Sunday, 30 June 2013


Yesterday I read in one of the Spanish papers that our hotel in Sanxenxo, the Carlos I Silgar is in the list of the top ten beach hotels according to an organisation called Trivago. It’s nice to know that you’ve been staying in a quality place. They’re certainly very friendly and welcoming there. 


Anyway today we said goodbye to Sanxenxo and to our quality hotel. Yesterday late afternoon / early evening I swam for the last time in the pool, timing it just right before the place filled up with children playing at pushing each other around, doing handstands in the water and standing on each others’ shoulders. 

And while the chessplayer played his last game, at the earlier start time of ten o’clock this morning instead of the usual five o’clock in the afternoon, I went for a last stroll along the beach and said goodbye to La Madama de Silgar. 

I never did make it to La Isla de Ons this year but, well, there’s always next year. Here’s a farewell photo to La Madama with yet another boat I didn’t catch disappearing into the distance. You can just make it out if you look carefully. 

The chessplayer managed to finish in 20th place out of 120 odd chess addicts of different ages and qualities. We were kind of hoping he might manage to win the veteran’s prize (prize for the player over 55 with the highest score) for the fifth year running but although he had the same score as the actual winner he was pipped to the post because of the tie-break system. So it goes! 

Sitting around waiting for games to finish and the prize-giving to begin, I got to know the eventual overall winner, Aleksa Strikovic, a little better. Until today I really had little more than a nodding acquaintance despite his being a friend of a friend. Today we had a chat. He tells me he has difficulty sometimes expressing himself in his own language. He is a Serb who has lived in Spain for so long that Spanish has become his first language. As for reading, Spanish wins hands down. How weird it must be to find yourself forgetting your own language. I know that there are some items of vocabulary that my sister knows only in Spanish, certain items of food that we just didn’t have in the UK on a regular basis when she moved out to Spain some 36 years ago but she doesn’t have any trouble speaking English. 

We also discussed things like the salaries of politicians and bankers, generally agreeing that on the whole both these groups seem to expect to be paid far more than they deserve. After all, how much money can you actually spend? How many cars can you drive at one time? Do you really need a boat? 

Mr Strikovic won a boat ... but it’s made of local pottery. He did win some cash as well. 

And now that we’ve got the Carlos I Silgar Chess Tournament out of the way, we can concentrate on the Tour de France which started yesterday. It started with a bit of chaos, as is often the case. Usually it’s rain making riders fall of their bikes. Not so this year. The Tour began in Corsica in the kind of oppressive heat that we had here. At some point towards the end of the day’s riding, one of the team buses got stuck under the finishing line barrier and couldn’t move. So they decided to move the finishing line back a few kilometres. Almost as soon as this decision had been communicated to the riders, the bus driver managed to reverse his bus and the Tour organisers chose to reverse their decision. This caused so mush confusion that it contributed to a crash and favourites such as Froome and Contador didn’t cross the line first. I’m sure Marcel Kittel is very pleased to be wearing the yellow jersey but it was a bit unexpected. 

Last year’s hero Bradley Wiggins has decided not to compete so I’m going to have to root for Froome or the Manxman, Mark Cavendish. I suppose I could just go back to supporting Albeeerto Contadooor, provided he avoids doping problems this time, especially as my other Spanish sporting hero, Rafa Nadal, has been knocked out of Wimbledon.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

You can’t always get what you want ... but usually it works out OK.

I t was 16° on the paseo marítimo at 9.15 this morning. Every day it’s been one degree hotter. By now, late afternoon, early evening, it must be close to 30°. Even some of the Spanish are declaring it’s too hot. I think the Ga;licians talk about tyhe weather almost as much as the British!

Yesterday I walked about in the sun with Ian from Australia, mostly around Portonovo. 

The idea was to take Ian on a boat ride to the Isla de Ons. I’d checked boat times the day before and worked out that if Ian caught the bus from Pontevedra at 11, we could make it to the harbour in time for the 12.15 boat. Then we could spend an hour or two exploring the island, stopping for a sandwich en route and then a drink before catching the 5 o’clock boat back to Sanxenxo. 

That was the plan, at any rate. However, the plane was moderated as the day went on. First of all, Ian’s bus set off late from Pontevedra and it was almost 12 when he got here. We hoofed it down to the harbour to find that the ticket booth had not been open all morning, or indeed all yesterday according to the chap in the yacht hire place next door. Then we saw a boat setting off from Portonovo. Something was clearly not right. 

Taking a closer look at the boat timetable, we discovered the small print that said that these times began on July 1st. Until then, there were only boats from Sanxenxo on Saturdays and Sundays. Presumably the one I saw on Monday was because it was a día festivo. 

So we walked to Portonovo to see what was going on there. In the ticket office there, we found a timetable saying that there was a boat at 4.00 and that the ticket office, in the booth next door, would open at 3.30. So we abandoned the idea of a picnic lunch on la Isla de Ons and went and had octopus and baby sardines and salad along with a clara at a nice place near the harbour. All very relaxed. Very tasty. 

At 3.40 we wended our way back to the ticket office. No-one there: so we duly looked at the booth next door. There, just around the other side, was a small printed notice about special sailings on Friday 28th June: 12.00 – the one we saw leaving – and 18.00. As the only boat back was at 19.00, that was really not a lot of use to us. We would have arrived at the island just in time to turn round and come back again. And as the purpose of the trip was to have a good walk around the island, we abandoned the idea. It briefly crossed our minds that we could pretend we had gone and that both our cameras had mysteriously stopped working when we got there but we decided that would be a silliness too far. 

As a result we walked a bit further round Portonovo, found some steps leading down to a bit of a rocky cove and watched the owl and pussy cat almost going to sea in a pea-green boat: well, actually two girls in a banana-yellow inflatable dinghy (not, I hasten to add, in the photo). Just as we were convinced that they would be washed out into the Atlantic, they started to row in earnest and managed to get back into the shallow waters closer to the beach. Hurray! I really didn’t know who I should have telephoned if they had started shouting for help! 

After all that excitement we needed another refresco and sat and watched the world go by – slowly – and solved all the problems of modern society like a fine pair of grumpy old folk! 

Then we made our leisurely way back to Sanxenxo to get ready for “arroz con bogavante”. For last night was the annual chess tournament special dinner to which only selected people are invited. We feel rather privileged. 

Our friend Colin from Pontevedra joined us for the dinner. Here are Ian, Colin and Phil preparing to enjoy their food. 

Croquetas, pulpo (twice in one day!), something that I decided to call prawn lollipops ...

... and finally the pièce de résistance, the thing we had all come for: the lobster and rice dish. 

This was all excellent fare and went down nicely with a very good, chilled Albariño wine. 

The day may not have gone totally according to plan but I think I can confidently say that a good time was had by all.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

What was that dish called?

The sun is still shining.

We've even seen some chaps making hay while the sun shines: making it the old fashioned way, chopping the grass with a scythe and tossing it around.

When we go down to lunch here at the hotel, practically the first thing we do is ask what the three courses are going to be today. This is a precautionary measure to prevent us from being faced with something we really just can’t eat. It also gives us an idea of how much is coming so that we can pace ourselves and just have two courses if we feel like it. 

Today we asked our usual question and received the reply, “Mejillones”, after which the waiter disappeared. So the mussels came and Phil didn’t fancy them so his were taken away again, to be replaced by the second course: “Croquetas”, accompanied by the thinnest chips imaginable, potato sticks in fact. We managed to pin the waiter down long enough to enquire about the third course. What he said sounded something like “fee day WA”, which meant nothing to me at all and which I found difficult to imagine how to spell. It soon became clear that it meant little to many of our fellow lunchers, to judge by the “What’s that?” questions that kept popping up. We got an explanation of sorts: a kind of fish stew or soup or something. 

In the meantime they had offered Phil an omelette with salad to replace the mussels, which I thought was very reasonable of them. This did mean, however, that when the third course appeared he was already full and had no room for anything else So I had the fishy stew and asked once more what it was called: “fideuà”. 

It turns out to be a Catalán dish and my enquiring about it got us into conversation with the Cataláns at the next table. Mrs Catalán told me how to make “fideuà”: quite easy but I think that my own fish stew which contains a glass of white wine is superior. 

We finished off with a “tarta de fruta”, which Phil also turned his nose up at. So he had chocolate and vanilla ice cream. 

And then back to the room for last minute prep ready for this afternoon’s chess game. Yesterday’s turned into a draw: not brilliant but better than a loss. We shall see what today brings. 

Yesterday the Celta player who has been sold to Liverpool was interviewed in one of the papers. Asked how he felt about moving to Liverpool he told them: “Será complicado porque llego a un nuevo club, soy un fichaje nuevo, es la primera vez que salgo de casa. Será una liga diferente para mí.” Roughly translated: “It’ll be complicated because I’m going to a new club, I’m a new recruit, it’s the first time I’ve been away from home. I’ll be in a different league.” What struck me was that this is the first time he’s been away from home. And Liverpool have paid £9 million for him. I hope they look after him. It’s too easy for young lads to go haywire the first time they’re away from home. 

And finally, out and about this morning I spotted a shop selling sailing stuff. Here’s a photo of the sign: no prizes for spotting the Spanglish. 

 Back to the drawing board for them, I think.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Sanxenxo Progress.

Well, the chess player had a nicely winning position against the Portuguese prodigy last night and messed it up. As you can imagine, he was not pleased. He needed a couple of cañas to bring him round after such a shock. At the moment he’s slogging it out against another whizz kid but this one is at least on the verge of manhood – aged about 20 I think. 

The sun keeps on shining here. The temperature gauge on the prom read 27° at lunchtime. It’s quite a shock to the system after the rather chilly damp weather of last week. But am I complaining? Not one bit. I’ve got my sun hat and my sun glasses and there’s the pool to fall into at regular intervals. Life is good. 

Lunch was also good today: crepe de mariscos followed by chipirrones. 


There was something heavy and meaty to follow that but we opted out. I notice that we are not the only ones who do this. The Catalans on the table next to ours regularly ask for a salad instead of one of the courses. 

 Part of our routine is to pop out to a cafe round the corner before the chess match starts: a little cortado starts the chess brain working. There I found this cartoon in today’s paper: 

Liverpool has just paid £9 million pound for Iago Aspas, a Celta de Vigo player. Maybe they are singing the Liverpool song because they expect other to follow him from Celta’s Balaídos stadium to Liverpool. This is what happens, you see. You manage to stay up in the first division and along comes someone to make you offers you can’t refuse for your players. It’s a funny old world. 

I mentioned the Australian PM, Julia Gillard yesterday. Well, it turns out her party has given her the sack, voted her out of office and replaced her with Kevin Rudd, the bloke she ousted last time round. Is it the knitting, I wonder? Or is it because Russell Crowe spoke out in her defence and said that she should be treated with respect? 

In the pool yesterday I heard a small boy talking about what games he plans to get up to when his cousin Pelayo arrives. My ears pricked up because I remember a rather annoying Pelayo from last year. Well, not so much an annoying Pelayo as the annoying mother of said child. She was one of those Spaniards who pronounce the letter Y like the “dg” in English words such as “hedge”. So her son’s name became Peladgio. And she said it a lot. It was all, “Peladgio, come here”, “Peladgio, don’t do that”, “Peladgio, do this” and so on and on and on. And they spent a good deal of time in the pool. 

Despite all my finger crossing, as we strolled out yesterday evening, in search of consolation cañas, I saw ahead of me a family with one child in a buggy and another curly-haired, blonde child of about 6, a proper Little Lord Fauntleroy of a child. It was, however, the mother I recognised first from her rather self-important way of walking. Yes, it was Peladgio and family. 

 I suppose that if we can come back here year on year, then so can they. I would prefer them to keep out of my way, though. 

They’ve not shown up yet at the pool. So there is still hope.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Names and words and such.

Strolling along the prom yesterday I went past an ice cream shop. In large letters a notice said: Crea tu helado con los nuevos toppings. OK, so you can create your own ice cream with their new “toppings”. 

This is a borrowing I have not met before. I wonder if it will eventually change its spelling to “topin”. And then how do they decide whether borrowed words are masculine or feminine? Certainly all the “” words are masculine: el parking, el camping. Of course they aren’t quite used in their original English way. Parking and camping are rather different in English to what they are in Spanish, and in French for that matter. And then there are the odd ones: every morning I go out and do “el footing”, a word that has no meaning whatsoever in English but has become the Spanish for “jogging”. 

I came across another one in the newspaper. It was the report of a society wedding somewhere in England. Don’t even ask me what a Spanish newspaper was doing reporting a society wedding in England. These things happen. Anyway, the headline read: Una boda de postín. I assume it means a wedding worth posting about, as in Facebook, Twitter and such like. Again, this is a weird use of English. The article described the wedding, which took place in Harry Potter’s castle (is that a real place nowadays?), as “la boda más pija desde la de Guillermo y Kate”. In other words, “the poshest wedding since William and Kate’s. 

I note that while William still becomes Guillermo, Kate has stopped being Catalina. Is she not old-royal enough to merit the translation? 

 I rather like the word “pijo” for posh and snobby. Victoria Beckham, the fashion designer formerly known as Posh Spice, is “La Spice Pija” in Spanish newspapers. She and David have been reported visiting Beijing, which the Spanish still call Pekín. (Well, they still call London Londres so at least they are consistent. The British have decided to call Peking and Bombay by names something approaching their original forms but we still don’t call Rome Roma. I’m not sure whether we still call Zaragoza Saragossa. The whole thing has got rather silly in my view.) La Spice Pija was described window-shopping while husband David did something to do with promoting football: “Vestida de negro, con gafas de sol y cara de pocos amigos, la Spice Pija se fue de escaparates” – “Dressed in black, wearing sunglasses and with a miserable face, Posh Spice went window-shopping”. Isn’t that a lovely expression for miserable, “con cara de pocos amigos” – with a face like someone who has few friends? 

It’s not just the Spanish and the French who borrow our words. Here’s a link  to an article about German borrowings from the Guardian newspaper. 

On the other side of the world, the Australian Prime Minister has been getting stick for letting herself be photographed and appearing on the front cover of the Australian Women’s Weekly. The problem is that she was snapped knitting. I’m not sure whether the objection was to the knitting per se or the fact that she was knitting a woolly kangaroo for the soon to be third in line for the throne of the United Kingdom. 

Here the sun is still shining. 

The chess player is facing the youngest player in the tournament today: a ten year old Portuguese bright spark. This could be a great psychological challenge as much as anything else. 

Results tomorrow.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Another day in the sun!

Statistics say that spring 2013 was the coldest in Galicia since 1986 and the wettest for 50 years. I can believe it. Amazingly we have gone straight into midsummer. Today the beach here is more crowded than ever. I imagine that people are taking advantage of the día festivo – fiesta de San Juan. These saints do come in useful after all. 

At midnight last night we could hear fireworks going off but from our balcony you couldn’t see a thing apart from the rooftops opposite. If we had rushed down to the seafront we might have seen something, I suppose. According to something I read, only Poio has had bonfires on its beaches to celebrate San Juan. Marín, a place across the bay, and Sanxenxo itself banned beach bonfires a couple of years ago. Local youths will have to find another way of foretelling who they will marry and assuring themselves good fortune; no leaping over bonfires for them. 

Both places claim they banned them for ecological reasons. Cynics say that Sanxenxo, at least, doesn’t want to lose the blue flag status of its beaches by having tourists sunbathing next to charred remains of bonfires and who knows what else. I asked one of the waiters in our hotel about it. He maintains that they make a big thing of it in La Coruña because they have a lot of young people seeking “la juerga” – exciting night life – whereas Sanxenxo has a much more sedate clientele. He didn’t actually say the last bit but it was somewhat implied. And you can see that it caters for families and older people, not the wild youth. 
The local church doorway was nicely decorated, though. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with San Juan or not.

There is a group of what could be Saga tourists here, pensioners in a group, based here in Sanxenxo but having days out here and there around the region. One or two I’ve run into in the lift have been relieved to hear English spoken. I’m not sure why this is as the reception staff all speak good English and I’ve heard the waiters in the dining room speak English, French and Portuguese as well, of course as Spanish – Castellano, Gallego AND Catalán. Pretty impressive. 

The Saga tourists have breakfast and evening meal here and have expressed their amazement at the timing of the evening meal (8.30 to 10.30, so not excessively late by Spanish standards, praise for the high standards of the food and dismay at the huge amounts they are expected to eat!! I can sympathise with the last. For lunch today we ate a “brocheta de gambas” and “pollo”. 

In between there should have been “huevos con jamón” but we passed on that and only had the first and third course. The staff were anxious to press something else on us, concerned that maybe we just didn’t like ham. They are extremely helpful and flexible about the food. Dessert was “crema catalana”, not a favourite for either of us. So they served us ice cream instead. All good stuff. 

The chess player won his game yesterday. Today, while I have been doing twenty lengths of the pool and sunning myself, oh yes, and watching a sun umbrella take off in the sudden high wind and sail over the fence to crash down onto the street below, he has been slaving away once again. When I took him an energising coffee a short while ago he was not optimistic about an easy win. 

We shall see!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Day 2 in Sanxenxo.

Really, I suppose, this should be called day 3 since we arrived mid-afternoon on Friday but it still feels like day 2 so that’s what it will be called. 

The chess player fought manfully yesterday and lost what he considered to be a won game. These things happen. Maybe today will be better. 

Afterwards we went out for a drink and a snack at the Castelao, a cafetería just up the road from our hotel. The meals at the hotel are far too copious for us to consider full board but we wanted a little something. An ensalada mixta and a bit of tortilla would fit the bill, we thought. When the ensalada arrived it was, of course, sufficient for four people. We actually knew this in advance and had tried to persuade them to give us a smaller serving. All to no avail. “Viene en un bol”, said the young lady – it comes in a bowl. But why can’t they just put a little less in the bowl? The price is very reasonable so they wouldn’t need to feel they were cheating anyone. And besides, Spaniards are not renowned for eating lots of salad so why do they need to serve such generous portions? One of life’s mysteries! They make a good salad, however, and their tortilla is excellent. 

This morning I had no strange encounters during my run. All to the good. I prefer my morning runs simple and straightforward. 

Some time after breakfast and after checking the papers online and the usual sort of morning stuff, we walked round the coast to nearby Portonovo. The beach at Sanxenxo was already starting to fill up and we came across more people making their way down laden with folding chairs and cool-bags full of provisions. The Spaniards take their beach-days seriously. 

Most of the walk to Portonovo is along a boardwalk through dunes planted with wild flowers and various kinds of grass, presumably to prevent the dunes from blowing away. And the wind was fairly strong this morning: real hold-on-to-your-hat weather. 
Portonovo has some nice little beaches of its own, perhaps a bit more downmarket than Sanxenxo’s Silgar but worth visiting. After all, though, in the end a beach is just a beach. 

There are also some interesting bits of statuary. 

I am waiting to see whether bonfires will be lit on the beaches here for the feast of San Juan. They make a big thing of the bonfires on La Coruña’s Riazor beach so it will be interesting to see what Sanxenxo does. This year San Juan, 24th June, falls on a Monday and has been chosen as a día festivo - more or less a bank holiday. Some of these are fixed throughout Spain but others, like San Juan are optional. Galicia has decided to make it an official holiday. 

 I know this because I overheard an argument in a cafe on Wednesday and decided to check up on it. There was also some hilarity about celebrations in Santiago de Compostela. Apparently it’s highly amusing that Santiago (Saint James) should be celebrating San Juan (Saint John). 

You maybe need to be Galician to get the joke.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Things in their place.

Thank goodness the chess tournament has started. I thought I’d never get the chess player off the computer. I’ve barely got my hands on the keyboard for more than a few minutes for days. Anyway, here we are finally at Sanxenxo. The playing has begun. All down there in the depths is tension and the clicking of chess clocks. 

Me, I’ve been in the pool. I was in the pool in the cloudy, overcast weather so, naturally, since I came out, showered and got myself sorted the sky has cleared and the sun has come out properly. Almost time to go and sit on the terraza with a little clara, I think. 

That’s the sun back in its place. 
Here are few more things out of place. 

On Thursday I accompanied Phil down into Vigo centre for a pre-chess tournament haircut. In the barber’s we came across this:- Una urraca – a (baby) magpie. 

The barbers found it in the road about three weeks ago, all scrawny and at death’s door. They never expected it to live but drop fed it I don’t know what kind of stuff and it survived. So on Thursday they installed it on its perch in the barber’s shop. They just need three more so they can teach them to be a barber shop quartet. 

Then yesterday, Friday, we set off for Sanxenxo: train to Pontevedra and bus from there to Sanxenxo. Not a bad journey but with a few oddities on the way. On the train the public address system, both visual and audio, went haywire. 

This was a stopping train, calling at every possible little station along the way. We had called at Redondela and Redondela-Picota when the p.a. system informed us that the next station would be Redondela. Strange! Had the train started to go backwards without our noticing it? After that it told us we were approaching Arcade but it looked a lot like Pontevedra to me. And indeed it WAS Pontevedra. 

Heaven help any poor soul who didn’t know the line and was relying on the p.a. system. The RENFE employee checking tickets didn’t seem to notice any of this and just marched up and down the train without saying anything. I wonder if you could sue RENFE if you missed your station because they told you the wrong station was coming up. 

Fortunately we are seasoned travellers, on that line anyway, and hopped off the train and hurried over to the nearby bus station to catch the bus to Sanxenxo. Only five minutes wait, as well. Such organisation! 

As the bus toiled its way through Pontevedra – it takes about twenty minutes to get from the bus station to the bridge which takes you across the river into Poio and you could probably walk it in half the time – I noticed one of those temperature signs outside a chemist’s shop. 40° was what it said. Now, I know the sun had come out but that was a bit of an exaggeration. 14° at the most. 

When we finally crossed the bridge over to Poio I spotted our friend Colin standing on the corner bending someone’s ear about something or other. At least he was where he should be! No time to bang on the window and wave so I sent him a quick text instead. 

  And eventually we reached our destination. What’s more the sun was shining and the sky was blue. 

I even managed a dip in the pool in the late afternoon, early evening. 
This morning I was up bright and early and out for a run down the promenade. 

On my way I was accosted by one of the local loonies, a rather dishevelled-looking chap who tried to engage me in conversation. It went like this: 

Rather dishevelled-looking chap: Hola 
Me: a vague wave, trying to imply, “I have no idea who you are”. 
Rather dishevelled-looking chap: Do you spik Inglish? 
Me: Yes. 
Rather dishevelled-looking chap: Do you are Elisabet? 
Me: No. 
Rather dishevelled-looking chap: Do you know Segovia? 
Me: No. Creo que usted se equivoca. No soy Elisabeth y no conozco Segovia. 
Rather dishevelled-looking chap: Ya nos volveremos a ver. 

 That last bit meant we’ll see each other again. Not if I see you first, thought I. I did see him again as I ran back but fortunately he didn’t see me. Maybe I need a new running route. 

But for now, I hear a clara calling me.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Smoke gets in your eyes.

When the smoking ban in Spain was reinforced so that bars and restaurants could no longer have a smoking room inside the establishment, many places simply enclosed their terrazas and made these the smoking areas instead. This solution is fine so long as customers don’t object to walking through a fog to get into the smoke-free interior. AND so long as the adjoining door is kept closed!!! 

As you might have guessed, in the last few days I have been to a number of establishments where the door separating the addicts from those of us seeking a slightly healthier lifestyle has been left open. Sometimes it’s carelessness. Sometimes it’s so that a smoker can get his/her fix but also continue a conversation with a friend who prefers to stay inside, usually a conversation shared with everyone else in the place as it goes on at top volume. In one place, it’s the owner who goes and stands just barely outside the door so that she can have a cigarette while keeping an eye on her domain. Now, I don’t mind getting up and closing the odd door but I’m not tackling that particular dragon. She might stop giving me free food with my beer. But the gradual drift of smoke into the allegedly smoke-free zone is rather annoying. 

Of course, it’s not just here in Spain. In the UK it’s become a regular thing to have to run the gauntlet of a band of hardy smokers just outside the door to a pub. A case of hold your breath and run! 

Sitting in one of these partially contaminated venues yesterday, I was reading the British papers online. Despite the G8 summit going on, this is a bit of a “slow news” time. Consequently we’ve been treated to stories about David Cameron going “wild swimming”. Perhaps trying to emulate President Putin’s early morning swims in preparation for his day’s politicking, DC has been swimming in an Irish lough/lake early in the morning before the conference. Maybe he’s trying to impress us with his derring-do. This may be so but I’m not sure that Prime Ministers are supposed to set us such examples. Aren’t lakes quite dangerous places to swim in? Does swimming in the sea count as “wild” swimming as well? No idea. I’ve not even made it into the pool yet this summer. 

Another story I spotted was the sad tale of Nigella Lawson, celebrity cook, exponent of the art of sexy cooking and generally regarded as a happy rich person, in a restaurant where her rich husband was seen trying to throttle her. He maintains that this was just play-fighting. Really? I’ve never been much of a believer in that kind of play; I tend to think it leads on to the real thing. Nigella has been quiet about it and the rich husband has “accepted” the police caution he was given, in order to avoid complicated explanations if the case had to go to court or so he says. Again I say, really? There have been some outraged comments along the lines of “how can this happen to the Nigella Lawsons of this world?” just as if domestic violence was the preserve of the less financially fortunate. I don’t think it’s any respecter of status! 

Anyway, having read a few things I decided to change papers and took a look at the Telegraph, clicked on an article and had a little message pop up. Apparently we have looked at the allocated number of free articles available to us this month on the Telegraph. If we want to read more than headlines online we need to subscribe. 

Well, goodness me! Right wing stinginess! 

Back to the Guardian for me!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Getting to Galicia.

This morning when I looked out of the window at about 8.30, there was a cruise ship down in the port, one of those huge ones that overshadow the A Laxe shopping centre and even the horrible hotel that normally dominates that area. No room for anything else to moor next to the Estación Marítima. The boat must have arrived early. Some arrive at 8.00 am. I imagine sleepy holiday-makers wandering into a city not yet awake. 

It’s just as well they didn’t come yesterday; between rain and cloud they wouldn’t have seen much. On reflection first thing in the morning it wasn’t bad but it was starting to drizzle when I walked down into town to the hairdresser’s, by the time I walked back it was worse and it just got steadily heavier as the day went on. 

Today, however, the rain seemed to have gone and so the boat people will have seen the city at its best, or maybe its second best as the cloud has come over again as the day has progressed. The floating hotel set off again under grey skies at about 5.30 this afternoon. 

You need the kind of blue sky and baking sunshine that we remember from our very first visit here in order to really see the place at its best. And I don’t suppose any of them have had time to get out to the Islas Cíes, not unless they did their homework before coming and knew where to catch the ferry boat. Mind you, maybe they had had enough of boats by the time they got here. You never know. 

By all accounts, the islands should have more visitors than ever this summer. I’ve read that Ryanair is using the Islas Cíes as part of their advertising campaign to promote their flights from Stansted to Santiago de Compostela not, as might logically be expected, Vigo, but thereby hangs another tale. 

In one respect it’s perhaps appropriate that an airline that expects its passengers to pick up all rubbish before they leave the plane should make use of islands that won’t let you leave any rubbish behind as part of their publicity. Of course, in Ryanair’s case it’s all in the interests of a “quick turnaround” at each airport, while in the case of the Islas Cíes it’s for ecological reasons. 

Once again I notice that flights direct from the UK to Galicia still favour those who live close to London. We northern types have to use our ingenuity to get here. 

Of course, it may just be that signing Ryanair up to fly to Santiago is part of the supposed plot to do down Vigo’s Peinador airport. According to a leaflet thrust into our hands at the weekend, the Xunta de Galicia and President Feijóo are working together through direct or indirect financial aid to help develop Santiago’s airport, at the expense of Vigo’s, of course. And this despite the fact the Vigo is the biggest city in Galicia, or maybe because of that: a case of sour grapes, as the regional capital, Santiago, doesn’t like to appear smaller and less important. 

Even the flights between Vigo and Madrid are now using smaller and less efficient planes, apparently, leading to fewer passengers going through Peinador. The leaflet explains that this is COMPETENCIA DESLEAL, in other words, Peinador cannot compete on an equal footing with the other Galician airports. Why does it have to compete? Have they not heard of co-operation? Working together to get more flights here and fewer into Oporto? 

Oh, the joys of local politics!! 

 Anyway, the leaflet invites us to go along to Puerta del Sol (or perhaps I should really say Porta do Sol, as the leaflet is in gallego) tomorrow at 8.30 in the evening and add our voices to theirs: 

grita con nós en defensa do aeroporto, en defensa de VIGO!!!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Out and about again.

Walking up to the Castro in the sunshine yesterday we went past a cafe where people were sitting out on the terraza. At one end a woman was nursing a drink. On the table in front of her was a plate of tapas. Seagulls were hovering around the area, on the scrounge as usual. Suddenly two of them dive-bombed the table, intent on stealing the food that the woman was clearly not eating. To get at the table they practically had to go into the covered terraza, something I’ve often seen pigeons do but rarely seagulls. It was rather frightening for us as simple passers-by so what it was like for the poor woman sitting at the table must have been even greater. These are huge birds with very fearsome beaks. If one of those lands on a cafe table it almost fills it. Aggressive seagull season!!! 

 A little further on and in more peaceful mode we saw the crazy horses at the top of Gran Vía. They’ve been turned into supporters of Celta de Vigo, no doubt celebrating the local teams continued presence in the first division. Celta has managed to stay up by the skin of its teeth, unlike poor Deportivo La Coruña, relegated this year. 

 Up at the Castro everything was looking very green ... and rather crowded. I think there was at least one coach party visiting. 

The old gents who usually play cards on top of the hedges had migrated to a more shady spot and were actually sitting down to play. Old age and sunshine finally getting to them perhaps! 

I’ve just read in the newspapers online about an accident in Liverpool. Since the Albert Docks were touristified it has been possible to do tours of the city in what they call Yellow Duckmarines. The tour finishes with a “splashdown” into the dock. Yesterday one of them sank and the passengers had to be rescued from the water, successfully, I hasten to add. 

Now, I’ve seen these vehicles around the Albert Dock area. They look just like the WWII amphibious vessels that we used to see on Southport beach in my childhood, small landing vessels that my father always told us were “ducks”. If they are the selfsame vehicles, it’s no wonder one of them sank yesterday. 

Apparently it’s not the first time either. In March the fleet of four “ducks” was ordered out of the water after one of them sank, without passengers on that occasion. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had a ride in one during the royal visit to Liverpool as part of the Jubilee Tour. 

 Just think: Prince Charles might have been king by now if they had travelled in the faulty vehicle.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

We’re back!

On Thursday we flew from Liverpool to Oporto and considered ourselves lucky to have had a problem-free flight. Problems with air traffic controllers in France left people stranded all over the place apparently. But we made it - just too late, of course, for the last bus to Vigo and so we stayed overnight in Oporto. Off the plane, straight onto a metro to Trindade Station in the centre of Oporto and a quick walk to the hotel we usually stay at whenever we arrive too late to go straight on to Vigo: the Residencial Vera Cruz, just off Avenida Aliados. 

We were planning to have a quick drink so we went out for a stroll around but instead of going into a local bar we ended up back at the hotel where they have just opened up a rooftop bar, open until midnight. On balance, this was a mistake, despite the beautiful view down onto Aliados by night. Two small beers each, the size of the average caña, cost us a total of €16. Hotel prices, I suppose! 

 There were some interesting mistranslations in the lift and around the hotel. Among other things, the lift advised “passengers and load to stand back from the access”. In the room was a notice informing us that the “Management do not accept any responsibility for the values witch are not handed in to reception”. The French was not much better. So it goes. On the other hand, I heard the receptionist switch confidently from Portuguese to Spanish to French to English according to the language in which he was addressed by guests. Impressive!!! 

Friday morning saw us tucking into a nice breakfast of fresh bread rolls before catching the AUTNA bus outside the posh McDonalds on Aliados. A rather grey morning in Oporto improved as we got closer to Vigo and by the time we got here the sky was blue and the sun was shining nicely. 

By then it was late lunchtime so we dumped the suitcases and headed down town for lunch and then a bit of a walkabout and an extra coffee while we waited for the Vodafone shop to open. We wanted to recharge our mobile internet dongle. Last time we did this we were told that we had accumulated credit and could add it this time round. For a month’s internet use you pay €19. They then add VAT (another little scam to make you think you are paying less than is really the case) and finally round it up so that you pay €25. Over the various times that we have recharged the dongle we had accumulated around €10. I have no idea how this works but we have now got our “savings” back! 
During our walkabout, we admired the improved/restored galerías at the edge of the old quarter of Vigo. 

 And I saw this shoe-mender’s sign which I rather liked. Why is it that cobblers are also key-cutters? This is not just a Spanish thing; it also happens in the UK. 

And finally we took a quick look at the concert programme outside the Centro Cultural NovaCaixaGalicia, fully expecting to find that the concert season was over. Serendipity worked; the final concert was last night! 

We managed to get tickets, contacted my friend Dominique and arranged to meet there. 

 So: a bit of Wagner, followed by something very modern and strange that no-one I spoke to really liked but which was interesting and then Stravinsky’s Firebird. And then a couple or three glasses of wine and some rather expensive snacks down on the alameda to finish the evening off. 

A final stagger home and our summer in Vigo had begun!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Turning the tables.

When we travel around other countries of Europe we are often amused, and occasionally annoyed, by the ridiculously bad translations of menu items from whatever the language of the country happens to be into English. We see it as well in museums and stately homes on explanatory notices. It’s also there in tourist office brochures. Today I have come across the reverse. 

In Uppermill, the biggest of the villages that together make up Saddleworth, a new restaurant opened last August. Its name: Rioja. Its description: Tapas bar. It’s on the main street and has what it refers to as “the secret garden” round the back. 

Now, I’ve never been in so I can’t comment on the food. It gets some good reviews on Trip Advisor but also a few bad ones, although those were mostly about it being a bit cramped. 

Here’s a sample of a good one: 

“Visited Uppermill on a wet Saturday lunchtime and noticed Rioja tapas restaurant. Liked the look of the menu and took my mother in for lunch. Not crowded, but a lovely ambience and a warm welcome from Karen. All the dishes we ordered were excellent, particularly the patatas bravos and the albondigas. Good sized portions - more like raciones than tapas. The aioli was superb! 

 The talented chef is a 22 year-old Englishman who must have spent quite some time in Spain.” 

Someone else described the food as “Best tapas ever”. Somehow I doubt that because I’ve been to San Sebastián where they do have the most excellent tapas. And I’ve had some pretty good ones in Santiago de Compostela. 

However, until I’ve actually sampled their wares it would be churlish of me to comment. Although I do think it’s a brave Englishman who tries to compete with the Spanish in the field of tapas. 

Anyway, this morning as I came to the end of my run I stopped to have a look at the menu. I didn’t get very far before I had to take a snapshot of part of that menu. 

I can just about accept that someone writing a review talks about “patatas bravOS” but I really think that a professionally printed menu should not talk about “calamares fritO”, “frito mixtA” or “GAMAS al ajillo” instead of “gamBas”. No adjective agreement and poor spelling. It wouldn’t have done in my GCSE Spanish classes, I can tell you. 

You can call me picky but the 22 year-old Englishman may be a talented chef but either he didn’t pick up much Spanish grammar while learning to cook or his professional training didn’t include proof-reading the menu before he put it up. Possibly both those things apply. 

Oh dear! It’s a good job I’m off to Galicia soon!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Sudden onset kettle breakdown.

Our kettle yesterday developed a form of kettle dementia. Just as a person can go into a room, go upstairs, go to s specific cupboard and then completely lose track of the purpose of that action, so our kettle forgot its purpose in life. I filled the kettle with water, put the switch to the “on” position and waited. Precisely nothing happened. I checked that everything was switched on. I even gave it another chance. I noted that its little red indicator light had come on but still nothing happened. Two hours previously it had worked fine. Somewhere over the space of those two hours it had forgotten how to boil water. I had to resort to boiling water in a pan on the hob top. 

Working on the principle that taking a gadget apart and putting it back together can help – yes, really, please do not mock, it always worked with my sewing machine – Phil took the kettle to pieces and reassembled it. Still nothing! As our grandson would say: EPIC FAIL!! 

A new kettle was obviously the only solution. So Phil did what he always does in such situations: he went off to research kettle on the internet. This is one of his things. Whatever gadget you need to buy, always do the research to get the best deal. For years we subscribed to Which Magazine and had info about all kinds of equipment and gadgets. Now we have the internet. 

Anyway, research was done. Did you know that you can pay silly money for kettles? We found one on sale for almost £200!!! And these are just the ones you can buy from Tesco. My goodness, for that price I would expect it to put the tea bag in the teapot and pour the tea for me. AND wash the cups up afterwards. 

Now, I appreciate the effort put into this search for the ideal kettle but I live in the world of real kettles. Once there I did that woman thing of seeing what they have in store and then selecting on criteria such as colour, shape and whether it matches the rest of my kitchen. 

Job done!