Monday, 23 February 2009

If you go up hill from the crazy horses ....

Still on the subject of what the cruise people do not get to see in Vigo, let us imagine that, having arrived at the crazy horses statue in your walk up from the estacion maritima, instead of turning left back down into the centre, you turn right and continue up the hill of Gran Via.

As you walk along you will see the coloured rooftops of a housing estate. Just like people in almost every other country, many Spaniards also crave a house of their own with a patch of land or at the very least a little garden. Most still live in flats in high rise blocks in the centre of town, one of the things that makes city centre living in Spain so vibrant and safe. But those who can afford it often buy themselves a "chalet" in the outer suburbs. Arranged around quiet, fairly narrow streets, they are like, and yet strangely unlike, a Britsh housing estate. The most modern have underground parking spaces to avoid congestion.

What they lack, however, is the collection of small shops which are almost always there on the ground floor of the blocks of flats: bakers and greengrocers, haberdashers and hardware stores, small supermarkets. Instead, the inhabitants of these well-designed modern houses with their little gardens and views over greater Vigo, have to head for the Centro Comercial Gran Via, a glass and concrete affair with all the shops imaginable and a huge Carrefour hypermarket to boot.

Beyond the Centro Comercial, not far from the houses with the coloured roofs, threading your way through allotments where people grow sprouts, herbs, potatoes, you name it, you will come eventually to the Castrelos park, a wonder of greenery where you could imagine you had escaped from the city if it were not for the incessant hum of traffic, everpresent in the background.

Magnificent in the autumn, now that we are heading towards the end of February, the park is already showing signs that spring has arrived.

The Castrelos Park houses the "pazo" or "palacio" Quinones de Leon, a stately home still with formal mazes in the garden, which is now a museum and art gallery.

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