Mon 23rd Nov – Mon 30th Nov
The first few days of week 13 comprised of a whistle stop tour of a few coastal towns as we went from Gijon (big industrial harbour) to Foz (pretty little harbour) to Boiro and then to Arcade after spending a fun filled day walking (and running) around Santiago De Compostella. But lets go back to Boiro, a small seaside town on the West coast of Spain just below Santiago De Compostella, where we spent Tuesday night, as it was there I had a complete melt down…
Things had generally started out well as we arrived in Boiro, we had finally got the knack of entering co-ordinates into the Sat Nav (it had only taken us 3 months!) and I had been very proud of Matt’s instinctive navigational skills as he found our first off-the-beaten track and rather well-disguised motorhome aire.
Admittedly I had been a little grumpy earlier that day as I my back was really hurting and I was coming to the realisation that I was in desperate need of an Osteopath. (I think it was seeing a model spine in a shop window in Foz had brought this fact to the forefront of my mind, as my attempts to shake it off with a bit of positive thinking and yoga-app inspired stretches had clearly not been working).
After having stocked up on food at a nearby ‘Supermercado’ we arrived at our chosen location, tiny car park on the edge of a large bay with a little jetty stretching out into the water The sea was beautifully calm and the location should in theory have been idyllic as at first glance it had all the makings of a Californian movie. So Matt enthusiastically leaped out and started exploring while I reluctantly ratcheted myself into a standing and proceeded to follow him. As I picked my way tentatively along the shore a feeling of repulsion began to creep up me… the tiny beach was strewn with rubbish not to mention some general sludge that looked remarkably like sewage. I tried to put on a brave face and adopt a positive attitude as Matt was in a really good mood and I did not want be a spoil sport, but the last straw came as we were half way along the beach which was getting dirtier and more fly filled by the minute.
You would think that a normal person in that circumstance would have the sense to keep their mouth closed..but not me. Indeed I don’t think a venus fly trap would have been able to do a better job at sucking in and accidentally swallowing the large sewage ridden fly that had decided to offer itself as my mid afternoon snack. Needless to say, it was after a crazed round of trying to cough up the offending insect whilst visualising bacteria rapidly multiplying in my stomach that my full melt down occurred. Matt to his credit handled it really well, reassuring me that my stomach acid was easily a match for any fly (something my rational brain would have normally understood had it not been so icked-out) and gently suggesting that we go and try a different parking spot which, needless to say, we did.
Our backup option turned out to be a simple car park opposite on the edge of a main road that was happily free from any flies and sewage and I felt a lot better as we parked Heidi up for the night. The next day we awoke bright and early and headed into Santiago De Compostella for the day, parking Heidi in a designated car park on the edge of the town. I had done a bit of research and booked myself an appointment with a local Oestopath based in Santiago that looked to be about 40 minutes walk from the carpark that would take us through the centre of the town, so with an hour and a half to spare Matt and I thought we had plenty of time for a quick reccy.
A brisk stroll led us along streets which got progressively more interesting the closer we got to the centre. The centre itself was dominated by the famous Cathedral and the other ancient churches, convents and historic buildings that surrounded it. Feeling confident that we had enough time we decided to take a quick peek inside the Cathedral rather unprepared for what we would find. Once inside we came across a team of t-shirt clad craftsmen in the midst of assembling what I sure would turn out to be a very elaborate nativity scene, a humorous nun with an amazing voice who was good-naturedly trying to encourage a congregation of pilgrims to join her in song and more glided carvings than I think I have ever scene (I get where Baz Luhrman gets some of his inspiration from).
It is at this point I should probably point out (with slight embarrassment as I should have really done my homework) that in spite of it’s fame for being a place of pilgrimage and it’s significance to the Catholic members of my family, I hadn’t really cottoned on to the reason that the Cathedral is so famous… i.e. that it was built to house the remains of one of the 12 apostles.. hence all the pilgrims. In fact I had found myself down in tiny marble Crypt looking at through an archway at an impressive tomb sensing that this was a place of great significance not realising that this was the very thing that thousands of pilgrims travel each year to see. I was so memorised by the whole experience that I completely lost track of time, it was only when bumped into Matt that we realised that we only had 14 minutes to get to the Osteopath that at least a 25minute walk away.
For those of you who have not experienced it there is nothing quite like arriving at an Osteopath appointment covered in sweat. Luckily he was running late, so I spent 15 minutes trying to air myself before being ushered into the consulting room. At first glance Orlando, my chosen Osteopath, seemed a little stern and I was slightly nervous, but he soon lightened up (after hearing my attempted Spanish) and as it became clear that he knew what he was doing I quickly began to relax. Having visited numerous Osteopaths in the UK and knowing that you generally have to strip down to your underwear I had carefully selected a hideous flesh coloured bra (that Bridget Jones would have been proud of) to be sure that I did not give off the wrong impression. So with armed with my ugly underwired repellant and with Matt sitting outside in the waiting room a I felt very confident I would not find myself in a compromising situation. As it was after some gentle massaging and a few crunches I emerged from the consultation room feeling much better and very happy that I had chosen the right person sort out my troublesome back.
After a brief chat with Orlando about the challenges of being an Osteopath (a profession that despite the 6 years of training is not widely recognised in Spain) Matt and I headed back to the centre of town to track down some food. As luck would have it we came across a great little restaurant with an innovative menu (Portuguese with some Moroccan influence I think) that also was Coeliac friendly and we were soon tucking into a tasty lunch of Octopus tentacle in a pimento salsa and spice infused burger both of which were very tasty (although Octopus is surprisingly rich, so I am not sure I will be tempted again).
After lunch we decided to overcome our previous ignorance, visiting the Cathedral and it’s museum, audio-guide at the ready. There was a lot to see in the museum, but I think for me the most impressive sight, other than the inside of the Cathedral itself, was the dramatic view from the top across the rooftops of the city. Having now learnt about ‘James The Greater’ (as the Apostle is known) and the ‘way of the pilgrims’ we decided to go back into the Cathedral to take another look. Once inside Matt persuaded me to follow in the footsteps of a millennia of pilgrims to go up and embrace the Saint.
That evening we left Santiago De Compostela and headed to the costal town of Arcade to a peaceful aire next to yet another tiny harbour. It was not only free, but also an incredibly beautiful place to be so we decided to stay for a few days and relax and explore the area. We parked Heidi on the edge of the harbour wall looking out to sea. The tide was so far out that we could see the water far in the distance and wondered if it would ever come all the way back in. The expansive mud flat that was left behind was alive with all kinds of bird life and we spent ages spotting groups of cormorants, swans, ducks, wag tails and even a couple of kingfishers. In fact by the end of our visit there we had nearly morphed into fully fledged ‘twitchers’ (the only thing missing was the camouflage gear and a gigantic zoom lens).
We spent Wednesday afternoon, all of Thursday and Friday morning relaxing in the sunshine, taking photos and exploring the bay. Following Orlando’s instructions to ‘embrace movement’ I took quite a shine, not only to walking (which I always love), but also to the municipal exercise machines which are quite amusing. On Friday we decided that the time had come to head into Portugal a mere 40 Kilometres away so we drove to the little town of Vila Nova to an aire which also had received great reviews on Camper Contact (a motor-homing app that we have now come to rely on).
My first impressions after entering into Portugal was how clean and sparkly all the towns were in comparison to the characterful places we had visited in Spain. On our arrival in Vila Nova we parked Heidi a large empty carpark on the river and Matt headed up one of the little cobbled streets into the town while I tried to send an email from our struggling laptops.
We had been having problems with our ‘inverter’, an electronic gismo that theoretically enables you to plug in electronic devices to the battery by transforming the current in some way (I don’t really understand). The main problem being that it didn’t work and in reality just sucked power out of everything like a sponge (not good if you are trying to write a blog!). Having managed to briefly charge up my laptop from the engine battery whilst driving I managed to successfully send my all important email before joining Matt for his guided tour of the town (as after only 30mins he had now become an expert).
The town, which is famous for being a ‘Vila des Artes’ and is the location of the bi-annual Bianale exhibition, was very pretty, with immaculate cobbles, tiled houses and a huge square that boasted a plethora of cafes and restaurants. Matt took me through an old stone archway, past a statue of a martyred Jesus (of which there are many) and up some steep cobbles to explore a contemporary glass building that had been built among the original thick stone battlements overlooking the square. The building stood empty but for a few pieces of discarded artworks, which seemed a shame as its location and design should have made it an ideal space for a roof top restaurant. We later learnt that it had originally been built by a well known hotel chain but after they had pulled out, the conservation body had been very protective of any other businesses coming in, so until a suitable use could be found it was left as an empty shell used only for temporary exhibitions.
It was getting dark as we headed for a trendy looking little bar that Matt had spotted on the main cobbled street up from the car park. It reminded us of a Cornish surfer bar and so we headed inside to check it out and attempt to order something in Portuguese. As it turned out we did not have to attempt to speak any Portuguese as Antonio (chef/ owner) spoke immaculate english in a lilting Austrian accent. I knew within a second of speaking to Antonio that I would be absolutely fine eating there as you don’t ever find a Chef that passionate and well traveled who doesn’t know what a Coeliac is, not to mention the fact it was very clear that he cooked everything from scratch with the freshest and tastiest of ingredients.
We ordered a couple of drinks (me treating myself to a gin and tonic that even rivalled the one in Bruges) and some tapas and went to site outside on a little wooden deck at the front of the bar. After presenting us with some tasty smoked salmon, a plate of delicious Batatas Bravas and some gorgeous sautéed salted green chilis (all accompanied by some incredibly flavoursome yet delicately balanced sauces), Antonio came out to join us and (like any good chef/entrepreneur) get our feedback. As it turned out Antonio and his business partner had only opened up their little bar in August, but were so far very pleased with how it was going as it had been well received and a great addition to the more traditional restaurants within the town.. It was nice to chat to such a laid back yet dynamic host and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening at Curt’ Isso.
The next day we had a walk along the river and then nipped into town for a coffee in a breakfast looking bar that Matt (ever on the look out for good coffee and a tasty croissant) had spotted the on his initial reccy. As we made our way back from the cafe (with the full intention of getting into Heidi and heading off) we were waylaid by a glimpse of what turned out to be a huge market. Not being able to pass up the opportunity we spent a good couple of hours weaving up and down the rows of stalls, listening to the banter and checking out the merchandise. In contrast to a previous (much smaller) market that we had seen in Foz which seemed to specialise in Pig entrails, this market was packed full of clothes, shoes, kitchenware and pretty much anything that you could feasibly need or want. The only unappealing aspect was a stall selling hundreds of tightly packed caged exotic birds and chickens, which Matt and I quickly glazed past so as not to succumb to the idea of letting them out (as we did not think it would go down very well with the stall holder).
After a thoroughly satisfying morning’s mooching we came away from the market having bought a scarf and a stove top Italian coffee maker (a great alternative to a kettle and caffetiere) feeling very pleased with ourselves. Now all we had to do was find a campsite where we could charge up our electric and we would be all set, so we headed for an ACSI campsite in the small fishing village of Vila Cha further down the coast to replenish and restock.