Since leaving home in September we have been averaging 75 miles per day and to-date covered 2,060 miles. Wherever practical our plan is to avoid the motorways and use the non toll road. The French and Spanish motorways are great, but they can be expensive. As they also bypass the towns you can end up missing much of the character of the region you are travelling through. Cost is another good reason for using the lesser roads.
That is except when you collect two speeding tickets within a hour of each other in the French region Poitou-Charentes – Oh PUTAIN…… Unfortunately this means the beer and ice-cream kitty is depleted (understandably) by €45.00 for doing 78 kph in a 70 zone and a whopping €90.00 for a careless 56 kph in the 50 zone. Incidentally there isn’t alway a 50 sign, but a red bordered rectangular sign indicating the town name is the start of 50kph zone, so for not paying attention “it’s a fair cop gov”.
Having spent a fab few days in the Picos de Europa, like the dedicated souls doing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, our compass now indicated a firm heading westwards. But in our case it’s towards Galicia and the magnetic pull of Rías Baixas (more about that later). In the meantime we knew at some point we would inevitably meet a wee bitty wet weather.
The Atalaia Camper Park is one of the best best aires we have stayed since we came out. We were greeted by a very friendly, helpful owner (as he was about to go off to Portugal in his own motorhome). He proudly showed Lesley the sparkly clean shower block and toilets, the bikes and smart car for hire but the best bit…….. it had 3 washing machines and 2 dryers – I know, I know we couldn’t contain ourselves either. Such was our excitement we weren’t that bothered when the weather decided it was also a good spot to give Margo a wash!
By morning the rains had gone and it was time for a bike ride up into the hills behind Foz. The steady uphill route took us on a circuit through the eucalyptus forest plantations that covered most of the surrounding hills. After the climb, the reward was a long decent down into the town and to the attractive harbour and a lunch of meatballs for Lesley and tortilla & beans for me.
Whilst the washing machines did a fine job on the sloshing spinning the smalls, unfortunately the tumble dryers weren’t quite as efficient and Margo ended up decked out with pegged out lines draped with a multicoloured assortment of partly damp pants.
Galicia surprised us, we’d read about the long rainy seasons but (given where we live) we weren’t prepared for the greenness that comes with the precipitation. Compared to the popular south, the most north west province is vastly underrated, which is totally unjustified.
The mountainous interior produces deep river valleys. The green wooden landscape is often blanketed in what we began to recognise as the ubiquitous eucalyptus. The greenness of the interior, is fringed by a rugged coastline with rocky inlets, interspersed with beautiful sandy beaches.
The coast of Galicia is where the Bay of Biscay meets the Atlantic bringing very strong currents. Apparently it was the British newspapers that first coined the term ‘Coast of Death’ Costa da Morte after the many shipwrecks on the stretch of coast from Malpica to Fisterra,
Useless fact 436 – Did you know, due to the high number of shipwrecks in this area at the end of the 19th century, it became law to ensure there were sufficient life jackets for every sailor onboard ships.
Famous for its Roman walls, Lugo was our next destination. The guide books say “The grand Roman walls encircling old Lugo are considered the best preserved of their kind in the world” However what the guides fail to point out, the city inside and surrounding it’s historical walls have been disfigured by years of hideous crimes against fenestration.
There is no kind way of putting this – The combined conspiratorial exploits of the Galician town planners and the regions window manufacturers, have turned Lugo into an ugly town. If Caesar‘s ancient Roman crowds were around now I have no doubt their view would be a case of thumbs down!
Praia do Ariño is an inlet on the Atlantic coast 40km north of Finisterre where Margo found a great spot amongst the trees only a few yards from the beach. We had the place to ourselves most probably because the signs now say it has now been undesignated as a MoHo parking place. I suspect, judging by the numerous picnic tables amongst the trees, the change has been made to accommodate the volume of in season visitors – shame.
After the overnight rain had eased we continued round this most westerly stretch of Europe’s coastline. The Galicia region of Spain has really tuned out to be a gem and somewhere to come back to. It’s an attractive mix of small fishing villages, powdery beaches, rugged sea cliffs topped with distant lighthouses. Most famed is the spectacular Cape Finisterre, a rocky peninsula that the Romans believed to be the end of the world.
This old cynic partly thinks the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage has been taken over and is now a money making scheme for those souls who are looking to find themselves! However there are multiple ways to follow the route of Saint James. If the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela wasn’t enough ‘cleansing’ the Camino de Fisterra is the final encore to the end of the world.
The bronze boot marks the end of the road for the tired pilgrims who have successfully completed the Camino de Fisterra pilgrimage extension. Now ready to start a new and better life, they have been known to burn or throw their shoes into the sea here to symbolise a new beginning.
For us it’s not yet time to burn our boots as our ‘journey’ to complete the calling to Rías Baixas and to ‘find ourselves’ amongst the Albariño grapes continues.
Dave & lesley
PS – Thanks to Gary and Jen for opening up our Paris postmarked mail. . . On 2nd thoughts!