In 2006, a Spanish friend sent me a photo of a bridge in Galicia via MSN messenger, telling me that Galicia had really cool summers. I had the oppertunity to learn Spanish from a professor from Galicia who was one of the nicest people ever, and the bridge was one of coolest ones I had ever seen. I made it my desktop photo. I think it is still the desktop photo as that computer died, but that is neither here nor there.
Three years later, as I was taking the train from Vigo to Santiago de Compostela in A Coruña, I was looking at the incredible beauty before me and feeling that somehow it looked familiar when it suddenly dawned to me that the train was going by the bridge my friend had sent to me.
And with my luck, I wasn’t able to take a “real” picture of it.
Galicia, along with the Islas Canarias, remains one of my least traveled comunidades autónomas. I am going to have to change that, but even with living in Bilbao, Galicia is just as far as it was when I lived in Madrid. As I am slowly but surely walking my way to Galicia, I have more or less planned to stay exploring the comunidad whenever I reach Santiago. Still, I am dying to go back there once I have recovered from the “This seriously is less rainy than Galicia or anywhere?” Bilbao. Maybe if I’d stop going to Barcelona (three times this academic year…)
My time in Pontevedra was all too brief, a few mere hours. I saw Tui from the train from Oporto that Easter Holiday of 2009, the town that greets visitors to Spain. Vigo, featured in the Spanish film Los lunes al sol (Mondays in the Sun), is a rainy fisherman and industrial city of about 294,000. I didn’t have the time to explore as I would, and I was planning to go back (but that was the disaster trip where my bank card disappeared). I hesitated writing about it, but I have officially been there. Whenever I return, and I *will* return, I’ll return to writing about it. But I gotta give Galicia some love, as the Gallegos are some of the most friendly people I have encountered (Unless they enter politics.)
Vigo is the largest city in Galicia with 294,000 people and the 14th largest metropolitan area in Spain with nearly 482,000 folks calling the greater Vigo area home. It has an attractive Casco Vello (Viejo or Old Town), the Castro fortress and ruins, a port, beaches, museums and churches. The 2002 film Los lunes al sol was filmed here, and the Bay of Vigo appears in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
The “Lower Rivers” are a series of four rivers (estatuaries to be exact) that begin on the coast. The northern most is just south of Finisterre and the southern one borders Portugal. This area is rich in marine life and attracts many tourists. There are many islands in the mouths of them river, making them a bit calmer than the Rías Altas and the “Costa de Muerte”, the Death Coast. They form the only national park in Galicia, Parque Nacional Marítimo Terrestre das Illas Atlánticas de Galicia.
The Cíes Islands are the aforementioned islands. The British newspaper The Guardian chose the Rodas Beach on the island of Monteagudo as the best beach in the world in 2007. The islands have a lot of cliffs and caves and a ton of spectacular scenery. There is a ferry from Vigo to the Islands. I want to go, now.
La Casa do Barón
One of my goals, once I’ve finished the Camino de Santiago del Norte and have visited each of Spain’s provinces, is to visit all the “paradores” of Spain. The Paradores are old castles converted into hotels. The Casa do Barón is located in Pontevedra capital in the heart of the casco antiguo. The restaurant there offers typical Galician dishes. Pontevedra capital boasts 82,000 people by the way.
Baiona, which constantly comes up when I’m checking out Bla Bla Car to Bayonne (Bayona in Spanish), goes from 11,000 habitants in the winter to over 40,000 in the summer, thanks to the tourists, the medieval centre and the proximity to Vigo and the Rias Baixas. The photos are amazing.
Another place along the Rías Baixas, O Grove is a peninsula with beaches and views. There are churches, sculptures and many protected areas.
A “Bien de Interés Cultural”, Combarro is another fishermen’s village located 7 kilometres from Pontevedra capital. The Rias Baixas dominates the Seven Wonders (Set Meravelles) of the province. What can I say? I’m a sucker for coastal places and have a lot to explore whenever I get to return to Galicia.