably wouldn’t have noticed or cared. We had two types of fish, padron peppers, a huge salad which included stuffed mushrooms and four glasses of wine for €20.
On our return from Pontevedra Dave decided to do some fishing. He had already tried this a couple of times from the boat when we had been sailing – but had now seen all the fish which swim around the harbours. We have seen fish in all the harbours so far and, seemingly, hardly anyone interested in catching them – and those who were not succeeding, so we didn’t hold out much hope. Initially Dave was as unsuccessful as the others until he discovered the secret bait of mussels which he prised from the pontoon. We were suddenly assailed by the shout of “I had one but it got away”… hmm – a likely fisherman’s tail. But, shortly after this another bite was taken and this time the fish was landed – or rather it was dropped into a plastic bag. I don’t think the full details of how it got from sea to plate are necessary – but mention must be made of the knife lost overboard, the plaster on the finger and the very nice marina guy who, when seeing Dave holding his prize fish joyfully told him he wasn’t meant to be fishing in the marina really and not to do it again – but he didn’t mind him keeping that one. And how does it come about that the fish is called Willy? Well … that links into another tale of “How big was it Dave?”
From Combarro we half sailed and half motored across the ria to Bueu/Beluso. The wind was playing up and the sails were exchanged for motor about three times. We had failed to remember that 25 July is Gallicia Day and so everything was shut. Well, there were a few cafes open but the restaurants didn’t seem to be doing much food so fortunately we were able to dine on ships stores [Dolmades and Gigantes for starters and then Spaghetti with artichokes, olives, capers and anchovies]!
The final sail with Dave and Mag started early on 26th, Mike and I weighing anchor at 07.45 – again to try to make the journey from ria to ria as comfortable as possible for our still sleeping friends. Although it was pleasant and sunny we were in slightly rolling seas but by unfurling the genoa we were able to keep this to a minimum and, on rounding the headland, with the motor now off, the genoa was sufficient to give us a sprightly approach and entry to Cangas.
We had planned to berth in the Marina there because we wanted a safe place to leave the boat for our overnight trip the following day to Santiago. Unfortunately the small marina was full and we were advised to wait until after 12.00 when a space might be available. So, we anchored off the beach, Dave and Mag went shopping and for a look round and Mike and I waited…. and waited. 12.00 became 2.00pm and we were then told 5.00pm. Whilst ashore, Dave and Mag had gone to the Marina twice to plead our case and we think it was this persistence which paid off because, despite no yacht coming out of the marina, we were finally designated a place on a locals berth just after 5.00.
Cangas is another great town and we found a backstreet café for part of our tapas crawl. We ordered “Chiperones” not knowing what they were and willing to try anything once – and they turned out to be stuffed squid baked with onions. I couldn’t eat more than the two I managed – and Dave and Mag fared similarly, but Mike made up for us all by eating the extra couple. We ended the evening in one of the beachfront bars “A Habana” where we ordered two beers and two Mohitos. Ready to retire for the night Mike asked for “La Cuenta” and made a kind of motion which usually translates as “Can we pay” which resulted in the waitress bringing another round of drinks! We all sat there a bit open mouthed and didn’t actually say anything. Whether Mike had been misunderstood or it was a very generous bar we may never know but when Mike went to pay he was told “Rotunda en la Hacienda”.
And so, to Santiago. This involved a short ferry trip from Cangas to Vigo, a swift walk up through the town to the station and a 90 minute train journey. We arrived in Santiago at lunch time and spent the whole day just wandering the old town, looking at the many sights, visiting the cathedral and watching the hundreds of Pilgrims ending their walk. There are about 100,000 pilgrims each year and as the few summer months are the favourite walking times then there must be about 1,000 people entering the city each day all making their way up to the cathedral square. This said, the city did not have a crowded feel and, although tourist shops selling scallop shells, walking stick and other mementoes abound, there are clearly local people who live there and who come to visit the fabulous market and the prices are not particularly exaggerated. Lunch found us making our only real food mistake so far. In the tradition mentioned before we are not averse to ordering things we don’t know and so “Orella” was one of our chosen dishes. Never again. Mike was the first to try it and said “I think I will be eating most of this”. He was right but even so only managed about five pieces himself. Dave managed two, Mag one and I am afraid my effort ended up back on my plate [very delicately and discretely – but definitely back on my plate]. When it arrived Mag thought it looked like undercooked pork belly – but Mike thought it might be pig cheek. We refined this again to pig snout as Mike and I had seen these for sale and wondered what on earth for. Maybe we have now found out – though the pig ears which Mike and I also saw in Santiago Market the following day could also be the source of Orella. Whilst I applaud the eating of most of an animal if killed for food this was a step – or even several steps – too far.
So, let me ask you a question. What is this?
We were happily sitting at some outside tables when a group of five young students came up to us, explained they were making a “plastico” film for a festival in the autumn and asked if we minded being filmed answering a couple of questions. Mike agreed and, having spoken into it, the young woman held the object in the photo to his face and asked him what it was. “Aubergine” said Mike, who was then asked what more are called and, having eventually worked out she was asking for the plural, said “Aubergines”. There was then a re-film of the whole thing because Mike now knew what he was supposed to say….or did he? Should he have said “Microphone”? We will never know and we will also never know whether Mike has a three second moment of fame. Anyway, the students went away happily to look for some other unsuspecting people and, as a present for joining in, gave us an aubergine which Mike and I kept, brought back to the boat the next day and turned it into a very nice ratatouille with a courgette which Mag had bought earlier in the week mistaking it for a cucumber! [Yes, another story there]
Tiring of the city we took a short stroll outside to a park before setting out again for our last evening with Dave and Mag. Again, there are far too many bars to visit and stories could be told of each one we did visit but we finished the night in a Celtic Bar which we had gone to because there was a suggestion that that was where celtic music might be found. On this particular night it wasn’t but Mag did find some Guiness and even Dave decided that Guiness was better than the “Estrella” and “1906” options he had so far been subjected to during the holiday. I am sure one of the first things he did on landing back in Manchester was to buy a pint of Landlord.
We said a sad farewll to Dave and Mag at around 1.30am, only to have them return to the bar at 2.00 to tell us to go and listen to the band playing in the square. This we did and it was well worth it. Such a great atmosphere and, as the celts would say, a great craic – a fabulous way to end this part of our trip with Dave and Mag.
So, now its just the two of us again until we are joined by Chris and John in August. Until then we have just over two weeks to make our way from the Ria de Vigo to Faro. Mike is planning our journey as I write this and I will report in due course.