Reflections on Galicia
Roger and Margaret Pratt
Sat 22 Aug 2009 16:22
Eight weeks in Spain have given me greater insights into the nation: the good, the bad and the ugly. Whilst the memories are fresh I thought |I'd make some jottings from Camaret, recalling the experience as we found it.
Firstly, the people. Conistently, kind, thoughtful and prepared to put themselves out to help. Faced with lack of Spanish, most responded with a little English - otherwise, gestures and sign language tended to do the trick. It seems a people-based culture, with sel-service the exception rather than the rule. Everyone chatter at a great rate, which exacerbates teh problems of comprehension.
But for non-speakers of the language there is great merit in self-service, and I used supermarkets wherever possible. The markets had fresh food, but tended to be better quality/more expensive than supermarkets - but one needed a level of Spanish conversation to be understood. Markets could also be peopled by smallhoders selling seasonal products from the garden. Eggs could be bought individually - and frequently were. The markets were open until midday - the supermarkets tended not to be shut over lunch but would be open till 9.30 in the evening. THe ferreterias have been fascinating, and full of all sorts of surprising goodies.
It has been interesting how we have adapted to Spanish time, despite remaining on BST. Nothing much happens before 10am; lunch is between 2 and 4, and supper after 8pm. Full meals at 10pm at night seem wrong - not surprisingly we saw a lot of fat people, including children with big paunches. Not a pretty sight! People go to sun themselves on the beaches from about 4 til 8 - beaches were heaving with people and it was hard to find personal space.
The food has been unexciting. There is a lot of pork, and the meat has tended to be cut into very thin slices, marinaded. Burger meat tends to be a mixture of pork ad beef, and has little taste. Steak is ot expensive, but not hung enough to have a strong taste. The selection of veg has been disappointing compared with France, although salads and fruit are well supplied. We have enjoyed the pimentoes de padron and managed to track down ones that were small and sweet, although some were unpredicably hot. There has been seafood and fish, but no oysters or lobsters. I cooked crab, at a cost similar to UK. We're not great fans of the tuna empanadas, but have enjored the chees and ham one sold by Eroski. Cakes, other than the Tatas Santiago, have been disappointing or non-existant.
The experience with Wifi has been patchy. The most reliablesignal tends to come from the public library, and next ear I sahll rejoin early in the cruise. There are some towns (Ares, Vilanova) with town wifis that are free to use.
Te tourist info has been interesting. The staff ae eager to help; most have a little English. THey have town maps in a block, so they can write directions and just tear off the sheet to ive you. Thereis little interest/appetite for leaflets on walking and cycling - a lost opportunity. THe museums have been small and interesting, but not geared for foreigners. Bilingual sins are in Galician and Castilian. The archeaological sites have not had interpretaion other than the petroglifs near Muros. The sites are unfenced, and you an walk anywhere - a refreshing attitude to health and safety. The fiestas have been noisy and well-attended. During the day, big shells making big bangs. Late at night, conventional fireworks.
In many respects there remains a lot of investment required in infrastructure. The buoyage, for example, is vestigial. There were a lot of regeneration initiatives to help employment (PLANT schemes) and the Xunta de Galicia are intending to invest in new port facilities, which will help tourism. THe upside for vsitors like us is that anchoring is encouraged, and there are very few boat-borne tourists. The majority of boats that we have seen (butnot many) have been Brits, Dutch and Norwegian. Fishing, of course is very well developed indeed, and flourishes - we both noticed the number of new boats, large outboard engines and expensive cars.On the othr hand, there were not as man bateas as indicated oon the charts.
So like most things including the curate's egg, it's a mixed picture. We'll be back - no question, because of the lovely cruising grounds offered by the Rias, and the perfect weather, not too hot. But for other reasons, especially food, my preference remains France - despite having to pay 13.50 euros a night to moor on a buoy at Camaret!