Saturday, 25 June 2011

Back in Galicia.

So here we are, back in Galicia – briefly anyway.

We flew into Porto on Thursday evening, our RyanAir flight once again trumpeting its arrival on time. They may cut corners on all sorts of things but they do like to arrive on time and crow about it.

As we made our way into Porto on the Metro line, having arrive
d too late for a bus to Vigo, we noticed alongside one of the stations a group of people with a sort of mini barbecue. One of them even ran up to the train and toasted us with his glass of wine. When we emerged from Trindade Station near the top of Avenida dos Aliados and I smelt grilled sardines, I realised what was going on. It was la festa de São João, of course, 24th of June.

As in Spain, the
y celebrate the feast of Saint John in Portugal with street parties and eat lots of sardines, or perhaps I should say sardinhas. However, in Porto they celebrate it in a BIG way. Every 50 yards or so there was a stall selling plastic hammers which squeak when you hit someone over the head with the. And that is exactly what happened. It was impossible to walk through the streets without being bopped on the head every few steps. Some people just bopped everyone indiscriminately as they went along. Others only bopped friends and relations. Small people stretched up to manage to hammer adults on the head.

(I wonder if they have to
have permission to organise street parties and have to do health and safety checks as was suggested for organising street parties to celebrate the great William and Kate event. Somehow I doubt it. How exactly do you assess the H & S factor for hitting people on the head with a joke hammer?)

The crowd was moving with an apparent objective in mind, despite frequent stops to hammer and squeak. So we went with the flow and ended up on the edge of the port area w
here a stage had been erected and a group was busy performing. They were very well received so I assume they were quite well known locally.

We dragged ourselves away and went to a quiet place we know – well, quiet by festa de São João standards – and treated ourselves to sardinhas, was
hed down with cold beer. After another beer in another relatively quiet place where we watched the fireworks on the TV, we headed back to the hotel to bed, hoping that the noise from Aliados was not going to go on too late into the night. Such fun!

By Friday m
orning everywhere was cleaned up and sparkling. Apart from the odd reveller sleeping it off in a doorway and some people sitting on a bench still clutching plastic hammers and cans of beer, you would hardly have known there had been a festa.

Still, it was good to see that the Portuguese can still have a good t
ime despite the crisis and national debt and all its other current problems.

From outside the classy MacDonald’s on Aliados we caught the Autna bus to Vigo where old friends met us at the bus station. Then it was food for some more fish – not sardines this time –
at El Puerto, one of our favourite Vigo eateries. Unfortunately one of our party got his dates and times mixed up and failed to arrive. We caught up with him briefly, however, at Pontevedra station between taking a train to Pontevedra and then a bus to Sanxenxo, just along the coast.

And now we are comfortably installed in a fine hotel in Sanxenxo where Phil is playing chess and I am playing swimming round the pool, wandering up and down the seafront (jogging up and down it early in the morning in training for my charity race in 2 weeks time) and generally being a good tourist.

Sanxenxo appears to be full of quite recently developed hotels and blocks of to
urist apartments with just occasional throw-back to a former time like this old house outside which I saw an ancient lady in one of those wrap-around pinafores sweeping her pavement this morning.

She seems to have hung onto her old place but almost everywhere else is bright and modern. But it’s clean and bright and friendly without being brash and the beach is very fine.

Watch this space for further news of the chess tournament and my jogging/swimming prowess.

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