At midnight last night, or thereabouts, we could hear fireworks going off but we could see nothing at all from our hotel balcony. It was the "Noche de San Juan", the eve of the feast day of Saint John, John the Baptist I think. On the night of the 23rd of June in Spain and Portugal and indeed in all sorts of places all over the world, including Norway and Denmark, bonfires are lit. According to Wikipedia this is a Christian, but also pagan, festival. Well, of course, celebrating the summer solstice and incorporating it into the Christian calendar. That sort of thing happened a lot.
Here the tradition is that you should jump over the bonfire as it dies down. The more times you manage to leap over it, the more good fortune you will have. Some say it also cements your relationship with your boyfriend/girlfriend. The local newspaper yesterday had information about where to go to see a good San Juan bonfire. It said A Coruña's Riazor beach is one of the best places. I can vouch for that. The year I saw it, the beach was full of bonfires, all rather too close to each other for my liking. My British awareness of health and safety issues was coming to the fore. But the sight was quite spectacular.
During the day people carried stuff down to the beach to build their bonfires. There were police at the access points, preventing people from getting rid of their old sofas and other dangerously toxic rubbish. In the places that allow bonfires on the beach, they try to control what goes onto the fires.
Many places don't allow bonfires on the beach. We asked at the restaurant where we ate last night if there was one near here. Sanxenxo's Silgar beach bans fires; it's too close to the town centre, apparently. That does not appear to affect things in A Coruña though. But they make a very big thing about it there, with a kind of "statue", similar to the "fallas" of Valencia, usually depicting something satirical about the local council. They set fire to it with great ceremony at midnight.
The nearest one our waitress knew about was in Poio, rather too far for a late evening stroll. This morning, however, we found the remains of a fair-sized bonfire in a little square at the junction of several backstreets. (We tend to find all the back ways in places we visit.) it was still smouldering away nicely. I was reminded of the morning after Bonfire Night in my childhood, when we would go out into the garden to see if we could coax the fire back into life and extend the fun a little longer. The attraction of fire must be universal.
Even if I were daft enough to leap over any bonfire, I would not have liked to leap over the bonfire whose remains we found, a good six feet across, practically the long jump as far as I am concerned. In yesterday's paper there was a little section on advice about burns. Along with the usual stuff about not bursting blisters and not applying cream there was this little item: "First of all, if you are jumping bonfires, always wear cotton clothing, never synthetics". Good advice; synthetic fabrics tend to melt into the skin, aggravating the burn. My advice, however, would be much simpler: DON'T JUMP OVER BONFIRES!!!!
In some parts of Italy, I discovered, the 24th of June is a public holiday. In Florence, a parade traditionally occurs at the city centre, followed by fireworks over the Arno River in the evening. The web page where I found that information went on, "A popular activity while watching the fireworks is eating gelato, which is similar to ice cream." How amazing, "gelato", the Italian for ice cream, is "similar to ice cream". Who knew?
Similar to ice cream is frozen yoghurt, something which has become very popular in recent years. I suspect someone decided it was healthier than ordinary ice cream. Mind you, with the amount of sugar that some yoghurts contain, this is probably not the case. Anyway, there is a chain of frozen yoghurt parlours (there's another term to play with!) called Smóoy. There's one on the promenade here in Sanxenxo. I have often wondered exactly how the Spanish pronounce it. Well, yesterday I saw an advert for it on TV. A crazy-looking young man was yelling into his mobile "¡Estoy en Smóoy!" Pronounced to rhyme with "estoy", it comes out as " ess...mo...oy", with the stress on the middle "mo". So now I know!
I returned to the indoor pool yesterday (la piscina climatizada) as it was still a little chilly for outdoor swimming, even for me. Down I went in the lift, hotel bathrobe over my swimsuit, my door key and the obligatory swimming cap in the pocket of my robe, and the hotel towel, the one clearly intended for use in the spa section of the hotel, over my arm. I swam for a good while, up and down the pool, until I had had enough. When I got out and went to the lounger where I had left my towel and robe, there was no towel. Thinking back, I remembered a group of elderly folk being called out of the pool to go for their pre-booked session in the spa. I also remembered seeing one of them with two towels, one over his arm and the other still neatly folded. The silly old fool had clearly commandeered my towel as well as his own, even though his own stuff, including a robe, was on a lounger at the other end of the line. I suppose I was lucky he did not take my robe as well or I would have had to go to reception in nothing but my soggy swimsuit to explain that I could not get back into my room!
Now, if they do an inventory of stuff in our room (or NOT in our room) they will find that we are missing a spa towel and a cushion. The other day Phil took a cushion down to the chess playing room to boost his seat a little. The chairs are elegant and quite comfortable but a little low for sitting at a chess board. After his mammoth game he forgot to pick up the cushion. By the time we thought of it, the room was locked. Next day there was no sign of it.
I just hope they don't think we are spiriting stuff away to sell on the black market, or on the Sunday flea market in Pontevedra!