15 June - a coastal run
Wednesday at Gijon was mostly consumed with administrative activity. The much vaunted official paperwork had seemed fairly straightforward on arrival at the marina, but we were visited first thing the next day by a Customs official, who neatly transcribed all the same information in triplicate and gave us a copy. Ironically, he did not ask about the VAT status of the yacht – the one area where they might have been able to make money – although not in our case as VAT was paid when the boat was brand new.
We had a promising experience with the Spanish National Health system. I needed a minor test done and although the first thing we were asked to do was to get a photocopy of my EHIC card, I was seen by a doctor within an hour and we should get the results within two days without needing to make a further appointment. The medical centre in Gijon is a smart, well-appointed building and the people could not have been more helpful.
On Thursday, we picked up a hire car from the nearby railway station and set off on a mini-adventure. The weather forecast was slightly drab, and knowing that we needed to return on Friday for some test results, we decided to head west along the coast and recce some of the potential anchorages and berths mentioned in the Royal Cruising Club Pilot and Peter Davies’ Blog. The author of the Pilot is not wildly enthusiastic about this section of coast and I learnt rather more about him than the various places, but we wanted to give it a go; the alternative is quite a long hop around the NW corner into A Coruna.
The road along the north coast is impressive. It sweeps through mountainous country a few kilometres back from the coast, brushing aside the steep hills with a multitude of viaducts and tunnels, each named and measured for the benefit of the driver, each different from the last in some way. The views are good, the signposts clear and the traffic light. We pushed west to Cabo Ortegal and then made our way gently home, stopping in various likely bolt holes along the way. We had an old Satnav from home, the IPad with some electronic sea charts, Mr Happy’s Pilot book as a guide and, as a last resort, a good old fashioned Michelin map!
A calm day at Cabo Ortegal
The top end of Ria del Barquero
Lunch in Viveiro involved octopus and small roasted peppers, plus a visit to a local wine shop (somehow we did not manage to stock up in France and supplies were running low onboard). The Ria del Barquero looked promising, particularly the little harbour at Bares with a glorious sandy beach, a couple of bars, a small breakwater and good shelter from the Atlantic swell. So too did a couple of spots in the Ria Viveiro and we took afternoon tea at the Parador in Ribadeo, high up in the side of the hill overlooking the river. The restaurant looked rather fine but it was a bit early for ‘big eats’ so we pushed on. Portocelo looked fantastic – an intricate version of Polperro without the tourist frippery, but I don’t think we’ll be taking Escapade in there… need to come back in a 30’ charter boat under an assumed name!
Portocelo – five breakwaters to keep the swell (and big yachts) out.
We stopped for dinner in Luarca, a large fishing village with a fine harbour. The Bar Gambaral looked and smelt promising, and the ‘menu of the day’ seemed invincible at €11 per head including wine. Alas, it was clearly run by the same catering firm that provided my school lunches forty years ago. Not a vegetable in sight. We had about six courses, all edible but no more and watched and learned from the locals who came in and devoured vast plates of chipirones, pulpas and fried fishes of all sizes. Nobody else went anywhere near the ‘menu of the day’. An important contrast with France, where you invariably get something original at a bargain price.
Still, anywhere where the wine is cheaper than the water gets my vote… or is there a limit?