Thursday, July 04, 2013

 
Spent 10 days in Noia last month. The weather started off wet, but we got a good 6 days of sun with temps of 16 - 19 degrees C. It could have been warmer, but all told not too bad.

The economy is really suffering there and a number of shops that were open last october are now closed. Very much an attitude of doom and gloom and concern over large numbers of Eastern Europeans entering the country. Crime and theft, which were almost unkown in Galicia, have soared and people in the district my wife is from now lock their doors - even when they are in. 10 years ago this was unheard of - progress!!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

 

A few thoughts on my recent visit


As ever the break was relaxing and one of the perennial highlights for me is being able to get great coffee. I cannot find one good coffee shop over here, yet every café and bar seems to produce top notch coffee in the north of Spain.

We are fortunate in not just having my wife’s family, but also a number of friends in Galicia and this means that part of every visit includes meeting up for a drink or a meal with people that we know. To make matters better still, my wife’s favourite relatives were over from Gran Canaria at the same time as us and this meant that we were able to see them on a number of occasions including a massive barbeque. This BBQ had langoustines (by the bucket load), muscles, steak, pork, lamb, ribs and sardines. Home made tiramisu and a big cream cake topped things off. It was held on a patio with a backdrop of mountainous hills with buzzards and peregrine falcons flying overhead. Not bad.

We also made some visits to friends in Pontevedra who have just converted an old farmhouse ruin into just about the best home that I have ever seen. Yet again this one has mountains to one side of it and a truly spectacular view in all directions.

The weather this time around was cool, even by seasonal standards, and we only really hit 20 degrees C a few times. This made the beach out of bounds for all but a couple of days, however it was ideal for wandering around.

Looking back one of the possible regrets was not exploring and driving around enough. We had a few trips down the coast, a wander around Santiago de Compostela, but we never reached Ourense or Lugo provinces. That said we did relax and that was the main idea.

One final thought for this post. We saw an amazing moth which I have now identified as a humming bird moth. Take a look at one of the videos of these things on youtube, they are amazing and we were enthralled by how they behaved – just like a real humming bird.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

 

Back from my absence


For reasons that I cannot be bothered to explain I have had to go through every single blog post that I have ever published and, in many cases, amend them. Incredibly the annoying result is that a couple of those posts have been amended to the date on which they were edited - hard to believe.

Anyway, I have been absent from blogging (and just about everything internet related) for several months and this is my first genuinely new post since around March of this year. I will not bother with the explanation as to why other than to say that it was not health related.
Back to the subject of the blog

I spent 3 weeks in Galicia over the middle of September and the early part of October and I will be adding some new sections to Galicia Guide and making posts here as a result. Overall our trip was a success with about two thirds of the period enjoying sunny but breezy days. We did have a dull and rainy period in the middle, but this is normal for the Galician climate. Temperatures were generally just over 20 degree C, but we only managed one day that was a genuine sun and beach day.

As ever I enjoyed the atmosphere and absence of any rat race mentality that the Spanish are fortunate enough not to suffer from. The “safety at all hours” and the massive absence of alcohol are other notable cultural differences (from Britain) that hit you immediately. On two separate occasions in busy restaurants I observed what people were drinking. In a restaurant called Mama Mias at 11.30 pm on Friday night only my wife and myself had alcohol with our meal (a bottle of wine). Everyone else was on soft drinks and when you take into account that the age range was between early twenties and late thirties that tells you something. I noticed a similar lack of proof drinks on another night at another restaurant (Rustica, Noia). Northern Spain is not a society fuelled by booze.

One very notable feature of the northern Spanish outdoor life as you get into autumn is the way that it dissipates very quickly by 7.30pm to 8.00pm on week days and by 9.30pm to 10.00pm at weekends. The Spanish are less hardy when it comes to the cooler temperatures and they quickly disappear when the cooler evenings arrive. Anyway, that is enough for now, but I will be back.


Friday, October 12, 2012

 

Salutations and general good manners


I said last month that I would mention salutations and general good manners in connection with Galicia as opposed to those that one experiences or, more commonly, does not experience in the UK.

The concept of saying “hello”, “good morning” or anything else to someone that you do not know is almost redundant in the UK. In fact (and it pains me more than you can imagine to admit this) the only group of people who still seem to adopt these values in Britain are the Asians (not oriental) and primarily those of the Islamic faith!

For me this indicates how far British manners have fallen and how a nation, once renowned for its courtesy and good manners the world over, could actually learn something from a culture that I personally detest and loathe. Very sad, but also very true.

In Spain however, good manners are generally alive and well and in Galicia they certainly prosper.

Not surprisingly, those who initiate salutations tend to be the older adults (i.e. over 30), but this has more to do with an acknowledgement and respect based on age than any lack of intention to do so by those in their teens. Equally, initiating a conversation with anyone of any age is also likely to be greeted with interest and enthusiasm rather than the distain that greets most things in England. The Spanish and the Galicians are talkers and they do so actively.

Handshaking and of course kisses on both cheeks for the ladies, are also a part of any greeting with friends, or people to whom you are introduced. As an Anglo Saxon, I still find the latter slightly uncomfortable, but it is of course eased if the lady in question is young and attractive! Regrettably this tends not to be the case!

What all of these traditional greetings show is that acknowledging others is a big part of the Galician way of life. These greeting are as common between those in their teens as they are between those of advanced years, so good manners is not confined to a single age group.

It seems to me that in the UK we spend time ignoring people and even go to great lengths to do so. In other parts of the world however, the opposite is true and people actively look for the chance to say “hello” and start a conversation.
Interesting too that whilst owned by a massive proportion of the Galician population, mobile phones are rarely seen being used in public. Hopefully the superseding of conversation by texting is still some way off.

 

Cock Robin - the band

Here is another entry that has nothing to do with Galicia or any comparison between it and the UK. However for once it shows a rare failure in British (and American) music fans to spot a great band.

The wonders of youtube.com
I seem to spend more and more time on youtube.com. This despite the fact that I hate computers (even though I make my living through them).

I also detest mobile phones and consider them the single biggest human disease, and my feelings for other recent technologies are the same.

This is not born out of ignorance, I am highly qualified (actually in IT) and I use these “aids” on a daily basis – I was even next door sorting out my neighbours PC last week – There is no escape from things that use chips.

However, I can “almost” forgive IT driven technology when I turn back time and explore the millions (or so it seems) of music videos on youtube.

Cock Robin

The prompt for this post is my discovery of a band that I had long since forgotten about and who only enjoyed one minor UK and (albeit a different song) one minor US hit single.

They were/are called Cock Robin and they had a song called “The promise you made” back in the mid 1980’s. For some reason it came into my head earlier this week and I hunted for it on the aforementioned website.

When I found the song I realised that they had many tracks on youtube (thank you SonyBMG) and, with a little research, it quickly became apparent that, although missing the mark in English speaking territories, they were very successful in mainland Europe (apologies for the long sentence).

So, following up on that, here is a link to what I think is their best song (and I have listened to them all): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4JVUBXuVRA .

And to those comment makers on youtube who hate the female singer I can confirm that:


1. She does have a great voice.
2. Yes she does get very dramatic and she even bows at the end of a video – so what!
3. Maybe she did age in to a fat old woman by 2004. But in the videos for the 2006 album she is slim and almost unchanged in 20 years.
4. And, for what it is worth, the male singer has an incredible voice and the bass playing is sublime.


How did this band manage number one albums in Europe but do nothing in the UK and their USA homeland – it beggars belief?

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

 

Lugo answer

The combination of a week’s holiday, lots of work to catch up on, and a few other things have delayed the answer to the last of my questions. Here however is the response that I was looking for:

To keep life simple (for me) an example of the answer is “visible” on this page galiciaguide.com/Lugo-plaza-06.html.

But to sum up there are a series of stone plaques, each representing a famous individual in Galician history or culture. These plaques line one side of the plaza in Lugo old town and, if I recall, most of those remembered are connected with literature. (I am happy to be corrected on this last fact if it is not correct).

On another note, Lugo city is well worth a visit, however the wikipedia description of a complete “Roman wall” is rubbish, nearly all of the wall is medieval with just some small sections being Roman (An inspection of the construction makes this identification fairly straightforward. Interesting that the wikipedia description is “word for word” the original description I supplied on the aforementioned site (since modified).

You need to go to a location in the north west of England to see the only remaining fully intact Roman city wall. (And it is not at York in the north east.)

This weeks question:
(I hope that I can still remember the answer to this one) What is the name of the wooden floating platforms frequently seen in the rias of Galicia and what are they for?

If you look at places like Muros the areas adjacent to the harbour are full of them.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

 

Las Burgas Spa, Ourense

The answer to the last question was las Burgas spa and it is in the province and city of Ourense. If you want to know some more about it check out this page - galiciaguide.com/Ourense-spa.html. The spa dates back to the Roman period, but today there are only a few remains left. Its value is more historic than as a visitor attraction.

This weeks question is more taxing and its subject is actually quite typical of some of the ideas that are encapsulated into the way that Galician and Spanish society are promoted and kept alive.

October 2012 - There ia another great thermal Spa which is still going in Cuntis. It has numerous water treatments and therapies and a giant pool broken into different areas with jacuzzis, water jet massage etc. It costa about 18 euros for half a day's use. We would recommend it. You also get a sauna, sweat rooms and the like. However you need to take (or hire at a cost) towels, pool shoes and a waterproof hat.

QUESTION
In the city of Lugo there is a main town square or plaza called the Maior square. Part of it is gardened and part of it is hard landscaped and it sits in the middle of the original walled old town. Running down one side of this square is an unusual commemorative feature – or series of features. What are they and what is their purpose?
Do not confuse the location of the answer that I am looking for with the much larger park in Lugo named after the poet Rosalia de Castro. However, you may be helped by the fact that there is a connection and clue between the answer that I am looking for and this park!


Monday, February 27, 2012

 

Orujo de Galicia

The answer that I was looking for in the last question was Orujo de Galicia, but the same drink appears throughout Spain and has numerous names from aguardiente to cana and there is no fixed recipe or taste.

The ones that I have tried (all from friends or family) have varied considerably from an alcoholic but pleasant liqueur, to something that has a taste that I imagine is pretty close to that of bleach.

In the final drink, the raw alcohol is mixed with sherry, sugar, fruit juices and cherries and left to “moderate” over time. We still have some that is over a decade old and each year I add extra sugar etc and it still takes the lining off the inside of your mouth. That one came from my wife’s father!!!!

This weeks question is perhaps a bit easer and goes back to landmarks in Galicia.

The city of Ourense has the remains of an old Roman Spa. What is it called.?

The Spa has been retained (to a degree), but it is perhaps not one of the major tourist attractions in the city. No clues for this one.

There is also a city run open air spa by the river which only costs a few euros to use. There are a series of small pools offering different features. We have friends who use it and recommend it.

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