At Anchor and Ashore in the
Ria de Vigo

from 'The Journal of Alacazam', by Mary Swift...

It's Tuesday 21st August 2001, and having torn ourselves away from the shoreside delights of Ria de Arosa in the Galicia region of north-west Spain, we're now at anchor some miles south in the Ria de Vigo.

 We wake up at 0900 hours to a misty morning and hear a voice shouting "Ahoy, Alacazam, where have you been?"  We look out of the hatchway and see Malc and Jane on 'Valkyrie' motoring around us.

They had sailed non-stop to Bayona on the day we were holed up in Villagarcía with bad weather, and had had a horrendous time.

They are having bad luck with their sailing, getting too much wind when we are getting none. They are just leaving Bayona for Póvoa de Varzim in Portugal so we wish them fair winds and look forward to meeting them again soon.

The swelling on my arm is at last starting to go down; I can see the veins on the back of my hand again, although the bite still itches like crazy. I find another insect bite near my elbow and know I put insect repellent there before I went to bed. I think the pesky little blighters like it and will change back to using 'Autan' (a deet product).

There's a lot of growth along Alacazam's waterline. In hindsight we should have applied boot topping above the anti-foul but that will have to wait until next year. In the meantime Dick cleans off the growth with detergent using the dinghy to transport himself around the hull. Using a suction handle to hang onto the yacht with one hand, he can do the cleaning with the other. It's hard work and it is at times like this when you realise just how much waterline Alacazam has.

It is still misty and on the chilly side when we collect our new pals Mike and Kay from Summer Lady to motor ashore (it's too far to row) and we are all wearing long trousers and jackets due to the chilly weather.

We check out various places to leave the dinghy but decide the Yacht Club pontoon is probably the safest. It is quite a high pontoon and we have to scrabble out on our hands and knees. We don't go into the Yacht Club, not wanting to risk being turned away because we are at anchor and not using the Marina, and walk into the town.

At first we walk along the front promenade, which is attractive but quite commercial attracting lots of tourists so we go behind into the back streets of the old part of Bayona, away from the tourist area, in search of a 'Dick Bar' where the locals eat (Mike and Kay like our choice of bars and for want of a better expression have nick-named them 'Dick Bars', which may not have been the best choice of words).

We find one and sit outside only to find that the tables and chairs are set out either side of a main walkway. The young lady who serves us only speaks Galician Spanish and for once Dick is at a loss to understand her and be understood by her. The food on the menu is different and one dish turns out to be a butter beans stew (she has brought us a sample), which is very tasty.

We play fairly safe and order octopus, fish marinated in vinaigrette with olives and onions, and baby squid and the food is excellent. They don't serve coffee here and we find another bar that does. On the way we pass two youngsters sitting on steps pulling goose barnacles off rocks and stones. This is a delicacy in Spain but we cannot quite bring ourselves to try them.

The sun is now shining and we revert to being tourists and spend the next few hours exploring Bayona. We start with the medieval walls on the headland walking all around the base before entering the gate (100 peseta charge) and walking all around it again this time on the top of the walls.  Except for a large Parador Hotel, which has the prime location overlooking the bay (these are a chain of government owned hotels located in prime locations throughout Spain), inside the wall there is a natural wooded area.

The wall, which is only 3 to 4 feet wide at most, has battlements on one side and sheer drops on the other. I would not want to be at all tipsy walking here, nor can I imagine how you would control young children and keep them safe. Again, it is all very unspoilt with quite stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Ria and when we pass the very attractive Parador Hotel we cannot resist sitting on the bar patio, in the shade, pretending to be one of the beautiful people, sipping a glass of wine and looking out over Bayona's panoramic bay.

We have, of course chosen siesta time to walk (mad dogs and Englishmen come to mind) but this means there are only a few people around, adding to the beauty of the place. 

On our way back we pass a beach and although in the harbour with the Marina it is kept very clean. We can see that it has been freshly raked; there are litter boxes for the rubbish and a fresh water shower. The water looks clean but it is too close to the Marina and I'm still not tempted to swim in the bays, the rocks and tiny beaches on the Atlantic side being much more attractive to me.

By now it is early evening and we are hungry and thirsty. As usual, we take a wrong turning and find we are heading out of town. By the time we turn around and walk back an hour has gone by before we find another 'Dick Bar'. We sit down outside at the bottom of an alley way and looking up see we are about 100 yards from the bar where we ate lunch. We order drinks to quench our thirst while perusing the menu, and are brought a chorizo sausage to try as a taster. There are different dishes again on the menu here, but this time Dick, and the lady serving us, do not have a problem understanding each other (or do they!).

Mike and Dick follow her into the bar to order the food and ask what the various dishes are. She gives them a sample of one dish to taste, and they think they decline it but they are not too sure. They come back to the table looking somewhat sheepish and say "We think we may have ordered pigs ears". Kay and I laugh; we know they are joking, aren't they? No, they are not. A plate of chopped up pigs ears duly arrives, hot and steaming, from the kitchen.

We all gamely try them, the earlobes are at least fleshy but anything else is like eating gristle and the taste is ...., is ...., well indescribable. Mike manages to eat the most, five pieces before gagging, for which he will always have my undying admiration. Dick has eaten many unusual foods in his travels, including sheep's eyes, but even he only manages three pieces (as, to my surprise, do I; Kay could not get past one piece) and the word 'OREJAS' is imprinted on our minds, IN BIG LETTERS, never to be ordered again.

Pigs ears are definitely only to be saved for silk purses. The waitress is not offended because we do not like the pigs' ears; in fact she is surprised that we had ordered them (well so were we). In Spain, she explains to us, nothing from a pig is thrown away; it all gets eaten.

Mike and Kay had not eaten tortilla before so we order one to share and also shrimps cooked in garlic. The food is good; that and a fine bottle of rioja soon dispel the memory of the taste, and more so, the texture of the pigs ears.

We then set off for yet another walk through the small streets of the 'old town' but Kay and I know where we are aiming for, an Heladeria (ice cream parlour) that we had noticed on the front promenade this morning. No one can resist the ice creams though and greedily we have three scoops each.

In the window of a shop nearby I see a strappy tee shirt top that I like and I am persuaded by the others to try it on. It fits and suits me, so Dick buys it for me but not before I am subjected to (and subsequently am the butt of hilarious laughter) trying on silly hats. It was good fun and the assistants also enjoyed us.

It is now nearly 1030 hours, time to return to the yachts, but before we do we buy two bottles of rioja and cheese and ham in a delicatessen shop. I also spy bread, just being baked, and buy a fresh loaf and a fish pasty.

We stop on board Alacazam for a drink and a snack, but are all quite tired, so only open one bottle of wine and Mike admires and looks at some of the books we have on board. He is quite an historian and a good raconteur as is Kay and we enjoy their company and laugh a lot.

At one time through the day, the subject discussed, was how beautiful the young Spanish girls are, with such good figures; everyone looking like a model. Mike was telling us about a girl at the airport whose trousers were so, so tight, but she was very slim and had the 'cutest little fanny', that she looked really good in them.

I let him finish his story, but then felt it prudent to remind him that he was in Europe and should learn to say bum or bottom or even butt, as fanny has a totally different meaning here. We have had some fun with our various expressions and words, especially with Kay's slow, deep southern drawl.

She has quite an accent, but no doubt my West Country accent must sound quite an accent to her.

Next: At Anchor and Ashore in Ria de Vigo, Part 2

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