Friday, 4 September 2015

A couple of success stories.

While Phil had his haircut yesterday, I took a look at the newspaper, El Faro de Vigo, and discovered a little local history. It was about a lady who had recently died at the grand old age of 93. 

Back in the 1960s Elvira Monzonís and her husband Emilio Fernández acquired a small property on the Islas Cíes. Originally they went there from time to time, the odd day now and then. Eventually they took to spending the summers there. They had a house that looked down on the Playa de Rodas, in more recent times voted the best beach in the world. Towards the end of the 1960s one of the local ferry companies had a wharf built at one end of the Playa de Rodas and started taking groups of tourists out to the islands. As there were precious few facilities on the islands, these tourists would knock on Elvira's door and ask if she could sell them bottles of water, a little something to eat and such like. 

 And from such beginnings arose the bar and restaurant and eventually permission to open a campsite, still the only campsite on the islands. The business is still run by her children and grandchildren. I know they must have to work their socks off during the tourist season but it can't be a bad little earner. 

On the day of Elvira's funeral, back in the small town on the mainland where she was born, they closed the restaurant on the island for the day, as a mark of respect. A little reminder to those visiting the islands of what the place would be like without the services provided! 

Personally, I think the islands are exploited just enough. It's good to go to a place where there are no tat stalls, where you make your own souvenirs and memories. Even on the Isla de Ons there are stalls selling supposedly artisan ware and jeweller. None of that on the Cíes. I heard that someone tried to open a disco last year but they had not applied for a license and were quickly closed down. A little oasis of peace in a busy world. 

During our first year in Vigo we discovered Bar El Puerto, on Arenal, a fish restaurant which, according to a friend of ours who works for the European Fisheries Commission, serves some of the best and freshest fish and shellfish in the area. Part of its charm was the decor, making no concessions for modern style. The restaurant occupied the space of one "bajo", the ground floor area which often houses shops or cafes, and went back quite deep into the building. When closed, the place was fastened up with massive wooden shutters. Inside there was a small bar, where you fought to get a waiter's attention and check they had a table free. A few tables were close to the bar but most of the tables were bench style at the back of the restaurant alongside the open kitchen area. The tables were covered in oilcloth with paper tablecloths on top. Chilled local white wine was served, not in fancy slim-stemmed wine glasses, but in squat heavy bottomed tumblers. Oh, and if a lady needed the loo she had to ask for the key from behind the bar: a throwback to the Spain I knew at the end of the 1960s. 

As the place grew in popularity, presumably through reviews on social media as well as word of mouth, it became more difficult to get a table without prior booking. And the place was always busy. It on Monday because of the impossibility of getting absolutely fresh fish and every August It closed for a couple of weeks while the owners had a holiday. 

This year in August we saw a notice saying that they were relocating to new premises on Calle Argentina. We had some difficulty finding it but eventually we did so. Very smart they are! Through an engraved window you can see tables nicely set with tall wine glasses next to each place setting. Decidedly much more upmarket, more "pijo" as they say around here. Clearly they are wanting to step up in the world of restaurateurs. So long as the quality of food remains the same and the prices don't go up too much, all will be well, we reflected. 

So today we went along, with our fisheries friend and sampled the wares. We complimented them on the new premises. They told us that the old building was in such a bad state of repair that it was in danger of falling down. So a move was strictly necessary. 

Many of the groups of working folk who used to eat in the old place seem to have followed them round the corner to Argentina. Bar El Puerto still maintains its display of fresh fish and its open kitchen area, a very good feature. 

We paid about €18 each. So, compared to a cheap menú del día, a little on the expensive side but not really into the totally "pijo" as yet. And the fish was excellent!

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