“The twin towers of the Cathedral soar into the blue in a sensational flourish of Baroque, covered everywhere with figures of St James in pilgrim guise, crowned with balls, bells, stars, crosses and weathercocks speckled with green lichens and snapdragons in the crevices and exuding a delightful air of cheerful satisfaction” – Jan Morris
There was certainly no mistaking that this is a very holy city indeed and the route to the Cathedral was lined with churches, monasteries and seminaries and finally we emerged into the central square, Praza de Obradoiro, where the Cathedral (which is depicted on Spanish eurocent coins) loomed high above in a most spectacular and impressive way.
The twin towers soared into the sky as though waiting for take off at Cape Kennedy Space Centre in a sensational flourish of Baroque architecture with stone carvings of St James in pilgrim clothes, crowned in a bric-a-brac sort of way with balls, bells, stars, crosses and weathercocks, decorated with golden lichen and stubborn flowers and bits of grass that had grown improbably from the crevices between the stones where the wind had blown the seeds.
Inside, the Cathedral is nearly a hundred metres long and over twenty metres high and is the largest Romanesque church in Spain as well as being one of the biggest in Europe.
We had a good look around but it was a approaching lunch time and so we declined to join the long queue of pilgrims and visitors who were waiting in line to visit the crypt and see the box that contains the bones and relics of St James and left by a side door that opened onto another remarkable courtyard that was surrounded by huge medieval buildings and magnificent statues.
It was hot now and time for a drink so we found a place in the shade and enjoyed a first glass of Estrella Galicia, a local brew from the city of A Coruña on the north coast and then we moved on and disappeared inside the narrow side streets surrounding the cathedral to find somewhere traditional to eat and almost immediately came across the Restaurante de Buen Pulpo that had a tempting tapas menu on the wall outside.
This was what I had been looking for unsuccessfully on my last visit to Spain and we hung around until an outside table became available and when one did occupied it immediately and began the difficult task of menu selection. We decided upon sardines, calamari, tortilla and salad and some more Estrella Galicia of course.
The food was reasonably priced and tasted divine and afterwards we left the little restaurant and continued to explore some more of the old city and after a couple of hours I felt confident to declare this one of the nicest places that I have ever visited. After completing a circular route we arrived back at the Praza de Obradoiro where we took some final blue sky photographs before leaving and returning to the car park.
After a thorough inspection for damage to the Yaris we drove out and picked up the road to Pontevedra, which is where I thought we were staying. We drove for twenty kilometres along a motorway and then a further thirty along what turned out to be a disappointing coast road through some industrial towns that we abandoned after about half way along and found a fast road to the city instead. This was where things went badly wrong and we became baffled by the map and our inability to locate the hotel where we had a reservation.
As usual I became irritated and started to blame anyone and everyone for the predicament, Octopus Travel, Multimap, the man at the hotel who couldn’t understand where we were or how to direct us there and practically anybody else who happened to be on the road this afternoon. Eventually we sorted it out and I have to confess that it turned out to be my fault all the time. I had completely misunderstood the map and the directions and we were about thirty kilometres away from our intended destination.
Being a man it is hard having to own up to getting things so badly wrong but I had to agree that it was all down to me and that I should have brought a proper map rather than rely on the hopelessly inadequate one that was in the glove box of the car. The problem is that I tend to think of road maps as an item of unnecessary expenditure but on this occasion my desire to save €5 or so had led to me wasting about ten litres of fuel!
Eventually we arrived at the hotel that was in Pontescures not Pontevedra and we checked in to the very traditional Hotel Corona de Galicia, which it turned out we had driven past nearly two hours before, and made straight for the bar where the barman poured drinks and provided us with little plates of appetizers.
As we sat relaxing and calming down a coach pulled up outside and about thirty Spanish holidaymakers flooded into the hotel and filled up the lobby and the bar, this, it turned out, was a hotel that caters mostly for Spanish coach tours with people sensibly escaping from the east of the country and presumably all of the ex-pat Brits! With regards to tourism Northern Spain and especially Galicia have been very much a hidden treasure over the past fifty years that the Spanish seem to be sensibly retaining for themselves. Later we had a sea food dinner in the restaurant and at the end of the evening we realised that we hadn’t seen anyone from the United Kingdom or heard English being spoken since we had left the aeroplane nearly twelve hours before and that was very refreshing.
We had found the real Spain at the first attempt!