The western Rias are definitely softer and more open
that those of the north, although they are more encumbered with a vast number of
mussel rafts dominating what would otherwise be beautiful bays. Still, with its
easy cruising, off-lying islands and many glorious beaches, it’s no wonder that
the area is a popular holiday destination.
It is definitely very Spanish though – we have not come across any other
foreigners and very few locals seem to speak English at all.
Having to immerse yourself in everything Spanish is
great. With the excuse of my
Birthday we went to a posh-looking restaurant last night. This was at nine
o’clock at night – quite late you might say – but in fact the restaurant doesn’t
open until nine, and it didn’t start
filling up until 10.30pm. We really couldn’t understand anything but the odd
word on the menu and, although prepared to stab at a couple of things and hope
for the best, the waitress took pity on us, disappeared and then presented us
with the receptionist from the local hotel. She gallantly tried to explain various
dishes, but in the end decided that the best option was just to present us with
an array of local dishes, divided between the two of us. All the dishes were delicious with
wonderful combinations of flavours and textures, but the most memorable was the
local scallop pie with flaxy pastry that just melted in your mouth.
Today we felt adventurous and caught the bus (like the
train: efficient and cheap) to the fairly large city of Pontevedra. It was a 30 minute ride along the north
coast of the ria. A lot of the core
of the city is medieval, and it was a delight to wander around the myriad of
stone-paved streets, all of which are free of traffic. Winding alleyways with
stone steps leading up to overhanging verandas of wrought iron; small tapas bars
and tavernas with their tables and chairs spilling in to the open spaces where
streets cross; a formal square – flanked on one side by a monastery, the other
by a civic building fronted with stone arches and the typical gallerias, but
definitely a place to be enjoyed with its central gardens and plenty of places
to sit and watch the world go by. So we did exactly that – sit in the glorious
spring sunshine, enjoy a few tapas and do some people watching.
The Spanish are a proud race and very smart. If my lack of a buffoned hair-do alone
didn’t make us stand out, then John’s lack of a razor-edge pressing of his
trousers would. I love the way they
just promenade in the evenings – not necessarily going anywhere to do anything –
just walking along the town front, very smartly dressed, watching other people
who are doing just the same. Not
only are the little children exquisitely dressed in totally co-ordinated
outfits, they are content and playing outside a tapas bar or sitting quietly in
a restaurant even at 11 o’clock at night.