Tuesday, August 05, 2008

No hassles holiday in Galicia. Paradors, history and castles. Food and wine, walks and talks, siestas and swims on rainy beaches and vistas of the sea

On holiday in Galicia. A typical landmark are the "horreos" used to store vituals in the countryside.
Hi again

We were so enamoured with Las Rías Bajas in Galicia in the north west of Spain last year that we decided to repeat the holiday. The difference this time was that we were to be staying at the wonderful Spanish state run Parador Hotels.

The first two nights were spent at the Parador in Verín which is in the province of Orense and just a few kilometres from the Portuguese border. Verin is famous for its bottled water and for its rather tasty and not so so well known wine, Monterrey. The Parador, one of the smaller and more modest ones, is situated on the outside of Verin on a hill just across the way from the Monterrey Castle, a jewel of a building but now a ruin thanks to the Napoleonic Wars!.
Me posing by the Parador in Verin
Monterrey Castle next to the Parador View of the Parador from the Monterrey Castle
We spent our time here bathing in the pool with its superb views of the surrounding countryside and the town of Verín (not much to see there I’m afraid), enjoying long siestas and walking up the Monterrey castle several times a day to work up an appetite for the wonderful dinner awaiting us in the genteel and classic dining room and old fashioned service.
Eladio against the backdrop of Verin from the swimming pool at the Parador.

Working relaxedly by the pool at the Parador in Verin
We did venture into Portugal though. Portugal is a country near to my heart as I studied the language at University and it also means quite a lot to Eladio as our first ever holiday was there. We visited the tired but pretty little town of Chaves and thanks to the Michelin and Campsa guides, of course, found the best eating place in town; Forte de Sâo Francisco where actually we had some rather disappointing “bacalhau” (cod). We did enjoy the "vinho verde" though. Here, of course, Eladio bought yet another walking stick for his collection.
Daddy and I outside the entrance to the Forte de Sâo Francisco in Chaves, Portugal.
From Verín we drove some 250km to Cambados, the Albariño(white) wine capital which is a historic fishing town on the Ria de Arousa.

Admiring the Albariño wine in Cambados. The Parador in Cambados is a lovely old building set right in the middle of the town.
The Parador in Cambados
After lunch at María José, once again recommended by our 2 travel guides, we set off to the legendary beach of La Lanzada. It is legendary because it can apparently help women get pregnant. They have to bathe and be washed by 9 waves. Well I didn’t need to get pregnant and the weather had taken a turn for the worse so we just walked both lengths of this very long beach. It was not nice to find it mined by jelly fish which, thankfully, were all dead.
Seafood and rice, what a wonderful mixture. As had at María José in Cambados.
For my Father this rainy and windy walk on a long empty beach was the highlight of the whole trip! Weather in Galicia can be very unpredictable and one minute the sun shines and next it can rain.
The wet and windy walk on the Lanzada beach - My Father and Eladio
We went back the next day for more walks on the Lanzada beach and this time the sun was out the whole time. Here is the photo that marks the contrast.
The next day with sun, same men, same beach!
Time at the Parador in Cambados was also spent reading the newspapers in the lovely patio, reading and sleeping siestas, the Spanish national sport and such a healthy habit.

Eladio and I reading the paper in the patio of the Parador in Cambados.
I must make a mention here of a repeat visit to the Posada del Mar restaurant in O Grove, just across the bridge from La Toja island. It was to Posada del Mar we went last year recommended by my dear friends Ana and Tomy.

Eladio posing outside La Posada del Mar in O Grove. It’s one of those places you have to go back to do and we did to try out the great Galician seafood.
First class scallops at La Posada del Mar
Top league almejas a la marinera!
The best "scallop" pie in the world
On Tuesday 29th July we made our way to Baiona, a medium sized town by the sea and very near Vigo.
A Typical seafront house in Baiona

Eladio on a busy Baiona back street full of bars and restaurants
Me by the port and seafront of Baiona
It is famous in history as one of Christopher Columbus’ 3 ships, La Pinta, returning to Europe after discovering America had to go off course and land in Baiona due to bad weather. Baiona then became the first call of port in Europe to hear about the discovery of America. It must then have gained royal favour as it became known as Baiona la Real.

We were there last year visiting the Fortress and Parador and vowed also to return but this time to stay. I have a lovely picture of Eladio outside the Bar last year (in red) and I took a repeat picture this year (in green) for the records and here they are:

The town itself is like a smaller version of places such as Santander or San Sebastián. Adding to its beauty is the fortress peninsula known as Monte Real on the hill which towers over Baiona. There was once a castle there, in the times of Christopher Columbus, owned by the Count of Gondomar. And this is where the Parador of Baiona is situated. What does remain of the castle though is the outside fortress wall from where you can see the town and beyond as well as the Atlantic Cies Islands. The views are amazing and the Parador, knowing this, charges quite a lot more for a room with a view.
Outside the Parador in Baiona
The view from our room was magnificent
We stayed here 3 nights and actually never left the town and then only to visit La Pinta replica ship, to walk to the Virgin on the Rocks which is a gigantic statue with great views or to find somewhere for dinner.
Daddy and Eladio posing next to the "Captain" of the La Pinta ship
Seafood on show on the seafront restaurants in Baiona
Most of the time we spent at the magnificent Parador reading the paper or a book, sleeping a siesta (or working in my room) or swimming in the pool with its great views out to sea and of course, walking round and round the castle.
The Cies islands as seen from the Parador in Baiona.
Eladio on the walk around the Fortress
My Father on the same walk.

Me working in our room; always connected!
The swimming pool overlooking the Islas Cies at the Parador in Baiona.
We discovered a lovely restaurant in La Taberna de la Pinta which belonged to the Parador but was a separate building and here we dined again and again mesmerised by the fantastic views and seduced by the wonderful local food.
Taberna de la Pinta, our favourite restaurant in Baiona
View of the Atlantic from La Taberna de la Pinta
And all too soon the week was up and it was time to move on. We were going to Montrondo for the annual family gathering which is always on the first Saturday in August but more about that, of course, in my next post.

So we left Galicia, not before having stocked up on local produce: chorizos and Albariño wine as well as the famous “empanadas” (pies) and Santiago almond cake which we had been asked to buy for the family gathering, all of which were to be devoured by 27 people over the weekend!

We left Galicia with a temperature of around 20ºc. In Montrondo (León) it was only a bit higher. And here I am writing from home in Madrid where the thermometer marked 39ºc at midday today. What a difference!

I have included just some of the photos of our trip above and on Facebook you can find a bigger selection: Photo album

If you ever want to visit Galicia, now you know the places to go!

Cheers till next time

No comments: