Before recounting our day, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate everyone who has contacted us, either via text, What’s App or email since we have been on the road. The way the blog works is that I have no idea who is looking at it, so it is really nice to get some encouraging feedback, be sent photos from the rowing club, or just to hear the local gossip. The award for the positively most entertaining contact to date has to go to my ‘photo girls, who, whilst celebrating Burn’s Night, took the time to record me a superb video of their antics. So thank you very much – it really made us both laugh (and most of the Tapas bar too!).
The day started badly. Having spent two nights in a hotel in Santiago de Compostela dodging the rain, we set off early to retrieve Oscar from the underground car park where we had left him. The hotel car park had a height limit of 1.89 metres, and since Oscar is 1.9 metres, the hotel assured us it was OK to leave him in a near-by municipal car park. As we arrived at the ticket machine, Howard inserted the card and it read ‘error’. He tried again – still ‘error’. It was only at this point that I noticed the notice saying ‘Maximo 24 Horas’. Shit, shit and double shit! We had visions of spending the weekend in an underground car park with our little van. Fortunately we managed to find a kindly man at the exit, who I think took pity on us, and we eventually negotiated our escape for 20 euros. We both chastised ourselves on our appalling parenting skills (although Howard
did point out that he had checked on him five times!), and vowed not to leave him alone again. So not a great start to the day.
Having left Santiago, we headed west to Finisterre, the most westerly point in Spain. As we drove, the weather got worse and worse – stair-rod rain and glowering black skies. As we arrived at the fishing port, the rain was still lashing down, and the fishermen who had just dispatched their catches at the fish market stood huddled in lines inside a local cafe, looking out of the window and sheltering from the appalling weather.
Undeterred, we parked up by the harbour and put the kettle on. After a cup of tea and a hearty bowl of porridge we felt more ready to face the world. In need of a comfort stop, we stepped into the cafe, which seemed to house the entire male population of Finisterre, (by now drinking wine), and asked for two coffees. When I came back from the loo, Howard was sat at a table with two coffees, and two rather unappetising bowls of a strange looking white bean and fish stew, which were apparently complimentary with the coffees. A rather different take on a little almond biscuit that you might get offered in the UK, and certainly not something I fancied at 11am. Needless to say, Howard dutifully imbibed the stew, and spent the rest of the afternoon requesting mints to take the taste away.
We continued on to Cape Finisterre, and it’s famous lighthouse. Many of the pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago continue on to this most westerly point, as an extra addition to their trek. As we walked down to the lighthouse, the rain eased and there was a biblical break in the clouds, and the sun started peeking through. We walked to the furthest point over the rocks, and saw several pilgrims sitting or standing looking out to sea in contemplation. Some of them had balanced small stones on top of larger rocks, just like people do in Scotland on cairns at the top of mountains.
Walking back to the car, we considered our options. Last night we had planned on staying just a little further along the coast by the beach in Galicia. However, the brooding dark skies made a stop at the seaside seem less appealing. We quickly googled the weather further south, and it looked much better. So we took the decision to travel on a little further into Portugal, in the hope of finding some sunshine.
The drive down the autoroute was truly grim. The clouds were so low, that at times we could barely see the road. Throughout driving along the north Asturian coastline, and now driving down through Galicia, we had been impressed with the structural engineering feats – multitudes of viaducts taking the main roads over deep valleys, as the coastline dipped and dived from high cliffs to sheltered inlets. The Spaniards helpful name all these viaducts, and also tell you how high they are. The highest one we traversed was 600 metres tall – I chose not to look over the edge as we drove across!
Eventually we crossed the border into Portugal, and made our way to one of the coastal campsites just above Porto. The rain eventually eased, and we had a quick stroll down to the Atlantic, before putting Oscar’s covers on, and coming inside to cook tea and have a glass of wine.
We have really enjoyed our time in Northern Spain. We have witnessed some wonderful scenery, explored some historic towns, but in particular, we have been impressed by the kindness and helpfulness of the all the local people we have met.
Tomorrow, we plan to visit Porto, our first experience of Portugal.