Tuesday 10th June 2014
I woke before the sun this morning, quite wide awake. I lay there for a while, deciding whether I should act on my state of awakeness, or try and go back to sleep. I decided to get up. It was shortly after 06:00, and somewhere between dark and light. In the gloom, I could make out an old boy, standing on the wooden dock that the kids have been jumping off, looking into the water. It took me a moment to realise, but he was fishing, slowly pulling a fishing line towards him. By the time I’d come back from the loos, he’d gone. I didn’t fancy his chances overly much, and certainly not the marina grey mullet. When I went back for my shower (a bit school changing rooms, as they’re geared up for the more serious giggers and kayakers) the sun was appearing from the east, and I was treated to an awesome show of golden light. I’d witnessed Baiona opening up, but this morning, I’d certainly been with Cangas as it woke up.
We were in no real rush this morning, nor had any particular plans in Vigo. The Galicia guide book gave it less space than Pontevedra, and the Northern Spain guide only a paragraph. I can understand why. Pete would probably be more kind than I am about Vigo, but we’ll come to that. We walked along the pier, dodging the ladies trying to entice us to Illas Cies by ferry, ‘we’ll be there tomorrow,’ I thought, but only smiled as I had no way of saying it to them. We bought our tickets to Vigo (the lady here was double checking that we did want Vigo and not Illas Cies, I’m sure), and were on the 10:15. What a contrast the water was to yesterday, shades of sapphire and smooth seas, the sun setting off a cascade of sparkles. Vigo dominates the coast on the other side of the Ria, firstly the extensive docks and ports, and then the town behind it. We docked behind the Ocean Terminal, home of the cruise ships, but there were none today. Pete’s first stop wanted to be the marina that we might have visited, had we not had a chance encounter with someone we met in Baiona who rated Cangas. I think we have the better choice. There are several marinas in Vigo, but this one is tucked behind passenger ferry terminal, behind the Ocean terminal. It strikes me that’s a lot of potential for wash, and for noise.
Our next stop was Tourist Information for a city map, where a charming girl gave us map, pointing out each of the city’s highlights – the old town, the new town, the port, the fortress. She then gave us another booklet with four walks around the city. We decided to do the first one, of the old town, with Pete as guide. It was supposed to take 90minutes, but we’d whipped through it in about an hour. I can’t think why it would have taken longer – it certainly wasn’t because we were walking fast, we were on mooch-speed – it simply wasn’t an attractive old town. The area isn’t big, but the walk has you walking in loops, until you reach the pinnacle of the catherdral. Most of the streets were deserted, which had a charm in Pontevedra that was lacking in Vigo. It was shabby, seedy even. So many buildings are in tatters, half-derelict, perhaps even should-be-condemmed. The old paved streets are coated in green slime, algae, in the darker recesses, which you imagine would be lethal after any rain. In some streets, you walked past, disturbing clouds of small flies. The smells of the city were of feral cat (pee), mustiness, and occasionally the acrid smell of burning – I think of stone being cut. There was no homely smells, or the sound of people. We passed few people, until we hit the main squares around the cathedral. I found it all a bit depressing, Pete no so much so. I’m not sure quite what he’d describe, but he would be kinder, I think.
We stopped for coffee at the end of our ‘tour’ and were warned by the waiter to look out for… he pointed in the sky and flapped his arms. The predatory seagull, we realised. A number of establishments have fake owls or eagles to act as deterrents, without much evidence of success. There is a thriving pigeon, seagull and sparrow population in Vigo. From here we decided to do the usual ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ at the height of the day and climb the hills behind Vigo in search of the fortress. We climbed one hill, to discover the truly monstrous construction of the Town Hall. Think 1960’s concrete block construction. We had to weave around this to pick up the path through another park, and up to the summit. Here the paths had a neglected feel, strewn with debris and weeds. It just felt so uncared for. And it was hard work in the heat to make the climb, but we did… And were rewarded with a spectacular panorama of the city. Well worth the effort. You can see for miles, and have the best sense of the scale of the docks. Apparently Vigo is the second largest fishing port in the world, second to Tokyo. It is vast, with several huge ocean-going fishing vessels. It would have been cool to see one close up, but it’s not obviously easily accessible (a long walk). There is a Museum of the Sea, but that was a bus ride away, and I had no appetite for it.
We took a pre-lunch stop near the cathedral. We had our eye on a funky looking wine bar, but it was resolutely shut, so we joined everyone else in an outside cafe, watching the world go by. From there is it was the challenge of lunch! We ignored the guide book this time, and a bloke trying to entice us in with a menu with pictures of food – pllll-ease – and went for somewhere outside that was busy, and seemingly with locals. I didn’t want the Menu Dia, and tried to ask the waiter if the guy below us at the steaming vat was cooking ‘pulpo’, octopus. He was, and he thought I was ordering, which I would have done, but rather difficult to explain not just yet… So, we ended up with a Gallician Pulpo, lovely, if a little slimy. We added a salad, chiperones (grilled squids) and a ham tortilla, sharing three starters for lunch (off that menu), after our pulpo snack, of course. Perfect. From here we headed back to the ferry, neither of us really wanting to see what Vigo had to offer. A siesta on Whinchat seemed a better idea, where we’ve been entertained by a steady stream of kids throwing themselves in the water. Only one group in fancy dress today, the rest are just jumping in, pushing each other in. I really wouldn’t fancy the water myself. It must be rowing night, as several of the boats are out on the water. One crew just arrived back and received a total pasting for something; the coach was truly livid. Neck-bulgingly mad. It would be enough to make me say ‘stuff it’, although one lad was giving it good back, and swore at him quite proficiently in English as he walked away.
Tomorrow we head for the islands. Yipee! We’re fully provisioned, so we’re good to go whenever we feel like it tomorrow morning.
Hilltop fortress stands,
looks down on Vigo – sprawling.
Thinks of better days.