Saturday, 30 May 2009

Consequences of la crisis?

Recently one of the big milk producers announced their intention to use less Spanish milk and import more from France. This, of course, has serious implications for Gallego dairy farmers. There has been talk of some of them getting together to form a cooperative and try to buy the soon to be unused machinery of one of the big bottlers. In the meantime, it would seem that the milk wars have begun with members of the dairy farmers unions preventing milk tankers getting through and emptying the contents into the fields. Direct action! Understandable but maybe not a solution!

Meanwhile inflation seems to be affecting the beggars as well; even they expect to receive a payrise. Recently, as I made my way from the library towards Puerta del Sol, I was accosted by one of our regulars, the wild girl who often comes and looks meaningfully at the cakes you have been given to accompany your coffee and then asks if she can have them. Usually she asks if you have a coin or two to give her. On this occasion she came straight out and asked if I would give her 15 euros for her night's accommodation. When I refused but gave her the usual couple of coins, she looked meaningfully at my purse and asked me again, "No tiene alli 15 euros para mi?" Now that seems like quite a high percentage pay-rise request to me!

And then I thought for a while that divine intervention was on the way when I saw the headline, Aparicion mariana en Samil. I imagined someone having seen a vision of the Virgen and flocks of people heading to the site. This was not the case, however. It appears that Alejandro Ferreiro, a retired 66 year old, walks on Samil beach every morning and one day saw something strange in the water. On investigating, he found a small statue of La Virgen de Fatima, maybe lost off some ship, rather the worse for wear, missing a few doves but having gained some barnacles. Mr Ferreiro considers the statuette to be still attractive - you can still see the colour of her robes - and he now needs to decide what to do with her. He thinks he might donate her to his local bar.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Reaching Ribadavia

In March/April of last year we came to Vigo on an exploratory visit, getting to know the area a little and investigating possible places to live. It was a rather damp and dreary fortnight with just a few good sunny days, not very encouraging for venturing much out of Vigo. Nonetheless, an-exploring we did go, visiting a number of places around Vigo. Tui stands out as a day of windy sunshine. A Guarda is remembered for the desperate search for somewhere warm to eat.

One place we kept trying unsuccessfully to visit was Ribadavia. It had been recommended but we had difficulty getting there. For some reason, because we flew into Oporto airport in Portugal where the time is the same as in the UK, we had not remembered to alter our watches on entering Spain and wandered around for a couple days wondering why we were always the last to eat breakfast in the hotel. It puzzled us also that every restaurant we went to at lunchtime seemed to be in a hurry to close not too long after we got there. It was only when we went to catch a bus to Ribadavia and missed it that we realised our clock error. Oops! Other failures to get there were not our fault; the bus company cancelled buses or altered the departure time without prior warning. More of that later!!

We were beginning to think of Ribadavia as a place akin to Atlantis, mythical and unattainable, but finally last week we managed to get there. Arriving at the rather bleak bus station, we asked our way to the town centre, in search of the tourist office. On the road into town there was a helpful map. Unhelpfully, it did not have a useful Esta usted aqui symbol to give you a point of reference. The locals were friendly though and soon directed us to the Plaza mayor where the tourist office is situated in the former home of the Counts of Ribadavia. This doubles up as a Jewish Information Centre as Ribadavia is famous for its old Jewish quarter. There was a Jewish community there possibly as early as the eleventh century and even after the Catholic Monarchs, Fernando e Isabel, expelled all the Jews from Spain, many Ribadavense Jews either moved to Portugal and came back when the fuss died down or converted/pretended to convert to Christianity and carried on with their business.

The tourist office staff were friendly and helpful, recommending places to eat as it was already lunchtime. We ate in a pension on the Plaza Mayor, a pretty good 10 euro menu del dia. Then, fed and watered (well, wined to tell the truth) we went to look around the town. It was a fine sunny day, noticeably hotter than in Vigo. I spotted 26 degrees on a chemist's sign.

An old walled town with the interesting looking remains of the castle where the Counts of Ribadavia lived before they moved to the tourist office, Ribadavia is full of well kept narrow streets and arches in the old quarter as well as numerous churches with their bell towers. Views over the river are quite spectacular: all in all a lovely place, well worth the visit and centre of the local wine trade to boot.

Eventually the time came to make our way home. We walked back over the bridge , past the church and convent of San Fra
ncisco and popped into the railway station to see if by any chance there was a train. We like trains and it would be a change from the bus. But, no, there was no train until much later.

Ok, fine, just time to pop into the bus station to check whether we neeed to buy tickets in advance for the six o' clock bus. Not at all, said the rather grumpy man whose job seemed to be to sit behind the counter and read the paper, but he thought that we would find that it had gone already. It was 5.50! The bus was meant to go, not from the buss station but from the bridge, at six o' clock according to the time table on the wall. A run down the road established that it had indeed gone, confirmed by the ladies in the photography shop.

Back at the bus station we remonstrated. It was one of those "not my fault, mate" moments. There is no point, it seems, in looking at the printed timetable. This is an official docu
ment sent by the bus company but they change the times at will and inform him by phone in the morning. If he changed the time on the document today, other people might wait 20 minutes in the sun tomorrow. Now, personally, I would rather wait 20 mintes for a late bus than miss an early bus and have to wait 3 hours for the next one. And what about a bit of joined up thinking? Earlier in the day we had spoken to him about the six o'clock bus and he had not thought to tell us it left early! We could, of course, sue the us company, he advised us. He would!

Anyway, in the end we caught the next bus to Ourense. The grumpy man DID manage to tell us that, although the "official" document said that the bus did not come into the bus station, in fact it did so. We could wait there. Joined up thinking at last!

So, a bus to Ourense, in the opposite direction to Vigo, a 15 minute wait and an express bus back to Vigo. The journey in total took us about an hour longer than planned and cost us an extra 3 euros each, more or less.

We broke up the walk back from the bus station in Vigo with a quick beer and tapas. It was still a warm evening. On the whole, we decided, it had been a good day, if a little frustrating once again on the travel front!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Sunday morning in Vigo

Late morning Sunday, pushing on towards lunchtime, the weather had not yet made up its mind what to do. The meteorologists promised heavy rain and storms but the day started with sunshine. By midday the clouds had moved in and it was warm but with a stillness in the air that suggested the weathermen could be right. The Sunday morning strollers, good sensible Gallegos, carried umbrellas and the children sported brightly coloured PVC raincoats.

Groups of young boys - not that young, could be in their early twenties - threw water at each other. Maybe they were still on their way home from a Saturday night out. A lon
e cyclist made his way along a half empty Principe.

The window shoppers were out, husbands impatiently looking at their watches while their wives checked prices in Massimo Dutti. Window shopping was all most could do but in the square by the cathedral a few shops were open and people were buying. Those shopkeepers must have learnt that tourists and day trippers want to spend, even on Sunday!

Outside A Laxe shopping centre a large group of elderly people, in their Sunday best, sat and chatted: an excursion for la tercera edad perhaps.

Down near the harbour on Rua das Avenidas, a more than halfway decent band was playing; perhaps I should tell them about the Saddleworth Band Contest. Programa de Bandas del Concello de Vigo the notice said. All very civilised: rows of chairs were set out for passers-by to stop and listen and there was an appreciative audience. One rather over-excited gentleman disturbed everyone by excusing himself loudly as he found a seat.

At the end of Urzaiz, near the junction with Colon, our regular beggar Nadie Da was having a loud discussion with his mates, begging over for the morning. Outside the fancy bread and cakes shop on Hernan Cortes, however, an older, maybe more dignified, beggar still sat with his notice: Sin dinero. Sin recursos.

The promised storm did not come, although it did rain a little later. Today, Monday, is wetter so maybe this is when the storm will arrive.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Spanish Honours

Every year in Spain the Premio Principe de Asturias is given for, among other things, contributions to the arts. In the past the prize has gone to Margaret Atwood and Woody Allen, among others. In 2007 it was Bob Dylan's turn and last year it went to the Sistema Nacional de Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela, the wonderful young Venezuelans who charmed us all with their music.

This year it has just been announced that, pipping Vanessa Redgrave to the post and beating home grown Spanish artists such as film maker Carlos Saura and singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat, architect Norman Foster (or rather, Sir Norman Foster) has been chosen. Now, the creator of the wonderfully futuristic Bilbao metro entrances, the amazing 2,460 metre Millau Bridge over the Tarn in France and of course, the (once bouncing) Millennium Bridge in London turns out to be a Mancunian, born there in 1931. It's a small world!

Meanwhile, Spaniards have been winning honours in other fields. Pedro Almodovar has once again been taken to the hearts of the French at the Cannes Film Festival. It would seem that they love his film Los Abrazos Rotos. Apparently, so I read in one of the local papers, the French appreciate his films more than the Spanish because the former watch them sin prejuicios y de forma objectiva!

And, finally, vigues fireman Vicente Alonso has been doing his bit for the reputation of Gallegos from Vigo in the Tall Ships Race. He has been on the Dutch boat Tecla which made it to Tenerife earlier than expected, before the Tenerife port authorities were ready for them by all accounts, thus winning the first stage of the race.

The Dutch captain, Vicente reports, is a real sea dog, un autentico lobo del mar, but the secret of their success is having Gallegos on board: Ganamos porque ibamos gallegos en el velero y somos muy competitivos. Now he can't wait to rejoin the boat for the last stage and has already bought his ticket to Ireland to do just that.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Coming back to Vigo!

The first Gallego novel I read was a O fillo do emigrante by Pablo Vaamonde Garcia. Only a short book, it tells the sad little tale of a young man who leaves his native Galicia to work in a factory in Switzerland, probably sometime in the mid 1980s. There he meets and marries a Gallega girl who gives birth to their son. For economic reasons she returns to work when the child is six months old and they take him to live with his grandparents back in Galicia, seeing him only briefly each year for holidays, sending money to the grandparents and expensive presents to the child to compensate for their absence. Eventually they return to Galicia for good but it is too late to establish a proper relationship with their son who goes from bad to worse, from alcohol to drugs and finally to a fatal motorcycle accident. As I said, a sad little tale.

I was reminded of this when I saw an article recently about Gallegos who had emigrated to Switzerland finding it impossible to return home. Gallegos have always emigrated. They go all over the place. I have come across a number of them working for the Instituto Cervantes in Manchester. You find them running restaurants in the middle of the USA. They emigrate, but they like to come back. Many have come back wealthy from the Americas and invested in their home country: that is Galicia, not Spain.

I had never thought of Switzerland as one of their destinations but apparently there are thriving Gallego communities in that country. They have their asociacions de vecinos, meet up to eat cocido, play the gaita and dance in traditional dress. One spokesman said that some Swiss entrepreneurs like Gallego workers and prefer to employ them for their reliability. According to the article I read, the small town of Cerceda, 5597 inhabitants, has 1000 registered voters currently resident in Switzerland, 400 of them in Geneva.

Most emigrants stay there for four or five years, save money and then return to Galicia. Now, however, la crisis is causing problems. Some are looking at the employment situation and deciding that it just is not feasible to consider a return to Galicia. Others have given it a try, only to give up and go back once more to Switzerland: another sad little tale!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

In search of the exotic in Galicia

An article this morning in one of the local papers, La Voz de Galicia, laments the lack of authentic international cuisine in the region. Apparently, in the whole autonomia there are fewer than fifty genuine restaurantes exoticos autenticos: foreign restaurants run by native professionals.

Here in Vigo it seems we have an Indian and a Lebanese, which latter I must seek out as we are told it provides even el mitico hommos as well as belly dancing, although I can probably manage without the floor show. La Coruna fares a little better with a Greek, an Indian, a Japanese and a Sephardic restaurant. While Santiago has a slightly bigger range again, for the most part "exotic" cuisine in Galicia means Italian, Argentinian, Mexican, Brasilian and Chinese and, according to La Voz de Galicia, many of these are in fact run by Spaniards with a foreign cookbook.

What is the reason for this? According to La Voz de Galicia, it is because there is a surfeit of local provision, some 37,ooo empresas de hosteleria in the region. According to la voz de Anthea, it could well be the fact that Gallegos prefer Galician cuisine. I have already commented on their love affair with the ubiquitous potato and the popularity of cocido gallego, with the occasional mention of caldo gallego and local seafood dishes. La Voz de Galicia does say that Lugo and Orense used to have more
exotismo but the places have all closed, asfixiados by local cuisine.

Another point made in the article is that many people, for lack of another way of earning a living, open a restaurant without any professional training; hence the numerous little locales that spring up overnight.

Now, I see in today's Guardian that a certain Heather Mills (formerly McCartney) is doing the same in the UK. Significant?

Friday, 15 May 2009

Parking problems, security, shopping on-line and delivery deadlines!

As we have friends coming by car in the summer and as we have sublet our garage space, today I decided to get ahead of myself and ask at the Tourist Office if they could give me some indication of good places to park, overnight especially, without it costing an arm and a leg. All I really wanted was some kind of list of car parks, prices, availability and so on, all the information that I don't have as I left my car in the UK and go round here on foot or on public transport. What I got was an Eeyore-like gloomy commentary.

The gentleman at the Tourist Office keeps his car in the garage at home and only uses it for journeys out of Vigo. Parking, he reminded me, is a major problem at all times and at the moment with all the roadworks, well, what can you say: un lio! He knows that many ayuntamiento employees leave their cars all day at the Castro Park (well, that much is obvious to anyone who walks in the park on a weekday just from the ratio of cars to visitors!) but he would not recommend parking there overnight. You never know!

Perhaps Calle Venezuela, near the children's playground would be a better bet, if you can find a space. There was a rider to that, though: if you left your car there for more than one day, long enough for dust to settle on it, it would probably be noticed and could be vandalised! Maybe the railway station carpark would be good for overnight parking as it is well lit. It began to remind me of looking for a secure place to park in Salford. All in all, in this respect Vigo is just like any other big city!

His parting shot was that I should perhaps ask the Policia Municipal for help. However, there I would be taking pot luck because while some policias can be very helpful, others can be muy antipaticos. So I was none the wiser and will have to pursue my investigations among my companions in the various activities I am involved in.

What my enquiries did do, though, was make me reflect on security measures here in Spain. When we finally decided to purchase a television set we investigated electrical goods suppliers - Hyperplanet in both A Laxe and Gran Via shopping centres, El Corte Ingles, Carrefour et al - in search of a good deal. This was how we discovered that in Hyperplanet and the electrical goods section of Carrefour if you leave without purchases you have to leave one way only. Security guards direct you to the appropriate exit, presumably the one fitted with scanners to make sure that you have not slipped a huge flat-screen set under your coat!

In the end we opted for a set from Carrefour's on-line catalogue as the model we selected was not available in the store. Now, on-line shopping is such a regular feature of UK life that I know people who never shop any other way. Here, however, it is still somewhat in its infancy, most likely because computers in the home are only just becoming the norm. Well, the ordering went ahead as usual but when it came to paying using my Spanish debit card, I came across another security measure. I had to go into my bank's website and set up a password and memorable phrase before I could continue.

Although at the time I cursed and ranted and raved at the extra hassle, I suppose it is a good measure. It may go some way to prevent the kind of identity theft that leads to your bank account being emptied while purchases you never wanted are made on your card. (Mind you, it is not universally applied; I have since bought concert tickets on-line several times without any security measures whatsoever.)

Similarly I have had to explain to visiting friends that if you pay by credit or debit card in Spanish shops, you must produce proof of identity. Now the use of the PIN is supposed to serve that purpose but places still exist in the UK which will accept payment with no more than a signature which can, of course, be forged. If the Spanish system had operated in Italy when my purse was pick-pocketed in Rome, the plumply smiling rogue on the bus who I suspect did the deed would not have been able to go out and spend £400 before I even realised the purse was missing!

Be that as it may, we successfully ordered and paid for our TV set. According to the web page, it would be delivered within four working days. So a few days later we checked the website: Your order is being dealt with.
Very good, we thought, but, even if Saturday did not count as a working day, it seemed to be taking rather longer than four days. Eventually an e-mail arrived: Your order has been dispatched and will reach you within four working days. Ah, so that was it: the notice on the website did not mean four working days from placing your order but four working days from whenever they got their act together!

And within four working days it was indeed delivered. A nice little set with built in DVD player, it works fine. The fact that there is little of real interest to watch and that films are, as a rule, badly dubbed into Spanish is neither here nor there. The news channel is good. There are occasional interesting documentaries. If we choose to do so, we can improve our understanding of gallego by watching the dedicated channels. It is MUCH better for watching the DVDs we borrow from the local library than watching them on the laptop computer. And, somewhat ironically, I am now watching La Chica de Ayer, the Spanish version of Life on Mars, a series which I missed first time around when it was on the BBC!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

It's a fine thing!

It's very unusual to see a stray dog walking along the streets of central Vigo. In fact, to date I have seen only one, a small terrier walking purposefully along Urzaiz, clearly a dog with a destination! One reason for this may be that dog owners can be fined if their dogs are not on a leash in the street. In the case of the dog I saw, of course, you would have to find and catch the owner first. Saturday morning in the Castro Park seems to be the time and place to let the dogs run around.

Fouling the streets is also a finable offence, which probably explains why the majority of dog-owners here practise pooper-scooping. I read in the local paper the other day that, although the decision to tighten up on this was taken a couple of years ago, they have only just got around to imposing the first fine on a
vigues dog-owner for failing to scoop the poop. Apparently the maximum fine could be 1500 euros for serious or repeat offenses. This offender is getting off lightly (?) then with a mere 750 euros to pay!!!

There has also, it seems, been a crackdown on the maltreatment of animals. Two other dog owners have each been fined 150 euros, one for keeping his dog in poor conditions and another for leaving his dog unsupervised in the car. Bloggers who leave their dogs in the car while giving conversation classes should take note!

Fine-ally, in the same article I read that someone has been reported and faces a possible 150 euro fine for kicking ... wait for it ... a pigeon. I must be careful. I have not yet kicked one but I have almost trodden on one or two as they are too lazy, too overfed or too confident around people to be bothered to move out of the way as you walk down the street.

A few thoughts spring to mind:
  • are dog owners any more law abiding than the fairly high percentage of motorists who just ignore the fines that are imposed?
  • will the animal lovers actually pay the fines?
  • will someone start fining the people who drop their chewing gum and cigarette ends on the pavement?
I wonder!!!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Pictures in the Park and other places.

Yesterday, another day of wall-to-wall blue sky and sunshine despite the gloomy prognostications of the weathermen, we took some friends to the Castrelos Park.

Only a few weeks ago the wisteria was everywhere and every bush or tree with the capacity to do so was in full bloom and the park was a riot of colour.

Yesterday, however, the park was almost uniformally a rich, lush green with only an occasional splash of colour amongst the box hedge in the French garden.

The rose garden, though, was filled with blooms of various shades of pink: a delight.

We came across a small girl having her First Communion photos taken. I was aware that the park often served as a romantic setting for wedding pictures but I had not imagined that happening for a First Communion. I suppose I should have expected it as the many bridalwear shops in the city also display a range of First Communion outfits, both male and female.

The cynic in me raised her head and wondered what happened to the long white dress after the event. Surely the fine organza is too expensive to go into the dressing-up box. So, does it moulder in the wardrobe like many an expensive wedding dress? Are the dresses hired for the day? If you have several daughters, can the same dress be recycled? Or will the younger sisters protest? Is a dress handed down through the generations like some christening gowns or great-grandma's silk wedding dress? So many questions!

On our way out of the park we found ourselves engulfed by a noisily chattering school party, like a crowd of starlings, all talking at once. They swarmed in, took some photos and ran around on the grass but they only stayed about five minutes for as we went past the
pazo, they were already on their way back to their bus.

Heading homewards, we went through Plaza de America where stalls had been erected on the pavement, fund-raising or consciousness- raising. On closer inspection, it turned out to be Oxfam: the British high street charity shop in canvas pagodas on a Vigo square.

In the evening, we dined out at the Rias Baixas II, the seafood restaurant on Rua Argentina (almost all of South America can be found in Vigo). Our friends did what everyone should do at least once in Galicia; they ate their way through a
parrillada de marisco, cracking crab claws and munching mussels and other shellfish until we thought they might turn into crustaceans and scuttle off to the seabed.

The restaurant is decorated with football scarves from numerous teams. We swopped opinions about the relative chances of Barcelona and Manchester United and then admired the placing of the United scarf sent to the restaurant by another friend earlier this year.

Finally, full of fishy delicacies, we strolled along the Plaza de Compostela, under the chestnut trees, heading for home - just as groups of young people were setting out in the opposite direction, ready for a night out while we old fogies were ready for bed!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Weekend competitions: sensible and silly!!

On one of my regular rambles up to the top of the Castro last Saturday I was passed by a number of young people carrying maps, all sporting a number and moving far too quickly for the temperature at the time. A strange venue for a marathon, I reflected, but clearly something was going on.

As I approached the gate which gives access to the upper part of the park, the fortress itself, I saw tape stretched across the gateway, the kind of stuff you see on the scene of a crime in American police series. Had there been an incident of some kind? Was the Castro closed to the public?

So I asked an official looking person who assured me that we could go in but asked us to wait for a few minutes. That gave me time to ask what was going on: an orienteering race with teams from universities from around Spain. Lots of busy running around, finding their way from point A to point B.

Then yesterday in one of the local papers I saw a headline that intrigued me: Caca de vaca en Orense. In Amoeiro, in Orense province, a strange kind of lottery had taken place, for the second year running, apparently. Prizes, including a car and a holiday in a casa de turismo rural, were awarded according to where on a football field local cows dropped their cowpats.

The football field was divided into 800 plots and, to add some colour to events, the cows were draped in the flags of FC Barcelona, Villareal, Celta de Vigo and others, not forgetting local clubs Almoeiro CF and CD Ourense. Some 15000 tickets were sold; purchasers made a bid for which cow would plop where. Because of the great success of El Barca this season, tickets for FC Barcelona sold out first. Everyone wanted to guess where the great champions would drop a cowpat!

Around 2000 people turned up to watch the event, the celebrity cows were ushered in and cowpat-fall was, it seems, verified via sattelite. It lasted for just over half an hour and was punctuated with cries of GOL! as the cows performed.

The whole event was a fund-raiser for Amoeiro Club de Futbol and was so successful last year that, according to the organiser, other places are copying their initiative. An original idea, I suppose, but I was left wondering who was going to clean up the football grounds of A Penafita de Amoeiro.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Sailing into (and out of) Vigo

And all I want is a tall ship
And a star to steer her by.

Poet John Masefield could have had his wish this weekend in Vigo. The Tall Ships Race has set off from here en route for Tenerife, Barbados, Charleston, Boston, Halifax (Nova Scotia) and eventually Belfast.
A "village" sprang up on the harbour, opened officially by the mayor on Friday morning and providing refreshments and shopping opportunities.

The port area was full of masts and the weekend saw groups of young sailors in formal uniform with impossibly large white naval caps. Almost certainly these were from the Kruzenshtern, a Russian training ship. This old but perfectly maintained vessel dominated the harbour and attracted a steady stream of visitors.

In the past, some famous names have come into Vigo from the sea. In the 1930s, Laurie Lee finally left
Cider with Rosie country and after trying his luck in London it was to Vigo that he came with his violin. He chose Spain because he knew just enough of the language to ask for a drink of water and there were ships sailing from England to Vigo for an amazing £4. No, not RyanAir; this was the 1930s after all.

It seems, however, that Vigo did not impress him greatly.
... Vigo struck me like an apparition. It seemed to rise from the sea like some rust-corroded wreck, as old and bleached as the rocks around it. ... I landed in a town submerged by wet green sunlight ....

Not surprisingly, then, he did not stay but headed inland, eventually walking all the way to the south where he was "rescued" by a British destroyer at the start of the Spanish Civil War. However, since he began a short-term career busking on the Spanish streets with his violin, he could have given some advice to those who follow the same profession today on Principe. As well as recommending tunes that the passersby would recognise -
any Spanish tune worked immediately, and called up ready smiles - he knew it was important to prime the collecting box -I made sure the hat was properly baited beforehand. Now, how could he be so savvy in that respect and still manage to walk for hours under the sun with neither hat nor water? I suppose collapsing from heat stroke was one way to get to know the people.

Then, of course, some 10 to 15 years earlier there was Hemingway. I had always associated him with bullfighting Spain, not the fishermen and farmers of Galicia. However he too arrived in Vigo and also spent only a few hours here. That was enough, though, for him to send an article to the Toronto Star:
Vigo is a pasteboard looking village, cobble streeted, white and orange plastered, set up in one side of a big, almost landlocked harbour that is big enough to hold the entire British navy. .... the color of the water is as blue as a chromo of the bay at Naples. Although the vigueses would probably object to being described as a village, Hemingway's opinion was more favourable than Laurie Lee's and I understand that a gallego has written a book about his visit: Las huellas de Hemingway en Vigo.

But that was all in the past; back in 2009 Vigo is having a moment of glory once again. The papers told us that at 11:00 this morning the Kruzenshtern would lead the Tall Ships in procession up the estuary to La Guia, take a turn round the ria and then head out to the Islas Cies where the race proper would begin in the afternoon. So I set out for the Castro, seeking a vantage point from which to see what was going on.

When I got there, nothing at all was happening apart from a lot of people with binoculars. Someone commented that it would all start at h
igh tide, 11:30. As the bells rang out midday, finally the boats began to move. There was some muttering about nothing starting on time but it was worth waiting for.

te the fact that at some time in the last 30 years one of the mayors of Vigo allowed the construction of a huge hotel and an even more imposing local government administration building to rather dominate the view, it was still spectacular.

It was generally agreed that it was un dia precioso with sun, blue sea and enough wind to keep the boats moving. A tugboat saluted them with a water display and local small boats accompanied the tall ships on their way out to sea.

By late afternoon, when I went up to the Castro once more, the Kruzenshtern was a dot on the horizon. The tent v
illage down at the harbour had disappeared as if it had never been. Suddenly it was all over - until the next time!