from 'The Journal of Alacazam', by Mary Swift...
It's Saturday 19th August 2001, and leaving Alacazam at anchor we set of with our new pals Mike and Kay for the fish market in Villagarcia, and it's a pretty amazing place...
Large and full of stalls selling all types of fish, live crabs, shellfish, octopus and more besides. Women wearing large aprons, wellington boots and plastic gloves, scale and gut the fish as people are buying then.
There are hordes of people everywhere and we soon lose sight of Mike and Kay. We're mesmerised and a little overawed having never seeing anything like this before.
Some fish are instantly recognisable like hake, tuna and bass but even Dick with all his fishing experience is at a loss as to some of the deep-sea species for sale.
Housewives are picking up live crabs and looking them over before deciding which one to buy. White fish is much more expensive than we were expecting, more like UK prices and you are expected to buy the whole fish (we would have liked just a couple of hake steaks) so we buy a kilo of mussels, fresh off the viveros and so cheap at £2. We also buy a kilo of fish slightly larger than sardines, which, the lady serving us, tells us should be cooked in the same way; they are gutted and in a bag before we can blink an eye.
Moving into the next area we are in the meat and poultry market. The chickens have been plucked but still have their heads and feet. A lady only wants to buy half a chicken so the butcher chops one straight down the middle, chops off the head and feet and then pulls out all the innards before wrapping it up. Sides of meat are hanging up and he chops ribs, fillets and other cuts of meat to order; so quickly it is a wonder he still has all his fingers. I buy two breasts of chicken that have already been skinned and he cuts them into thin escallops for fast cooking. They look wonderful. The next area is the fruit and vegetable market and I buy carrots and a cauliflower (which I later notice is complete with a caterpillar). In the last area I buy a round wholemeal loaf, a white cheese (goats I think) and a bottle of honey.
Outside, it is market day and the streets around the market are covered with stalls selling everything imaginable. Again, it is very crowded and we must stand out as tourists because we are stopped by two policemen on foot patrol and told to wear our backpacks in front of us and to keep our arms around them. It feels very strange walking with all the weight in front of you (Dick says I should be used to it - not sure what he can mean).
One of the stalls is selling bread by weight and I am sure it isn't wheat flour. Dick asks and I am right, one type of bread is made from maize and the other is a mixture of rye and maize. I buy some to try and it tastes exactly like the rye bread that I used to buy in Healthy Pulses (a health shop back home). I'm delighted. My next good buy is a plastic egg-box, which I find in a ferret shop (ferreteria, or ironmongers) near to the market (the cardboard egg boxes get soggy in the fridge and start to smell).
I am delighted with my shopping morning and we head back to Alacazam where Dick washes the mussels ready for cooking. I have found a recipe in a Tesco's cook-book. A sauce consisting of onions, lots of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, white wine, chilli pepper flakes and mixed herbs is cooked quickly until the liquid has halved. Penne pasta is cooked and set aside. The washed mussels are steamed in a lidded pan until open; then everything is tossed together, warmed and served immediately. The mussels are large and this meal is delicious.
Just as we finish lunch we receive a phone call from Eric and Jan on Kuramu. They have made it to Gibraltar and are basking in sunshine. En route they had stopped in Bayona, Islas Cies and Cascais and are thoroughly enjoying themselves. It was really nice to hear from them and we wonder if we might see them in the Canary Islands.
With all our shopping in the morning we had forgotten to buy water and wine and quickly walk to a small supermarket in the town. We do not find it immediately and have to ask the way. One street has been closed off and on both sides are at least 60 Seat 600 cars. It is the club day out; the cars are of all ages but in pristine condition and painted in lovely colours; a turquoise colour stands out in my mind.
The fun-fair has also come to town and the clothes stalls accompanying it are run by South Americans (Peruvian I think) dressed in their colourful costumes. We stop at the marina office to pay our fees and are surprised at how much more expensive it is compared to the prices quoted in the Pilot Book. In 1999 a 12 ft yacht is quoted as being 2,000 pesetas per night but now it costs 3,300 pesetas per night. The facilities have been improved though (the new Marina Office block for example) and it is a safe marina in a blow.
It is getting late and we promised to visit Mike and Kay on 'Summer Lady'. They have been waiting for us and we are welcomed with very large gin and tonics. They have bought and filleted a fish from the fish market but do not know what it is or how to cook it. Dick thinks it is a wrasse, a very bony fish, not particularly good to eat. We take the fish and the Americans back to Alacazam. I coat the fillets in rice flour, herbs, lemon juice and a little olive oil, and cook them on the griddle, together with the sardine type fish we had bought, served simply with boiled new potatoes and a large mixed salad. The fish was a wrasse and not too delectable but we enjoyed the meal anyway, washed down with copious amounts of red wine.
At midnight we go to the Yacht Club and see that hundreds of people are gathering on the promenade below. We sit at a table on the balcony and order drinks. At 1245 hours we find ourselves in the prime spot for an even more spectacular firework display than we were treated to in Portosin. Each time we think 'This must be the finale' the fireworks continue again, even more spectacular than the last. We must have watched for at least an hour.
Mike and Kay are amazed at the quality of the fireworks which, they quite rightly figure, must have cost thousands of dollars. The show is over but Mike and Kay want a night-cap, a brandy. Dick has another wine but I am already feeling a bit tiddly so I have water. I have drunk the least gin and wine but the others do not appear, even remotely, tipsy. It must be nearly 3am before we get to bed.
Sunday 19 August 2001
I have managed to stave off a headache (I had woken up after an hour or two's sleep with a headache and had taken a couple of Migraleve tablets and drunk two glasses of water before going back to sleep) and feel remarkably good. Dick, as usual, feels no effects whatsoever from the night before.
The weather is dreadful; it is pouring with rain, windy and no visibility. My wrist has doubled in size and is quite painful. The insect bite is weeping so I bathe my wrist in TCP, which eases it, and cover the bite with a plaster to prevent infection. I have two more insect bites on my belly and one on my face. I do not even feel myself getting bitten, let alone see the pests and this is using the insect repellent. Also the very first bite I received in Camaret is on the same arm and has swollen up again. No-one else seems to get bitten; the Americans have been here a week and have not had one insect bite.
It is pouring with rain (and I mean lashing down) so I stay on board working on the computer and transpose Dick's article on 'Water-Ballasted Sailboats' from the Psion onto the computer. The yacht berthed next to us is a classy 'AMEL Super Maramu' about 50ft in length. Dick chats to the owner, a Frenchman, who seems to have a crew working for him. He is following a similar route to us and so we will no doubt see the yacht again.
Dick then goes to the Marina Office to check out the weather fax, which shows a low off Finisterre and an Azores high following up behind. We will not be leaving here today though so if the weather clears up later, I quite fancy visiting Cambados. Dick wanders over to 'Summer Lady' to chat to Mike and when he comes back says if we go Mike and Kay would like to join us.
The weather is appalling and we rush to help a French yacht trying to berth alongside us. The lady owner speaks very good English having sailed to England many times. She has sailed up from Bayona in a force 7 to 8 and although the wind had been behind the beam the journey had been dreadful. Another yacht tries to berth on the other side of us but there is no stern line available and they have to move elsewhere. The crew on the two yachts are wearing full wet weather gear. We have made the right decision to stay put.
The rain eases off about 1600 hours; we meet up with Mike and Kay and walk into the local bus station. It seems to serve only the local bus routes as we cannot find a route marked up for Cambados. There is a bar close by where we ask directions, but by now it is raining again so we stay for a drink. A table is being laid up for the staff to eat and the food being brought to the table looks very good. We try to order food but are told the kitchen is closed until 7pm.
Within 10 minutes though, they seem to have taken pity on us and bring us two plates of large delicious mussels. We are told that we are at the wrong bus station; the one we need is at the other end of the town near to the train station. Mike and Kay know where this is and we find it easily but there is a one hour wait until the next bus leaves. We walk back into the town centre and catch a taxi. It is further to Cambados than we had realised but the fare is not expensive at 1500 pesetas.
The taxi driver speaks little English, but wants to discuss religion and politics; highly dangerous topics to discuss at the best of times, but fraught in this situation, but he is friendly enough just enjoying the conversation. We are in the town centre. The buildings here are beautiful and are being preserved and rebuilt as the originals. Walking around the streets though we all have the feeling that it is being too well protected. It seems false somehow and more like a tourist trap with the various shops and bars geared up to tourism.
We find a small bar near the harbour and stop for a drink. Cambados is renowned for its white wine 'O Albariño', reputed to be the best in Galicia. The wine we have been given tastes strange to Kay and Dick tries unsuccessfully to change it. All the locals drinking in the bar taste it and agree that this is how it tastes and suitably chastened Dick brings the glass back. There are different grades of the wine and this happens to be a green (young) one.
Through the bar window we can see that the tide is ebbing and rocks and small islands are appearing in the harbour. We leave the bar and walk along the sea wall where we can see another harbour on the other side. There are a few boats moored in it, mostly fishing boats but one or two yachts, but we can see that it is a very difficult entrance to negotiate in the wrong weather and not a place to be caught out in. Walking back along the wall we can see the coast road and are surprised to see a red English double-decker bus travelling along it.
We have not really seen much of the town and set out to explore. It is lovely but far too contrived and touristy for us so we carry on walking around the outskirts until we find a locals bar. It is a new modern bar, but empty, and we are given a very warm welcome by the Portuguese owners who lead us to two comfortable settees set around a low table. We order a bottle of Rioja and are given a bowl of monkey nuts to eat.
Our appetite has been wetted but the bar is not serving food, but we are told hospitably, that there is a restaurant on the floor below and if we wanted to order tapas it could be brought up for us to eat at this table. Kay and Mike had only been eating at restaurants and had been disappointed in the food. We set out to educate them on the Spanish way of eating and order prawns cooked in garlic, octopus and squid served with a large mixed salad and another bottle of Rioja (I have to say that I am mostly drinking water having had enough alcohol the night before). The food is good and we are also able to watch the first half of a football match on the TV. Real Madrid against Zeregrova.
Walking back to the town centre we notice an attractive small bar near the tourist area, but almost empty, and watch the rest of the football match, a draw. We are given a plate of steamed mussels with our drinks and although we are pretty full, cannot resist eating them.
It is time to return to Villagarcía. Mike is concerned about my arm; my hand and up to half of my forearm is swollen and the red inflammation is spreading nearly to my elbow and it is painful.
In every Spanish town there is always one chemist shop that stays open all night so Mike asks the taxi driver to find it. The taxi driver is very helpful; he is able to find this information on the door of a closed chemist and soon drives us to the right place, charging us very little extra for his efforts.
The chemist is very dour and will only speak to us through a grille in the door (it is 1230 hours by now and we probably looked a motley crew). I show him my arm and the insect bite and he disappears, returning a few minutes later with a tube of cream, to be used twice a day.
We walk back to the Marina and the Yacht Club for a nightcap and Kay and I cannot resist ordering a large dish of ice-cream, smothered in chocolate sauce, each (shared by the men of course). Kay is able to tell me that the Avon cream that the mosquitoes hate is 'Skin so Soft' - the original cream not the new perfumes. I think I may have some (when I look later though I have only a body scrub, not the cream and will have to ask someone to bring some out from the UK).
I'm suddenly bushed and my arm is really throbbing by now so I call a halt to the evening and we return to our respective yachts. The cream the chemist has given me is, as I thought, a cortisone cream. I am always wary of using these creams but I am also very worried at the speed the swelling and redness is creeping up my arm (a fact I have been hiding from Dick), so I rub the cream in, drink plenty of water and go to bed.
Today has been a wet and cold day, just like in England, and we have all been wearing long trousers, warm tops and our wet weather jackets without feeling hot. Perhaps it's time to head south for Ria de Vigo...