Tag Archives: Galicia

Galicia, Corrubedu and Flaming Sambuca

Corrubedu Fishing Village Galicia

To reach Corrubedu was quite straight forward and half an hour later we drove into the unspoilt fishing village that had some new properties under construction but at its heart was a port and a backdrop of traditional houses and pavement restaurants that probably hadn’t changed very much in years.

Perhaps this was what Benidorm was like before the barbarian hordes from the north invaded fifty years or so ago and spoilt it.  In the port there were a collection of small colourful fishing boats, some had been left to rest but on others men were still working gutting and filleting fish accompanied by flocks of excitable seagulls.

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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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Galicia, Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James)

Santiago de Compostella

There is no historical reason why Santiago should be a place of historical pilgrimage, why the cunning monks of Cluny should foster its international reputation or why that joyful shrine should exist at all.  It is only an illusion; but so long as it has been in the Spanish mind… it has achieved a kind of truth.”    Jan Morris – ‘Spain’

In 1998 I won a competition in the Times newspaper for an all expenses paid weekend to a chateaux in Cahors in France.  This was the result of answering three simple questions about the Apostle Saint James and the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela, which were about pilgrimages and seashells.  I was glad that I knew the answers and ever since had the place on my ‘to visit’ list.

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Blue Flag Beaches

Cofete Beach Fuerteventura Canary Islands

The Blue Flag beach award was originally conceived in France in 1985 where the first coastal municipalities were awarded the Blue Flag on the basis of criteria covering standards relating to sewage treatment and bathing water quality.

Two years later, 1987 was the ‘European Year of the Environment’ and the concept of the Blue Flag was developed as a European initiative by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe to include other areas of environmental management, such as waste disposal and coastal planning and protection and in that first year two hundred and forty four beaches from ten countries were awarded the new Blue Flag status.  Twenty-two years later in 2009 when the updated list was published in June there were two thousand seven hundred and ten (up by ninety-eight from 2008).

Thirty-eight countries are currently participating in the Blue Flag Programme: Bahamas, Belgium-Flanders, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Romania, Scotland, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and Wales,

Spain has more blue flag beaches than any other participating country with four hundred and ninety-three along almost five thousand kilometres of coastline.  Andalusia has the most kilometres of blue flag beach but in absolute terms, Galicia is the community with more blue flags (124), followed by Catalonia (108), Valencian Community (101), the Balearics (85), Andalusia (83), the Canary Islands (35), Murcia (16), Asturias (12), Basque Country (3) and Ceuta and Melilla (2 each).

The United Kingdom by comparison, has only one hundred and seven in nearly twelve thousand five hundred kilometres.  Sadly this is thirty-seven beaches down on the previous year, which means we must be getting dirtier. Greece has the second most blue flags at four hundred and twenty-five  (down five) and the most in the Mediterranean Sea.  Even though France increased its successful beaches from two hundred and thirty-eight to two hundred and sixty-three it has been replaced in third spot by Turkey, which has increased by fifty-one to two hundred and eighty-six. Portugal completes the top five list with two hundred and twenty five beaches.

What is interesting however is to put this into context by relating success in terms of numbers to the total length of coastline because that reveals that Slovenia has a blue flag beach every six kilometres, Portugal every eight and Spain every ten.  In the United Kingdom you have to travel one hundred and sixteen kilometres between each blue flag beach and that puts us twenty fifth out of the top twenty-five.  That is even worse than our annual performance in the Eurovision song contest!  Mind you would have to travel a lot further in Norway because it has only three blue flag beaches in eighty-three thousand kilometres of coast (including all the fjords of course).

Blue-flag-beaches 2010 update

jurmala blue flag

To be honest I am not really a beach person, I get quickly bored and I think that sand is completely incompatible with the intimate nooks and crannies of the human body but one blue flag beach that I have visited and enjoyed is Jurmala in Latvia (in the picture above receiving its blue flag in 2007).

The first time that I saw Jurmala was in June 2006 and it was a real eye opener because this was a very high quality beach with miles of scrupulously clean sand, three blue flags and a clear Baltic Sea stretching out over the Gulf of Riga towards Sweden over the horizon.  I had expected the sea to be grey and forbidding like the North Sea of my childhood holidays but instead it was a serene denim blue and looked genuinely inviting.  There were a few holidaymakers on the beach but not many in the sea because I suspect that looks were deceptive and that the Baltic remains fairly inhospitable for most of the year.

Under the Communist regime up until 1991 this was a popular destination for high-level Communist Party officials and it was a favourite destination of Russian Presidents Brezhnev and Khrushchev.  I cannot help finding it ironic that Blue Flags should be awarded to a Red Army beach.

Some nice beaches that I recommend:

Ambleteuse, France

Mwnt Beach, South Wales

Galicia Blue Flag Beaches

Cofete Beach

Albufiera

Portimão, Carvoeiro, Praia Vale de Centianes and Silves

Kefalonia, Fiskardo and Assos

Kefalonia, Villages and Beaches

Kefalonia, Lassi and Hotel Mediterranee

Benidorm 1977- Beaches, the Old Town and Peacock Island

Greece 2009 – Ios, Beaches and Naturists

Serifos Psili-Ammos

Cephalonia beach