Monday, 20 April 2009

Visiting Time comes around!

Well, we boasted so much about the 27 days of sunshine in March, 20 of them with temperatures high enough to constitute a good summer in the North West of England, that a friend of ours took us at our word and came to stay. So, of course, the weather changed as soon as he was due to arrive and almost the first thing he saw of Vigo was the bazar chino where we took him to buy an umbrella.

However, you don't come to Galicia for guaranteed sunshine and the shellfish in a seafood restaurant hidden away near A Guia - one of those places that you don't realise is there unless you know it, the sort you go past and thinks it's just someone's back yard - tastes just as good whatever the weather.

We dodged the showers for a visit to Castrelos Park, to admire the rose gardens - coming on nicely - and to check out the eucalyptus trees - oldest in Galicia but no koalas!

By the weekend the sunshine was back, a bit patchy at times but definitely there, so we took the train (4.45 euros each for the round trip) to see the sights and have lunch in the Plaza de la Lena /Praza da Lena where they serve excellent filloas con cogomelos e gambas - prawn and mushroom pancakes.

Walking back to the railway station, we discovered that tourist development has not been at a standstill since we spent part of summer 2007 in Pontevedra. Alongside the river is now a pleasant and well-organised pathway which was not there in 2007, running from the centre of town to the railway and bus stations and beyond, perfectly accessible for baby buggies or wheelchairs.

On Sunday the city was full of English tourists. The cruise ships are back with a vengeance, around four of them last week, and Sunday saw the arrival of the Ventura. More of a small floating town than a huge floating hotel, it dominated the harbour, completely dwarfing the gangplanks for the local ferries.

As it was Sunday, of course, there were no shops available and the tourists had to make do with the numerous top manta outlets, selling goods off the top of a blanket spread on the ground - handy corners to pick up and run if someone wants to check on the legality of the sales! The cruiseship folk may not know much Spanish but I heard some pretty effective bargaining going on, reducing the price of counterfeit designer goods.

We, however, had planned a boat trip of our own. Both the Vigo O
ficina de Turismo and the tourist information desk at the airport had assured us that boats were now running, weather permitting, to the nearby Islas Cies, the nature reserve islands which protect Vigo from much of the bad winter weather and, incidentally, have one of the best beaches in the world according to the Guardian newspaper! However, both our sources of information were too optimistic, a little ahead of themselves; boats had run for the Easter Weekend but regular service is not envisaged until May. Bother! We did, though, have a contingency plan: a trip across the bay to Cangas. So off we went.

As we pulled into Cangas harbour we saw the local traineras rowing team, out for a Sunday morning practice.

Our last trip to Cangas left Phil ill for a week after eating some possibly suspect cockles, so we were looking for somewhere new to eat. Who better to ask than one of the locals, especially one who seemed to have reached a ripe old age on local fare? In fairly typical, helpful Gallego fashion he indicated some nearby places and then offered to show us some more if we cared to walk down to the seafront with him. And so we ended up at O Pelao, eating pulpo and pimientos de Padron, washed down with some good white wine for under 25 euros in total. Excellent food! Excellent value!

After that our friend needed to sit down at a seafront cafe to finish off
settling his lunch with an icecream before going on the take a further look at Cangas, including the art work on the wall of the Museo del Mar.

Today, with sunshine forecast for Vigo and temperatures of 19 or 20 degrees, he's flying back to the UK. So it goes!

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