Friday, 20 February 2009

One end of Vigo to another - what the cruise ship people may not see!

Every once in a while a cruise ship calls in at Vigo, on its last stop before heading across the Bay of Biscay and back to Portsmouth or Southampton. Sometimes there can be two or three in a week, less often in the winter months. On one occasion a British cruise ship and an American cruise ship were in at the same time. The city had an additional eight thousand visitors that day!

Even without going down to the harbour you can usually tell when a ship is visiting. Every cafeteria on Urzaiz and Principe, in Plaza de la Princesa and Plaza de la Constitucion is full of (usually) British tourists, the me
n (usually) clad in long shorts, loud shirts and sandals with socks, the women (usually) in strappy tops showing off sunburnt shoulders and sandals, even when the Spanish ladies are in fur coats and boots.

Puzzled gr
oups stand on street corners studying maps or stop passers-by to ask where is the best Zara store. Excited shoppers exclaim about the contents of different floors of the department store, El Corte Ingles. Disappointed shoppers discover that Sunday shopping has not yet hit Spain. Bewildered Britons comment that it must be half day closing when they find that shops on Principe and Urzaiz close for lunch between two and four thirty. All, in their own way, even if not dressed in tourist uniform, are recognisably not Spanish.

Because the Estacion Maritima comes out almost directly into the A Laxe shopping centre, many cruiser folk find themselves shepherded towards the pedestrian walkway which takes them across the street, skirts the Casco Vello, gives them the chance to see some of Vigo's seagulls and leads them before they know it to the crazy horses statue at the top of Gran Via.

If, however, they were to turn left on leaving the Estacion Maritima, cross at one of the pedestrian crossings and head up the hill towards the city centre, they would go through the

Plaza de Compostela with its fountains and gardens: a lovely spot for a coffee before tackling the rest of the climb into the centre.

Only the hardiest of hill-walkers among the cruiser folk find their way up to the Castro park with

its splendid views over the estuary to Cangas and Moana on the other side and the Islas Cies out to sea, protecting the city from winter storms.

Those who make it to the top might see a seagull playing king-of-the-castle

or a group of old ladies, playing cards in the sunshine, some of them sporting home made sun hats.

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