Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Santiago voy ...

Wednesday: to Santiago de Compostela to see a former student who is spending a year teaching English in a small place just to the north of the city where I suspect she is learning more gallego than castellano. 

On the train I was amused by the conversation going on behind me between a grandmother and a small child. It went along the following lines: 

Child: “I can see some other railway lines next to our train.” 
Grandma: “Oh, yes.” 
Child: “Why are there some other railway lines?” 
Grandma: “So other trains can go past us.” 
Child: “Why do they need to go past us?” 
Grandma: “Because we can’t all go on the same line or we would have a crash.” 
(A train rushes past in the other direction.) 
Grandma: “Did you see that train? 
Child: “No.” 
Grandma: You were too busy talking.” 
Child: “Where was it going?” 
Grandma: “Ermmm, probably Vigo. 
Child: “I can see some other railway lines. Why are there some other railway lines?” Grandma: “I already told you; so other trains can go past us.” 
Child: “Why do they need to go past us?” 
Grandma: “Because we can’t all go on the same line or we would have a crash.” 
Child: “I can see some other railway lines. 
Grandma: “Oh, look at the rain on your window. 
(Sings)    A Santiago voy, 
                y con my paragüitas 
                por si la lluvia 
                está mojando. 
 And so on repetitively until we arrived at Santiago. 

The grandmother was a paragon of patience, only muttering once or twice that she was not bringing him on the train again for a long time. The song she sang was one I had learnt at school in my Spanish lessons. So my Spanish teacher Miss Brown didn’t make it all up about Santiago being the rain capital of Spain! 

When we arrived at Santiago it WAS a bit damp but not actually raining so I didn’t need my paragüitas after all. But it’s always as well to have your little umbrella in your bag when you go there. 
I’ve not been to Santiago for a few years. Not much has changed as far as I can see. The cathedral is still imposingly impressive.

There is a brand spanking new library just outside the casco viejo, all glass and steel and very modern but as it’s outside the main picturesque old town it doesn’t clash the way modern architecture often does in cities in the UK. Most old towns around here are compact enough to retain their ancient character while the modern city just develops around them: on the whole quite a good arrangement. 

My young friend and I had a good wander around, didn’t find the restaurant I remembered from an earlier visit but did manage to find a reasonably priced menú del día in the old town. It wasn’t quite the bargain that I saw in a Vigo establishment the other day: plato del día, bebida, pan y cafe - €3.99 but was probably much better quality. I shudder to think what the dish of the day can consist of it they can offer that AND a drink AND a coffee for such a low price. It smacks of desperation to attract customers if you ask me. 

Maybe it was the cooler weather that made the streets of Santiago fairly empty but we didn’t see as many beggars as I’ve grown used to seeing in Vigo although the buskers were out and about playing their wailing gaitas. And we were invited to buy lotería tickets at least three times by the same seller. He probably didn’t realise we were the same people as before since the lottery ticket sellers are all blind or partially sighted. 

On the subject of beggars and the like, it is a regular occurrence here that if someone is smoking outside a cafe or lighting up on the street, someone else will approach and cadge a cigarette. Now, the other day in Pontevedra I noticed a lady wrapped in her fur coat sitting on a terraza smoking. A fag-cadger approached her, she looked at him in disgust and said, “¿Otro?” In English, “Another one?” My friend Colin noticed too and said that he had seen this chap go up to her at least twice before in the time she had been sitting there. If you’re begging or busking or selling lottery tickets, you need to be careful not to hit on the same person too often! 

In the early evening yesterday I headed back to Vigo on the train. I noticed grandmother and grandson getting on the train but they didn’t sit near me so I never found out if his curiosity continued on the return journey. 

My young friend and I are now consulting weather forecasts as she would like to visit Vigo before I return to the UK. She has only seen the most unprepossessing parts of this fair city and has asked me to show her some more picturesque bits. So we are hoping for a fine day at the weekend so I can take her walkabout and prove that Vigo is worth visiting.

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