Vigo - out and about and evening jam session

Thu 16 Aug 2012 16:28
We thought the urban sports were pretty cool, but the piece de resistance came next day. The old town here is built up on a hill, all those lovely stone houses lining little narrow streets wind steeply down, with steps in places, ramps in others. How many times must the mountain bikers looked down the steep twisted alleys and thought 'That'd be fun to ride'? Well, they got to! They had mountain bike racing, instead of a Down Hill MTB race, they had a Down Town MTB race, they built wooden ramps to add jumps, and drop offs, they had them going down staircases, screeching around corners and flying down slopes as they did time trials from the top of the old town to the harbour. What a lovely idea!

We did our own, rather tamer cycling, another ride on our lovely Bromptons to the beaches south of Vigo. It can be tricky cycling in a strange city on the wrong side of the road, and  although we nearly ended up on the E1 at one point, we got there in the end. Jon - I knew you should have come out, take a look at this, put there just for you...

The sands were very crowded at first but as we headed further south the sand became finer and the beaches less full. About 10k south of Vigo there is a little island just off shore, Toralla, which is joined to the mainland by a long bridge. The island is very small, I'd guess no more than 1/4 of a mile long, it has a few trees, sandy beaches and... a tower block. It's privately owned and they put on a huge tower block standing all by itself for the holiday makers. In the UK it would be all low impact wooden chalets under the trees, no disturbance to the views of the island. In Spain, a tower block. (You can see the Islas Cies in the background, with fog tumbling over it again.)

Moored next to us on the pontoon was an Irish boat, with friendly folk on board, quick to say hello and exchange a word when on deck. They invited us over for a chat and as our gin & tonics were rapidly refilled we forgot about the half prepared lasagne back in the galley and settled down to exchanging life stories (and in my case the life stories of my predecessors too). They put some music on, which was Phil's cue to go grab his ipod and start playing all the old heart felt Irish tunes. Within ten minutes they were all singing their hearts out, knowing all the words, and when I nipped back on board for some percussion instruments and the bongos a real old time Irish jam session commenced. I'm not sure what the Portuguese on the next boat thought of it, but we were having fun and it sounded good to us! The Portuguese were good enough to contribute some wine, local to the area they lived in, which I am drinking as I write this and is delicious. I only wish I knew where it came from - there's no label on the bottle. ( Aveiro says the proofreader!) About 1 in the morning we called it a day and retired to our bed, with our host threatening to steal the ipod back again. They are regular visitors to these Rias, spending a month most summers here. They get someone to do the delivery from and then back to Ireland and just spend the month enjoying the Rias as we have been. However, I love the sense of context the trip here has created, a feeling of how far away Spain really is, and I loved the crossing so I prefer our way.

Vigo is a splendid city. Right at the top of the hill are beautiful gardens, on the site of an ancient hill fort. You can see the remains of the round houses built on the rock out of stone. 

The old town below is a beautiful maze of little streets, as I said above, but the newer parts are quite magnificent:

There is artwork all around the town, superb sculptures in squares and at junctions, some in a huge scale. Here's the feet of a wonderful merman (I know, how can a merman have feet? But he does).

and here's some more of him:

Not content with the art around us we went to the Marco, the contemporary art museum. It is an absolutely beautiful space, built around a covered circular centre courtyard, with exhibition spaces spiralling off it. There were quite a number that captured my imagination.  Some were playing with words - one room had hundreds of words that have no meaning written in it and a tape of someone reading them out, in another a tape was fixed from point to point around the room at eye level, and on it was written the experience of walking around a room. 

In other rooms technology was used really creatively. A floor on which letters were projected, when you walked across it they sort of swarmed after you and formed sentences. One in which all four walls had hundreds of words projected on them, either 'man', woman', 'father', 'Mother', 'child', 'old', 'dead' or 'food'. All except 'food' moved randomly around. When a word depicting a person touched a 'food' the 'food' disappeared, when a 'man' and 'woman' collided they transformed into 'mother', 'father' and 'child', if you watched one for a little while it changed into 'old' and then 'dead'. A marvellous piece of programming, and every once in a while all the words would spin into a DNA vortex across the walls then reform themselves....

Another one I loved was a room that had a sort of giant hamster wheel in it. Imagine a cube that can rotate. Inside, it is a room with furniture fixed to all four walls. You can rotate it by walking in it, like a hamster wheel, and experience the room in a different orientation, the bed now on the ceiling, the chair on the wall, the lamp rising up out of the floor. When I was a youngster I used to lie on the floor and look up at the ceiling and imagine it was the floor (try it sometime!): what would it be like to walk on? Where would you sit? I'd imagine walking around, climbing through the doors. Now someone else had created my imagined world.

Just next to the Marina are two lovely works. The first shows a torso fallen from a stand:

and the second is a tribute to Jules Verne, here's Phil chillin' with his mate:

We were good bunnies and actually sent some postcards back to family and friends and I got to do something I've wanted to since we got to Spain. The post offices have Lions with open mouths to post your letters in. I so wanted to have my kids back small so I could explain to them that you have to post it quickly or the lion will bite your hand.. then see them not really believing me but believing me just enough to be a little bit scared and excited and relieved when they were quick enough not to get bitten. It's ok, I was really quick, I still have two hands :-)