Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 10.8.21

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain

Cosas de España

Well, Cantabria isn’t Galicia but it’s still Spain. Returning from an early coffee to our hotel yesterday morning – and in the space of 30 seconds – I was nearly hit by a woman driving over a pedestrian crossing when the light was green for me, and then a young woman whizzed past me on the pavement on an e-scooter. Illegally.  

Santillana del Mar is famous for at least 2 things: 1. It’s quite possibly the prettiest village in Spain, and 2. It’s not holy, on a plain or by the sea. Inevitably, it’s far more touristy than when I first visited it 15+ years ago and even more so than when I came for a 2nd time about 5 years ago. I don’t recall there being a zoo here. And nor do I remember the prevailing smell of cow dung. But, then, the village is surrounded by lush farms.

Visiting pretty places in Spain is something of a toss-up. If you go early, you can avoid both long queues at the Information Centre and – to some extent – the teeming (other) tourists. But delivery trucks are only allowed to operate mornings in Spain and these can seriously impair your view of beautiful buildings.  

Things might be impressive at the national level but yesterday’s Voz de Galicia reported that back in Galicia: The circulation of the virus remains out of control. The region faces the end of the 5th wave with the highest infection rate among the young and with the positive rate at the high-risk level. As if that wasn’t enough, the Galician health authority says that the Xunta discovered “late and badly” that it won’t receive any of the extra vials announced by the PM. So, it won’t be able to offer new ‘auto-appointments’. And, as María has pointed out: Holidays are worsening the primary care situation, where getting an appointment can mean a wait of up to 3 weeks. The Galician health ministry admits it’s had problems in solving the crisis for some months now, caused by a lack of doctors and nurses, plus the work overload created by Covid.

Yesterday evening, we had a very pleasant 3 hour drive on Spain’s superb highways down from the Cantabria coast to Belorado on the Camino Francés near Burgo. What an improvement  in the accommodation – at a lower price! – from the pretty dreadful rooms in Torrelaveja last night. Where the bathroom lacked a least 5 of the things it should have had. Including a functioning light. Our rooms in the  Hotel Jacobeo in Belorado, on the other hand, were large, well furnished and fully provisioned. And the wardrobes weren’t made from something akin to cardboard. But at least the Colombian and Brazilian receptionists in the Torrelavega place were delightful and pretended to find my jokes funny. 

As I wondered again how much of the finance for the magnificent roads came from Brussels,  I recalled that, after 20+ years of being the biggest recipient of EU funds, Spain had recently lost top spot to Poland. Which possibly explains this encomium from a polish friend: I see tremendous growth here in the last 20 years. Lots of investment both in roads and physical infrastructure and in human capital has brought lots of entrepreneurial skills that have led to successful businesses. People buy houses and apartments and build whenever they can. The standards are high. Food is great in restaurants. Shops, restaurants, culture – everything is of high quality. 

 The UK 

It’s beyond dispute that Boris Johnson is not a man for details but he’d better get stuck into this subject quite soon: The UK faces the triple threat of rocketing energy bills, the potential for rising prices as a result of inflation, and an as-yet unspecified suite of policies to enable the country to meet the [carbon] net zero target. Boris Johnson’s green agenda has been plunged into chaos amid fears that the costs of reaching this could cripple working class families in newly-won Tory seats. Analysis highlights that the poorest households will be hit the hardest by policies such as stripping out gas boilers and switching to electric or hydrogen cars. Is anyone really surprised? 

The Way of the World

If this – forlorn? – attempt succeeds, it’ll contrast sharply with Liverpool’s recent experience.

Quote of the Day

Proper shops in town centres are being replaced with idiotic juice bars, where socialists compete with one another to use the daftest, laburnum and nettle “I saw you coming” ingredients to win the hearts and minds of thin urban women who like to start their day with a glass of green slime.

Finally  . . .

Bit of a surprise . . . Hollywood star Johnny Depp, who lost a libel case last year against a British tabloid newspaper that labelled him a ‘wife-beater’, will receive a lifetime achievement award at Spain’s San Sebastian Film Festival.

Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here.