Monday, September 04, 2006

Vilagarcia and Santiago

There’s still no sign of our autopilot – it now seems it´s held in a depot somewhere because the courier couldn´t understand the address, which said Viladarcia de Arousa instead of Vilagarcia. Sigh. We still hope to set off today, though. We went right off Vilagarcia on Saturday night, or in fact Sunday morning, when the extremely loud club music started at midnight and continued until after 8am, at which point a number of inebriated youths were seen heaving bottles, glasses and metal crowd barriers into the marina. This is supposed to be a safe place to leave your boat, and security is good, but incidents like that are a bit worrying. Thank goodness, last night was totally peaceful – I kept waking up and wondering where the music had gone!

As a counter to that Ben has made a friend – a 10-year-old from an Irish boat across the way, called (approximately) Donnache. They are here for a few days while their mother flew back to Ireland for a family wedding. Ben and Donnache spent most of Saturday and Sunday together which was a great treat for Ben, who really hasn’t talked to anyone except family for weeks.

This morning we have redesigned Ben’s school timetable, as he’s more or less finished what he was set in DT (design technology), RS (religious studies) and science, but is concerned that he’s falling behind in some other subjects, especially Maths and Latin. I’ve been trying to persuade him that he doesn’t have to worry too much about French, as six weeks in France was pretty good education in itself, but bless him he is still a bit bothered. It’s wonderful that he is so conscientious.

We have on board a handy book of swear words and insults in four languages, which includes “Por favor, deja de habla tan alto en ese idioma tan molesto” (Please stop talking loudly in that annoying language). Sometimes it’s really nice to hear people NOT talking Spanish.

Saturday 2 September
A pilgrimage to Santiago

We’re in Vilagarcia de Arosa for a few days. Vilagarcia is singularly lacking in charm but it has a well—organised, secure marina and is on the main railway line between La Coruña and Vigo – just 40 minutes to Santiago de Compostela. Son on Thursday we packed a few possessions and headed off for two days in Santiago, one of Spain’s most beautiful cities and final destination for the famous Santiago pilgrimage.

Santiago was absolutely gorgeous, everything the guidebooks say and more. The old centre is totally pedestrianised with a mixture of narrow streets and big open plazas, the biggest being the one in front of the totally outrageous cathedral. We visited the cathedral itself, its cloisters, treasury and crypt, the bishop’s palace, the museum of the pilgrimage, the museum of Galician life, some lovely gardens and a number of cafes and restaurants. It was extraordinary to be in a place away from the sea, and slightly disorienting.

We stayed in a pleasant little hotel with a room with a bath, and we all luxuriated in the first hot-water soak we’ve had for 11 weeks. Ben was slightly disappointed in fact - having begged for a bath he found it wasn’t quite as much fun as the sea. It was also strange to behave like rich tourists and eat out at every meal, even breakfast. Our cost of living when we cook for ourselves on the boat is much lower than eating at even the cheapest cafes.

When we got back to Vilagarcia they were setting up a pop concert which went on until about 1am. No peace then though, because the club music carried on until 5am. This morning it’s very peaceful. Bad news: there’s no sign of our autopilot which should have arrived yesterday. Good news: Ben has met an Irish 10-year-old with whom he’s had the longest conversation with anyone other than the family since we left home.

Tuesday 29 August
Sea life

Yesterday we sailed into the Ria de Arosa, the biggest and one of the most popular rias. We’re only about 15 miles from Portosin but it’s almost 40 miles by sea. We had a night at anchor in Muros, where the anchor dragged and we had to move over to the other side of the bay – fortunately the wind dropped completely overnight, allowing me to get a bit of sleep!

Out in the Atlantic between the rias we saw a large group of dolphins which followed the boat closely, jumping and criss-crossing under the bows and stern, for almost an hour. Unfortunately Ben was feeling a bit queasy and didn’t really appreciate them. He perked up a bit when we came into the flat waters of the Ria de Arosa and we started sailing in the modest wind, and he set a mackerel line as we have done numerous times without success. The wind dropped, we slowed right down, and he actually caught two mackerel – what an achievement! We’d been told a few days ago that sailing is usually too fast and you only get fish at less than two knots, and it seems to be true. Apparently even mackerel realise that their prey don’t whip past at five or six knots. Anyway we ate the mackerel for dinner, and very good they were too.

We’re in Pobra do Caramiñal, yet another small Galician town, distinguished by a stout marina, pleasant tree-covered square in the town centre and a slightly better-than-average supermarket. Yesterday it was really hot for the first time for days, and we went for a swim off the beach almost as soon as we arrived. The night was warm and balmy and the morning brilliantly clear. Sadly it didn’t last, clouds and wind arrived again, although it’s still pretty warm.

We’ve reached the conclusion that too may more small Galician towns may start to drive us bonkers, lovely through the rias are. From here we will go just across the ria to Vilagarcia, where we hope to pick up our autopilot and spend a day or two in Santiago da Compostela. Then we’ll skip down to Baiona and head into Portugal, where we expect to make a few very long hops down to Lisbon and then to the Algarve.

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