A Pilgrims’ Guide to Pontevedra

Colin Davies, May 2021

WHY THIS GUIDE?

1. BEFORE YOU ARRIVE: APPROACHING PONTEVEDRA

2. A TINY BIT ABOUT PONTEVEDRA

3. SOME BASIC ADVICE

4. CLIMATE

5. LANGUAGES

6. SHOPPING

7. BANKS

8. ACCOMMODATION

9. EATING AND DRINKING

10. SIGHTS

11. MUSEUMS AND ART GALLERIES

12. FIESTAS, FESTIVALS AND EVENTS

13. TOURIST INFORMATION

14. LEISURE AND SPORTS

15. BEACHES 20

16. YOUR NEXT CAMINO STAGE 21

APPENDICES 22

– PONTEVEDRA ORIGINS

– EXCURSIONS

– FOOD ITEMS

– FISH AND SEAFOOD NAMES

– GLOSSARY

– GEORGE BORROW ON PONTEVEDRA (AND VIGO)

WHY THIS GUIDE?

The main stimulus for it is my disappointment at watching the great majority of pilgrims* enter Pontevedra’s gem of an old quarter and then move straight down one street, en route to the bridge which will take them across the river towards Santiago. 

* I use this term for all those walking the camino, regardless of whether they’re doing it for religious or ‘spiritual’ reasons.

A secondary reason is that no such guide exists, either in Spanish or in English. There are certainly camino guides, such as John Brierley’s, which provide some information. But there’s nothing for those who want to spend a day here. Or even just an hour or five.

A third reason is that I have a wealth of information, built up over many years, and I’d like to share this with folk who might benefit from it. 

A disclaimer . . . What this guide does not do is attempt to tell you about such general aspects of Spanish life as meal times and shop opening hours, whether in Pontevedra or elsewhere. Since pilgrims have usually been 3 days in Spain by the time they get here, they should be familiar with these aspects by now.

Some notes:-

Words in italics – if they are not self-explanatory – are explained in the Glossary.

As you can see, I can’t make up my mind whether Pontevedra is a town or a city. It doesn’t have a cathedral but then neither does Vigo, which is undoubtedly a city. So this traditional measure of status is clearly of no use to us here. I leave it to you to make up your own mind, not that it’s very important if you are only passing through. I guess it’s most accurate to say that Pontevedra is a small city, compact enough for you to be able to walk round it with comfort. Or at least the bits you really want to see. Few people will want to walk the length of Avenida de Vigo to see the cinema and shopping complex next to the station, for example. All of you will have walked past it anyway, on your way into the centre.

I’ve used Galician (Gallego) spelling for place names and things generally but you will find the Spanish (‘Castellano’) equivalent in the Glossary, possibly with some advice on pronunciation. The most common ones are Praza (Plaza), Praia (Playa) and Igrexa (Iglesia). By now, you should be able to work out at least one of the main pronunciation differences between Gallego (and Portuguese) and Castellano. Don’t let it go to your head.

Me

I’ve lived in Pontevedra since 2000 and have travelled widely in both Spain and Portugal. Prior to that, I worked in international commerce, travelling frequently and living in 5 countries.

My card says that I’m a:-

  • a recovering lawyer
  • a trainee dilettante
  • a reader and writer
  • a supporter of 2 daughters, and
  • a listener to the problems of women

I stress that I wrote that card because foreigners eating and drinking in my favourite watering hole were wont to ask me why I live here and what I do here. The card seemed a better idea than replying “Not very much” to the latter question.

My thanks to my friend Eamon, for trawling through my drafts for the inevitable errors. Please advise me on the email address below of any of these.

Colin Davies

Pontevedra, May 2021.

doncolin@gmail.com

1. BEFORE YOU ARRIVE: APPROACHING PONTEVEDRA

Whether you come via Valença and Tui or via A Guarda, the coast and Vigo, your final stretch into the city will be from Redondela.

About 3.5km from the city, just after you’ve passed a little chapel and hit the main road, you’ll a see signboard and yellow arrows taking you left. For a while this was an unofficial alternative to 3km of tarmac. But it’s now official and is included in at least John Brierley’s guide. It’s a little longer but a great deal prettier. And, when the sun is shining, it provides shade all the way.

One thing to be wary of . . . After a couple of kilometres, you’ll see a sign – just before another one for an albergue – telling you that you can go this way. Best not to, as the route goes through a gypsy encampment. Stay on the path you’ve been on for a while.

This ‘diversion’ ends when the track hits the main road just after you’ve passed under a bridge, alongside the river. Pilgrims who’ve taken the original route may well be seen joining you from the right. Either way, you head up the slope and the public albergue is about 100m on your right. If you reach the bus and railway stations at the top of the hill, you’ve gone past it.

2. A TINY BIT ABOUT PONTEVEDRA CITY

Confusingly, it shares its name with the province of which it is the capital. Much to the annoyance of much larger Vigo.

Pontevedra is an ex-port in the estuary of the Rio Lérez. It numbers c. 80,000 souls and, as you know, is the administrative capital of the province of Pontevedra, which is one of the 4 provinces of the Autonomous Community of Galicia. It’s about 30km north of Vigo and 60km south from the not quite so much larger city of Santiago de Compostela.

Facing the Atlantic, Pontevedra lies in the mouth of the Ría de Pontevedra, one of the fjords of the Rias Baixas (Low Estuaries), south of the Costa de la Muerte (The coast of Death) and the Rías Altas (High Estuaries). The Rías Baixas is an area of outstanding natural beauty, both along the coast and into the mountains of the hinterland.

Apart from (summer) tourism – mostly of Spaniards fleeing the heat of the south – the main commercial activities of the city and its hinterland are wood-processing and wine production. There’s also more than a bit of cocaine smuggling, the proceeds of which are said by some to be laundered through the hotels, bars and shops of the city.

The founding myth of the city is that it was established by a Greek, Teucro, who was the half-brother of Ajax and who fled here after being injured in the Trojan Wars. It does no harm to believe this. Likewise, the strong local belief that the Galicians are a Celtic people. Indeed, possibly the only Celtic folk in Spain. Though these claims are disputed.

If you can read Spanish or Gallego, this is the site of the local council.

3. SOME BASIC ADVICE

Taking photos is much better done in the afternoon/evening. The morning is delivery time to shops and bars and you’re likely to find your target obscured by at least a white van but quite possibly a huge beer truck.

Beggars are a nuisance in Pontevedra. They range from the well-dressed asking for their bus fare to the next town – just experienced as I was typing this – to the very disreputable-looking drug addicts.

Pigeons and seagulls can also be a real pain in the proverbial, especially when feeding their young. The seagulls might even take food from your hand. Best not to feed any of them.

Zebra crossings: The basic rules are:- 1. Don’t treat these as you would back home; 2. Make sure the traffic has actually stopped before you start crossing; and 3. Pause in the middle to check that the traffic coming the other way shows signs of stopping. It frequently doesn’t.

Tipping: This is not a Spanish thing and tourism has not yet got us to the point where tips are expected. 5-10% is more than enough, if you’re happy with the service.

Chemists/Pharmacies: The city is well-blessed with these. So you’re rarely, if ever, more than 100m from one. Very usefully, farmácias always show a large green cross outside. When they’re open, the cross is lit, or possibly flashes. On the door of every pharmacy are posted the details or those pharmacies open when all the rest are closed, e. g. between 2 and 5pm or on weekends/holidays.

Taxis

The main rank is alongside the Alameda, beside the Cafetín café. 

There’s another rank next to Praza Galicia

And a third one across the A Barca bridge, near the roundabout at the entrance to the barrio of Poio.

Of course, you will usually find taxis outside the bus and railway stations, not far from both the public and private albergues.

The radio taxi number is: 986 86 85 85

Street Maps:These can be obtained from said tourism offices. You can also access the site of the Pontevedra Town Council and take a look at the pictures there, especially those of the old quarter. The site is: concellopontevedra.es And this is a site which will give you a street map of Pontevedra –www.elcallejero.com

And there’s also Google Maps and Maps.me and doubtless other internet sources.

Places of worship.

There are numerous Catholic churches in the city. The easiest to find are:-

– Peregrina: Praza de Peregrina

– San Francisco: Praza Herrería, the main square.

– Santa María (basilica): Praza de Santa Maria

-San Bartolemé: Rúa Sarmiento

Click here for times of Masses.

Other places of worship:-

– Anglican: Iglesia Espiscopal de Cristo. Rúa L. 1, Rúa do Camiño de Ferro, 1. And, across the river in Lérez: Parroquia do Divino Salvador de Lérez, Rúa Leandro del Rio, 31

– Evangelical: Centro Cristiano Maranatha, Rosalia de Castro, 45

– Mormon: Avenida Vigo, 15

– Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall.  Rúa Ramón Cabanillas, 2-4, 

If you’re Catholic, you’ll be interested to know that one of the young girls at Fátima became a nun – Sister Lúcia – and lived here in her latter years. The convent and attached chapel have recently re-opened in Rúa das Apariciones, albeit with only 3 nuns incumbent. Here’s the Wiki article on her Pontevedra experiences..

You might also like to know that there’s view that it wasn’t the real Sr Lúcia who lived and died here but an impostor. Click here for one page on this controversy. Either way, you can visit the chapel where whoever she was saw additional visions of Jesus.

Hospitals: The major public hospitals are in  c/ Dr Loureiro Crespo (just after it ceases to be c/ Benito Corbal) in central Pontevedra and in the village of Montecelo, on the hillside to the south east of  town. The best way to approach the former is from the roundabout at the top of Loureiro Crespo, where the old road to Ourense (N541) starts. The best way to approach the latter is to take the same N541 to Ourense in the opposite direction (towards Ourense) and turn right at the traffic lights in Mourente. If you go past a VW dealer on your right, you have just gone through these lights.

Medical Emergencies: If you are an EU citizen, armed with your card, go to the health centre on the corner of the Alameda and c/ Echegaray. Take someone who speaks Spanish as no-one will speak English. Or go to one of the hospitals mentioned above. If you are not an EU citizen, take yourself and your credit card to one of the hospitals.

Some useful phone numbers

 Emergency ambulance  061 

 Local police                             092

 Guardia Civil                            062 

 The British Consul in Vigo There no longer seems to one. This is the embassy advice: If you’re in northern or central Spain and you need urgent help (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +34 91 714 6300. 

Finally . . . 

Security

Pontevedra is a very safe city but, nonetheless, one should not ignore the advice of the local police. To wit:-

– Keep these numbers handy for assistance – The local police: 061 The national police: 091

– Keep your belongings in sight.

– Keep hold of your handbag and protect your wallet on public transport and in crowded areas.

– Take care of your camera or video camera in amusement or recreation areas.

– Take only essentials when you go to the beach or a swimming pool.

– If you are using a vehicle, keep your belongings out of sight.

– As far as possible, avoid isolated or badly lit places.

– Beware of offers of help.

– Don’t take part in gambling or buy ‘bargains’ in the street.

– At your hotel or flat: Use the safe. Don’t leave keys, money or valuables lying around. In communal areas, take care of your luggage and personal belongings.

– Don’t let yourself be distracted when using an ATM.

If you are a victim of crime you can report it in English on 902 102 112.

Note that the local police station is called La Comisaria de Policía.

Oh, and . . .A possible smell: To the West of Pontevedra, on the road to Marín and the peninsula beyond, there is a large wood-processing factory, known to all as La Celulosa. At times, the pungent smell that this gives off can be detected as you drive in from Vigo or even as you walk around Pontevedra. But the latter is rare and tends to be associated with the wetter, windier weather of winter. Normally, you will only suffer it briefly (but memorably) as you drive past the plant along the south edge of the ria towards Marín. On the other hand, you will be able to see both the factory and its smoke plumes as you drive along the other side of the ria to or from Sanxenxo and the other resorts north of Pontevedra. It is not a pretty sight but the factory preceded tourism in its economic value to the town. Its days are possibly limited. Spare a thought for the poor people of Marín, having to tolerate this monster erected right on its border with the municipality of Pontevedra by the burghers of the latter. No wonder they resent it.

4. CLIMATE

Pontevedra is not exactly Ireland but it certainly has a maritime climate. What this means is that – outside the peak season months of July and August – you can get either brilliant sun or rain, usually for the whole day in each case. Or for several days at a time. It is this rain, of course, which makes Galicia as outstandingly beautiful as it is. It also prompts my resident mole to reappear in my lawn.

Happily, this rain is rare in the high-summer months of July and August, when Pontevedra can be relied on to have a much more appealing heat than that of Andalucia, with temperatures between 22 and 30 on most days. Plus cooling sea breezes, if you must spend 8 hours on the beach. Outside these two months it’s effectively pot luck.

In June and September you could be lucky and have one, two, three, even four weeks of magnificent sun – at a time when the town is completely empty of (other) tourists and you can have it virtually to yourself. On the other hand, if you come during these months, you would be wise to have some wet-weather options to hand. Plus an umbrella. Of course, the more foreigners who read this and come in June or September, the less true this observation will become.

If you come in mid-winter, you may not need a heavy overcoat but you will certainly need an umbrella, and possibly a back-up as the winds can be very strong in the narrow streets. But even then, the north wind often brings warm, sunny days, offset by cold nights. Sometimes very cold.

Likewise in spring, you certainly won’t need a heavy coat but you would be daft to come without an umbrella. Though you can easily buy one; they are not exactly in short supply in the town.

5. LANGUAGES

Tourism directed at foreigners is of relatively recent origin and English tends to be spoken only in the bigger hotels and in some of the restaurants and shops in the nearby resort of Sanxenxo. Otherwise, Spanish is what you will need if you want to be able to do without sign language. Or shouting.

Galician (Gallego/Galego) is a separate language which is older than Spanish and thus closer to Latin. It is the origin of Portuguese [some say], which spread down from the north and was later standardised in Lisbon. 

Gallego was banned by Franco (rather ironically, as he was from Galicia) but is now making a comeback. 

Locally, Spanish is referred to as Castellano.

There are a couple of TV channels and several newspapers which use mainly Gallego. And the national channels give news broadcasts in Gallego. 

If you journey into the mountains, you may well find people who only speak Gallego but this is unusual as virtually everybody understands Spanish, even if they don’t use it as their first language.

6. SHOPPING

FOOD

Supermarkets

Pontevedra has numerous supermarkets. The local supermarket magnate has made his fortune from the Froiz stores. They even have a superstore in the centre of town, near the convent of Santa Clara.

There are large supermarkets and even a hypermarket on the edge of town:

1. Carrefour – a hypermarket in a centro comercial on the south side of town. You get to it by taking the old road north to Vigo (N550) and turning right immediately after a large roundabout on the edge of town, staying over to the right as you make this turn. You need to look closely for the signs, especially the one for the Centro Comercial.

2. A Barca – This is in a second centro comercial at the Poio end of the Barca bridge, where the coast road to Sanxenxo (C550) begins. It contains a good Carrefour supermarket. Coming across the bridge, you enter it just after turning right at the roundabout, going in the direction of Vilagarcia. If you are coming from San Xenxo, just go100 metres past the roundabout. Watch out for the zebra crossings which are strategically placed to trap unwary pedestrians on each of the 4 entrances/exits to/from the roundabout.

3. Lidl. Situated at the roundabout mentioned in the last paragraph, within walking distance of the bus and rail stations.

OTHER SHOPPING

Fruit and Veg.

The town overflows with sellers of these.

Fresh food market

There is a standing fish, meat and vegetables market in the old quarter, near the Burgo bridge. This is well worth a visit for the fascinating display of seafood and shellfish, the earlier in the morning the better. 

Standing market

Three or four times a month a travelling market is held in the Recinto Ferial, which is near the far side of the Santiago bridge. This offers everything that markets of this sort always offer.

Flea Market

There is one of these every Sunday morning in front of the market in the old quarter. Given what is on offer, this is best treated as an opportunity for mirth than as a chance to pick up a priceless antique. Or even a cheap gift for someone back home. Especially if you don’t like them.

Clothes, etc.

If your idea of a holiday is to walk round the shops, the area you are looking for is that bordered by Benito Corbal, Daniel de la Sota and Joaquín Costa – plus the two roads (Oliva and Peregrina) leading from Praza Peregrina. 

Here you’ll find several of the Zara family of shops, also established by a (now very rich) native of Galicia. 

If you want a big department store, then you need to go to Corte Inglés in Av. Gran Via in Vigo. Likewise if you want any spices you can’t get in Pontevedra.

7. BANKS

These are concentrated around Xeneral Gutiérrez Mellado and Michelena streets.

They are open between 08.30 and 14.00/14.15 in summer. 

Don’t expect anyone to speak good English, so practice a few words and several hand gestures. 

Or save yourself hassle and use one of the widely-available and very efficient ATMs, which do speak English.

8. ACCOMMODATION

In these days of the internet and sites such as Booking, Tripadvisor, Trivago. etc. – not to mention Airbnb and the like – it seems rather old-fashioned to be citing specific hotels. But I’ve compiled this data in the past, so I might as well include it, just in case it proves useful for someone. Please note there will be other – recently-established – hotels in the city.

Most, if not all, of the places below will have a web page, of course. Some will allow you to check availability on the net.

For real pilgrims, happy to sleep in dormitories, there are now 2 albergues in the city:

1. The public Albergue Virgen Peregrina, in Rúa Ramón Otero Pedrairo, just before the railway station as you walk into the city. 986 844045

2. The private Albergue Aloxa, not far away in Rúa do Gorgullón, 68 663 438 770 

These days, of course, there is the option of a flat or room on offer from Airbnb and the like. 

Pensions/Hostals:-

Slow City Hostel, Rúa Amargura 5.  631 062 896

Casa Maruja Avenida de Santa Maria, 12 986 854 901  

Casa Alicia Avenida de Santa Maria 986 857 079 

Hostal Peregino Opposite the public albergue 986 858 409 

Corinto** (R)                       Lugar Alba, 27    Touceda        986 870 345  4-5 km out of Saavedra 

La Paloma** (R)                            Sa Margarita [c/ Pomba 11?]    986 844 210 

Casa O Roxo*                              Plaza Iglesia, 9   Placéres      986 882 818  Near Marín 

Chaparrita*                                  Rúa do Areal, 5    Placéres        986 881 716  Near Marín 

Casa Chola                                Doma, 40                                  986 762 194  Out of Pontevedra 

Las Colonias                              Av. de Pontevedra, 3                 986 766 308  Out of pontevedra 

Lourido Sobral,                          J Andrés Mellado, 11                986 851 006

Hotels

Numerous, ranging from 1 star to 5 star.

Low cost

Atlantico                                         Padre Fernando Olmedo, 38 986 861551 

Casa Alicia                                     Santa Maria, 5                          986 857079 

Casa Maruja                                   Santa Maria,12                         986 854901 

Fonda Chiquito                               Padre Gomez/Charino, 23         986 862192 

Lago                                               Cobían Roffignac,18                 986 840418 

O Fidel Pulpeiro                              San Nicolas, 7                          986 851234 

Penelas                                            Rúa Alta, 17                             986 855705 

Santa Clara                                      Santa Clara, 31                        986 846820 

La Peregrina                     Eduardo Pondal, 76            986 856729 

Avenida                              Eduardo Pondal, 70 [46?]  986 851298 

Comercio                            Av. Gonzales Besada          986 851217 

Madrid                                  Andrés Mellado, 5              986 865180     

Mexico (R)                            Andrés Muruais, 8              986 859006     986 845939 

Horemex, S. L.                      Andrés Muurais, 10            986 850415 

Medium Cost

Hotel Rúas                                   Padre Sarmiento, 20          986 846416     

Virgen del Camino (R)           Virgen del Camino, 55-57   9 86 855904/986 850900 

Rias Bajas*** (R)                       Daniel de la Sota, 7             986 855100/986 855100 

High cost

Galicia Palace****                         Av. de Vigo,3                     986 864411/986 861026 

Parador Casa do Baron         Barón 9                              986 855800/986 852195 

There are also hotels across the river in Poio

Don Pepe*** La Barca, 24         Poio                    986 872260     986 872823

Los Castros                         Andurique, 13  Poio           986 87325       986 872662 

Paris                                    Albar, 1    Poio                  986 873040     986 873198 

Liñares                                Poio        

9. EATING AND DRINKING

EATING

The quality of meat, fish and – particularly – shellfish on offer in this part of Spain is superb but, in truth, the range of dishes in which this excellent primary produce is used is rather limited, especially in tapas bars. And – save for the ubiquitous (and Hispanisised and ginger-less!) Chinese restaurants – international cuisine is so rare as to be almost not worth the time trying to find it. Though there is an Indian restaurant in the old quarter (see below)

So, throw yourself into the local cuisine with gusto and see, for example, how many different types of ‘prawn’ you can come across. Try the octopus (pulpo) and, if you are really adventurous (and rich), the goose barnacles (percebes). For those with memories of a bucolic upbringing, there is even tripe (callos), meat and vegetable broth (caldo) and pigs’ ears (orejas).

You may find vegetables in rather short supply, certainly compared with the volume of meat and potatoes you’ll be given. But salads are always available.

Tapas bars

The old quarter is awash with these and the best thing to do is to wander around until one takes your fancy, for whatever reason. There is not much point spending valuable eating time comparing menus and prices since these are nearly always the same. Seafood dishes predominate, of course. Just a few citations:

1. Bocaito: Just by the Teatro Principal, in Dona Tereixa. Specialises in scrambled egg concoctions

2. Jaqueyvi: Offers excellent cured ham and cheeses. Like the Bocaito, more expensive than the run-of-the-mill bars. Opposite the Bocaito, in Dona Tereixa. There is a prize for the first person to figure out the origin of its name.

3. El Pitillo: Not so up-market but has fine food at great prices Just down Rúa Alta from the lovely Praza de Santa Maria. Go to the tables upstairs if you don’t like the TV in the corner. Of course, you still won’t be able to hear yourself speak if there only as few as two Spanish diners there but it is a better ambience. Spanish diners converse by shouting at each other, usually simultaneously. Don’t be surprised to have to queue during the summer but, as the place starts serving food at the unusually early hour (for Spain) of 7.30 you can beat the locals to a table if you get there between that time and 9pm.

4. Estrella. Traditional dishes at very good prices. The owner speaks excellent English, which is very rare in the city. I particularly recommend the cuttlefish in its own ink (chocos en su tinta) and the patatas Estrella.

Restaurants:

At the top end of the market there are Casa Solla and Casa Ces, both in Poio on the Sanxenxo road (C550) not far out of Pontevedra after you have crossed the Barca bridge. Within Pontevedra, there is the Alameda (guess where) and Casa Román, in Garcia Sanchez, just off Praza Galicia.

Coming down from these culinary heights, there is a wide choice of cheaper places to eat in town, including several pizzerias, hamburger joints and take-away pizza parlours. 

A couple of favourites:-

Eirado da Leña: This is in my favourite square, Praza da Leña. It is one of the few places in town to take the trouble to provide an English translation of its menu. At least it was; others have now caught on. Though, to say the least, the quality of English varies a good deal.

Meigas Fora. One of my regular haunts. ‘Tapas with a difference’ is the approach here. Less popular with the conservative locals than it is with foreigners. At the top of Rúa Figuerido, just off the main square.

There was a vegetarian restaurant (Ambrosía) at the bottom of Praza Verdura. This is only fitting as this means ‘Vegetable Square’. This first started to offer meat dishes and then converted itself into yet another tapas bar. But with a Basque flavour.

If you want octopus, one place specialising in this is Pulpería As Campás, right behind the town hall in Rúa Alhóndiga.

As for international cuisine . . . 

Italian

– Il Piccolo, Rúa Virxe do Camiño, 16

– La Tagliatella, Rúa Cobián Roffignac, 6

– Cambalache, Rúa Cobián Roffignac, 9

– Mare e Monti, Rúa Eduardo Pondal, 8

– Rebusca 46, Paseo Cervantes, 2.

Chinese

– Hong Kong, Eduardo Pondal 3, 

– Lon Fon, Rúa Blanco Porto, 4.

– Chen. Virxe do Camiño, 27.

– Chino Fuli. Calle do Bardom 3-5, 

– Wok Chang Euforia, Rúa Eduardo Pondal, in front of the railway station. Offers a large buffet.

Mexican

– Rincón Mexicano, Rúa Nova de Arriba, 9

– La Cantina de Charro, Rúa Alameda, 14

– La Catrina, Rúa San Xulián, 12

Indian

– The New Bombay Palace – just behind the town hall, next to O Bocaito. Plaza de España 2.

Moroccan

There is a place – El Dǖkela – in Rúa Figuerido, just down from Meigas Fora and Estrella.

If you’re looking for the roast meats offered in churrasquerías [or asadores], here are a few suggestions:-

1. The San Blas churrasquería. On the edge of the city in San Blas, off the main road to Vigo, at the big roundabout near Lidl. Not easy to find so ask around if you get lost. Best to book – 986 84 64 19

2. O Fanal: Just down from the Parador, towards the river. Praza do Peirao.

3. The Porteliña: A Brazilian Churrasquería on Calle Porteliña, in Poio, across La Barca bridge. This is part of the road to Sanxenxo. On the right hand side not far after the roundabout with signs to the Venus ‘motel’. Be careful as there is a more traditional Bodega Porteliña next door, though they are owned by the same people and I don’t suppose they will mind where you end up. The Brazilian place does numerous rounds of meat for 17 or 18 euros. Be warned, you will feel stuffed by the end.

There are several ‘gastronomic’ festivals in Galicia throughout the summer. Appendix 4 lists those which are within an hour’s drive of Pontevedra. More or less.

A translation of menu items is given in Appendix 5. Many of these are local terms and will not appear in your Spanish dictionary.

DRINKING

Bars and Nightlife (La movida)

As with the tapas bars, the drinking bars are just too numerous to list, especially in the old quarter. Which at night is basically one huge bar.

What you need to remember is that, though they may be open by mid evening, they don’t start to buzz until 11pm or even later. And many of them don’t close until 5 or even later in the morning, in summer at least. 

Note that the measures are at least 3 to 5 times larger than what you are given in the UK. And that the waiter/waitress may not stop pouring until you say so. Many of these bars have a small dance area. 

As for real discos, lacking experience, I am indebted to local friends for this information.:- 

– Carabás: For the teenagers and posers. Near the top of Cobián Roffingnac 

– Morocco: For the 20 and 30 year olds. In Benito Corbal near the junction with Daniel de la Sota 

– Daniela: For those in their 30s and above. In Daniel de la Sota, near the junction with Benito Corbal 

– La Latína: For middle-aged married couples. In Av. de Vigo. Perhaps you can hear yourselves talk there.

There are 3 karaoke places, if that’s your thing:-

– Cafe Concierto Disco Pub, Rúa Echagaray, 19

– Karaoke Cafe Teatro, Rúa Michelena, 11 

– Pub Marilyn, Rúa San Xulián, 17  

One thing to bear in mind is that, if you are in an establishment which calls itself a ‘Club’ and which has lights and décor which are predominantly pink, you are in a brothel. If this hasn’t dawned on you within the first 5 minutes of being there, this is definitely not the right place for you. One good external clue is to check whether the car park is surrounded by a fence whose purpose, one assumes, is to prevent passing spouses or journalists from identifying the cars. 

Wines

There are 4 Galician wines, all of them very drinkable – 
3 white and 1 red:-

1. Albariño: The areas north of Pontevedra (Salnés) and south of Vigo/Bayona (Condado and O Rosal) are home to the this grape. This is used to produce the dry, white wine of the same name. This is of a high quality but volumes are relatively low so prices are high by Spanish standards. Throughout the hinterland of Pontevedra, you will see signs telling you that you are on a ‘Ruta do Viño’. As far as I can tell, this is meaningless as I haven’t found anywhere which isn’t. There is an annual festival of albariño wine in Cambados, starting the first Sunday in August and lasting a week. Be warned that it is more than usually dangerous to drive on nearby roads during this period.

2. Ribeiro: Stretching from the river Miño near Tui up to Ourense lie the vineyards and bodegas of a second local white wine, ribeiro. This is considerably cheaper than albariño but most of it is perfectly palatable and the higher priced bottles excellent. The centre of this wine-growing area is Ribadavia, which naturally has an annual wine festival. Plus a small but preserved Jewish quarter, last occupied by members of this faith in 1492 or thereabouts. 

3. Godello: This is an up and coming wine, from the Galician mountains. My personal favourite.

4. Mencia: East of Ourense – in the magnificently scenic Ribera Sacra/Ribeira Sagrada – you will find this very fruity red wine, said to have been produced first by the Romans specially to drink with the lamprey from the river Sil. This is not as highly regarded as the reds of the Ribera del Douro and Rioja but is, nonetheless, a fine wine. Great for stews curries.

Occasionally, you will see signs for vinos del pais/viños do pais. These can be black/purple/red or white but you are well advised to steer clear of them if you want to be able to taste anything else within the next 24 hours. Or live, even.

If you travel down into Portugal, you can enjoy both their albariño (‘albarinho’) wine and also the effervescent ‘vinho verde’. 

There is a ‘wine musuem’ (O Museo do Viño) close to Sanxenxo, on the old road to Vilalonga and O Grove. I mention it here, rather than in the Museum section, because it is, in truth, little more than a glorified shop and restaurant. Its aim is to make you feel good, enjoy yourself and part with a little of your money – all very worthy, if not noble, ends.

Local concoctions

There is a wide range of  mouth-stripping liqueurs, or aguardientes. For the local speciality of Queimada, the base liqueur is mixed with sugar, fruit and coffee grains and then set alight. Even if you can’t get to drink this, you can buy (in various sizes) the earthenware bowl in which it is (reputedly) made and the cups from which one (reputedly) drinks it.

The 3 basic types of aguardientes – orujos in Gallego and usually offered to you as chupitos at the end of a meal – are:-

– Crema de orujo. Very similar to Baileys Irish Cream, I’m told.

– Café (coffee)

– Verde (herbs)

– Blanco (colourless), and

– Tostada (toasted)

10. SIGHTS

This is just a brief introduction to Pontevedra’s sights, to give you a taste. Really, though, the most enjoyable thing to do is just to wander the marvellous old quarter, remembering to look up from time to time to see the balconies, the flowers, the galerias and the coats-of-arms. With more and more buildings being restored, this jewel of a place gets better and better. 

Of course, the more central and prettier your surroundings, the more you will pay for your coffee. And you might not get a biscuit thrown in.

In late April 2019, Pontevedra City hosted a major international athletics event. The local press had a special supplement, which started with a peon of praise to the city. Most of it deserved. The italicised paragraphs below have been lifted from the supplement, without corrections.

The Historic Quarter of Pontevedra

Declared a Historic-Artistic site in 1951, it is one of the best conserved quarters in Galicia, and an undeniable testament to the medieval splendour of the city, when Pontevedra was well situated next to the ocean. [The port has since silted up]. The beauty of its streets and squares seduces everyone who sees it, among the popular houses and ancestry that reveals the city’s history, with important architectural features that preserve the enchantment of the past.

One of the joys of the old quarter is the old fashioned shops, none of which are there just for tourists. My favourite is the ironmongers [ferretería] in Rúa Real.  Here they have their wares in little boxes behind the counter and they will sell you just one screw, if that is all you want. And then wrap it in newspaper and sellotape it.

There are guided walking tours of the quarter in July, August and September (during the day) and from 15 July to 15 August by night.  Details can be found the city Turismo in Praza Verdura.

The Praza de Peregrina

In this square stands the beautiful, little scallop-shaped chapel of the Virxe Peregrina

The chapel of the Virxe Peregrina/The Pilgrim’s Sanctuary.

Built in 1778. It combines both baroque and early neo-classical elements, such as the altars. This was a major venue for pilgrims on the so-called Portuguese road to Santiago.

As one arrives at the Plaza de Herrería, it is worth a stop at la iglesia de la Virgen Peregrina (Pilgrim Virgin Church). The church has a scalloped-shell-shaped layout, the symbol of the pilgrims, and it is located along the Portuguese Way of St James. Its interior houses the image of the Virgin of the Pilgrims (19th century), patron saint of the province and of the Portuguese Way.

The Praza de Herrería (Ferrería)

The town’s impressive main square and meeting place. Venue for many events.

The Igrexa de San Francisco/St Francis Convent Church

14th century church. The adjacent convent used to house the offices of the inland revenue but now stand empty, waiting to be converted into luxury flats.

Its interior holds the entombment of Paio Gómez Charino, troubadour, admirer of the sea and nobleman during the time period that financed its construction (1330-1360). The building, built in the late Gothic and ogival style, was declared a Historic-Artistic monument in 1896. It has a layout of the Latin cross, with a single nave, cross, wooden roof and dome with 3 polygonal apses, covered with ribbed vaulting.

The Basilica de Santa Maria A Maior/St Mary the Great Basilica

A large, impressive church in late gothic style, with a plateresque façade.

Located on the hill which is on the bend of the Lérez river by the bridge, a small section of the old walls that is still there can be seen. It was constructed by the Fishermen’s Guild (c. 16th century) in the late Gothic style. The layout is that of a basilica with 3 naves divided by 8 columns.

The Ruins of San Domingo/The Ruins of Santo Domingo

At the top of the Alameda. The remains of a 14th century church, said by some to be have been destroyed by Francis Drake, who regularly terrorised this coast and is regarded locally, naturally enough, as nothing but a psychopathic pirate. It is not a good thing to boast of a family relationship.

The temple was founded in the 13th century by the Dominican friars. These ruins belong to the old convent of Santo Domingo. It was made in the Gothic style with 5 axles. It was the headquarters of the archeological society and is now part of the Stone section of the Pontevedra Museum.

The Praza de Leña/Leña Square.

The Praza de Leña is a charming little square – opposite the ex-museum – which is named after the product (firewood) which was sold here. 

Leña Square, where wood was once sold, occupies 3 estates that currently include part of the Provincial Museum, one of the most historically representative museums, with archeology and Galician art. [This seems to ignore the transfer of most of the stuff to the new museum building]

Praza Verdura/Verdura Square.

The busiest of the city’s squares. Popular with the young.

Just a stone’s throw away, where until a few years ago agricultural products were sold, is the popular hub of the city and a place to meet friends and have a cold drink before continuing to Teucro Square.

The Praza de Teucro

A picturesque square, overlooked by several pazos bearing the arms of their 17th and 18th century owners. The square is named after the mythical Greek founder of the city.

The Alameda

Previously the orchard of a convent, running down towards the sea from in front of the town hall in Praza España.

The statue of Christopher Columbus.

You’l find this between the two neo-classical buildings to the left of the Alameda – as you walk towards the sea. As you can see, he was clearly the first to sail across the Atlantic single-handedly.

The Pazo de Deputación.  

An example of the eclectic style of the late 19th century. In the Alameda.

The Pazo de Concello

Known both as the Ayuntamiento [Town Hall] and the Casa Consistorial. Also 19th century eclectic. A handsome building in Praza España on the edge of the old quarter.

The Casa do Baron de Casa Goda

A 16/17th century mansion, now the town’s Parador. Large neoclassical entrance and beautiful staircase.

The Praza de Cinco Calles

One of a series of delightful small squares in the old quarter.

The Teatro Principal

The city’s old theatre.

The Nazarene Chapel

An odd little place of worship, down the side of the Teatro Principal  

The Igrexa de San Bartolomeu

One of the finest examples of Galician baroque, dating from the 17th century.

The Convento de Santa Clara

Retains its 14th century gothic church, which as polygonal apse and a collection of fine baroque altarpieces.

The Burgo Bridge

The bridge taken by pilgrims from Portugal on their way to Santiago. 

The Xardins de Eduardo Vincenti

Just off the Alameda, these gardens, together with the Colón gardens and the Paseo de Rosalía de Castro, provide a relaxing place to sit or stroll among palm trees and aviaries of tropical birds.

Las Apariciones

In Rúa das Apariciones (Street of the Apparitions), you’ll find a little convent and chapel, recently re-opened and ‘manned’ by 3 young nuns in blue habits. This is where Sister Lucía of Fátima fame spent her last several years. And where she saw fresh apparitions both in and outside the building. You can visit and pray in the little chapel upstairs where this happened.

Sculpture Island

The best outdoors museum in Galicia is in Pontevedra and it is a man-made island where the tides reach, Sculpture Island. La Illa das Esculturas. It is located at the end stretch of the Lerez river and is declared an environmentally protected space. It has a permanent exposition made from Galician granite.

Graffiti

One of the banes/joys of the city is its widely-distributed and (often) imaginative graffiti. Just wandering around will allow you to see plenty of it.

Petroglyphs

Across the river in Poio, there is a park where several of these are preserved and open for inspection.

The Os Gafos River Walk

It is an inner-city park, lush pathway that travel from both mouths of the river with wooden boardwalks to cross from one side to the other. The pathway is a hidden gem that passes through the city. People can go for a leisure walk, ride their bikes, do exercise or simply discover the magical feeling of being in contact with nature right in the middle of a city. The route begins at the bridge that is by the bus station and ends at the neighbourhood called Campolongo.

1. MUSEUMS & ART GALLERIES

For the occasional cloudy or rainy day, there is a wide choice in Pontevedra and Vigo. There are also several fine museums in Santiago but these are currently outwith the scope of this guide.

The Pontevedra Museum and Art Gallery

These are now housed in a modern granite and glass building, behind the church of San Bartolomé and the city archives, which used to be the Jesuit convent of the latter. The entrance is in Rúa Padre Amoeda Carballo, down near the river.

Opening times are:


June-Sept: Tues- Sat. 10am to 2.15pm  & 5 to 8.45pm    Sun. 11am to 1pm 
 

Oct-May:  Tues- Sat. 10am to 1.30pm  & 4.30 to 8pm    Sun. 11am to 1pm

Bank Holidays – 11am to 2pm 


Closed on Mondays 


Entry is free to EU nationals, with proof of identity, and a brochure in English is available.

Exhibits include-

– Archaeological remains 

– Pre-Roman and Roman gold and silverware 

– A display of jet jewellery from Santiago de Compostela which is said to be second only to those in New York and Madrid.

– Religious sculptures

– Glassware and pottery

– Pottery, engravings, altar stones, milestones, engravings, hymn books, gramophones and funeral steles (whatever they are).

The art gallery contains

– 16-18th century Galician art, 

– 15-18th century Spanish, Italian and Flemish art 

– 19- 20th century Spanish art, including works of of several masters – Ribera, Zubarán and Murillo. 

– There is also a gallery dedicated to Galicia’s most famous modern artist, Alfonso Castelao. This alone justifies a visit. 

Separately, the ruins of the San Domingo church (in Gran Via de Montero Rios, near the Town Hall and the Alameda) contain 14th and 15th century archaeological remains from various Galician sources.

Vigo museums

The Laxeiro Foundation (www.laxeiro.es), Vigo – C/. Policarpo Sanz, 15

Mon- Sat – 6 to 9.30pm 
Sundays and Bank Holidays – 11am to 2pm 
Free entrance

One of the rooms of this foundation, established in 1999, displays more than 60 works donated to the city of Vigo by the artist José Otero Abeledo ‘Laxeiro’. (1908-1996).  A second room houses temporary exhibitions of contemporary artists

The Fernández de Riego Museum, Vigo – Plaza de la Princesa, 2    986 226459

The donations made to the city of Vigo by Fernández del Riego form the collection of this museum, which is situated in the annexe of the Casa Galega da Cultura. One section of the exhibition follows the life of one of the founders of Galaxia, and the other displays works of painters such as Colmeiro, Maside, Laxeiro and Castelao.

The Vigo City Museum – Quiñones de Léon, Vigo – Parque de Castrelos  986 295070

This museum is located in the Quiñones de Léon mansion (pazo), which dates from the 17th century. Some of the ground floor living rooms of this palatial home have been re-created and displayed in these are objects linked to the history of the city. In the section given over to Galician art, there are works of Maside, Lugris, Colmeiro and Laxeiro, amongst others. There is also a section dedicated to prehistory and archaeology.

The Maritime Museum, Vigo

This fine museum is located at the end of the port area in Alcabre, 300 metres after Bouzas and just before Samil beach.

12. FIESTAS, FESTIVALS AND EVENTS

There are 2 commercial monthly events guides on the web – here and here.

In addition, there’s a glossy monthly brochure (Zoom), available from the Turismo offices and some shops and bars. And there might well be another one published by the Town Hall. All these are comprehensive (albeit only in Castellano or Gallego). Zoom has a Facebook page here.

In summer, there is usually a special glossy brochure covering the fiesta months of July and August. 

Bullfighting is not a big thing here, which is why Hemingway thought that the Galicians were big sissies who, incredibly, preferred folk dancing to dying. Or at least watching things being killed. To be fair, he did speculate that they had quite enough death to deal with via shipwrecks, occasional famines and the like.

The bulls [La Corrida] come to Pontevedra in the first and second week ends of August, as part of the town’s biggest fiesta [see below]. Prices are not cheap but are lower if you opt to sit in the sun. 

If you are wandering the streets of the old quarter after one of the 3 corridas, beware of the crowds of T-shirted people whose idea of a good laugh is to spray others with red wine. You used to be required to wear the T-shirt of an opposing peña to be accorded this honour but this is no longer de rigeur. Any clothing will do now.

If you miss this set of fights, then you might be able to catch those in Noia (west of Santiago) in the last week of August but this is a bit of a trek from Pontevedra.

The usual score at the bullfights is Matadors 6 – Bulls 0. So don’t place any bets on the outcome.

There are numerous festivals in which to participate, especially in July and – even more so – in August [infra]. Other ‘active’ periods include the first week of Lent, Easter/Holy week and early September. A list of the major festivals in or near Pontevedra is attached as Appendix 4. But there are many smaller celebrations. Basically, if you are awoken (around 8) or disturbed (around midnight) by fireworks going off, there is a fiesta nearby. Or it has just finished. For example, the feast of San Juan is celebrated in numerous villages on 23 June. If you are lucky, you will get free sardines but bear in mind that things won’t really start until around midnight. And that the local wine could leave you without the use of your tongue and throat for an hour or two.

The first Saturday of August is the Fiesta de La Peregrina, the town’s patron saint. Or patron virgin, to be more accurate. This marks the beginning of Semana Grande [Big Week], when Pontevedra is given over to numerous activities in honour of the Virgin Mary. Some of them almost religious. It all starts with a speech from the balcony of the town hall around midday Saturday, followed in succession by a colourful procession from the town hall to the Chapel of the Peregrina, the opening of the fairground on the Alameda, the first of the three bullfights at 6 in the evening, drunken nocturnal revels involving all the peñas and then a spectacular firework display at midnight, or thereabouts. 

In truth, Pontevedra goes into party mode in mid July, when we have jazz and blues concerts both in the streets and in both Praza Ferrería and Praza de Espàña. Plus other events such as a clown festival for kids of all ages. In addition to these formal events, there is a continuous supply of street performers.

The Saturday procession to the chapel features huge papier mache mannequins:-

Women and children in local costume:-

Bagpipe and drum bands:-

Younger participants are awash with flowers:-

Down the side of the Alameda there are stages for the various live musical groups that perform each night and numerous stalls offering a vast variety of items, ranging from CDs to bows and arrows from South America.

And the smaller squares in the old quarter play host to such things as a market of craft-ware, a festival of honey, performances from the town band, cartoon shows, folk-dancing from around the world, art displays and a classic cars exhibition. There is even a battle of flowers.

In the larger squares there are musical events to suit most tastes – from folk-dancing to whatever is current with the teenagers. The latter start around midnight and can be quite deafening until they finish around 2am. Needless to say, I have never heard of any of the performers.

Semana Grande starts and ends with firework displays that get more spectacular [and noisier] each year. Things have now reached the point where I suspect that, if I had ever been in the Vietnam war, they would surely bring back memories. As it is, I just feel like an extra in Apocalypse Now.

The festivities wind down toward the end of August but there is a brief upsurge in the first week of September, when we have the Feria Franca, or Medieval Fair, which is an opportunity to dress up in medieval costume and have more fun. It is said that this particular festival has been going on since 1467 but the truth is it’s only 19 years old, but bigger every year. 

Some Brit with some participants in the 2018 Feira Franca:-

Things then go quiet until Christmas.

For easy reference, here’s a list of all the festivals that take place in or [relatively] near Pontevedra during the year. Those marked with an asterisk are food festivals. The italicised words can be found in the Glossary. 

Jan 1                                          Livestock fair                    Betanzos

Jan 6                                          Los Tres Reyes Magos                 Pontevedra

Jan 15                                        Fiesta de San Mauro                    Vilanova

Jan 20                                        Fiesta de San Sebastian                  Pontevedra

Sunday before Carnival Week  Feira del cocido*                    Lalin

Week in which Lent starts          Carnaval. Entierro de Ravachol      Pontevedra and elsewhere 

March 1                                     Fiesta de San Rosendo                    Celanova 

March: 1st Sunday                      Festa do queixo*                             Arzúa

March: Middle of the month        Fiesta de lamprea*                          Pontecesures 

March: 1st w/e                            Arribada de Carabela Pinta             Baiona 

Easter Week                               Holy Week processions                  Pontevedra and elsewhere 

Easter Sunday                             Fiesta de rosquilla*                       Abades (Silleda) 

Easter  Sunday                            Fiesta del Salmón*                       A Estrada 

Easter Sunday                             Angula*                                        Tui 

Easter Monday                            Romeria de San Cibrán                 Pontevedra 

April: ‘Middle of the month’         Fiesta de ostras*                             Arcade

April: 3rd week                           Lamprea*                                        Arbo

April: ‘Late April’                         Ribeiro wine festival                 Ribadavia

2nd Sun. after Easter                    Fiesta de San Telmo                Tui

May 1                                          Romería                                         Pontevedra

May: 2nd Sunday                         Choco*                                           Redondela

May 22                                        Fiesta de Santa Rita                       Vilagarcia

June: 1st. week                             Festival de vino tinto*             Barrantes, Ribadumia 

June: 1st fortnight                          Corpus Christi festival. Flowers   Ponteareas 

June-July ‘variable’                       Langosta*                                A Guarda 

July:  1st  full w/e                          A rapa das bestas               Sabucedo. (A Estrada) 

July 11                                         Fiesta de San Bieito/Benitiño      Lérez, pontevedra 

July 11                                          Romería                                     Cambados

July 16                                          Virgen del Carmen. Romerías       Camariñas, Muros & Corcubión 

July 25 Fiesta de Santiago.            Santiago,                                        Pontevedra

July: Last Sunday                          Fiesta de pulpo*                        Vilanova de Arousa 

July: Last Sunday                          Romeria de Santa Marta      Ribarteme (As Neves) 

July: Last Sunday                          Cordero al espeto*               Moraña

Aug. 9                                          Fiesta de Percebes*             Finisterra

August: most of the month             Fiestas de la Peregrina          Pontevedra

Aug.: 1st Sunday                           Mejillón*           Vilanova de Arousa 

Aug.: 1st Sunday                           Festival of Albariño wine        Cambados

Aug.: 1st Sunday                           Viking festival               Catoira

Aug.: 1st Sunday                           Fiesta of the Holy Cross Ribadeo (Lugo) 

Aug.: 1st Sunday                          Virgen de la Roca observances      Near Bayona 

Aug.: 1st Sunday                           Sword dance                             Quintáns-Muxia

Aug.: 2nd  Sunday                         Fiesta de pulpo*                   O Carballiño (Ourense) 

Aug. 10                                         Fiesta de S. Lawrence      Foz (Lugo) 

Aug.: Nearest Sunday to 16th        Almeja*       Carril, Vilagarcia 

Aug. 14-25                                   Fiesta de S. Roque          Betanzos (A Coruna) 

Aug. 16                                         Fiesta de S. Roque           Sada (A Coruna) 

Aug. 18-25                                    Las dos giras a Os Caneiros    Betanzos 

Aug. 24                                          Fiesta and bullfights                Noia

Aug. 24                                          Pilgrimage for healing    San Paio de Tiobre 

Aug. 25                                          Fiesta de San Ginés                     Sanxenxo

Aug.: 3rd Sunday                            Aguardiente de O Condado   Sela, Arbo 

Aug. : Last Tuesday                        Fiesta de la empanada*     Chantada 

Aug.: ‘End of August’              Romería                     O Naseiro. (Lugo, near Viveíro) 

Aug. : Last Saturday                       Fiesta de Istoria                       Ribadavia (Ourense) 

Aug. : Last Sunday                         Romería                                          From Sanxenxo to La Lanzada 

Aug. 31                                      Fiesta de ponte                               Maiños

Sept. 6-10                                     Fiestas del Portal                             Ribadavia

Sept. 8                                           Fiesta de San Andreu/Andrés    Cervo (E. of Viveiro) 

Sept. 8                                           Fiesta de San Andreu/Andrés    Teixido 

Sept. : Sunday after 8/9                   Romería de N. Senora da Barca.   Muxia (A Coruna) 

Sept. 14                                          Romería                                        Viveiro

Oct.: Starts 2nd Sunday                  Week-long Fiesta de marisco*      O Grove 

Oct. 19+                                         Fiesta de S. Luke                       Mondoñedo (Lugo). 

Nov. 11                                       Fiesta de S Martin                  Bueu

Nov.: Last Sunday                           Fiesta de ostras*             Arcade

Dec. 21                                           Fiesta del capón*                  Vilalba

Dec.: Last week                               Crafts fair (O Feitoman)      Vigo 

13. TOURIST INFORMATION

Tourist Offices

We used to have 5 of these but now only have 3 – one each for Galicia, the Rías Baixas and the city. 

1. For the city of Pontevedra

In Praza Verdura. In the Casa da Luz in Praza Verdura. This one is best for street maps, though you’ll have a job finding it without one. Except on the internet, of course. 

2. For the region north and south of the city – the Rías Baixas

In Praza de Santa María, in the lovely ex-pazo of the Portiuguese Mendoza family..

3. For all Galicia

In Calle Michelena.

Opening hours are 10.00 to 14.00 and 17.00 to 19.30 on Mondays to Fridays and 10.00 to 14.00 and 17.00 to 18.30 on Saturdays, Sundays and festival days. 

It’s a bit pointless me listing all the brochures available. Firstly, there’s a lot of them and, secondly, they constantly change. Try one or all of the 3 tourist offices if you feel the need for something more official or detailed.

This site which will give you a street map of Pontevedra –  www.elcallejero.com

As will Google maps, Maps.me, Apple Maps, etc,

14. LEISURE AND SPORTS ACTIVITIES

Gambling:

The Casino on A Toxa/La Toja offers French and American roulette, blackjack, baccarat and slot-machines. Open 6pm to 4am

Thermal springs:

Go to the hotel in  Mondariz Balneario or the Gran Hotel in A Toxa/La Toja

As for Sports activities, here are brief details:-

Boating/yachting

Cruises are available for each of the rias, plus glass-bottomed boats in O Grove. Mooring and berths, and supplementary facilities, are available in Pontevedra, as well as at several other places along the coast

Fishing

See under ‘Hunting’

Flying

The Real Aeroclub de Vigo is open all year round. Situated near the airport. Tel. 986 221160 and 486645

Golf

There is a private course in Moaña, near Vigo – Campo de Golf Ría de Vigo. Tel 986 327052 



There is also a private (9 hole) course on the island of A Toxa/La Toja, near O Grove.  Tel. 986 730025 


Your best bet, though, is probably the municipal course in the mountains, near Castrove To get to this, go to Raxó on the C550 out of Pontevedra to Sanxenxo and follow the signs first for the monastery of Armenteira and then those to the right for the Campo del Golfo

Gyms

The easiest one to get to is in a corner of Praza Barcelos – ‘Gimsport’, c/ San Antonio, 2. Tel. 986 862344. There is underground parking in this square. 

There is also one in the leisure centre in Campo Longo, near Praza Galicia. And another in the shopping and cinema complex next door to the railway station.

Horse-riding

Riding schools (Picadeiros/Picaderos):-


1. Apalaoosa: c/ Hermida, 59, Pontevedra. Tel. 986 860655. This is in Marcón, off the road from Pontevedra up to La Reigosa and Ponte Caldelas.


2. Picadero a Lagoa; c/ Lago de Castiñeiras, Marín.  Tel. 986 702742. Up in the hills behind Marín, near Cotorredondo
3. Casa Grande de Caldepriñas: c/ Portoparad, Covelo  Tel. 986 650312.

Hunting and Fishing

I quote: ‘There are numerous areas in the valleys of Galicia, relatively near the coast, which offer the possibility of hunting and river fishing. For Pontevedra, enquiries should be directed to 4th floor, 47 Benito Corbal. Tel. 986 805458/00’. This is the HQ of the Agricultural Dept. of the Xunta of Galicia. Open 09.00 to 14.00

Paddle

There is a court (‘Club Padel de Bao[Vao]’) behind the BricoKing store that you can see on your left as you drive out of Pontevedra on the C530 towards Vilagarcia.

Rambling

See the brochure (Galicia a paso) available from the Turismo

Squash

There is a court in the leisure centre in Campo Longo, a short walk from Praza Galicia

Swimming

There is a pool in the leisure centre in Campo Longo

Tennis

There are courts in the private club Mercantil de Pontevedra, in Mourente just outside town on the old Ourense road.

There is also a private tennis club in A Caeira, up from the other side of the Barca bridge. Follow the signs, if you are really keen. They will certainly let you play on their fine outdoor/indoor courts for a fee. The basic fee is 60 Euros for a month’s 24 hours-a-day access to the tennis and paddle courts but shorter periods of access are negotiable.

Quad Bike/ATV riding

There is a company on the Morrazo peninsula – Cangas Aventura. Contact them on 677 401 059 [mobile]. Driving licence necessary, of course.

For more adventurous pursuits, search these:-

Parapente                       Hang-gliding

Alta delta                        Micro-lighting

Descenso de barrancos   Ravine descending[?]

Descenso en bote           Rafting

Hidrospeed                    Hydro-speeding?? Sort of surfing down a fast river.

Piraguismo                     Canoeing

Escalada                        Rock/mountain climbing

Puenting                         Jumping from bridges [Bungee jumping?]

Salto con elástico           Bungee jumping

It would seem that, if you want to do a bit of potholing, you are out of luck. Which may extend your life.

15. BEACHES

I realise that few people to whom this guide is written will have either the time of the inclination to spend a lot – or any – time on a beach, but nonetheless . . . . just in case.

First off . . A relevant comment from the local tourist board: Sanxenxo and Portonovo are the touristic capital of the Rías Baixas, having the widest hotel and restaurant offer in the are, as well as the largest flow of Spanish and international tourists. The 2 towns stand out because of their beautiful and well-kept beaches and their night leisure and restaurant offer and for being at the same time a great place for family holidays.

The whole coastline of the rías baixas is so dotted with fine beaches that it would be pointless to get very specific. They are nearly all sign-posted off the main road so a policy of experimentation is something to consider, if you feel like venturing away from the resorts of Sanxenxo and Portonovo, etc. 

Easily the most impressive (i. e. biggest) beach is that of La Lanzada, near O Grove. But, for example, if you drive towards San Vincente from here (or, indeed, in the opposite direction) you will find beaches galore. In early July there are not many people on these. In June and September, hardly anyone. 

Another excellent option is to drive from Pontevedra to Marín and try the beaches just past the latter. Or further long the edge of the ria towards Cangas and round the headland. Note that some of these beaches are for nudists.

One thing to bear in mind is that the locals – and Spanish tourists – are creatures of habit. They all go for their main meal of the day from 1 to 3pm and then possibly take a rest, or even sleep. They then return to the beach in the early evening. So, between 1 and 5, say, you could well find the beaches much emptier than at other times. On the hand, you will naturally find the roads fuller during the periods of mass transit to and from the beaches.

If you are looking to get the bus out of Pontevedra to the beaches along the coast towards and beyond Sanxenxo, it leaves from Praza Galicia. The timetable is at the back of the local newspapers.

One beach I have decided is worth citing is that of Las Dunas de Corrubedo. This is a gorgeously long stretch of sand and turquoise sea, backed by lofty dunes. You will find it near Santa Uxía (also called Ribeira), at the end of the Via Rapida from Padrón (VRG-11), about 60km  from Pontevedra. The more of you who go there, the less chance of overcrowding on my own favourite beach.

A final comment on beaches – the water may look wonderful but, even in mid-summer, one is risking one’s manhood to stay in it too long. Or, indeed, to enter it. It never gets more than just-about-tolerably-warm. To be honest, that’s an exaggeration; in my experience, it rarely gets above bloody freezing. That said, friends of mine insist that there are beaches where the water is appreciably warmer than elsewhere. One of these – Montalvo – is on the coast road from Sanxenxo to O Grove. This, too, is a nudist beach. For one reason and another, I have not checked out the claim that the water is warmer there. Other things clearly are.

16. ADVICE ON LEAVING PONTEVEDRA: YOUR NEXT STAGE

There are now 3 ways to get to Santiago from Pontevedra:-

1. The traditional Camino Portugués, which wends its way northwards via Caldas de Réis and Padrón.

2. The Camino Espiritual, which separates from the Camino Portugués after Alba, rises into the hills, comes down again to Combarro and then rises again to the monastery at Armenteira, after which it drops down through the pretty Path of Water and Stones to Cambados and Arousa. From here you can either take a boat or walk to Padrón, to pick up the traditional route.

3. The Camino de Padre Sarmiento, the most recently discovered ‘authentic’ pilgrim route. This follows the Spiritual Way until Combarro and then moves through the coastal towns to Arousa.

For all of these, you leave Pontevedra via the Burgo bridge and climb up the gentle hill through the barrio of Lérez. If you see a football ground on your right, you’ve missed the deviation to your left near the bottom on the hill and need to take the next left (at the traffic lights), to join the caminoand walk a few metres to a mini-roundabout, at the start of a narrow street.

Just after this roundabout, there’s a café/bar – O Recuncho do Peregrino (The Pilgrim’s Corner), which is the last place you can get any sustenance for at least 2 hours. So, make sure you have at least plenty of water. Though there might now be a machine or 2 dispensing drinks, or enterprising householders with stalls, along the way. Vastly increased numbers have been a spur to recent enterprise.

If you’re taking the traditional route, you’ll arrive – after more than 2 hours – at the hamlet of San Amaro, where there are now 2 cafés/bars. The first you come to is newish, and better. If only because it does bacon sandwiches. The second one is oddly named Don Pulpo. or ‘Sir Octopus’.

Until recently you had little choice – unless you had a tent – but to walk c. 19km to the albergue at Briallos or 25km to Caldas de Réis itself. But now there’s an albergue after c.12 km at Portela, if you want to break up this stage. Or have walked from Arcade, via Pontevedra.

A couple of notes on Caldas de Réis:-

– This a town of thermal waters. Caldas means ‘hot springs’. 

– As you enter the town, just before you cross the bridge over the river Umia, you’ll see a large spa hotel on your left, more or less opposite the police station – Hotel Balneario Acuña. There’s another, cheaper, one on the other side of the river – Hotel Balneario Davila – not so visible.

– Just after you’ve crossed the bridge, the camino turns left. After a few metres, you’ll see a little trough on your left. 

This contains thermal water and is great for tired feet. But take care: the water can be rather hot.

– There’s a very decent tapas bar/restaurant immediately after the bridge – O Muiño. Go down some steps and through an unprepossessing entrance. A nice spot along the river bank. If it isn’t raining.

APPENDIX 1: PONTEVEDRA ORIGINS, CHARACTER AND CULTURE 

Origins

The city’s name is said to derive from ‘Pontem Veteram/Pontis Veteris’ (Old Bridge) but could equally well come from ‘Ponte de Piedra’ (Bridge of Stone). The earliest records of its existence as a focus for commercial activities go back to the 12th century. It is rumoured that even then the main activity was smuggling.

According to local myth, Pontevedra was founded somewhat earlier by Teucrus, the son of Telamon and Hermione and half-brother of Ajax. Teucrus is said to have wandered west – for some reason or other – when he was at a loose end after the Trojan War. His name is commemorated now in the handsome Praza Teucro, in the old quarter.

This Teucran tall tale is probably as accurate as the local belief that Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón) was born in the town but it has, nonetheless, served its purpose over the years in elevating the status of both Pontevedra and its patrician residents.

The Columbus myth almost certainly arises from the fact that one of his ships – the ‘Santa Maria’ – was built in the town’s yards and launched there as ‘La Gallega’. But then, this is quite likely to be a myth as well.

Widely (and justifiably) regarded as the quintessential Gallego town, Pontevedra lies at the end of the magnificent ria which bears its name, where the river Lérez widens as it enters the sea. Built in a large loop in the river, the town is surrounded by water on three sides and nestles between steep, verdant hillsides of pine and eucalyptus. Ironically, the approach which makes most of its position is that via the motorway from Vigo as it flies over the ria and curves along the river west of the town, en route to Santiago.

Despite being appreciably smaller and considerably less commercial than Vigo, Pontevedra is the administrative capital of the province of Pontevedra. It’s a prosperous and well-heeled town, which gives the impression of being rather pleased with itself. And, in its wonderful gem of an old quarter, it certainly does have something to be proud of. This was pedestrianised in the late 90s and, more recently, extensive sections of the adjacent modern commercial quarter have also been given the treatment. As a result, Pontevedra is now a very easy town to walk round. But a nightmare to navigate in a car. Like Oxford in England, it is now an avowedly car-unfriendly city. This is bad luck for the city-centre-loving residents but good news for tourists. If you feel you must enter it in a car, the best thing to do is to go down into the first underground car park you come across and leave it there. Whichever place you happen upon, you won’t be very far from the sights you’ll want to see. And you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration. This is particularly  true in early-mid August, when several main roads are closed to accommodate the visiting fairground and market.

As well as being a place of considerable interest in itself, Pontevedra is an ideal base for either longish excursions into both Galicia and North Portugal or shorter trips to the local beaches and holiday resorts, such as Sanxenxo. And the incomparable Santiago de Compostela is only half an hour or so away on the motorway.

Pontevedra’s patron saint is San Sebastián but the town’s real patron is the Virgin Mary, more specifically La Virgen de la O. More often, she is referred to as the Virxen Peregrina. You can translate this as either The Virgin of Pilgrimage or as The Wandering Virgin. The former seems more respectful to me. Statues of her adorn the town, and the gift shops, and larger versions are carried in the several religious processions which take place during the year. If you are desperate for a statuette of Sant Iago [St. James/Jacques], rather than the Virgin Mary, you’re better off looking in Santiago, where you will certainly not be disappointed. Not in terms of quantity, at least.

Pontevedra is built on and in granite. Or at least the older buildings are, as well as most of the houses in the hills. This makes for a truly imposing old quarter in the town itself but the countryside, it has to be said, is very much a mixed bag. There are some outstandingly beautiful houses built with weathered, high-quality granite but there are also many garish monstrosities built in new, lighter, cheaper granite. The latter tend to be put up by workers who have returned from a lifetime of overseas employment and whose objective is clearly to show that they have considerably more money than taste. At its best (worst?), this will include a castellated feature or two on the roof. As if this wasn’t bad enough, some wrinkle of the tax regulations motivates a fair proportion of home-builders to suspend or abandon activities part way into construction. The result is a plague of carcasses. One can only hope that the rumours of new laws to eliminate this blight are true.

Pontevedra is certainly ‘Spanish’ but not as Spanish as, say, Andalucia. It doesn’t, for example, have anything like a gypsy-flamenco tradition and some would say that this is one of its main attractions. But it does have its own strong folkloric tradition and you should’t find it difficult to come across dancers in ‘national’ dress, especially during the (non-religious) festivals. These will always be accompanied by bagpipe (gaita) and drum players. Significantly, these events are for the locals and not for tourists. Not yet, at least. It has to be said though that, to the uninitiated, Galicia’s folk songs come across as rather mournful. This may well reflect the impact on life here of the dangerous nature of fishing in the wild Atlantic. On the other hand, compared with Portuguese fado songs, they are bouncy and joyful.

Seeing itself as Celtic, Galicia has strong affiliations with Ireland and Brittany, for example, and the sound of bagpipes is relatively commonplace, especially if you take a day trip to Santiago. In fact, there you are lucky if you can get away from it.

For those with a deep interest in these things, the Galician bagpipes (gaitas) differ from their Scottish counterparts in having fewer drones. I think. And much of the music is even more doleful. But full of character.

Galicia is a place of superstition and myths. Witches – bruxas and meigas – feature large in local folklore. You’ll most commonly meet them as statuettes in the numerous gift shops and as tarot-card fortune tellers on the local TV, if you’re ever bored enough to switch this on.

One major source of wealth along this coast is drug-smuggling. Of cocaine, mostly. But we don’t talk much about that. In public, anyway. And it’s not a business which is very visible.

The camino is, of course, an important source of income to Pontevedra. Increasingly so as the numbers increase inexorably. Until recently wer had only main Camino Portugúes but we now have that and its 2 offshoots – the Camino Espiritual and the Camino del Padre Sarmiento. I’ve no doubt there’ll be more such authentic routes discovered in the years ahead. By the way, just in case you don0t know . . . At the time of writing, there are 39 camino routes through Spin. Not just the 2 or 3 you’ve heard about.

APPENDIX 2: EXCURSIONS

The following recommendations are translated from a (rather flowery) Spanish of the brochure on Pontevedra I fully endorse them all but, as I don’t think they really do justice to the scenic splendour around Pontevedra, I have added some of my own thoughts and recommendations at the end.

1. The coast and interior

The best way to get to know the surroundings of Pontevedra is to forget that the city is well connected by motorway and railway, both northwards to Santiago and La Coruña and southwards to Vigo. So, the best thing to do is to follow the old road south to Vigo[N550], through Arcade – a village famous for its oysters. The restaurants which line the streets to your left and right eclipse neither the Romanesque church of Santiago nor the old bridge in Pontesampaio.

The Canon of Pau

The bridge here was originally Roman and later medieval, when the primitive construction became obsolete. It was here that an expeditionary force of Napoleon’s was put to flight by a ‘canon of Pau’ – made of oak. Travellers who like to record panoramic views should go up to the hermitage of A Peneda, which is high up on the mountainside. This is a typical example of the Christianisation of a place considered pagan, in this case a fort. At its foot, lies the Bay of Vigo, where dozens of galleons full of gold are sunk in its muddy mouth – a harsh tale which is on its way to becoming a legend. [The battle of the Rande in 1702, when British and Dutch ships sank the Spanish bullion fleet and its French protectors and then sacked the local town of Redondela.]

Soutomaior (Sotomayor) – Castle and gardens

Going inland, following the good road signs, you will reach the castle of Soutomaior, a fine example of walled and fortified mansion, converted in the last few years for use as a cultural venue. Without doubt, its best feature is the pointed gallery.

Perhaps even more impressive than the building are the marvellous gardens. Through these walked Pedro Álvarez de Soutomaior, known as Pedro Madrugo [Peter Early-hours] because in the middle of the 15th century his warlike aspirations led him to establish his camp sufficiently in advance to surprise his enemies.

Say the local tourist folk: This is a medieval castle from the 12th century, that is located on the top of Mount Viso, above the town of Soutomaior. The Soutomaiors’ lineage, one of the most powerful in Galicia’s history, would have been the owners of the castle. Nowadays it is an excellent place to visit and admire its galleries, wall, tower or gardens.

Redondela and its viaducts

After Arcade, you will arrive at Redondela, a port which has moved inland thanks to tidal deposits and land reclamation. The best streets, therefore, are those which can’t be seen by just driving through. These are cut by two enormous viaducts, erected when the ‘Eiffel Tower’ model was the all rage amongst those in the vanguard of European architecture. [This appears to be code for ‘metallically ugly’]

To avoid returning on the same road, turn away from the coast and its hubbub and go inland. You will find places which are still tranquil, where tourists rarely journey. Places with enchanting villages and superb examples of houses built by nobles and those returning from the Indies, like Gaxate, on the outskirts of Ponte Caldelas. The latter is a town with an old bath-house and a fine bridge over the river Verdugo – the same river which collects water from the Oitavén and opens out into the ria of Vigo below the arches of the bridge in Pontesampaio. It’s also a place where the two-day market becomes a venue for happy reunions.

From Ponte Caldelas, one road goes towards Soutomaior (PO-244) and another directly to the centre of Pontevedra (C531). Choose whichever one you want, depending on tiredness and time available. The latter is shorter than the former but both routes are narrow, full of curves and, in a word, marvellous on every side.

2. The Pensinsula of O Morrazo

There are only a few kilometres between Pontevedra and Marín (a fine old quarter and interesting alameda) and these pass in a flash [and in a bit of a stink]. And from here runs a route which for most of the time borders the coast of the O Morrazo peninsula. These days this is a quite normal but not so long ago – before the start of the 20th century – it was quite impossible. The reason is obvious: there wasn’t a road, nor even the beginnings of one. So the inhabitants of this area were forced to travel by sea.

Between Marín and Bueu [pronounced ‘Bway’] there are, above all, beaches. But, in addition, several ‘petroglifos’ and prehistoric inscriptions, carved in stone. You get to these using Mogor beach as your point of reference. These sands also give their name to the labyrinth built by one of our predecessors. The recommendation is clear: refrain from walking on, painting on or modifying the designs. It’s certainly possible for any camera to immortalise them without the need to touch them in any way.

The Bueu market

At the side of Bueu lies the Roman church of Cela. Bueu itself is a seaside place which almost demands that you take a quiet walk through its port. It also has one of those tourist attractions which is indelibly printed on the retina – its market. It’s also the place – though not the only one – from where the ferry departs for the island of Ons (emptied and repopulated many times; sign-posted hikes), neighbour of the absolutely wild island of Onza. [I am not convinced that it is correct to say that you can get a boat to Ons from Bueu; the brochure lists only Portonovo and Marín]

Hío and its Cross

The road takes you next to Aldán, rising from a small bay which has been raised to the status of ria, and then to Hío. Here there is a cross which has withstood storms, winds and sea-salt and which has been photographed a million times. It is a 19th century cross which presides over the vestibule of the church on one side and the priest’s house on the other. The road runs on to Donón (whose wine is much appreciated) and then to Cabo de Home, from the end of which, stretching out your hands, it seems possible to touch the landmark islands of Cíes.

Backtracking to the main road, you then head for Cangas, sacked in 1004 by the Arabs and in 1617 by Turkish pirates. It was also the scene for a later witch-hunt. The road now runs along the side of the Ria de Vigo, where a veritable mussels ‘farm’ separates you from the road and the city of Vigo itself. Taking the road to the left, you can quickly return to Pontevedra. But, if you have time, it is better to go through Moaña and, after 6 kilometres, take the side road which, after a long climb, brings you to the lookout point (‘mirador) of Faro de Domaio, an enclave in the middle of a natural park and neighbour of the dolmen called Chan de Arquina. This dolmen was planted in the earth no less than 5,500 years ago. Any local resident will tell you where you can find it. [Actually, the literal translation of this sentence is ‘Any local resident will tell you where to go’, which is probably more likely.]

Cotorredondo, for the children

They will also orient you towards the swarm of tracks leading to another nearby attraction, Cotorredondo, a quiet park with its own lake – an ideal place for the children to play and run in without fear of any sort of accident. Higher up, the appearance of wild horses tells you that you have arrived at the peak, from which – between mantles of trees – you can see both sides of the peninsula and almost feel, down below, the presence of Pontevedra. Now all you need to do is go down again.

3. The Shadow over Poio

Having left Pontevedra and crossed the river Lérez, you arrive first [on the C550] at Poio, a township now in the shadow of the provincial capital but always under that of its ancient monastery. The records say that this was built in the 11th century and re-built two hundred years later under the aegis of the enterprising Abbot Pedro. But if such historical facts drop easily out of the memory, the same cannot be said for the wonderful cultural works put in place by the monks down through the years. The visitor can appreciate these both through the display of traditional stone-working techniques (a famous school of granite carvers) and through the contents of the impressive library.

The next stop must be Combarro, perhaps the local village best known nationally.

Says the local tourist folk: Combarro is a beautiful fishing village that specially stands out thanks to its ‘hórreos’, next to the sea, while this is a structure generally found in the countryside. Nevertheless, not only this area is beautiful, but the whole town [village?] with its pretty alleys and ‘cruceiros’.

The typical photo of its hórreos ‘hanging’ over the sea have turned it into a must for posters and postcards. Designated a place of historical-artistic interest, it has the added feature of being one of the tourist spots where you can eat seafood which was almost still alive when it was put in the oven. [Be warned, Julio Iglesias  – a son of the soil – occasionally arrives in his private jet to give a concert or eat a bit of seafood. In the latter case, you might lose your reservation]

The Fertility Myth

Sanxenxo and the virtually contiguous Portonovo are excellent tourist spots – places for the young, for ‘la movida’, for drinking, for enjoying the beaches and for eating tapas. Everything is near-to-hand, for the adjacent beaches of Espiñeira, Foxos and A Lanzada are not crowded and are there for you to relax and enjoy yourself. The last named has another useful feature – it helps women to procreate. According to tradition, taking a swim of ‘nine waves’ on the night of a full moon guarantees an end to infertility.

On a rock salient which juts out into the Atlantic arise a cross, a temple dedicated to Our Lady of Lanzada (13th century) and the remains of a medieval tower (10th century).

Say the local tourist folk: The beach of A Lanzada, located between Saxenxo and O Grove, is one of the most outstanding beaches in the Rías Baixas.

O Grove and A Toxa [A Toja]

The traveller crosses a sandy isthmus which stops O Grove being an island. These days, this peninsula is much visited in summer, particularly the town which gives it its name, the luxury island resort of A Toxa and the beach of San Vicente. But there are still a good number of places which hardly ever receive visitors. These include the Mount Siradela, whose 167 metres makes it the highest local point. Understandably, a simple look-out point has been built on its peak. Having seen this and the archaeological excavations (so close to the sea that they are sometimes submerged), the route turns north to Cambados, always along the coast. Here, apart from the port, it’s worth stopping to see the church of Santa Mariña, the tower of San Sadurniño and, above all, the Fefiñáns mansion (pazo)

The ‘attached’ island

Close by is the town of Vilanova de Arousa, the birthplace of the writer Ramón Maria del Valle-Inclán (though this, to be fair, is disputed by the town of A Pobra do Caramiñal on the other side of the ria). A  bridge moors the island of Arousa to terra firma but, though this has lost for ever its insular status, it hasn’t suffered an avalanche of visitors, mutilating its natural and human scenery. And if you are a true admirer of islands, you need to ignore Vilargarcia – a modern, booming city – and head for Carril, the observatory[?] of Cortegada, protected from winds and tides by conservationist groups in view of its status as one of Galicia’s natural paradises. The defence of this island follows that of the early 70s in respect of the nearby Towers of the West (Torres de Oeste) in Catoira. Then, the construction of the bridge that now passes alongside them threatened the destruction of this fortress. This terrible barbarism was never perpetrated and today the towers and their chapel make an excellent final sight of an excursion which takes you back to Pontevedra, through Vilargarcia to Caldas de Reis and then via the autopista from there.

So much for the brochure. Now for my comments……

If you leave Pontevedra on the ‘old’ road to Ourense (N541), almost any detour into the hills will reward you with great scenic splendour. In addition, there is a transport café (Conchi’s) about 16 km out of the town which is owned by a pleasant family and which provides a tremendous value ‘midday’ meal of fish and meat. Just look for the trucks at the side of the road.

Places to head for include:-

– The Cotobade area generally, but especially Almofrei (PO233).

– The lake at Fornelos de Montes, off the C531, after Ponte Caldelas. There is a praia fluvial en route

– Mondaríz Balneario and Mondaríz, near where you can find another praia fluvial.

– Maceira: also has a praia fluvial. This town is reached by staying on the C531 after Ponte Caldelas as it winds through the valley of the Sierrra de Suido

– Avion: Take the OU-213 via Beariz. Avion is said to have been enriched by the repatriation of monies earned from prostitution in South America. Whatever, it has its own little airport. And a large lake/reservoir nearby. As you would expect, the large houses display more wealth than style.

– Leiro: This is closer to Ourense than Pontevedra and is reached by turning off the N541 onto the OU210 to Ribadavia and then into the village when you see the sign on the right. It has a pleasant river walk and a restaurant (the Souto, just out of the village) which serves prodigious quantities of lamb and chips. The Ribeiro wine is excellent here.

– Ribadavia: Has an interesting old quarter, with its own Jewish barrio. On the last Saturday in August, it stages a medieval weekend (Festa da Istoria), when everyone dresses in costumes and pays for things with premium- bearing ‘old’ money. This presumably finances this enjoyable event. Also has a (Ribeiro) wine festival in the last week of April or first week of May

– O Carballiño: The ‘land of waters’. Numerous rivers, woods and praias fluviales (e.g.  O Cuco and the Parque Municipal. Plus spa baths. Off the road to Ourense (N541), on the road to Punxin, there is the Pazo de Trasaba. And off the N525 between Ourense and Santiago, there is the Pazo de Tamallancos, in the town of Vilamarín, which can be reached via the road from Punxin through Amoeira. In Vilamarín take the tarmaced road close to the farmacia.

For a stupendous full day’s travelling, there is little to beat the area known as Ribera/Ribeira Sacra (or Sagrada) to the east of Ourense. Take the N120 out of Ourense towards Monforte/Ponferrada and then turn onto the  road that takes you down the valley (cañon) of the river Sil.

I would love to be able to tell you what the number of this road is but none of the four maps I am consulting has it. Look for the signs to the Cañon del Sil or the Monasterio de Ribas de Sil and then just drive where your fancy takes you, though try to get near to Parada do Sil and take a trip on the catamaran which sails up and down the canyon. In spring, this area is a mass of yellow broom and purple heather and the views of the canyon below you and the eagles above you will take your breath away. Go back to Ourense along the C536, perhaps taking in the castle in Castro Caldelas. There are at least 3 defunct monasteries in this area, all of which are worth taking a look at. You can get a brochure/map in either Ourense or in Parada do Sil if you don’t want to stop in Ourense. Though it might increase your chances of finding Parada do Sil, if you do. By the way, Ourense can be reached along the older but shorter N541 or by motorway along the A9 and A52. The latter is quicker.

From Vigo, Baiona or Cangas you can take a short boat trip to the fabulous Islas de Cies, considered to have one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

From Portonovo or Marin you can get a boat to the equally enticing Isla de Ons

In O Grove you can take your pick of several glass-bottomed boats which will take you for a tour of the nearby ria. Not far outside O Grove – on  the road to San Vicente – there is a good aquarium.

There are boat trips into the Ria de Vigo from a number of places, billed as being an opportunity to taste the mussels and wine of Galicia. But then, everything is. Likewise, there are trips from Marín round the Ria de Pontevedra. And from Vilagarcía (from the Puerto de Pasajeros) round the Ria de Arousa (the Ruta Xacobea).

Monasteries – near Pontevedra you can easily visit those of Lérez, Poio, Armenteira and Tenorio. The last named is rather small and really only for true enthusiasts. The monastery of Poio has what is said to be the largest hórreo in Galicia, as well as an interesting little museum

O Salnés – I have already mentioned this area under Eating and Drinking

The Ria de Arousa – The drive from Cambados to Catoira – and perhaps across to Rianxo en route to Las Dunas de Corrubido – is very picturesque.

On the road (N550) out of Pontevedra to the spa town of Caldas de Reis and Santiago, there is a pretty picnic area next to a large waterfall and the now-derelict mills down the side of it. This is sign-posted if you are coming south but not if you are going north, out of Pontevedra. Look for the back of a rustic-looking brown notice-board sort of thing on your left and turn right.

For a longer trip, take the A9 to Vigo and then the (linked) A57 to Bayona, continuing along the coast road (C550) to A Garda/A Gaurda/La Guardia. Here you should look for the signs for the mirador of Monte Santa Trega/Tecla, from where you have a stupendous view over the river Miño/Minho and into Portugal. In Bayona itself (if you go into it), the parador hotel is set in the beautiful grounds of the old fortress from which the regularly blockading British navy used to be watched. Up until very recently, you could enjoy both of these scenic detours for free but the locals have now wised up. The drive along the Miño from La Guarda to Tui is delightful and you can always detour into the wine routes of Condado and O Rosal. Tui itself is a pleasant fortress town, with an interesting cathedral and old quarter. But there is a finer old quarter – similarly fortified – in Valença, just across  the river border. There you can join the hordes of Spaniards taking advantage of lower Portuguese prices, if this takes your fancy. Just outside Tui is the mountainous National Park of Monte Aloia. This is scenically splendid and you can picnic in the areas already set up for you, complete with tables, benches and bar-B-Q grills. Take the Gondomar road out of Tui (PO340) and look for the signs on the right hand side not far out of town. If you get to the autovia slip roads – or see the Restaurante Montenegro on your right – you have gone too far. This restaurant, by the way, serves excellent churrasco dishes. And roast lamb.

To return from Tui to Pontevedra, you can either race back on the N550/N120/A9 or meander along the Miño valley to Salvaterra, taking the N550 towards Porriño and then turning right to Guillarei/Caldelas on the PO413/PO404. From Salvaterra you can cross a bridge into Monçao in Portugal, which is well worth it. Back in Salvaterra, turn north on the PO403 to Ponteareas (an old spa town) and then go via the PO254 (sign-posted Mondariz) and then either take the PO253 to Pazos de Bourbon, Sotomaior and Arcade or stay on the PO254 and go on to Mondariz. From here you can take the PO252 towards Moscoso and then Fornelos de Montes,  Forzans (PO251) and then Ponte Caldelas (C531). All of these are highly enjoyable scenic routes but I take no responsibility for the accuracy or otherwise of the quoted road numbers, which don’t appear on two of the four maps I use. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Salvaterra is called O Castelo on the Galician Mapa Turistico and Fornelos de Montes appears to be called A Igrexa.

Another day trip is, of course, to Santiago del Compostela, the subject of a future guide. Maybe.

Finally, I am reproducing below a description of the impressive Os Ancares area near Lugo. It would be possible to do this trip in a day from Pontevedra but this would involve a 2 hour drive to the area, several hours driving along its rather tortuous roads and a further 2 hours back to Pontevedra. A better idea would be to stay a night in or near the area and then take your time to explore it. By the way, if you find the description of the various routes a little confusing, you won’t be the first. To say the least, you will find it useful to have a good map, showing all, not just some, of the roads that wind up and around the hills.

LOS ANCARES, A VERY SPECIAL RESERVE

In the 1970’s and 80’s the people of Galicia discovered Os Ancares.

They were fascinated by reports in the media that there were still villages there without electricity or roads, cut off by the winter snows, where people and animals lived together in prehistoric huts, farming with agricultural implements last used in Europe 200 years ago.

All this and the mountains, the untouched woodland with its indigenous species, deep valleys and inaccessible peaks, and the varied flora and fauna unique to Galicia: deer, ibex and even bears. The myth of Os Ancares was born. A place for a day out but which makes you want to stay for a weekend at least. A riot of nature and anthropology made accessible by roads and signposts and with a growing hotel trade. 

The ever-active environmental groups in Galicia have proposed that 60,000 hectares of this fold in the ranges of the Cordillera Cantábrica, which lies half in Leon and half in Galicia, be declared a Parque Natural. Today, protection only goes as far as a National Game Reserve, which has done nothing to prevent the sharp decline in the bear population in the mountains. In the last two or three years the odd pair has been seen, having made the short journey from the nearby Muniellos Natural Park in Asturias. The Ministry of Agriculture now owns a 150-hectare estate set aside for a programme to help the brown bear population recover.

But Cervantes, this municipality of 130 villages in the Galician part of Os Ancares, in the province of Lugo, owes its name to the deer (ciervos) who populate it and not the bears. According to the 1991 census, it has, in total, little more than 2,300 inhabitants; only a third of the population immediately after the Spanish Civil War. In the 1960’s, when people began emigrate, young people left the backwardness and misery en masse for the industrial belt of Barcelona in particular.

From Becerreá

The departure point for Os Ancares is Becerreá – a village located on kilometre 459 of the N-VI, Madrid to La Coruña road – exiting at the Pedrafita do Cebreiro pass if coming from Central Spain, or 42 kilometres from Lugo if coming from the north.

To really enjoy Os Ancares, we highly recommended you spend a night or two in the albergue (mountain refuge) or in the two hostales (inns) in San Román and in Piornedo.

Wherever you stay, the trip suggested here, dominated by the peace and quiet of the valleys and mountains, can easily be done in a day, as it is a round journey of around about 130 kilometres from Becerreá, although you should fill up with petrol before leaving Becerreá as there is no petrol station until Navia (about 100 kilometres away).

9 km along the road from Becerreá to Navia de Suarna you arrive in Liber, where the road forks off to the right. The two roads go deep into the valleys and foothills of the sierra (mountain range) before joining up again in the village of Degrada. The first road, a low-lying route, is a journey of 40 Km via Doiras and Cela.

The second is journey of 33 Km, which passes by a beautiful fishing lodge before leading on to the capital of the municipality, San Román de Cervantes, (where there is a hostal and restaurant) before climbing up to become the highest road in Galicia.   

The absolute calm of the valleys and mountains reigns supreme; nature in its purest state, and where, every once in a while, a vehicle may pass through. Villages in the depths of the mountains, nestling on the slopes, can be reached by minor roads, which are sometimes little more than country tracks

The local people live mainly from livestock, and there is extensive pasture land, amid large areas of scrubland, known as matorral, with varieties of heather, broom, bilberries, gorse, and indigenous ‘hedgehog’ shrubs. 

There are many woods, some of which are forested with centuries-old oaks and which have their own names. The traveller will also come across woodland comprising chestnut, yew, ash, birch, hazelnut, pine plantations and holly, and alder, willow and poplar in the valleys

The number of deer in the reserve has declined markedly, as have those of ibex, although in smaller numbers. It is, however, home to a thriving community of roebuck and a stable population of wolves and foxes. Mammals also abound in numbers such as genets, mountain cats, otters, wild boar, martens and perhaps the last remaining pine martens in Galicia. 

Binoculars are essential in a place like Os Ancares if you want to see, for example, the eagles, falcons, goshawks and sparrowhawks soaring majestically in the air. With a little luck it might be possible to catch a glimpse of a capercaillie; a protected species and the mascot of the reserve. This arrogant bird, larger than the cockerel, has a peculiar way of attracting the female, putting on an unusual show by dancing around her, always at daybreak, and of course, always before mating with her

By Doiras 

If you take the lower road via Doiras and Cela, you come across one of the few monuments on the journey, the Torre de Doiras. Set atop a rocky crag, this typically Galician fortress, dating from the fifteenth century and part of the domain of Diego Osorio, is privately owned and is not open to the public at the moment. It dominates the area and makes this part of the sierra unique.

According to the legend, the maiden Aldara once lived here until she mysteriously disappeared. Years passed until one day her brother, Egas, shot a magnificent deer whilst he was out hunting. As he was unable to carry it, he cut off a hoof, put it in his bag and went off to get help. When he showed his father the size of the prize, the hoof had turned into a hand which bore one of Aldara’s rings. Both father and son rushed off in haste and found to their horror that the animal brought down by Egas’ arrow to the heart had now taken on the figure of the maiden. A spell had turned her into deer.

Close to Doiras lies the tiny village of Vilarello da Igrexia, where scholars have located the origins of the family of Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The second surname of the brilliant author of Don Quijote de la Mancha originates from here and the thirty ninth chapter of the novel – considered to be autobiographical – begins with these words: “My family had its origin in a village among the mountains of Leon…”.



By Sete Carballos

If you come to Degrada by the upper route, you pass the hill of Sete Carballos, an ideal spot to view, on the horizon, the jagged outline the most important peaks of Os Ancares: Pena Rubia, Tres Bispos, Crono Maldito, Mustellar, Cuiña (the highest at 1,987 m) and Miravalles.

The two roads come together in Degrada and immediately afterwards lies Campa de Braña, a crossroads 1,178 metres above sea level, and with two restaurants standing guard on either side of the road it is an essential place to stop to rest and have something to eat. The road climbs from here to Tres Osbispos, a kilometre away, where there is a reasonably priced mountain refuge, offering meals and a bed. This is the perfect place to set off on some routes and it is highly recommended to have suitable maps. Some of them will be available in the mountain refuge.

The journey by car from Campa da Braña to Piornedo (18 kms long) is as beautiful as it is twisting. The road runs on both sides of the small valley of the Ortegal River. Two and a half kilometres into the journey there is a path to the right which leads up to the nearby Campa de Barreiro, the site of the Fonte dos Namorados (Lover’s Fountain) and where a fiesta is held on the third Sunday of July. The road continues on the same side of the Ortegal Valley and reaches the banks of the river after passing through Abesedo de Donís, a place which offers the best chance to catch sight of a mountain cock (capercaillie). You cross the river at the Ponte de Vales, set amid beautiful woods, and climb back up the other side in search of Donis and Piornedo

No worthwhile guide fails to mention the day, in 1873, when the village of Donís took its place in the history books. Fed up of the humiliation of having to pay taxes whilst living in extreme poverty, the people locked the tax collector in a stable and then declared the Independent Republic of Donís. Their defiance lasted for as long as it took the police to free the civil servant and restore the unity of the state. On leaving the village, a sharp curve to the right and a steep climb leads the traveller to Piornedo. 

The pallozas

Piornedo is not the only village in which there are still pallozas (pre-Romanesque, thatched, stone huts), but it is the most famous. Humans and animals lived side by side in these primitive constructions as recently as ten years ago.

The poverty and simple way of life of only a few years ago can now be visited for a token fee as some pallozas have been turned into ethnographic museums and others have been opened up by local people. They remain untouched, displaying the kitchen utensils which for the outsider date back to the time of their grandparents but for the people of Os Ancares were important tools in their everyday life until very recently.

Pallozas were circular or oval structures designed in such a way as to retain heat to face the terrible winters in the mountains. They didn’t even have fireplaces, as it was thought that the smoke was good for the health, and in any case, it escaped through the thatched roof. Only parents had their own room. Now Piornedo has a modern hostal and restaurant with turismo rural (rural tourism) category accommodation.

From Piornedo you can either return by the same route or take the circular route suggested at the beginning, which goes into Leon and through the villages of Suábol and Balouta – which boast their own pallozas. Afterwards, following a beautiful road through the gorge of the Balouta River, come off at Rao and Navia de Suarna, a new municipality in Galicia of 2,000 inhabitants that, for some decades now, has lived under the threat of a project to build a reservoir, which would mean the end for the village. Any photo of Navia would have to include its medieval bridge with its thick walls, standing at the foot of what was once the castle of the Altamira family.

A twisting road links the village with Becerreá (29 kms away) and runs alongside the Navia River and its many fishing reserves and trails, if that is, you still have some energy left after such an intensive day.

ACCOMMODATION: 

Albergue de Os Ancares. Campa La Braña. 982 18 11 13 



PIORNEDO 
- Hostal Piornedo **  Piornedo de Ancares. 982 16 15 87 
- Hostal Belón * Ctra. Gra. Diputación, s/n. 982 36 45 15 



BECERREÁ – Hostal Rivera ** Piornedo de Ancares. 982 36 01 85 
- Hostal Herbón * Gómez Jiménez, 8. 982 36 01 34 



– OS NOGAIS – Hostal Fonfría ** Ctra. N – VI. 982 36 40 44 – Hostal Muiño **  Ctra. Gral. km 448. 982 36 40 50

APPENDIX 3FOOD/MENU ITEMS

Here’s a translation of most of the food items/terms you’re likely to come across:-

A la Gallega – Done in a paprika sauce 

A la Navarra – Stuffed with ham 

A la parrilla – Grilled 

A la pepitoria – In a sauce with egg and almonds 

A la plancha – Grilled 

A la Romana – Fried in batter 

Abadejo – Pollack [fish] 

Aceite – Oil 

Aceitunas – Olives 

Acelga – Chard 

Adobo – Marinade 

Ajada [Allada] – Sauce made with oil, garlic, vinegar and paprika 

Ajo – Garlic 

Al ajillo – In garlic 

Al espetón – Roasted on a spit/skewer; kebab 

Al horno – Baked, roasted 

Al natural – Without added ingredients 

Al vapor – Steamed 

Albaricoques – Apricots 

Albóndigas – Meat balls 

Alcachofas – Artichokes 

Alioli – With garlic mayonnaise 

Almejas – Clams 

Almíbar – Syrup 

Almuerzo – Lunch 

Anca – Rump; haunch 

Anchoas – Anchovies (fresh) 

Anguila/Angulas – Eel/elvers 

Arroz – Rice 

Arroz a la Cubana – Rice with fried egg and tomato sauce 

Arroz con mariscos – Rice with seafood 

Asado – Roasted 

Atún – Tuna 

Avellana – Hazel nut 

Azúcar – Sugar 

Bacalao – Cod (often salted) 

Batata – Sweet potato 

Berberechos – Cockles 

Berenjenas – Aubergine/eggplant 

Besugo – Red sea bream 

Bizcocho – Sponge cake 

Bonito – Tuna 

Boquerones – Anchovies

Botella – Bottle 

Budin  = Pudin – Pudding 

Buen hecho – Well done 

Buey – Bullock; beef older than veal 

Buñuelo – Fritter 

Butifarra – Type of sausage 

Cabello de ángel – Sweet pumpkin 

Cabrito – Kid 

Cacheira – Pork (from the face) 

Calabacín – Courgette 

Calabaza  – Pumpkin 

Calamares (en su tinta) – Squid (in ink) 

Caldeira (en) – Stewed (in) 

Caldillo – Clear fish soup 

Caldo – Broth 

Caldo verde/gallego – Thick cabbage-based broth 

Callos – Tripe 

Camarón – Prawn. Really a small crayfish/lobster 

Capón  – Capon (chicken) 

Caracol de mar – Winkle 

Caracoles – Snails 

Carne en salsa – Meat in (usually tomato) sauce 

Carrillera – Cheek (pork or beef)

Carta – Menu 

Casero – Home-made 

Castaña  – Chestnut 

Cazón  – Dogfish 

Cazuela – Stew 

Cebado – Fattened 

Cebollas – Onions 

Cena – Dinner 

Centeno – Rye 

Centollo – Spider crab 

Cerdo – Pork 

Cerezas – Cherries 

Champiñones – Mushrooms 

Chanquetes – Whitebait 

Chicharrones – Pork scratchings 

Chipirones – Baby squid 

Chirimoyas – Custard apples 

Choco – Cuttlefish 

Chorizo – Spiced sausage 

Chuletas – Chops 

Churrasco – Barbecued 

Cigalas – King prawns 

Ciruelas – Plums, prunes 

Cochinillo – Suckling pig 

Cocido – Stew 

Codorniz – Quail 

Coliflor – Cauliflower 

Comedor – Dining room 

Conchas finas – Large scallops 

Conejo – Rabbit 

Confitura  – Jam 

Congrio – Conger eel 

Cordero – Lamb 

Corzo  – Roe deer 

Costilla  – Chop 

Crudo – Raw 

Cuajada – Curd, junket 

Cuchara – Spoon 

Cuchillo – Knife 

Cuenta – The bill 

Dátiles – Dates 

Desayuno – Breakfast 

Empanada/Empanadilla – Filled pastry (little) 

En salsa – In (usually) tomato sauce 

Encebollado  – Cooked with onions 

Ensalada (mixta/verde) – Salad (mixed/green) 

Ensaladilla – Russian salad – diced vegetables in mayonnaise 

Escabeche – Pickled; soused 

Escalibada – Aubergine and peppers salad 

Escalope – Escalope 

Esparragos – Asparagus 

Espinacas – Spinach 

Estofado -Stewed 

Fabada – Hotpot with butter beans, pork, black pudding, etc. 

Filloa – Crepe, pancake 

Flan – Spanish version of crème caramel 

Fresa  – Strawberry 

Frito – Fried 

Gallega – In a paprika sauce 

Gambas – Prawns/shrimps 

Garbanzos – Chick-peas 

Gazpacho – Cold tomato and cucumber soup 

Granada – Pomegranate 

Grelos – Parsnip/turnip tops 

Guinda – Glacé cherry 

Guisado – Beef stew; casserole 

Guisantes   -Peas 

Habas – Broad/fava beans 

Hamburguesa – Hamburger 

Hígado – Liver 

Higos – Figs 

Hojaldre  -Puff pastry 

Huevo cocido – Hard-boiled egg 

Huevos – Eggs 

Jabalí – Wild boar 

Jalea – Jelly 

Jamón – Serrano Dried ham (Parma ham) 

Jamón York – Ordinary ham 

Jarrete – Back of the knee; shin; hock; shank

Jijona – Soft nougat; turron 

Judías blancas – Haricot beans 

Judías verdes, rojas, negras – Beans – green, red, black 

Jurel/jureles/jurelitos – Little fried fish, eaten whole. Horse mackerel.

Lacón – Shoulder of pork, some say 

Lacón – Ham from the foreleg, others say 

Lacón con grelos – Pig’s trotter with turnips 

Lamprea – Lamprey fish 

Langosta – Lobster 

Langostino – King prawn 

Lechuga – Lettuce 

Legumbre – Pulse 

Lengua – Tongue 

Lenguado – Sole 

Lentejas – Lentils 

Liebre – Hare 

Limón – Lemon 

Lomo – Loin (of pork) 

Longazina – Spicy pork sausage 

Lubina – Sea bass 

Maiz – Sweet corn 

Mandarina – Mandarin 

Manteca  – Lard 

Mantecado – Christmas sweet made from manteca 

Mantequilla – Butter 

Manzanas – Apples 

Masa – Dough 

Mejillones – Mussels 

Melocotón – Peach 

Melón – Melon 

Membrillo – Quince 

Menestra de verduras – Mixed vegetables 

Menú del cubierto – Dish of the day; fixed price, set meal 

Menú del dia – Dish of the day; fixed price, set meal 

Merengue – Meringue 

Merluza – Hake 

Mermelada – Jam, marmalade 

Mero – Perch; grouper 

Mezcla – Mixture 

Miel – Honey 

Mora – Blackberry 

Morcilla – Black pudding 

Mujel/mujol [muxe] – Gray mullet 

Nabos – Turnips 

Naranjas – Oranges 

Nata – Cream

Natilla – Custard 

Navajas – Razor clams 

Nécora – Sea crab 

Nectarinas – Nectarines 

Nueces – Walnut 

O caldeiro – With garlic, paprika, hot pepper and olive oil 

Orejas – Ears, of a pig usually 

Ossobuco – Osso buco. Stew made with the back of the knee 

Ostras – Oysters 

Paella – Rice. Chicken, seafood, etc. 

Pan – Bread 

Panache de verduras – Mixed vegetables 

Pasas – Raisins 

Patatas (fritas) – Potatoes (fried) 

Patatas bravas – Spicy potatoes 

Pato – Duck 

Pavo – Turkey 

Pechuga – Breast 

Pepino – Cucumber 

Peras – Pears 

Percebes – Goose barnacles 

Perdiz – Partridge 

Pescadilla – Young hake 

Pescadito – Generic term for ‘little fish’ 

Pez  espada – Swordfish 

Pica-pica – Hot; spicy; chilli 

Pimiento – Pepper (not hot) 

Pimientos rellenos – Stuffed peppers 

Piña – Pineapple 

Pincho –  Small portion 

Pincho moruno – Kebab 

Pisto manchego – Ratatouille 

Plato del día – Dish of the day; fixed price, set meal 

Plátana – Banana 

Platija – Plaice 

Plato combinado – Mixed plate 

Poco hecho – Rare 

Pollo – Chicken 

Polvorones – Floury sweet made with almonds 

Pomelo – Grapefruit 

Potaje – Vegetable stew/soup ( usually with pulses) 

Pudin – Rice pudding or blancmange 

Puerros – Leeks 

Pulpo – Octopus 

Puré – Purée 

Rábano – Horseradish 

Rape – Monkfish 

Raxo (= Lomo) – Loin of pork 

Raya – Ray. Skate 

Rebozado – Battered 

Rehogado – Baked 

Relleno – Filled or stuffed 

Repollo – Cabbage 

Repostería – Confectionery 

Requesón – Curd cheese 

Riñones – Kidneys 

Rodaballo – Turbot 

Ron y pasas – Rum & raisins 

Rosquilla – Ring-shaped pastry; doughnut 

Sábalo – Shad 

Sabor – Flavour 

Sal – Salt 

Salchichón – Sausage 

Salmonete – Mullet 

Salpicón – Seafood salad 

Salteado – Sautéed; sauté 

Sandía – Watermelon 

Sardinas – Sardines 

Se adobo – Seasoned 

Se rocio – Sprinkled 

Sepia – Cuttlefish 

Setas – Mushrooms 

Show-oobas [pronunciation of Xoubas] Little fish, deep-fried 

Solomillo – Tenderloin/sirloin steak 

Sopa de ajo – Garlic soup 

Sopa de cocido – Meat soup 

Sopa de gallina Chicken soup 

Sopa de mariscos – Seafood soup 

Sopa de pasta (fideos) – Noodle soup 

Sopa de pescado – Fish soup 

Tenedor – Fork 

Ternera – Veal; young beef 

Tocino – Pork fat 

Tomate – Tomato 

Toronja – Grapefruit 

Tortilla – Omelette 

Trucha – Trout 

Trufa – truffle 

Uvas – Grapes 

Vaso – Glass 

Verduras con patatas – Boiled potatoes with greens 

Vieiras – Scallops 

Vinagre – Vinegar 

Xoubas [pronounced ‘show-oobas’] – Little fish, deep-fried 

Zamburinas – Little scallops 

Zanahoria – Carrot 

Zorza – Pieces of slightly spicy pork kebab 

Zarzula de mariscos –  Seafood casserole

APPENDIX 4: FISH NAMES IN GALLEGO, SPANISH AND ENGLISH

Local NamesSpanish namesEnglish names€ Price/ko
Lirio/BacaladillaBacaladillaBlue whiting(cod)Less than €5
Xarda/Canala/SardaCaballa(Atlantic) Mackerel
Xarda pintada/Verdel/CabalónVerdel/CabalónChub MackerelLess than €5
XurelJurel/ChicharroAtlantic horse mackerel
AnchoaAnchoa/BoquerónAnchovieLess than €5
SardinaSardinaSardineLess than €5
BacalaoBacalaoCodLess than €5
Barbada de pedraBertorellaLong fin hake? Shore rockling?Less than 5
MeigaRapante/Gallo del norte4 spot megrin (flatfish)8 to 10
MerluzaMerluzaHake6 to 13
Pinto/MerlonPinto/MerlonBrown wrasse10
MaragotaMaragotaBallan wrasse10
Palo/Maruca azulPaloBlue ling?10
CabraCabrillaComber10
SargoSargoWhite seabream10
FanecaFanecaBib/Pout/Pouting
Escarapote de pedraCabarachoREd scorpion fish
PangaPangaPanga10 to 15
Perca del NiloPerca del NiloNile perch? Bass???10 to 15
MarraxoMarrajoShort fin mako shark10 to 15
Peixe espadaPez espadaSwordfish10 to 15
RobalizaRobalo/LubinaSea bass17-20
SanmartiñoPex de San Pedro/ GallopedroJohn Dory/Peter’s fish15
Barbo de lamaSalmonete de fangoRed mullet13-24
RodaballoRodaballoTurbot19
OllomolBesugoBlackspot seabream18-20
Corvina realCorvinaMeagre/Croaker/Jewfish/Shade fish/Corvina/Salmon-bass/Stone fish
SalmónSalmónSalmon
BogaBogaBogue (seabream)
MugelMujol?Flathead grey mullet
Carroñero
Peixe LimónSeriola/Pez LimónAmberjack
PampanoPampanoSouth West Atlantic butterfish
TomásBocanegraBlack cardinal
LinguadoLenguadoDover sole

APPENDIX 5: GLOSSARY

AFeminine ‘the’ in Gallego (= ‘La’)
A rapa das bestasThe round-up of wild horses for mane and tail docking
Al pasoOn foot
AlamedaPromenade. In Pontevedra,  it is opposite the town hall. And is the site of the August fairground
AlbariñoThe grape which gives the (white) wine its name
AltasHigh(er)
AmandiA very pleasant red mencia wine from the Ribera Sagrada area, east of Ourense
Arribada de Carabela PintaArrival of the ‘Pinta’ galleon [Columbus’ ship]
AutopistaMotorway/freeway, with charges
AutoviaMotorway/freeway, free
AyuntamientoThe town hall. In Pontevedra it’s in Praza España
BajasLow(er)
BalnearioA town with thermal baths
BaroqueFlorid style of late Renaissance architecture, common in the 18th century’
BarrioQuarter. Suburb.
BibliotecaLibrary
BodegaInn, wine cellar
BruxaBruja. Witch
CañonCanyon
CarnavalCarnival
CarreteraRoad
CasaHouse
Casco antiguoThe old quarter
CastroFortified village, normally on a hill top
Centro comercialShopping mall
ChurrascoGrilled/barbecued dishes
ChurrasqueríaA restaurant specialising in churrasco
CorridaSet of 6 bullfights, usually from 7 to 9pm
Costa da morteCosta de la muerte. The coast of death.
CruceiroCross
DolmenFrench name for ‘cromlech’ – flat stones on upright stones. Prehistoric
Dos girasTwo tours
Entierro de RavacholThe burning and burial of Ravachol – a large effigy of a parrot. Don’t ask.
EstradaRoad, in Galician
EventosEvents
FadoExceptionally lugubrious Portuguese music. Ubiquitous in northern Portugal
FarmaciaPharmacy, Chemists
Feria/FeiraFair or exhibition
GalizaGalicia
GaitaGalician bagpipe
GaleríasBalconies framed by windows, for sitting in during the rain
Gothic12-15th century architecture of western Europe. Main feature is pointed arches.
GuíaGuide
HórreoThe little grain stores on legs that look like tiny chapels. The rings at the top of the 
legs are to stop rodents climbing up 
MeigaWitch
MercadoMarket
MiradorLookout, viewpoint.
Mosteiro. MonasteroMonestary
MovidaThe nocturnal ‘action’.
MunicipalMunicipal
NeoclassicalLate 18th to mid 19th century. Based on Roman and Greek architectural styles 

OMasculine ‘the’ in Gallego.
País‘Country’. Any wine given this title should be approached with great caution. And a strong 
throat.
ParadorMansion. Usually old. Now one of the government’s imposing hotel chain
ParquePark
PaseoWalking
PazoMansion
PeñaA group of (heavily drinking) bullfight fans. Or opponents.
Peregrino/aPilgrim
PetroglifoPetroglyph, rock carving.
PlatterersqueLike silverwork. ‘Plata’ is Spanish for silver
PlayaBeach
Playa fluvialBeach along the bank of a river
PlazaSquare
PórticoGateway, entrance.
PraiaBeach
PrazaSquare
Recinto ferialFair/exhibition grounds 
RíaEstuary/fjord/forth
RíoRiver
Rías Baixas/BajasThe ‘lower estuaries of the NW coast, near Vigo and Pontevedra. Pronounced 
‘ree-ass bye-shass’ and ‘ree-ass ba-khass’ 
RibeiroThe grape which gives its  name to this white wine from the Ourense area 
RomanesqueBuilt in the Roman style that predominated before the Gothic period began in the mid-12th century. Thick walls, simple vaults. 
RomeríaReligious procession – usually of the Virgin Mary; often down to the sea 
RúaStreet
RutaRoute
Sanxenxo/Sanjenjo. Pronounced ‘sanshensho’ and ‘sankhenkho’
Tres Reyes/MagosThe Three Kings/Wise Men. The feast of the Epiphany on 6 Jan. 
TurismoThe local tourist information office
Viaxe/ViajeJourney, voyage.
Virxen/VirgenVirgin
Xacobeo/JacobeoAssociated with Saint Jacob/Sant Iago/St James.
XuntaRuling body. The Galician regional government.
Zona monumentalZone of monuments. The old quarter

APPENDIX 3FOOD/MENU ITEMS

Here’s a translation of most of the food items/terms you’re likely to come across:-

A la Gallega – Done in a paprika sauce 

A la Navarra – Stuffed with ham 

A la parrilla – Grilled 

A la pepitoria – In a sauce with egg and almonds 

A la plancha – Grilled 

A la Romana – Fried in batter 

Abadejo – Pollack [fish] 

Aceite – Oil 

Aceitunas – Olives 

Acelga – Chard 

Adobo – Marinade 

Ajada [Allada] – Sauce made with oil, garlic, vinegar and paprika 

Ajo – Garlic 

Al ajillo – In garlic 

Al espetón – Roasted on a spit/skewer; kebab 

Al horno – Baked, roasted 

Al natural – Without added ingredients 

Al vapor – Steamed 

Albaricoques – Apricots 

Albóndigas – Meat balls 

Alcachofas – Artichokes 

Alioli – With garlic mayonnaise 

Almejas – Clams 

Almíbar – Syrup 

Almuerzo – Lunch 

Anca – Rump; haunch 

Anchoas – Anchovies (fresh) 

Anguila/Angulas – Eel/elvers 

Arroz – Rice 

Arroz a la Cubana – Rice with fried egg and tomato sauce 

Arroz con mariscos – Rice with seafood 

Asado – Roasted 

Atún – Tuna 

Avellana – Hazel nut 

Azúcar – Sugar 

Bacalao – Cod (often salted) 

Batata – Sweet potato 

Berberechos – Cockles 

Berenjenas – Aubergine/eggplant 

Besugo – Red sea bream 

Bizcocho – Sponge cake 

Bonito – Tuna 

Boquerones – Anchovies

Botella – Bottle 

Budin  = Pudin – Pudding 

Buen hecho – Well done 

Buey – Bullock; beef older than veal 

Buñuelo – Fritter 

Butifarra – Type of sausage 

Cabello de ángel – Sweet pumpkin 

Cabrito – Kid 

Cacheira – Pork (from the face) 

Calabacín – Courgette 

Calabaza  – Pumpkin 

Calamares (en su tinta) – Squid (in ink) 

Caldeira (en) – Stewed (in) 

Caldillo – Clear fish soup 

Caldo – Broth 

Caldo verde/gallego – Thick cabbage-based broth 

Callos – Tripe 

Camarón – Prawn. Really a small crayfish/lobster 

Capón  – Capon (chicken) 

Caracol de mar – Winkle 

Caracoles – Snails 

Carne en salsa – Meat in (usually tomato) sauce 

Carrillera – Cheek (pork or beef)

Carta – Menu 

Casero – Home-made 

Castaña  – Chestnut 

Cazón  – Dogfish 

Cazuela – Stew 

Cebado – Fattened 

Cebollas – Onions 

Cena – Dinner 

Centeno – Rye 

Centollo – Spider crab 

Cerdo – Pork 

Cerezas – Cherries 

Champiñones – Mushrooms 

Chanquetes – Whitebait 

Chicharrones – Pork scratchings 

Chipirones – Baby squid 

Chirimoyas – Custard apples 

Choco – Cuttlefish 

Chorizo – Spiced sausage 

Chuletas – Chops 

Churrasco – Barbecued 

Cigalas – King prawns 

Ciruelas – Plums, prunes 

Cochinillo – Suckling pig 

Cocido – Stew 

Codorniz – Quail 

Coliflor – Cauliflower 

Comedor – Dining room 

Conchas finas – Large scallops 

Conejo – Rabbit 

Confitura  – Jam 

Congrio – Conger eel 

Cordero – Lamb 

Corzo  – Roe deer 

Costilla  – Chop 

Crudo – Raw 

Cuajada – Curd, junket 

Cuchara – Spoon 

Cuchillo – Knife 

Cuenta – The bill 

Dátiles – Dates 

Desayuno – Breakfast 

Empanada/Empanadilla – Filled pastry (little) 

En salsa – In (usually) tomato sauce 

Encebollado  – Cooked with onions 

Ensalada (mixta/verde) – Salad (mixed/green) 

Ensaladilla – Russian salad – diced vegetables in mayonnaise 

Escabeche – Pickled; soused 

Escalibada – Aubergine and peppers salad 

Escalope – Escalope 

Esparragos – Asparagus 

Espinacas – Spinach 

Estofado -Stewed 

Fabada – Hotpot with butter beans, pork, black pudding, etc. 

Filloa – Crepe, pancake 

Flan – Spanish version of crème caramel 

Fresa  – Strawberry 

Frito – Fried 

Gallega – In a paprika sauce 

Gambas – Prawns/shrimps 

Garbanzos – Chick-peas 

Gazpacho – Cold tomato and cucumber soup 

Granada – Pomegranate 

Grelos – Parsnip/turnip tops 

Guinda – Glacé cherry 

Guisado – Beef stew; casserole 

Guisantes   -Peas 

Habas – Broad/fava beans 

Hamburguesa – Hamburger 

Hígado – Liver 

Higos – Figs 

Hojaldre  -Puff pastry 

Huevo cocido – Hard-boiled egg 

Huevos – Eggs 

Jabalí – Wild boar 

Jalea – Jelly 

Jamón – Serrano Dried ham (Parma ham) 

Jamón York – Ordinary ham 

Jarrete – Back of the knee; shin; hock; shank

Jijona – Soft nougat; turron 

Judías blancas – Haricot beans 

Judías verdes, rojas, negras – Beans – green, red, black 

Jurel/jureles/jurelitos – Little fried fish, eaten whole. Horse mackerel.

Lacón – Shoulder of pork, some say 

Lacón – Ham from the foreleg, others say 

Lacón con grelos – Pig’s trotter with turnips 

Lamprea – Lamprey fish 

Langosta – Lobster 

Langostino – King prawn 

Lechuga – Lettuce 

Legumbre – Pulse 

Lengua – Tongue 

Lenguado – Sole 

Lentejas – Lentils 

Liebre – Hare 

Limón – Lemon 

Lomo – Loin (of pork) 

Longazina – Spicy pork sausage 

Lubina – Sea bass 

Maiz – Sweet corn 

Mandarina – Mandarin 

Manteca  – Lard 

Mantecado – Christmas sweet made from manteca 

Mantequilla – Butter 

Manzanas – Apples 

Masa – Dough 

Mejillones – Mussels 

Melocotón – Peach 

Melón – Melon 

Membrillo – Quince 

Menestra de verduras – Mixed vegetables 

Menú del cubierto – Dish of the day; fixed price, set meal 

Menú del dia – Dish of the day; fixed price, set meal 

Merengue – Meringue 

Merluza – Hake 

Mermelada – Jam, marmalade 

Mero – Perch; grouper 

Mezcla – Mixture 

Miel – Honey 

Mora – Blackberry 

Morcilla – Black pudding 

Mujel/mujol [muxe] – Gray mullet 

Nabos – Turnips 

Naranjas – Oranges 

Nata – Cream

Natilla – Custard 

Navajas – Razor clams 

Nécora – Sea crab 

Nectarinas – Nectarines 

Nueces – Walnut 

O caldeiro – With garlic, paprika, hot pepper and olive oil 

Orejas – Ears, of a pig usually 

Ossobuco – Osso buco. Stew made with the back of the knee 

Ostras – Oysters 

Paella – Rice. Chicken, seafood, etc. 

Pan – Bread 

Panache de verduras – Mixed vegetables 

Pasas – Raisins 

Patatas (fritas) – Potatoes (fried) 

Patatas bravas – Spicy potatoes 

Pato – Duck 

Pavo – Turkey 

Pechuga – Breast 

Pepino – Cucumber 

Peras – Pears 

Percebes – Goose barnacles 

Perdiz – Partridge 

Pescadilla – Young hake 

Pescadito – Generic term for ‘little fish’ 

Pez  espada – Swordfish 

Pica-pica – Hot; spicy; chilli 

Pimiento – Pepper (not hot) 

Pimientos rellenos – Stuffed peppers 

Piña – Pineapple 

Pincho –  Small portion 

Pincho moruno – Kebab 

Pisto manchego – Ratatouille 

Plato del día – Dish of the day; fixed price, set meal 

Plátana – Banana 

Platija – Plaice 

Plato combinado – Mixed plate 

Poco hecho – Rare 

Pollo – Chicken 

Polvorones – Floury sweet made with almonds 

Pomelo – Grapefruit 

Potaje – Vegetable stew/soup ( usually with pulses) 

Pudin – Rice pudding or blancmange 

Puerros – Leeks 

Pulpo – Octopus 

Puré – Purée 

Rábano – Horseradish 

Rape – Monkfish 

Raxo (= Lomo) – Loin of pork 

Raya – Ray. Skate 

Rebozado – Battered 

Rehogado – Baked 

Relleno – Filled or stuffed 

Repollo – Cabbage 

Repostería – Confectionery 

Requesón – Curd cheese 

Riñones – Kidneys 

Rodaballo – Turbot 

Ron y pasas – Rum & raisins 

Rosquilla – Ring-shaped pastry; doughnut 

Sábalo – Shad 

Sabor – Flavour 

Sal – Salt 

Salchichón – Sausage 

Salmonete – Mullet 

Salpicón – Seafood salad 

Salteado – Sautéed; sauté 

Sandía – Watermelon 

Sardinas – Sardines 

Se adobo – Seasoned 

Se rocio – Sprinkled 

Sepia – Cuttlefish 

Setas – Mushrooms 

Show-oobas [pronunciation of Xoubas] Little fish, deep-fried 

Solomillo – Tenderloin/sirloin steak 

Sopa de ajo – Garlic soup 

Sopa de cocido – Meat soup 

Sopa de gallina Chicken soup 

Sopa de mariscos – Seafood soup 

Sopa de pasta (fideos) – Noodle soup 

Sopa de pescado – Fish soup 

Tenedor – Fork 

Ternera – Veal; young beef 

Tocino – Pork fat 

Tomate – Tomato 

Toronja – Grapefruit 

Tortilla – Omelette 

Trucha – Trout 

Trufa – truffle 

Uvas – Grapes 

Vaso – Glass 

Verduras con patatas – Boiled potatoes with greens 

Vieiras – Scallops 

Vinagre – Vinegar 

Xoubas [pronounced ‘show-oobas’] – Little fish, deep-fried 

Zamburinas – Little scallops 

Zanahoria – Carrot 

Zorza – Pieces of slightly spicy pork kebab 

Zarzula de mariscos –  Seafood casserole

APPENDIX 4: FISH NAMES IN GALLEGO, SPANISH AND ENGLISH

Local NamesSpanish namesEnglish names€ Price/ko
Lirio/BacaladillaBacaladillaBlue whiting(cod)Less than €5
Xarda/Canala/SardaCaballa(Atlantic) Mackerel
Xarda pintada/Verdel/CabalónVerdel/CabalónChub MackerelLess than €5
XurelJurel/ChicharroAtlantic horse mackerel
AnchoaAnchoa/BoquerónAnchovieLess than €5
SardinaSardinaSardineLess than €5
BacalaoBacalaoCodLess than €5
Barbada de pedraBertorellaLong fin hake? Shore rockling?Less than 5
MeigaRapante/Gallo del norte4 spot megrin (flatfish)8 to 10
MerluzaMerluzaHake6 to 13
Pinto/MerlonPinto/MerlonBrown wrasse10
MaragotaMaragotaBallan wrasse10
Palo/Maruca azulPaloBlue ling?10
CabraCabrillaComber10
SargoSargoWhite seabream10
FanecaFanecaBib/Pout/Pouting
Escarapote de pedraCabarachoREd scorpion fish
PangaPangaPanga10 to 15
Perca del NiloPerca del NiloNile perch? Bass???10 to 15
MarraxoMarrajoShort fin mako shark10 to 15
Peixe espadaPez espadaSwordfish10 to 15
RobalizaRobalo/LubinaSea bass17-20
SanmartiñoPex de San Pedro/ GallopedroJohn Dory/Peter’s fish15
Barbo de lamaSalmonete de fangoRed mullet13-24
RodaballoRodaballoTurbot19
OllomolBesugoBlackspot seabream18-20
Corvina realCorvinaMeagre/Croaker/Jewfish/Shade fish/Corvina/Salmon-bass/Stone fish
SalmónSalmónSalmon
BogaBogaBogue (seabream)
MugelMujol?Flathead grey mullet
Carroñero
Peixe LimónSeriola/Pez LimónAmberjack
PampanoPampanoSouth West Atlantic butterfish
TomásBocanegraBlack cardinal
LinguadoLenguadoDover sole

APPENDIX 5: GLOSSARY

AFeminine ‘the’ in Gallego (= ‘La’)
A rapa das bestasThe round-up of wild horses for mane and tail docking
Al pasoOn foot
AlamedaPromenade. In Pontevedra,  it is opposite the town hall. And is the site of the August fairground
AlbariñoThe grape which gives the (white) wine its name
AltasHigh(er)
AmandiA very pleasant red mencia wine from the Ribera Sagrada area, east of Ourense
Arribada de Carabela PintaArrival of the ‘Pinta’ galleon [Columbus’ ship]
AutopistaMotorway/freeway, with charges
AutoviaMotorway/freeway, free
AyuntamientoThe town hall. In Pontevedra it’s in Praza España
BajasLow(er)
BalnearioA town with thermal baths
BaroqueFlorid style of late Renaissance architecture, common in the 18th century’
BarrioQuarter. Suburb.
BibliotecaLibrary
BodegaInn, wine cellar
BruxaBruja. Witch
CañonCanyon
CarnavalCarnival
CarreteraRoad
CasaHouse
Casco antiguoThe old quarter
CastroFortified village, normally on a hill top
Centro comercialShopping mall
ChurrascoGrilled/barbecued dishes
ChurrasqueríaA restaurant specialising in churrasco
CorridaSet of 6 bullfights, usually from 7 to 9pm
Costa da morteCosta de la muerte. The coast of death.
CruceiroCross
DolmenFrench name for ‘cromlech’ – flat stones on upright stones. Prehistoric
Dos girasTwo tours
Entierro de RavacholThe burning and burial of Ravachol – a large effigy of a parrot. Don’t ask.
EstradaRoad, in Galician
EventosEvents
FadoExceptionally lugubrious Portuguese music. Ubiquitous in northern Portugal
FarmaciaPharmacy, Chemists
Feria/FeiraFair or exhibition
GalizaGalicia
GaitaGalician bagpipe
GaleríasBalconies framed by windows, for sitting in during the rain
Gothic12-15th century architecture of western Europe. Main feature is pointed arches.
GuíaGuide
HórreoThe little grain stores on legs that look like tiny chapels. The rings at the top of the 
legs are to stop rodents climbing up 
MeigaWitch
MercadoMarket
MiradorLookout, viewpoint.
Mosteiro. MonasteroMonestary
MovidaThe nocturnal ‘action’.
MunicipalMunicipal
NeoclassicalLate 18th to mid 19th century. Based on Roman and Greek architectural styles 

OMasculine ‘the’ in Gallego.
País‘Country’. Any wine given this title should be approached with great caution. And a strong 
throat.
ParadorMansion. Usually old. Now one of the government’s imposing hotel chain
ParquePark
PaseoWalking
PazoMansion
PeñaA group of (heavily drinking) bullfight fans. Or opponents.
Peregrino/aPilgrim
PetroglifoPetroglyph, rock carving.
PlatterersqueLike silverwork. ‘Plata’ is Spanish for silver
PlayaBeach
Playa fluvialBeach along the bank of a river
PlazaSquare
PórticoGateway, entrance.
PraiaBeach
PrazaSquare
Recinto ferialFair/exhibition grounds 
RíaEstuary/fjord/forth
RíoRiver
Rías Baixas/BajasThe ‘lower estuaries of the NW coast, near Vigo and Pontevedra. Pronounced 
‘ree-ass bye-shass’ and ‘ree-ass ba-khass’ 
RibeiroThe grape which gives its  name to this white wine from the Ourense area 
RomanesqueBuilt in the Roman style that predominated before the Gothic period began in the mid-12th century. Thick walls, simple vaults. 
RomeríaReligious procession – usually of the Virgin Mary; often down to the sea 
RúaStreet
RutaRoute
Sanxenxo/Sanjenjo. Pronounced ‘sanshensho’ and ‘sankhenkho’
Tres Reyes/MagosThe Three Kings/Wise Men. The feast of the Epiphany on 6 Jan. 
TurismoThe local tourist information office
Viaxe/ViajeJourney, voyage.
Virxen/VirgenVirgin
Xacobeo/JacobeoAssociated with Saint Jacob/Sant Iago/St James.
XuntaRuling body. The Galician regional government.
Zona monumentalZone of monuments. The old quarter

APPENDIX 6: GEORGE BORROW

Chapter 28 of George Borrow’s book ‘The Bible in Spain’ – Pontevedra and Vigo

Skippers of Padron – Caldas de los Reyes – Pontevedra – The Notary Public – Insane Barber – An Introduction – Gallegan Language – Afternoon Ride – Vigo – The Stranger – Jews of the Desert – Bay of Vigo – Sudden Interruption – The Governor.

After a stay of about a fortnight at Saint James, we again mounted our horses and proceeded in the direction of Vigo. As we did not leave Saint James till late in the afternoon, we travelled that day no farther than Padron, a distance of only three leagues. This place is a small port, situate at the extremity of a firth which communicates with the sea. It is called for brevity’s sake, Padron, but its proper appellation is Villa del Padron, or the town of the patron saint; it having been, according to the legend, the principal residence of Saint James during his stay in Galicia. By the Romans it was termed Iria Flavia. It is a flourishing little town, and carries on rather an extensive commerce, some of its tiny barks occasionally finding their way across the Bay of Biscay, and even so far as the Thames and London.

There is a curious anecdote connected with the skippers of Padron, which can scarcely be considered as out of place here, as it relates to the circulation of the Scriptures. I was one day in the shop of my friend the bookseller at Saint James, when a stout good-humoured-looking priest entered. He took up one of my Testaments, and forthwith burst into a violent fit of laughter. “What is the matter?” demanded the bookseller. “The sight of this book reminds me of a circumstance”: replied the other, “about twenty years ago, when the English first took it into their heads to be very zealous in converting us Spaniards to their own way of thinking, they distributed a great number of books of this kind amongst the Spaniards who chanced to be in London; some of them fell into the hands of certain skippers of Padron, and these good folks, on their return to Galicia, were observed to have become on a sudden exceedingly opinionated and fond of dispute. It was scarcely possible to make an assertion in their hearing without receiving a flat contradiction, especially when religious subjects were brought on the carpet. `It is false,’ they would say; `Saint Paul, in such a chapter and in such a verse, says exactly the contrary.’  `What can you know concerning what Saint Paul or any other saint has written?’ the priests would ask them. `Much more than you think,’ they replied; `we are no longer to be kept in darkness and ignorance respecting these matters:’ and then they would produce their books and read paragraphs, making such comments that every person was scandalized; they cared nothing about the Pope, and even spoke with irreverence of the bones of Saint James. However, the matter was soon bruited about, and a commission was dispatched from our see to collect the books and burn them. This was effected, and the skippers were either punished or reprimanded, since which I have heard nothing more of them. I could not forbear laughing when I saw these books; they instantly brought to my mind the skippers of Padron and their religious disputations.”

Our next day’s journey brought us to Pontevedra. As there was no talk of robbers in these parts, we travelled without any escort and alone. The road was beautiful and picturesque, though somewhat solitary, especially after we had left behind us the small town of Caldas. There is more than one place of this name in Spain; the one of which I am speaking is distinguished from the rest by being called Caldas de los Reyes, or the warm baths of the kings. It will not be amiss to observe that the Spanish CALDAS is synonymous with the Moorish ALHAMA, a word of frequent occurrence both in Spanish and African topography. Caldas seemed by no means undeserving of its name: it stands on a confluence of springs, and the place when we arrived was crowded with people who had come to enjoy the benefit of the waters. In the course of my travels I have observed that wherever warm springs are found, vestiges of volcanoes are sure to be nigh; the smooth black precipice, the divided mountain, or huge rocks standing by themselves on the plain or on the hill side, as if Titans had been playing at bowls. This last feature occurs near Caldas de los Reyes, the side of the mountain which overhangs it in the direction of the south being covered with immense granite stones, apparently at some ancient period eructed from the bowels of the earth. From Caldas to Pontevedra the route was hilly and fatiguing, the heat was intense, and those clouds of flies, which constitute one of the pests of Galicia, annoyed our horses to such a degree that we were obliged to cut down branches from the trees to protect their heads and necks from the tormenting stings of these bloodthirsty insects. Whilst travelling in Galicia at this period of the year on horseback, it is always advisable to carry a fine net for the protection of the animal, a sure and commodious means of defence, which appears, however, to be utterly unknown in Galicia, where, perhaps, it is more wanted than in any other part of the world.

Pontevedra, upon the whole, is certainly entitled to the appellation of a magnificent town, some of its public edifices, especially the convents, being such as are nowhere to be found but in Spain and Italy. It is surrounded by a wall of hewn stone, and stands at the end of a creek into which the river Levroz disembogues. It is said to have been founded by a colony of Greeks, whose captain was no less a personage than Teucer the Telemonian. It was in former times a place of considerable commerce; and near its port are to be seen the ruins of a farol, or lighthouse, said to be of great antiquity. The port, however, is at a considerable distance from the town, and is shallow and incommodious. The whole country in the neighbourhood of Pontevedra is inconceivably delicious, abounding with fruits of every description, especially grapes, which in the proper season are seen hanging from the “parras” in luscious luxuriance. An old Andalusian author has said that it produces as many oranges and citron trees as the neighbourhood of Cordova. Its oranges are, however, by no means good, and cannot compete with those of Andalusia. The Pontevedrians boast that their land produces two crops every year, and that whilst they are gathering in one they may be seen ploughing and sowing another. They may well be proud of their country, which is certainly a highly favoured spot.

The town itself is in a state of great decay, and notwithstanding the magnificence of its public edifices, we found more than the usual amount of Galician filth and misery. The posada was one of the most wretched description, and to mend the matter, the hostess was a most intolerable scold and shrew. Antonio having found fault with the quality of some provision which she produced, she cursed him most immoderately in the country language, which was the only one she spoke, and threatened, if he attempted to breed any disturbance in her house, to turn the horses, himself, and his master forthwith out of doors. Socrates himself, however, could not have conducted himself on this occasion with greater forbearance than Antonio, who shrugged his shoulders, muttered something in Greek, and then was silent.

“Where does the notary public live?” I demanded. Now the notary public vended books, and to this personage I was recommended by my friend at Saint James. A boy conducted me to the house of Senor Garcia, for such was his name. I found him a brisk, active, talkative little man of forty. He undertook with great alacrity the sale of my Testaments, and in a twinkling sold two to a client who was waiting in the office, and appeared to be from the country. He was an enthusiastic patriot, but of course in a local sense, for he cared for no other country than Pontevedra.

“Those fellows of Vigo,” said he, “say their town is a better one than ours, and that it is more deserving to be the capital of this part of Galicia. Did you ever hear such folly? I tell you what, friend, I should not care if Vigo were burnt, and all the fools and rascals within it. Would you ever think of comparing Vigo with Pontevedra?”

“I don’t know,” I replied; “I have never been at Vigo, but I have heard say that the bay of Vigo is the finest in the world.”

“Bay! my good sir. Bay! yes, the rascals have a bay, and it is that bay of theirs which has robbed us all our commerce. But what needs the capital of a district with a bay? It is public edifices that it wants, where the provincial deputies can meet to transact their business; now, so far from there being a commodious public edifice, there is not a decent house in all Vigo. Bay! yes, they have a bay, but have they water fit to drink? Have they a fountain? Yes, they have, and the water is so brackish that it would burst the stomach of a horse. I hope, my dear sir, that you have not come all this distance to take the part of such a gang of pirates as those of Vigo.”

“I am not come to take their part,” I replied; “indeed, I was not aware that they wanted my assistance in this dispute. I am merely carrying to them the New Testament, of which they evidently stand in much need, if they are such knaves and scoundrels as you represent them.”

“Represent them, my dear sir. Does not the matter speak for itself? Do they not say that their town is better than ours, more fit to be the capital of a district, QUE DISPARATE! QUE BRIBONERIA! (what folly! what rascality!)”

“Is there a bookseller’s shop at Vigo?” I inquired.

“There was one,” he replied, “kept by an insane barber. I am glad, for your sake, that it is broken up, and the fellow vanished; he would have played you one of two tricks; he would either have cut your throat with his razor, under pretence of shaving you, or have taken your books and never have accounted to you for the proceeds. Bay! I never could see what right such an owl’s nest as Vigo has to a bay.”

No person could exhibit greater kindness to another, than did the notary public to myself, as soon as I had convinced him that I had no intention of siding with the men of Vigo against Pontevedra. It was now six o’clock in the evening, and he forthwith conducted me to a confectioner’s shop, where he treated me with an iced cream and a small cup of chocolate. From hence we walked about the city, the notary showing the various edifices, especially, the Convent of the Jesuits: “See that front,” said he, “what do you think of it?”

I expressed to him the admiration which I really felt, and by so doing entirely won the good notary’s heart: “I suppose there is nothing like that at Vigo?” said I. He looked at me for a moment, winked, gave a short triumphant chuckle, and then proceeded on his way, walking at a tremendous rate. The Senor Garcia was dressed in all respects as an English notary might be: he wore a white hat, brown frock coat, drab breeches buttoned at the knees, white stockings, and well blacked shoes. But I never saw an English notary walk so fast: it could scarcely be called walking: it seemed more like a succession of galvanic leaps and bounds. I found it impossible to keep up with him: “Where are you conducting me?” I at last demanded, quite breathless.

“To the house of the cleverest man in Spain,” he replied, “to whom I intend to introduce you; for you must not think that Pontevedra has nothing to boast of but its splendid edifices and its beautiful country; it produces more illustrious minds than any other town in Spain. Did you ever hear of the grand Tamerlane?”

“Oh, yes,” said I, “but he did not come from Pontevedra or its neighbourhood: he came from the steppes of Tartary, near the river Oxus.”

“I know he did,” replied the notary, “but what I mean to say is, that when Enrique the Third wanted an ambassador to send to that African, the only man he could find suited to the enterprise was a knight of Pontevedra, Don – by name. Let the men of Vigo contradict that fact if they can.”

We entered a large portal and ascended a splendid staircase, at the top of which the notary knocked at a small door: “Who is the gentleman to whom you are about to introduce me?” demanded I.

“It is the advocate -,” replied Garcia; “he is the cleverest man in Spain, and understands all languages and sciences.”

We were admitted by a respectable-looking female, to all appearance a housekeeper, who, on being questioned, informed us that the Advocate was at home, and forthwith conducted us to an immense room, or rather library, the walls being covered with books, except in two or three places, where hung some fine pictures of the ancient Spanish school. There was a rich mellow light in the apartment, streaming through a window of stained glass, which looked to the west. Behind the table sat the Advocate, on whom I looked with no little interest: his forehead was high and wrinkled, and there was much gravity on his features, which were quite Spanish. He was dressed in a long robe, and might be about sixty; he sat reading behind a large table, and on our entrance half raised himself and bowed slightly.

The notary public saluted him most profoundly, and, in an under voice, hoped that he might be permitted to introduce a friend of his, an English gentleman, who was travelling through Galicia.

“I am very glad to see him,” said the Advocate, “but I hope he speaks Castilian, else we can have but little communication; for, although I can read both French and Latin, I cannot speak them.”

“He speaks, sir, almost as good Spanish,” said the notary, “as a native of Pontevedra.”

“The natives of Pontevedra,” I replied, “appear to be better versed in Gallegan than in Castilian, for the greater part of the conversation which I hear in the streets is carried on in the former dialect.”

“The last gentleman which my friend Garcia introduced to me,” said the Advocate, “was a Portuguese, who spoke little or no Spanish. It is said that the Gallegan and Portuguese are very similar, but when we attempted to converse in the two languages, we found it impossible. I understood little of what he said, whilst my Gallegan was quite unintelligible to him. Can you understand our country dialect?” he continued.

“Very little of it,” I replied; “which I believe chiefly proceeds from the peculiar accent and uncouth enunciation of the Gallegans, for their language is certainly almost entirely composed of Spanish and Portuguese words.”

“So you are an Englishman,” said the Advocate. “Your countrymen have committed much damage in times past in these regions, if we may trust our histories.”

“Yes,” said I, “they sank your galleons and burnt your finest men-of-war in Vigo Bay, and, under old Cobham, levied a contribution of forty thousand pounds sterling on this very town of Pontevedra.”

“Any foreign power,” interrupted the notary public, “has a clear right to attack Vigo, but I cannot conceive what plea your countrymen could urge for distressing Pontevedra, which is a respectable town, and could never have offended them.”

“Senor Cavalier,” said the Advocate, “I will show you my library. Here is a curious work, a collection of poems, written mostly in Gallegan, by the curate of Fruime. He is our national poet, and we are very proud of him.”

We stopped upwards of an hour with the Advocate, whose conversation, if it did not convince me that he was the cleverest man in Spain, was, upon the whole, highly interesting, and who certainly possessed an extensive store of general information, though he was by no means the profound philologist which the notary had represented him to be.

When I was about to depart from Pontevedra in the afternoon of the next day, the Senor Garcia stood by the side of my horse, and having embraced me, thrust a small pamphlet into my hand: “This book,” said he, “contains a description of Pontevedra. Wherever you go, speak well of Pontevedra.” I nodded. “Stay,” said he, “my dear friend, I have heard of your society, and will do my best to further its views. I am quite disinterested, but if at any future time you should have an opportunity of speaking in print of Senor Garcia, the notary public of Pontevedra, – you understand me, – I wish you would do so.”  “I will,” said I.

It was a pleasant afternoon’s ride from Pontevedra to Vigo, the distance being only four leagues. As we approached the latter town, the country became exceedingly mountainous, though scarcely anything could exceed the beauty of the surrounding scenery. The sides of the hills were for the most part clothed with luxuriant forests, even to the very summits, though occasionally a flinty and naked peak would present itself, rising to the clouds. As the evening came on, the route along which we advanced became very gloomy, the hills and forests enwrapping it in deep shade. It appeared, however, to be well frequented: numerous cars were creaking along it, and both horsemen and pedestrians were continually passing us. The villages were frequent. Vines, supported on parras, were growing, if possible, in still greater abundance than in the neighbourhood of Pontevedra. Life and activity seemed to pervade everything. The hum of insects, the cheerful bark of dogs, the rude songs of Galicia, were blended together in pleasant symphony. So delicious was my ride, that I almost regretted when we entered the gate of Vigo.

The town occupies the lower part of a lofty hill, which, as it ascends, becomes extremely steep and precipitous, and the top of which is crowned with a strong fort or castle. It is a small compact place, surrounded with low walls, the streets are narrow, steep, and winding, and in the middle of the town is a small square.

There is rather an extensive faubourg extending along the shore of the bay. We found an excellent posada, kept by a man and woman from the Basque provinces, who were both civil and intelligent. The town seemed to be crowded, and resounded with noise and merriment. The people were making a wretched attempt at an illumination, in consequence of some victory lately gained, or pretended to have been gained, over the forces of the Pretender. Military uniforms were glancing about in every direction. To increase the bustle, a troop of Portuguese players had lately arrived from Oporto, and their first representation was to take place this evening. “Is the play to be performed in Spanish?” I demanded. “No,” was the reply; “and on that account every person is so eager to go; which would not be the case if it were in a language which they could understand.”

On the morning of the next day I was seated at breakfast in a large apartment which looked out upon the Plaza Mayor, or great square of the good town of Vigo. The sun was shining very brilliantly, and all around looked lively and gay. Presently a stranger entered, and bowing profoundly, stationed himself at the window, where he remained a considerable time in silence. He was a man of very remarkable appearance, of about thirty-five. His features were of perfect symmetry, and I may almost say, of perfect beauty. His hair was the darkest I had ever seen, glossy and shining; his eyes large, black, and melancholy; but that which most struck me was his complexion. It might be called olive, it is true, but it was a livid olive. He was dressed in the very first style of French fashion. Around his neck was a massive gold chain, while upon his fingers were large rings, in one of which was set a magnificent ruby. Who can that man be? thought I; – Spaniard or Portuguese, perhaps a Creole. I asked him an indifferent question in Spanish, to which he forthwith replied in that language, but his accent convinced me that he was neither Spaniard nor Portuguese.

“I presume I am speaking to an Englishman, sir?” said he, in as good English as it was possible for one not an Englishman to speak.

MYSELF. – You know me to be an Englishman; but I should find some difficulty in guessing to what country you belong.

STRANGER. – May I take a seat?

MYSELF. – A singular question. Have you not as much right to sit in the public apartment of an inn as myself?

STRANGER. – I am not certain of that. The people here are not in general very gratified at seeing me seated by their side.

MYSELF. – Perhaps owing to your political opinions, or to some crime which it may have been your misfortune to commit?

STRANGER. – I have no political opinions, and I am not aware that I ever committed any particular crime, – I am hated for my country and my religion.

MYSELF. – Perhaps I am speaking to a Protestant, like myself?

STRANGER. – I am no Protestant. If I were, they would be cautious here of showing their dislike, for I should then have a government and a consul to protect me. I am a Jew – a Barbary Jew, a subject of Abderrahman.

MYSELF. – If that be the case, you can scarcely complain of being looked upon with dislike in this country, since in Barbary the Jews are slaves.

STRANGER. – In most parts, I grant you, but not where I was born, which was far up the country, near the deserts. There the Jews are free, and are feared, and are as valiant men as the Moslems themselves; as able to tame the steed, or to fire the gun. The Jews of our tribe are not slaves, and I like not to be treated as a slave either by Christian or Moor.

MYSELF. – Your history must be a curious one, I would fain hear it.

STRANGER. – My history I shall tell to no one. I have travelled much, I have been in commerce and have thriven. I am at present established in Portugal, but I love not the people of Catholic countries, and least of all these of Spain. I have lately experienced the most shameful injustice in the Aduana of this town, and when I complained, they laughed at me and called me Jew. Wherever he turns, the Jew is reviled, save in your country, and on that account my blood always warms when I see an Englishman. You are a stranger here. Can I do aught for you? You may command me.

MYSELF. – I thank you heartily, but I am in need of no assistance.

STRANGER. – Have you any bills, I will accept them if you have?

MYSELF. – I have no need of assistance; but you may do me a favour by accepting of a book.

STRANGER. – I will receive it with thanks. I know what it is. What a singular people? The same dress, the same look, the same book. Pelham gave me one in Egypt. Farewell! Your Jesus was a good man, perhaps a prophet; but . . . farewell!

Well may the people of Pontevedra envy the natives of Vigo their bay, with which, in many respects, none other in the world can compare. On every side it is defended by steep and sublime hills, save on the part of the west, where is the outlet to the Atlantic; but in the midst of this outlet, up towers a huge rocky wall, or island, which breaks the swell, and prevents the billows of the western sea from pouring through in full violence. On either side of this island is a passage, so broad, that navies might pass through at all times in safety. The bay itself is oblong, running far into the land, and so capacious, that a thousand sail of the line might ride in it uncrowded. The waters are dark, still, and deep, without quicksands or shallows, so that the proudest man-of-war might lie within a stone’s throw of the town ramparts without any fear of injuring her keel.

Of many a strange event, and of many a mighty preparation has this bay been the scene. It was here that the bulky dragons of the grand armada were mustered, and it was from hence that, fraught with the pomp, power, and terror of old Spain, the monster fleet, spreading its enormous sails to the wind, and bent on the ruin of the Lutheran isle, proudly steered; – that fleet, to build and man which half the forests of Galicia had been felled, and all the mariners impressed from the thousand bays and creeks of the stern Cantabrian shore. It was here that the united flags of Holland and England triumphed over the pride of Spain and France; when the burning timbers of exploded war-ships soared above the tops of the Gallegan hills, and blazing galleons sank with their treasure chests whilst drifting in the direction of Sampayo. It was on the shores of this bay that the English guards first emptied Spanish bodegas, whilst the bombs of Cobham were crushing the roofs of the castle of Castro, and the vecinos of Pontevedra buried their doubloons in cellars, and flying posts were conveying to Lugo and Orensee the news of the heretic invasion and the disaster of Vigo. All these events occurred to my mind as I stood far up the hill, at a short distance from the fort, surveying the bay.

“What are you doing there, Cavalier?” roared several voices. “Stay, Carracho! if you attempt to run we will shoot you!”  I looked round and saw three or four fellows in dirty uniforms, to all appearance soldiers, just above me, on a winding path, which led up the hill. Their muskets were pointed at me. “What am I doing? Nothing, as you see,” said I, “save looking at the bay; and as for running, this is by no means ground for a course.”  “You are our prisoner,” said they, “and you must come with us to the fort.”  “I was just thinking of going there,” I replied, “before you thus kindly invited me. The fort is the very spot I was desirous of seeing.”  I thereupon climbed up to the place where they stood, when they instantly surrounded me, and with this escort I was marched into the fort, which might have been a strong place in its time, but was now rather ruinous. “You are suspected of being a spy,” said the corporal, who walked in front. “Indeed,” said I. “Yes,” replied the corporal, “and several spies have lately been taken and shot.”

Upon one of the parapets of the fort stood a young man, dressed as a subaltern officer, and to this personage I was introduced. “We have been watching you this half hour,” said he, “as you were taking observations.”  “Then you gave yourselves much useless trouble,” said I. “I am an Englishman, and was merely looking at the bay. Have the kindness now to show me the fort.” . . .

After some conversation, he said, “I wish to be civil to people of your nation, you may therefore consider yourself at liberty.”  I bowed, made my exit, and proceeded down the hill. Just before I entered the town, however, the corporal, who had followed me unperceived, tapped me on the shoulder. “You must go with me to the governor,” said he. “With all my heart,” I replied. The governor was shaving, when we were shown up to him. He was in his shirt sleeves, and held a razor in his hand. He looked very ill-natured, which was perhaps owing to his being thus interrupted in his toilet. He asked me two or three questions, and on learning that I had a passport, and was the bearer of a letter to the English consul, he told me that I was at liberty to depart. So I bowed to the governor of the town, as I had done to the governor of the fort, and making my exit proceeded to my inn.

At Vigo I accomplished but little in the way of distribution, and after a sojourn of a few days, I returned in the direction of Saint James.