Category Archives: Galicia

Basque Country, Artziniega and Balmaseda

Cantabria is part of Green Spain, the name given to the strip of land between the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian Mountains and it is so called because it has particularly lush vegetation, due to a wet and moderate oceanic climate that is strongly influenced by Atlantic weather systems that get trapped by the mountains and turn to rain.  It is a place of complete contrast to the dustiest and driest parts of Spain in the arid South-East where most Northern European visitors head for the beaches and the sun-loungers of the concrete and tarmac strip.

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Krakow, Auschwitz and the Nazi’s Final Solution

We now had some time to spare before the others returned from their visit to Auschwitz so we walked into the market square which was now bathed in gentle central European mid March sunshine and found a café with pavement tables and a good vantage point to be able to see what was going on.  As the horse drawn carriages jangled by and the place filled up with tourists I wondered how they were getting on at the concentration camp tour and I began to recollect our own visit there in 2006.

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Krakow, Nowa Huta

Eric was doing his best to be ‘crazy’ but I noticed that he locked the car and checked the doors in the same careful way that my dad used to lock his Ford Anglia before leaving it unattended and I was beginning to suspect that being crazy wasn’t something that actually came all that naturally to him.  He had wild hair arranged in extravagant dreadlocks and an outward bohemian appearance but behind the external image he was really an educated scholar with an impressive knowledge of Krakow, word perfect English and an incisive philosophical interpretation of his subject.

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St James and Santiago de Compostela

Sir Walter Raleigh wrote:

Give me my scallop shell of quiet;
My staff of faith to walk upon;
My scrip of joy, immortal diet;
My bottle of salvation;
My gown of glory (hope’s true gage);
And then I’ll take my pilgrimage.

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous region of Galicia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is located in the most northwest region of Spain in the Province of A Coruña and it was the European City of Culture for the year 2000.

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Cantabria, Rain and Rough Seas

Altimira came as a real surprise and we spent most of the morning exploring it.  It was a good job we did because outside it was still raining and was quite damp so after we had walked to see the actual opening to the cave (it wasn’t very exciting I have to say) we debated our options and after some indecision decided to go west again to where it seemed a little brighter.  We drove along the Autovia for about twenty kilometres but the weather looked just as grim in front so we turned around and agreed that the best plan might be to go to the city of Santander where it wouldn’t matter if it were raining.

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Galicia Reflection

Galicia Cathedral

On account of the party and the dancing, we went to bed much later than we had planned, which was rather reckless because we had an early start the next day back to the airport for a late morning flight home.  We woke early and hung around for breakfast, not because we wanted cake or bread but because we really needed a cup of tea.  Eventually at half past eight the kitchen opened and the breakfast lady obliged us with the drink and food and it was most welcome.  Then we said goodbye and set off on the twenty-five kilometre journey back to the airport.

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Galicia, Blue Flag Beaches

Galicia Beach 1

Today we drove north and we were heading for the coast and the beach and because we liked the place so much planned to drive back later through Santiago de Compostela.

Without a map we inevitably got lost almost immediately as we attempted to negotiate the busy town of Padrón and this involved a couple of u-turns and, to be perfectly honest, quite a lot of uninformed guesswork.  Finally, after wasting twenty minutes or so, we found a brand new road that had only recently been opened and we were driving effortlessly towards the Atlantic and the town of Santa Uxia de Ribeira, which is a fishing town and famous for the quality of its shellfish.

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Galicia, A Toxa and a Church made of Sea Shells

A Toxa 1

The reason for driving to A Toxa was simply to see its only famous tourist attraction; the small twelfth century church of San Caralampio set in beautiful gardens and which is completely covered in scallop shells.

We crossed the bridge from O Grove to the island and by a combination of a stroke of luck and by driving the wrong way down a one way street we found it almost immediately.  It had been a long way to drive but it was really worth it and the church looked magnificent in the late afternoon sun and framed against a perfect blue sky  with its gleaming scallop shells bleached brilliantly white by the sun.

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Northern Portugal, Caminha and Viano do Castelo

 Caminha

After a short while we came to Caminha, which is an ancient fortress town overlooking the river Minho and is rich in historical and architectural importance. It didn’t look too promising down on the river but a short walk to the centre revealed a most appealing town with manorial houses and medieval defensive walls, a Gothic church, and a very attractive main square with cafés and a 15th century clock tower, which was sadly covered in tarpaulin while they carried out repairs.  Especially interesting were the houses with colourful tiled walls in bright blues, greens and yellows.

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Santiago de Compostela, Cathedrals and Pilgrims

Santiago Cathedral

“The twin towers of the Cathedral soar into the blue in a sensational flourish of Baroque, covered everywhere with figures of St James in pilgrim guise, crowned with balls, bells, stars, crosses and weathercocks speckled with green lichens and snapdragons in the crevices and exuding a delightful air of cheerful satisfaction” – Jan Morris

There was certainly no mistaking that this is a very holy city indeed and the route to the Cathedral was lined with churches, monasteries and seminaries and finally we emerged into the central square, Praza de Obradoiro, where the Cathedral (which is depicted on Spanish eurocent coins) loomed high above in a most spectacular and impressive way.  Inside, the Cathedral is nearly a hundred metres long and over twenty metres high and is the largest Romanesque church in Spain as well as being one of the biggest in Europe.

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