Thursday, 5 March 2020

Things come and go. Down at the harbour.

For quite a few years now Phil has been having his hair cut by an old gentleman barber (gentleman by nature and barber by profession) down near the port in Vigo. He has honed his skills at small talk, exchanging views on the world political situation, life in Spain and Britain and, over the last few years, Brexit. This is the barber who featured in the local paper a few years ago when he had a young magpie in a cage. The fledgling had fallen out of the nest and the barber had saved it. It had become quite a pet, very sociable as magpies can be when raised by hand. On e the press got hold of the story though, pressure groups started demanding that the bird be returned to the wild. How well it survived nobody knows.

So, anyway, when we arrived here for the current visit we trotted down to the port area, only to find the barber’s shop closed. Well, it was Shrove Tuesday so perhaps that had something to do with it. We tried again later in the week. Still closed but maybe he had decided to make a week of it. There was, however, no notice on the door or window suggesting a reopening date. On Tuesday of this week, Phil’s birthday, we had planned to eat out in a favourite restaurant near the port, taking the opportunity to check out the barber’s at the same time. Tuesday turned out to be extremely wild and wet and we stayed in for most of the day, only venturing put in the evening seeking an internet connection.

Yesterday was a better day and so, belatedly, we set out to celebrate Phil’s birthday. The barber’s shop was still closed up, shutters down. We can only assume that the old gentleman has finally retired and that his younger assistants do not want or simply cannot take up the business and carry on. It might be that they cannot afford the lease on the property. Maybe they feel they want to work in a younger, trendier place. Whatever the reason, another “bajo” now stands empty, fully equipped to,be a barber’s shop by the look of things. It just needs someone to take over.

We did, however, manage to have the birthday lunch. Some years ago we discovered, quite by chance, the Rosalía Castro restaurant, within shouting distance of the Real Club Maritimo in its boat-shaped building and the marina where the wealthy moor their yachts and speedboats. There we ordered, again quite by chance, chipirones encebollados (baby squid served with caramelised onions. A dish fit for the gods!

Ever since then we have visited the restaurant at least once on every trip to Vigo and have taken numerous friends to introduce them to the delights of this fine food item. It’s an old-fashioned-looking place. The one concession to modernity seems to be a huge back-lit photo of the Islas Cíes. Perhaps, we speculated, there is a by-law that says every establishment must display this regional treasure. The waiter recognises us and, although he goes through he motions of giving us a menu and listing the items available on the “menú del día”, knows exactly what we will order.

We were not disappointed. Fortunately some things do not change!

After lunch we went for coffee in another old-fashioned-looking place, the Maracaibo on the tree-lined alameda, the Plaza de Compostela. As this cafe is situated in probably the most expensive bit of real estate in the city its decor is perhaps a little classier than the restaurant’s. Polished dark brown woodwork everywhere. Only one TV screen tuned to a not quite audible news channel. No picture of the Islas Cíes though!

For all that it is in an expensive part of town it still charges a reasonable price for its coffee. But, unlike some homelier establishments, they do not serve slices of homemade sponge-cake with the coffee but those pre-packed shortbread biscuits, which The cynic in me supposes can be recycled if the customer chooses not to partake. Who knows? Their coffee is fine, the staff are friendly enough and they have a decent wifi connection.

What more can you ask for?

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