Saturday, September 26, 2015

To A Coruna

Thursday 17 September 2015

Woke to another grey morning, the sea shining silver grey on the horizon.  Packed up, leaving my paintings of yesterday on the counter - one of sea glass, one of abstract flowers and two simple charcoal drawings of flowers with coloured washes over.
Skies cleared as we left Laxe and Oh commented that it did seem to have a micro climate as everyone said, but it appeared to be a completely crap one.

Got to Arteixo, outskirts of A Corunna, and were just about to get out of the car and explore the many shops, when OH realised that the passports and driving licences were still back in thee flat.  fortunately had only gone 35 kms.  Finally arrived in AC at 1 pm and our hostel was right in the centre.  Hostal Roma.  Man on reception very apologetic - in Spanish - he walked us up three flights of stairs then took us to the 7th floor in a terrifyingly old ife - then walked us down four flights of stairs.  The lift to the first three floors was knackered. (Interestingly this lift was a Thyssen Krupp - most of the lifts in hotels are another make which currently slips my memory.  Wish dog would stop snoring as I type - he is making me feel tired...).  Room tiny but comfortable beds and wonderful views of the city and the passers by, way down below.  

Siesta then OH went for a walk whilst I attempted to repair the damage of four days of wind and rain on my barnet (that is hair, for non Brits!).  A Coruna is a city of around 250 000 people on the sea and famous for its 19th century tenement quay side buildings with walls of ornately wrought windows.  We had significant problems finding one another but finally met up just as the sun was setting over the Marina.  Far too many bars.  It was a wonder we found the hostel again as OH wanted to sample them all and refused to give me the map, despite only using it to wave around and say he had a 'feeling' about where the hostel would be and that I was obsessed with detail.  Lots of snoring ensued.  People down in the street didnt go to bed until about 4 am.

For a more journalistic opinion of the city, there is the following article

We went in Cunqueiro too and I wouldnt describe it as a cheery old tavern.  Your feet stuck to the floor, the drinkers looked like they had just come off set from a remake of The Shining and the bartender was a miserable old bxxxxd.  You did however get to drink albarino from copas (small shallow dishes) and it was poured from a jug so OH was totally thrilled and if we spent 1.20 euros that was all, so OH was thrilled as this find.  He loves gloomy bars full of ancient locals

Image from Guardian article above  -  Orzan beach

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gazing out to sea, crystal cove and goliath portions....

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Last night had pegged out our smalls on the balcony clothes line, figuring out that the violence of the wind would counteract any effects of the rain.  They were almost dry!  Had two cups of tea in bed and then miraculously the skies cleared so we drove down to a tea shoppe found yesterday on a brief run around the top end of town.  The lady produced the largest croissants I have ever seen.  And it was after ten am.  She also gave us a piece of pineapple upside down cake to keep us going whilst the croissants were being toasted. Dense eggy sponge with candied pineapple crunches.

The shop was also a bakery and there was a huge selection of cakes on display.  Not little works of art as in a French patisserie, but they definitely won in terms of size.  You couldn't have held more than one in your hand at the same time.  No WIFI so drove back to the fishing spot to see where the tide was and spoke to a young Spaniard (in French fortunately) and he told me about an app called Tu Marea (your tide) and said high tide was at 11.37.  It was then 11 am and OH decided he needed some swivel link leaders so we went back into town and to the swanky fishing shop.

OH burst through the doors enthusiastically and I could tell by the look on the owner's face that it was instant recognition.  OH promptly started speaking terrible French and using mime.  The owner of the shop didn't seem surprised.  I went and hid behind the rigs and enjoyed ten minutes of FB whilst OH confused the owner and bought many things in little plastic bags.  

On the counter was a map of local places of interest - two of which looked good - a beach called Traba and another Praia (in Galicia the Castilian word Playa becomes Praia) de Cristales or beach of crystales.  The fishing shop owner said the best fishing would be at high tide tonight so we went to Traba which is a wonderful deserted place of over a km of beach, strewn with seaweed.  Gulls wheeling overhead.  Stinging rain.  A German camper van with the curtains drawn and three sets of footprints running down to the sea (but not running back...).

Went up the headland to Laxe lighthouse and found a tiny churchyard with walls full of family crypts.  Sad statue of a mother and child looking out to sea for a fishing boat which will never return.  What must it have been like; and be like still, to watch for your loved ones: your sons and husbands, your bread winners, only a few strips of metal and wood and sail protecting them from the immensity of the oceans and one slip to certain death.  The bronze woman holds her naked and sleeping child and stands, one hand raised to shield her eyes, as she scans the horizon.

Flora hugged close to the ground - pinks, sea holly, heather.  Down the hill to the crystal cove - just one tiny enclosed bay - what looks like sea glass in shades from cloudy white through palest cream to moss green to deep bottle green.  Below the cliffs the sea boiled and shot out blankets of spray as white as icing.  Foam bubbles floated skywards.

OH announced he was hungry, the giant croissants having been consumed at least two hours earlier, so we went around the headland and found a restaurant over looking the bay. The portion sizes were just insane.  For starters OH had 12 deep fried small fish and I made the mistake of ordering fabas which turned out to be a stew of white beans, black pudding, chorizo, ham and garlic.  It arrived in a pasta dish and it was absolutely brimming.  OH had to help.  We then had roast chicken and chips (me) and steak and chips.  Again, enormous portions.  My chicken must have been of world beating dimensions when walking on two feet.  Staggered back to flat and collapsed into horizontal position to do some serious digesting.

Later, OH went fishing in appalling weather and I sat and got out my paints and did some fairly terrible painting.  Painting is a lot harder to do well than I had ever realised.  Being a very impatient person, I want to be good immediately....

Somewhere out there is America

Tuesday 15 September 2015

No workmen on site this morning as wind truly violent and rain lashing down.  Drove to Bahia for breakfast - no croissants left.  Asked what time is best to come down in order to have croissants and woman waved her hands happily and said 'oh any time' and I said how about after ten and she said 'oh no!' and went into the back room.  

Went to look at fishing spot again and alas it was so windy we could hardly stand up so I couldn't beach comb and OH couldn't fish.  Got in car and went for a drive.  At Comarinas, further around west on the coast the gulls were had elected to sit on the rocks and have a preen. Decided to press on to Finisterre (land's end) - the most westerly tip of Europe. Wanted to get a photo of us looking west out to America but when we got out of the car within seconds we were wetter than we had ever been whilst fully dressed.  Went into a café and it was full of steaming people and reminded me of a Summer's day in the Lake District. Except that these were Pilgrims at the end of the Camino de Santiago and Land's End is where they traditionally come to burn their clothes.  No one looked naked and they would have needed napalm to get their clothes burning today.  Many different nationalities.  Bus loads of Spanish and French tourists, all wearing the kind of plastic capes which immediately transform one's body heat into condensation and ensure you are as wet on the inside as you are on the outside.  Drove back in virtually zero visibility

America is out there, somewhere.....

Later on that day, and with clean and dry clothes, we went into the nearest town to watch the festival of floats and it had been cancelled due to high winds.  Town was deserted and we went into a bar to enjoy some WIFI and the bar tender looked like the mother from the Adam's family.  Thrilled to see that I had been copied into an email sent by the business manager to the buyers of the contemporary house, giving them the name of the solicitor with whom the agency works and confirming that he would be dealing with the case.  Still no news from bloody useless anglo french law company.  Hurrah!  Might be getting somewhere with this case!

Rain lashed down on pavements and bounced a good 12 inches up into the air.  Sheets of moisture fanned out across the bay.  Not a lot happening on the FB group.  Told them for heaven's sake to hold off posting Christmas stuff just yet.

Had a walk along the front back in Laxe and a marvellous seafood pizza.  Slept well despite fact that bed seemed to be full of sand.  Blissful wall between me and OH snoring.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fishing and percebes problems

Monday 14 September 2015

At 9.40 am we were awoken by the sound of a compressor and realised and realised we were opposite a building site.  Ate breakfast at the Bahia Hotel which is the only place in town which seems to be open before 11 am.  Seagulls screamed in the skies overhead.  OH said we needed to go and look at a fishing spot he had discovered on a previous trip with his friend J.  He took us down narrower and narrower roads and through a forest of droopy leaved Eucalyptus trees, their bark shredded and all colours from ochre through cinnamon to deepest red.  finally we emerged on a wonderful deserted beach.  Gulls ran around on the sand banks and I was delighted to find shells that I had never seen before - green and rubbed sea urchins and another eggshell delicate coquillage shaped like a skull and delicately perforated.

OH decided that the tide was coming in and we needed to come back later.  Went for early lunch and I had pulpo à la gallega which is octopus cut into chunks and cooked in olive oil and garlic.  OH had chipirones (baby squid) and chips.  Two Germans with shaved chests and ostentatious attitudes came and sat behind us and spent the whole meal looking at their enormous telephones.  Back to flat for siesta.

At 4.30 OH was still dead to the world so I went out onto the silver sands which were as pure and white as those of Sutherland in the far north of Scotland.  Almost without shells. Wagtails and a solitary gull ran ahead of me on the beach.  Went back to flat and woke up OH and we went back to the fishing spot and the sun came out and it was idyllic to lie on the rocks and watch the clouds in the high heavens race across the dizzy blue.  the waves sucked and pounded the slab like rocks and, far out to sea, the water turned from azure to deep cobalt with creaming and foaming breakers.

After a couple of hours, we packed up and went to a fisherman's bar where OH had spotted percebes on the menu.  These are a type of barnacle.  I have had not had these before and can tell you that they are very tasty but take a heck of a lot of getting out of their casings. they are the size of your whole thumb, and where you have your thumb nail, they have a kind of cartilage type claw.  Harvested by hand at depth.  Normally ruinously expensive. They arrived, steaming on a plate, and it was not obvious how to get into them.  We pulled at them experimentally and I manage to squirt sea water over us and neighbouring tables.  In the end, a fisherman came over and showed us how to twist and pull the end and pop out the flesh.  He must have been speaking Galician because I didn't understand a word.  We then had zambrinas and the most wonderful white albarino wine which was deep and rich with a wonderful floral aftertaste.  Collapsed to bed.  Rain started to hammer on the velux during the night.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ever westward

Sunday 13 September 2015

Ever westward

We went for breakfast in a bar where yesterday we had spotted a lot of well dressed ladies of a certain age.  The blood art bar was closed and shuttered with large iron grilles. We had large cups of milky coffee, foaming fresh orange juice and spatchcocked toasted croissants with apricot jam.  Then off through many hours of high mountain roads winding over passes and forests of Eucalypts, tiny cotton balls of cloud caught in their upper branches.  Stopped for lunch in a seaside town.  The rain was torrential and all of the tourists had gone home. Had tiny fried fish with aoli garlic dip.  An immense glossy brand new fishing shop.  Stands and fun fair for the weekend of fêtes.  

We werent supposed to be arriving at the flat until 6 pm so we drove around a succession of run down towns facing the most spectacular silver sands and azure waters.  Finall arrived at Laxe at 5 pm.  Very pretty I was relieved to see and a large selection of bars and restaurants - I counted 13 just going along the front.  Iphone informed me that the weather forecast was cloud tomorrow then two days of rain.  

The flat was on the upper floor of a neat and compace house in a sidestreet.  Large open plan living room and kitchen, two bedrooms and shower room with wc.  From the balcony, you could just about see the sea.  Impressively clean, unlike chez nous, which is full of dust and dog hairs and mud and spiders webs and, periodically, the smell of the septic tank.  We were shown around by a lady of a certain age, had some bread and cheese and then went out for a G and T and relaxed on the sofa.

Beds very comfy.  Zedsville....

Westward Ho!

Saturday 12 September 2015

Thunder, lightning and torrential rain

Awake for 8.30 and thunder right overhead and windows rattling in their casements. Sky black.  Rain hissing on gravel.  Dog was in the laundry room and didn't want to come out. After an hour the noise abated and I got him into the car and over to the pension.  P was waiting and dog took the opportunity of peeing all over her magnificent flower borders. A small dog, of indeterminate race but with a large element of terrier, shot out of the door.

"Sarko!" shouted P.  "Sarcozy, viens!"  Dog and Sarcozy eventually went back over the wall and I drove back home, during which time OH had managed to finish packing EVEN more stuff into the car and then we tied up the gate, lightning flashing uncomfortably near, and we were off.

The skies cleared as we neared the coast but, in general, all very grey.  Stopped for lunch around 2 pm in a bar.  It was the type of bar which exists all over Spain.  Run by members of the same family.  Huge TV in a corner blasting out news and/or music at deafening volume.  Bar heaving with locals of old ages.  Old men reading the local journal.  Couples talking animatedly.  The default status for a Spaniard is animated.  Children running in and out.  Vast selection of gins and whiskeys.  Cigarette vending machines.  Chewing gum with toy in plastic ball vending machines.  Dark oak tables set with paper cloths.  Good smells coming from the kitchen.

As we were passing through and there were many miles before we sleep, we had a bocadillo (sandwich) of ham and cheese and stood at the bar.  The bread was substantial with a deep liquorice crust and dense chewy texture.  A family ran in out of the rain, downed some small glasses of beer, and left with a selection of green leaf vegetables, a stick of bread and a local paper.

Ever onward we continued and finally, at five pm, we headed down a valley and into Nabia, our first overnight stop.  A graceful double white hooped bridge looped over the river on whose banks lay the town.  Orange roofed and many buildings crowded together.  The main flavour and odour of the town was an immense factory, surrounded by its own clouds of steam.  Oh had chosen a Palazio which looked lovely from the outside.  The skies had closed in again and all the lights were lit in reception.  A pale skinned man led us to the tiny lift which hoisted us, complaining all the way, up to the third floor.  The room was in the rafters, long and narrow, with a servant's feel about it.

Undeterred, we had a quick shower, brief siesta and then hit the streets.  The streets hit us back.  Groups of young men roamed about, banging balls into walls.  People were shabbily dressed and many of the buildings were empty and crumbling.  It looked like a town which had fallen onto hard times   "the phrase shit hole comes to mind" said OH reflectively.  We got to the end of town (it didn't take long) and admired a small park with a statue of a poet and good views of the river and the bridge and the special clouds, now glowing yellow in the sunset.

There was a bar next to the park and a G and T called so we went in and sat down on some tall stools and ordered two Larios and tonics.  The lady behind the bar brought out two huge globe glasses, half filled them with ice and then tried to cover all of the ice with gin.  The tonic only just fitted in the glass.  No lemon slice was forthcoming.  It wasn't a lemon slice kind of town.  Clinking glasses, we set off around the bar to look at the artwork on the back wall.  There were two sizable pieces, the size of animal skins but too regularly shaped.  The surface was encrusted with a dark sticky substance.  Further over were other works, in the same medium, one of a man with a boar's head and another of a man with octopus tentacles instead of hair.  "Hey" shouted the bar tender "they are all for sale".  She directed us towards a list.  One piece was entitled "the fucking power of love".  Nice to see that some Europeans have a grasp of basic English.  I felt the fabric and asked if it was skin.  "Oh no" said the lady "it is paper.  Painted with blood - from animals of course".  We took a step towards the door.  We were a long way from home....  "Should we be scared?" I enquired of OH.  We drank up with unwise haste and staggered out into the rapidly fading light to find a place where the blood was still in people's veins.

The main place in town was a cider bar so in we went.  Asturian cider is pretty flat when it comes out of the bottle so the bar person holds the bottle high over their head with one hand and the glass as low as possible with the other.  And pours.  Our cider gillie barely spilled a drop.  Two bottles of cider later I discovered my legs no longer worked and said we really needed something to eat.  OH said he knew just what to do and called over the cider gillie, stopped him opening another bottle and shouted "Zoroniak".  He then sat back and looked pleased with himself and rubbed his hands and said just you wait and see and I said we might be waiting a while as he had just wished the bar tender Happy Christmas in Basque.

After the cider gillie had brought us the menu and we had discovered that the right word was zambrinas, a plate of small scallops arrived.  In their shells and delicately garnished with parsley, garlic and olive oil.  I then tried to go to sleep on the bar and OH took me back to the attic where he snored like a stuck pig all night but fortunately I was very, very tired and could wrap the sausage shaped bolster pillow around my head and drown out the worst of the racket.