Sunday, April 24, 2011
Friends in Galicia
Between my wife and myself we have been in contact with various friends who are residents of Galicia over the last few weeks and, without too much to write about, I thought that I would give them a quick mention.
We have some Galician friends (M & R) in Noia who are avid cruise fans and have an excellent photographic business in the town. They are also very cosmopolitan and international in their outlook and have a very worldly view of life. This does of course contrast with many other residents of the region who have a more “regionalist” take on things. Diversity is of course a staple of any democratic society.
M & R’s business is pretty cutting edge and the first digital photo album that I ever saw was in their high street store. Even going back several years ago they were already offering photographic prints on handbags, mouse mats etc. So, as a plug for them, their website is http://fotolaser.es.
The friends that we probably see the most when we are in Galicia are also residents of Noia, however in their case they are a mix of Galician and American and we have known them for several years. They moved to Noia from Florida a few years back and for that reason we share a lot of values and cultural references with them. (I will call them J and P.)
The Galician and American mix refers to the fact that J is American, but with a Galician father, and P is Galician, but spent most of his working life in the USA. P, despite being Spanish, also talks with an American accent and uses lots of USA colloquialisms that I usually only hear on US TV shows and they sound great in everyday conversation.
Aside from the fact that we go out for dinner and entertain each other from our respective Galician residences, we also bump into one another on a near daily basis, so they become our most social friends when we are in and around Noia.
Moving further a field another couple, Rose Marie and Vicente who run a tour guide company called Galicia Mystic Tours (http://www.toursofgalicia.net), are residents of Pontevedra and we always try to visit them when we are in the region.
They moved to Galicia from Canada and their tour business has received accolades from customers and travel experts for its unique way of presenting the region, its culture and special features like the Rias Baixas.
Both of them are incredibly enthusiastic about not just Galicia, but life generally, and we always feel like we have had an injection of positivity after we have been in their company.
Our other big friend in Galicia is of course fellow blogger Colin Davies and I had the great pleasure of Colin’s company on Monday of this week. As ever, Colin was in great form and we talked for some three and a half hours about everything from the British school system (if it can still be called that) to events in Galicia.
Interestingly, one of the subjects that Colin and myself discussed was the need for a qualified solicitor when buying property in the region.
Any prospective buyer should be aware that there are a number of property agents in Galicia who will do anything that they can to dissuade buyers and sellers from taking legal advice and you should avoid these people like the plague. They have only one motivation, i.e. to push the sale through at all costs and leave you to pick up the pieces later. An honest estate agent will have no problem with a client using a solicitor (although you should never use a solicitor suggested by the seller or their agent).
Because of economic circumstances, Maria and myself made the decision not to go to Galicia last year and, as a result, Monday was the first time that Colin and myself have been able to sit in the sun and enjoy a café con leche (although in Colin’s case without the leche) since late summer 2009.
It is amazing how the memories and even the mood and atmosphere of Galicia seem close enough to touch once you start talking about them and recalling past events and experiences. It made me realise that, despite circumstances, our choice not to go to Galicia last year was a bad one. We will not be deterred by economic ups and downs when making our holiday plans this year.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
The return of a friend
Friday, April 08, 2011
Allariz - Ourense
I have very little to write about at the moment, but I would again advise anyone considering a Galician trip to go over there over the next couple of months. April and May see the region at its beautiful best and, better still, it is almost deserted.
With nothing of current interest in mind, I thought that I would mention a town in Ourense called Allariz. Ourense is probably the least visited Galician province when it comes to overseas tourists, but it has some of the best landscapes and some beautiful towns. Allariz is one of them and, like many of the inland towns, it is rarely visited by foreigners (or even none Galician Spaniards).
It is a few years since I went to Allariz, but it is a town that starts in a valley and finishes on a hill and the old town makes up most of the buildings that bridge the two areas. It is well maintained and very Galician. The area around it is also very scenic.
At the top of the hill there is a monastery whilst at the bottom, not surprisingly, there runs a river. I particularly liked Allariz because there was no sign of any other “none Galicians” and that always makes me feel as if I am exploring new ground.
The monastery is actually nothing too special, but the winding cobbled streets of the old town definitely are and there is a picturesque café down by the river where the town starts. This is also one of the spots where there is parking.
One of the things that I particularly remember about this town was how “almost” deserted the old district was, but by contrast how busy the plateau area to one side of the monastery was. This may have been something to do with the time of day, or the day of the week, but one area was a ghost town whilst the other was packed to the rafters.
The big problem with Allariz, and most of the places in Ourense, is simply their inaccessibility. If you are based in Lugo, la Coruna, or even much of Pontevedra, Ourense somehow seems to take a long time to get through. The main road network is not great and, although the scenery makes up for this, you have to do a lot of driving in order to get your reward.
I guess that the best way to see places like Allariz would be to make one or two overnight stays in the Ourense province and plan a series of stops that take you into the area on one route and then back out on another.