Saturday, 18 October 2008

Pedestrian/Zebra Crossing Vigo

A recent statistic came to light, after an accident involving two elderly woman on a pedestrian crossing last week. In Vigo, you have just as much chance of being hit by a vehicle on a pedestrian crossing, as you have in crossing the road at any other place. The two woman in question were crossing on a controlled cross, the light was red for traffic and green for them, they were seriously injured with multiple fractures.

It seems that scant respect is given to red lights and not a day goes by without seeing vehicles running them. I have had three near misses using the pedestrian crossing, one of them whilst I was pushing my son in a pushchair. It pays to look both ways before you cross the road. Here in Vigo it pays not to stop looking!

The photo above is the result of the overturned car running a red light through a pedestrian crossing, fortunately no one was injured in this incident.

Friday, 10 October 2008


It is always nice when you see something that reminds you of home, no matter how vague the connection may be...

The word 'Tui' is very familiar to those who hail from New Zealand, where it is the name of a native bird and a brand of beer, amongst others. Here in Galicia, Spain the word 'Tuy' also exists in Spanish and when it is written in Galician, the 'y' is replaced with an 'i' giving us 'Tui'. Here it is associated with a town on the Spanish-Portuguese border and is also seen on many street signs. The word 'Moa' is also seen here, but I will leave that one for another day...

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Monolith to Franco on the Beautiful Islas Cies

One of the few remaining monuments in Vigo of Franco's fascist regime was finally brought down on Tuesday after a failed attempt on Monday.

The beautiful Islas Cies are situated 10km (6miles) west of Vigo. The islands are a national park and features in the list of Top 10 Beaches in the world click here to see the review.

The islands are a natural barrier against the Atlantic and protects Vigo's bay from the fury of Atlantic storms which shelters the large mussel farming industry along with making the beaches on the mainland very safe for recreational activities. As beautiful as they are the islands had an ugly scar in the form of a 15m high monolith, erected during the times of Franco.

On 30 June the 15m high monolith on the Islas Cies erected in 1961 to honour Franco was set for demolition by explosives. To view the video of this slightly embarrassing moment click here or to view as a series of photos click here.
After the failure to fire (so to speak) of the day before, a further 25kg of explosives were laid yesterday, 1st July and the monolith was finally brought down.

Apparently the monolith had been reinforced with railway iron tracks, (obviously built to last) which went unnoticed on first inspection. Before the second attempt, these were cut through to allow for a more smoother toppling.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Plaza de la Constitucion

Plaza de la Constitucion lies within Vigo's historic quarter, only a short walk from the marina. This attractive 16th century Plaza is the largest of four to be found within the old town and is the principle site for all major festivities held throughout the year, such as the "Reconquista"

The buildings surrounding Plaza de la Constitucion are all characteristically Galician in style and built with local granite, which is found in abundance in the surrounding area. Nearly every window has its own balcony which normally has flowering plants as there is little room for anything else.

There are seven cafeterias/bars situated in the Plaza, all have outside seating and all but two of them have Soportales, (arched walkways) which allow for outside seating if the weather is a touch inclement.

Plaza de la Constitucion is a great spot and is close to the cruise terminal as well as the main shopping area of Principe. It never gets that busy so you are always guaranteed of a table. All in all a very pleasant place to go and get away from the present and step into the past.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Dia de la Reconquista

On the 28th - 29th of March Vigo celebrated its annual fiesta of liberation from Napoleonic forces (to read more about the history of this event, see previous post).

The day begins with a re-enactment of the arrival of the French, followed by life under occupation, we then were treated to the beginning of the rebellion, that eventually leads to a city wide uprising against the hapless invaders and Vigo's "Reconquest".

In the afternoon, the market stalls are in full swing, selling all manner of local produce; bread baked in log fired ovens, bocadillos (sandwich rolls) de chorizo, sweets, lollies, honey, jamon, wine, orujo (a type of liqueur), wicker baskets, lace. There was traditional dancers, music and much more.

Nowadays, the French have invaded once again, only this time not to the sound of guns, but to the sound of business. Citroen and Peugeot have a large car manufacturing plant here and employ thousands, whilst also injecting millions of Euros into the local economy. The largest supermarkets (of which there are four); Al Campo and Carrefour are both French owned. Needless to say that there are a lot of French people who live here and throughout the day, many a Frenchman would be seen to run out of a bar or pub and shout "Viva la France", before dashing back inside, rather than waiting for a response.

All in all it's a great day out and seeing Vigo's historic quarter come alive, makes a pleasant change, from it's otherwise neglected status. Wandering the cobblestone streets was a real pleasure, as you never knew what was going to be around the next corner.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Festa in Bouzas

Sunday in Bouzas is market day, with stalls mainly selling clothes, there is the odd food stall but it's really about finding cheap clothes or a D&G belt, it's not the most exciting market but the kids love it.

Bouzas lies in the south west of Vigo, situated within a small bay with moorings for private boats. It use to be an independent authority when Vigo was a smaller neighbour. It has a very quaint if small old town with bars and restaurants, many of which have been sympathetically restored in keeping with their surroundings. Citroen built a huge car holding area and port for their operations, fortunately this can't be seen whilst supping on a cold Estrella.

This day though we were in for a pleasant surprise, as the annual Festa Brincadeira was being held. Hidden behind the market day, down narrow cobblestone streets lined with straw, galician music filled the air and market stalls selling home-made wares from honey liqueur to hand made wicker baskets lined the street.

It was an assault on the senses, freshly cooked mussels from the bay, chorizo barbecued on an open fire, a traditional bread oven stoked with small logs churned out deliciously fresh bread all day, there was callos a kind of bean and bits of pig stew, (doesn't sound appetising but tastes great!) empanada of meat and tuna and with the stall vendors in period dress, the scene was set. Not to forget the wine drunk from small bowls and which flowed all to easily!

Monday, 24 March 2008

El Olivo - The Olive Tree

The olive tree, along with the Castro Fortress, appears on the coat of arms of Vigo. When the emblem was first designed, it was a tower and two olive branches, later the olive branches were replaced with the olive tree.

There are a few stories as to how the tree ended up at its present position on Paseo de Alfonso XII and just as many as to who originally planted it. What is not in dispute is its original location, which was the courtyard of the old Colegiata (Collegiate) Church (which no longer stands) but where you will now find the 19th century Colegiata Santa Maria.

The tree we see today is not the original, but rather a descendant. It is said that the original tree was planted during the 12th century, around the times of the Knights Templar. In 1780 a large gunpowder explosion in a nearby military store destroyed the church. When plans were made to build a new church on the site, and the tree was to be uprooted, a man with foresight by the name of Manuel Ángel Pereyra had the presence of mind to take a cutting which he planted, and in doing so kept the emblem of peace for the city alive, for many more generations to come.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Dia de la Reconquista de Vigo

"Dia de la Reconquista deVigo" - "The day of the Reconquest of Vigo"

On March 28th of each year, Vigo celebrates its reconquest against French Napoleonic Forces in the city’s historic old quarter 'Casco Vello'.

I have found very little on this subject written in English and what I have found is usually not more than a paragraph. Below is my attempt to address this problem and learn a little something during the process. This is my account of the Reconquista de Vigo.

The Napoleonic War, which had begun back in 1803, was now in full swing. Napoleon was attempting to enforce a European commercial boycott against Britain called the "Continental System". However Portugal would not comply so with the support of Spain, Napoleon sent an army to invade. Now this is where things get tricky as Spain had already asked Portugal to form an alliance against the encroaching Napoleonic Forces but secretly agreed with France that in return for its assistance be granted territories. Spain then after the capture of Lisbon, broke from the "Continental System" thereby rocking its alliance with France. On learning this, Napoleon under the guise of reinforcing the Spanish-Franco army in Portugal, sent into Spain thousands of French Troops. Then in February 1808 ordered his army to turn on their ally and seize key Spanish installations. One of the French divisions was under the command of Jean de Dieu Soult. The Peninsular War had begun. (Also known as the War of Spanish Independence.)

By August 1808 the British had entered the war, allied with Spain and Portugal. In December 1809 a small British force under the command of John Moore launched a surprise attack on French forces near Madrid in an attempt to "save" the city. The attempt proved disastrous and now with French forces aware of their position, Moore could do nothing but make a hasty retreat towards A Coruna, to waiting British Naval ships. Moore was chased all the way by Jean de Dieu Soult the commander of the French force and by 18th January 1809 the British had evacuated Dunkirk style from A Coruna. John Moore was not one of those who left that day and his grave can be seen at San Carlos Garden in La Coruna.

With the French Forces having secured A Coruna, they then turned their attention south and with little left to oppose them except the remnants of the Galician Army, they took the remaining towns with relative ease, only the use of guerrilla tactics hindered their progress. (These guerrilla tactics would eventually be one of the catalysts that would lead to their defeat.)

French Forces took Santiago de Compestela on the 20th January; Pontevedra fell but one day later. The French arrived at the gates of Vigo on the 31st of January. Vigo was in no state to mount any kind of defence. The remaining British troops had all but left and most of the local garrison had left with the Galician army. Vigo could only muster 39 soldiers and some of them were injured. It was decided that a militia be formed and some 200 volunteered.

The newly formed militia didn't trust the Mayor or the Commander of the garrison and were unwillingly to follow their lead on suspicion that they were French sympathisers and there was also a general dislike for the men. Both men were jailed in el Castro Castle, and the militia then elected a new Governor Juan de Villavicencio y Puga and a new Mayor/Judge a lawyer by the name of Francisco Javier Perez Varela. Then in a bizarre twist, all agreed that, to resist the French Forces would be tantamount to suicide, so they concluded that the next best thing would be to surrender. On the same day Napoleonic Forces entered Vigo, and terms of surrender were agreed.

The French Commander Soult then promptly released the pro-French Governor and Major and then promptly threw into prison their newly appointed counterparts. The French then called for reinforcements and the following day a further 1200 troops arrived, the capture of the city was completed on 4th February. Vigo was the last town in Galicia to surrender and it would be the first town to be liberated.

From the outset Vigo's French occupiers faced resistance. In yet another twist the supposed French sympathises namely the Governor & Mayor who having just been released from prison, asked that their newly appointed counterparts be freed. Their request fell on deaf ears. The Commander in turn asked for their obedience to the Emperor.

Then it was down to a few people, such as the Mayor of Valladares, to revive public spirit and to plot a way to rid Vigo of its occupiers. They began to supply militia outside of Vigo's walls with the means to engage the enemy in guerrilla tactics, by smuggling muskets and gunpowder. At first these attacks were sporadic and ill coordinated but in time they became organised and proved to be a real thorn in the side of the French occupiers. Meanwhile back in the town, locals were also causing trouble for the French. It is here that the two most notable figures of the reconquest make their mark, Bernardo Gonzalez del Valle, also known as Cachamuina, was a Second Lieutenant in the local militia and Pablo Morillo a Captain in the Galician Army. The men coordinated and led attacks against the French.

These attacks drew the support of many of the locals who quickly took up arms to aid in the raids. Within the first week of March the attacks had already begun to undermine the French position in the city. In response to these attacks the French replied by directing their aggression towards the locals, this along with hunger only inflamed the situation and drew more people to the militias cause.

The conditions within the town were fast becoming unbearable and Soult new his position was becoming unattainable. On 25th March he order the gates to be opened and provisions supplied, in a vain hope that this might appease the locals. It did nothing of the sought. Soult began negotiations for a “dignified exit” and this was granted on the 27th March. However the following day the people of Vigo would not allow the French invaders to leave without some form of recompense. And so, on the 28th March in Casco Vello a battle commenced with the people of Vigo armed with what ever they could lay their hands on, fighting hand to hand against the French soldiers.

Fifty-eight days after their capture of Vigo the French are driven out.

The 28th of March is a public holiday in Vigo and every year celebrations take place to pay tribute to those who rose up against the occupiers. Vigo’s Casco Vello comes alive with people dressed in period costume and even the battle is re-enacted. There is traditional music, food and festivities.

I missed it last year so I’m looking forward to this one!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Bar Universo en Vigo

Bar Universo, a relaxing place to unwind and soothe away the strains of the day... just remember the old adage 'never judge a book by it's cover'. However in this instance the cover continues inside, but they do reasonable cheap food.

My wife had decided to take me to an old bar/cafe, where her Dad used to take her when she was just a little girl during the early seventies. He would then leave her there for an hour or so, whilst he went to a secret location nearby to join other like minded individuals and talk freely about socialism, democracy and everything that was wrong with Franco's regime.

The place is still run by the same people, an elderly couple, perhaps now in their early seventies (it would have been impolite to have asked). The inside of the establishment, obviously hadn't seen a lick of paint in many a year, if it had have it would would have ruined the ambiance you felt of being whisked away to another time. Pictures of Celta Vigo football team a yellow/brown colour from the years of cigarette smoke line the walls, a cigarette machine from a time well before euros and of course the obligatory TV perched high in a corner, at or very near full volume. Our only company for lunch was a truck driver and his son from Andulucia and the our elderly hosts husband eating a huge plate of cocido (galician stew).

For starters we had salad and calamares, the salad was as fresh as you would have found in any restaurant (fresher probably) and the same could be said for the calamares. For mains my wife had bacalao (cod) with boiled potatoes, while I had steak with fries, both dishes were well cooked. You have to realise that this place is not a restaurant and all food served is as you would expect when eating at home, large helpings! Desert was tarta de abuela for me and a cheesecake for my wife.
We also had two cervezas, two glasses of wine, two coffees and a bottle of cafe liquor plonked on our table to help ourselves to. All this for only €12.

Although this place doesn't entice, it does have other hidden qualities!

Friday, 29 February 2008

What's on this weekend in Vigo? 01st-02nd March

Que hacer este fin de semana en Vigo?

The Funny Bones are playing at Manteca Jazz this Staurday night with two sets. Their fusion of funk kicks off at 00:30 and the second set at 02:00 Entrance cost €3 Find them done in the old town Calle Carral No.3 just off Plaza Porto do Sol.

I use to be able to do these late night gigs but with two young kids it's hard enough getting through the day!

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Specialty shops of Vigo

Have you ever wanted to go into a shop that only sold the item you're looking for? Specialty stores although small, provide a staggering range of possibilities for that one thing you're after.

Here in Vigo these family run businesses, handed down from generation to generation, were once the cornerstone of every day life, but now are struggling in the face of the big supermarket chains and hyperstores and many have shut their doors simply because they can't compete on price. Which is a shame as they offer personal service and friendly advice, which is a far cry from their high-powered counterparts. However they can still be found and enjoyed if you know where to look.

These specialty shops are from a bygone era and specialty really is there middle name. They can sell everything from watches to umbrellas One of my personal favourites is the one pictured above, a Zapatilleria or a Slipper Shop in el barrio Calvario, Calle Urzaiz. This shop is almost entirely dedicated to slippers, I say almost because the word zapatilla originally only meant slipper but upon the arrival of sneakers, trainers or whatever you like to call them, were also given the name zapatilla. So I guess in a way this allowed Zapatillerias to branch out and diversify without the need for re-invention!

Another favourite of mine also in Calvario is a shop which has two specialties, which I think couldn't be further apart from one another; knives and umbrellas. Every conceivable space around the walls of the shop and ceiling are crammed with every possible type of umbrella, the counter is the only place along with a small portion of the back wall that is devoted to knives.

These shops are an intriuging insight into the past and if you get the chance go take a look, before they're all gone!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Tapa of the Week - A Slice of cake...

With a cafe con leche. This again just illustrates that tapas aren't bound by any rules.

Also: Sorry to all of my readers (I think there's four of you now!). I know it seems this is turning into a tapas blog, but last week was a bit hectic, rest assured that normal service will resume shortly.


Sunday, 24 February 2008

Anglo Galician Association

An Anglo Galician Association has been formed. Membership merely requires an ability to speak good English and a connection with Galicia. The one in Spain, not Poland. Anyone interested should write to

The association is open to anyone who is Anglo simply by virtue of speaking English and wanting to be a member. Obviously, though, one wouldn't want to exclude the non-English speaking partner of an Anglo who wanted to be a member and who was able to persuade his or her partner that they did too. Putting this another way, the association would be for anyone of any nationality who speaks English and lives or plans to live in Galicia.

Please use the above email for all correspondence.


Monday, 18 February 2008

Tapa of the Week - Spanish Omelet & Empanada

Two pieces of bite sized Tortilla de Patata (Spanish/Potato Omelete) this is a tapa regular and you'll find it almost everywhere, the strips of baked pastry are Empanada (Galician pie is about the easiest way to describe an Empanada!) filled with mussels. These we got with dos Estrellas in Cafeteria Castelo, Avenida de Florida.

The tapas I write about come free with drinks, unless stated otherwise.

Un Pincho, Una Tapa or Una Racion?

An update to my one of my previous post regarding What are Tapas?

I should clarify that there are three sizes of tapas: something that can fit in your mouth that more often than not comes with a toothpick stuck in it is called un pincho, una tapa would usually be served on a small plate (saucer) or dish and una racion on a large plate with enough to share around.

I hope the above helps to clarify any misconceptions you had about tapas? If any one has anything to add please feel free to drop me a line. One thing is for certain though. Tapas are anything and everything!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Vuelo Vigo - Londres

I wrote not long ago, about Clickair flying direct to London. Well it seems things are more or less confirmed, with only details to iron out.

After a year and half of meetings between Clickair and Provigo an organisation that promotes Vigo. It has finally been decided to start flights between Vigo and London this summer. With the possibility of flights starting as early as May. But there needs to be a lot of work done to open the route in this short space of time, it would be more realistic to expect a June commencement date.

Clickair will be offering 3-5 flights per week between Peinador and Gatwick airport, with the cost of tickets between 20-80 euros. If Gatwick cannot be secured then there is option for Stansted or Luton.

One of the reasons I think a Vigo-London route has been so long in the coming, lies with the fact there are three other airports within 160km of Vigo that offer flights to London. It will remain to be seen whether there will be enough bums on seats to justify flights between the two cities. One thing is for sure, no doubt time will tell.

There is also talk of opening a route between Vigo and Brussels, as the European Fisheries Commission is setting up shop in Vigo and have been busy over the past year renovating a grand 19th Century buildings along Vigo's "Golden Mile". Now I'm sure all those busy bureaucrats will be bustling there way between Brussels and Vigo before you can "I wish I had thought of subsidising that first..."

What's on this weekend in Vigo? 16th-17th Feb

Que hacer este fin de semana en Vigo?

Here's just a couple of my selections...

Why not go and see Xose Manuel Budino, a local lad from across the bay in Moana and let his interpretation of Galician folk music on gaita (bagpipes) rock you!

His 2008 10th Anniversary "Home" tour comes to the Centro Cultural Caixanova de Vigo tomorrow Saturday 16th February at 20:30. Tickets €8-12 and can be purchased here.


For something a little different why not hop a long to hear local boy Samuel Levi perform his version of pop on guitar.

See him live at La Casa de Arriba, Iglesias Esponda 7, Vigo. Tomorrow Saturday 16th February at 22:00. Entrance free.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

El Centro Comercial A Laxe in Vigo

Today saw the doors open to the public of the all new A Laxe Centro Comercial. Situated right on the water front with the Port of Vigo and the Real Club Nautico on either side and linked by footbridge to el Casco Vello, Vigo's historic quarter behind. Inside spread over three floors, you'll find 45 shops and restaurants and a large fully equipped gym with spa, as well as parking for 500 vehicles located underneath the complex

The idea behind A Laxe was first conceived back in 1992 with a project called 'Opening Vigo to the Sea' now after four years of construction A Laxe is charged with the responsibility of bringing life back to el Casco Vello and revitalising the area, commercially and residentially.

A Laxe comes from the Galician word door/gate. In the 16th century walls were erected around the city to protect it from invaders. However the walls were taken down in 1869 as Vigo boomed economically and rapidly expanded. The complex is so named as it is situated at the exit of what was once one of the gates leading into the city.

The building is in stark contrast to its surroundings, and is obviously trying to represent the future of Vigo whilst regenerating the past in el Casco Vello.

I only hope this proves to be true as there is no doubt that el Casco Vello is in need of revitalising and although this was being achieved, albeit at a rather slow pace, A Laxe is now hoped to be the catalyst in speeding this process along.

A Laxe position is located just behind 'Liners Quay' where the summer cruise ships dock. The largest cruise ships in the world visit Vigo each year and thousands of passengers disembark to take in Vigo for a day. Cruise passengers can access A Laxe and make there way through the complex and access el Casco Vello via a footbridge leading directly to the old quarter.

Unlike it's northern counterparts, Pontevedra, Santiago and A Coruna. Vigo is the economic powerhouse of Galicia and has never relied on tourism alone, to achieve this goal, it has on many occasions done it at the expense of it's past.

This latest venture sees a fusion of the two, Vigo's future directly linked to its past. Tourism is now one of the key aims and local initiatives are focusing hard to bring the tourism dollar to Vigo.

Work is also due to start on the reconstruction of the 'Liner Quay' and Marina with a budget of €260m and with completion in 2010 will again help to revitalise this area. Only time will tell if this fusion is a success.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Cultural Learning's

One of the hot topics on many blogs about Spain is cultural difference. This is something that will always arise when dealing with Spain, and as many people will tell you "Spain is different".

One of these blogs, which stirs such heated debate is Notes from Spain this is a great site and Ben really likes to get under the skin of the Spanish psyche.

These "debates" primarily involve participants from Britain, America and of course Spain. There are a few Spanish out there who don't like hearing negative criticism from either party and are quick to take offence. I'm sure a turbulent shared history no doubt plays a part in this. Most comments from the aforementioned American or Brit come across as constructive criticism not as an assault on the very fabric of Spanish existence, but you wouldn't think this when you read the Spanish replies! Either way it makes for a great read and delves deep into what makes the Spanish tick. All in all very thought provoking.

Seeing how a Spaniard becomes very defensive if anyone criticises or makes comments that could be seen as an attack on their way of life, it is interesting then that Spain is a country made up of 17 autonomous communities and a number of them are actively seeking independence from Spanish rule.

The question then must be asked what is a Spaniard? And who are these "Spaniards" who so staunchly defend what they believe. Is there a common unity underlying all this nationalist separatism in Spain, or are we really seeing the only true "Spaniards" making these comments and if this is the case, then where do they reside, Madrid?

My own personal experience of my time here in Vigo, Galicia has been a very enjoyable one. I have found the people to be warm, welcoming and generous. And have never had any bad experiences to mention. I've found integration into Galician life relatively smooth, although I admit that things are made easier if your wife is from here!

The people here do seem to possess a closed face to strangers, especially on the street; they'll take no heed of you, as if you don't exist, no acknowledgement, it seems as if common courtesy to your fellow human being takes a back seat. At first it was quite off putting, but with time you begin to accept it. I don't know if this is endemic to Galicia or is a nationwide trait in general?
The above defenitely needs further attention, more on culture later.

One thing I don't think I could ever fully get used to here is, driving...

Monday, 11 February 2008

Bloomin Blossoms in Vigo

We've been having some glorious weather over the past few days and it looks set to continue until the end of the week. It's the type of weather that you would wish for all year round.

The blossoms seem to agree and are starting to show there colours all over the city, although this early blooming isn't unique to Vigo or Galicia, it's seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. If it is due to global warming, then seeing these beautiful flowers in bloom makes it that little harder to see the darker side of the problem.

Hang-on, maybe here in Pontevedra blossoms are suppose to bloom at this time and if so, I can lift my head out of the dark shadow of global warming and breathe a deep blossom scented sigh of relief.

Will keep you posted...

Saturday, 9 February 2008

What are Tapas : Tapa of the Week / Pan y Queso

Tapas are a defining part of the Spanish culture, encompassing an endless myriad of possibilities, from a simple bowl of crisps, to an elaborate dish, which becomes a meal in itself. Therefore catering for every taste, every diet and every occasion.

Where and how tapas originated is not clear, but it's most likely source is Andalucia; tapa is the Spanish word for lid, here the locals would cover there sherry (an Andalucian forte) with a sliver of ham or slice of bread to keep the flies from enjoying their favourite tipple.

Tapas can come free with the drink you just ordered or from the menu you've just ordered from. They can be an appetiser, a starter or a main. Enjoyed at anytime during the day or night. It's a relaxing, sociable experience.

Tapas are really without definition, they can be something and everything. What is for sure, is that they're a great way to slow the effects of alcohol on the system and if you are out on the town, why not do a tapas crawl and not have to worry about where your going for dinner, only know that dinner is where you've been!

Every week I'll be bringing you the best tapa or tapas I've had on my outings:
This week is one of my favourites, it's a no-frills get back to basics, fresh bread with a slice of local Galician Tetilla a wonderful soft creamy cheese made from cows milk. Cost 0€

Friday, 8 February 2008

Vigo Carnival - Entroido 2008

The time of Carnival is upon us, held before the days of Lent. It's a time of feasting and practical joking, a time to let your hair down, to break from conformity of everyday life. Now everyone knows the biggest Carnival is in Rio de Janeiro, but to get back to where it all began one needs to travel to another continent, to another time, before Brazil before the Americas.

The Carnival we see today dates back to the middle ages, but it's origins can be traced back even further, to pagan times. The word Carnival comes from Italy, where they call it Carnevale that literally translated means "end of meat" as the consumption of meat is forbidden during Lent, so the few days before are a time for gorging and feasting!

Started by the followers of Catholicism it soon spread throughout Catholic Europe, with each nation putting it's own regional spin on the event. Here in Galicia the small town of Xinzo de Limia is home to the longest Carnival in Spain.

In Galician the Carnival is referred to as the Entroido and runs for approximately seven days. During these day's people take to the streets in fancy dress. Men will be dressed as women and vice versa. Children to take part in the festivities, with nurseries to schools having their own fiestas, encouraging participation, children can be seen walking to school in fancy dress with painted faces, loving every minute of it!

In Vigo the Entroido started on the evening of Thursday 31st with the major organised events being put on by the Council. Plaza de Constitution was the focal point for the first night, beginning with a round of impromptu song, the idea here is to sing what you like, with out fear of being hung drawn and quartered! It's all just for fun after all!

Also we see 'El Meco' which this year takes the form of a horse, representing a social or political issue, this year is PXOM who are responsible for urban planning, they were caught up early in the year trying to bulldoze a families house but paying less attention to two multimillion euro apartment blocks built with no planning permisson, among other things.

El Meco is crowned and placed on the throne, then on Tuesday will be put on trial, and be accused of bringing ill to the city over the past year. The Friday night saw more of the same but with more music and dance.

On Saturday night was a Mardis Gras parade with floats and musical performances, fancy dress and traditional Galician dress, this masqueraded it's way through the streets, very colourful indeed, more reminiscent of the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro! Thousands were out lining the streets, enjoying the spectacle! Sunday was for the children with many activities including bouncy castles, costume making, puppet shows and more... just one big party for kids!

Monday evening was events for bigger kids and a Festival of Folk, which put a more Galician twist on events. With traditional dance and music, the sound of gaiters (bagpipes) filling the night air, stirring the Celtic side of me!

On Shrove Tuesday 'El Mecos' time is up. Onlookers gather at the Praza do Rei to listen to the charges, a mock trial ensues but with a flimsy defence El Meco is sent to the flames, witnessed by thousands of on lookers.

Ash Wednesday and it's time for the mourners to come and once again the people of Vigo turned up in their thousands to witness the burial procession. Starting from Paseo Alfonso XII and winding it's way down Vigo's 'Golden Mile' before taking a left and heading down to the port before concluding at the Estacion Maritima. Crying could be heard from the procession from those who lament poor El Meco. One last testament is read to El Meco and then with fireworks overhead brings a close to Entroido 2008.

All in all a very well organised event and a lot of fun had by all who attended, although the usual gripes were heard from the usual corners, such as, blocked streets, traffic jams, an increase in the amount of people double parking...etc... Definitely looking forward to next years spectacle.

Just a quick note: Another event took place on Sunday 3rd February, that was slightly overshadowed by the Carnival and that was the day of San Blass, the Patron Saint of Drunks and Unions... that's definitely one for another blog!!!

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

A place to hang your washing is very important in Vigo!

This is at the top of a 15 story block, so I had the camera at maximum zoom and since it only has a 3x optical zoom, the picture is a bit fuzzy and it didn't help that I was shaking. Anyway, enough of the excuses.

The question is, do you think this hole in the building was intended for the purpose it's being used for and if so, would you agree, that a lot of emphasis is placed on where to put your washing, when constructing apartment blocks?

Monday, 4 February 2008

Vigo - London

Clickair it seems, may be starting flights from Vigo's Peinador airport to London Gatwick, within the next 2-3 months will post more information as soon as I can lay my hands on it!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

What to do in Vigo on a winters day...

...go to the beach of course.

I took this photo on a Sunday afternoon down at Playa Smail. This isn't something that happens every weekend, this type of weather in winter is very unseasonal for Galicia.

To the left of the photo, just out of the picture is a two kilometre promenade on which every family and their carry dog were out for 'un paseo' the traditional Spanish walk, taken after the big lunch and siesta.

The promenade has everything, cafes, bars, restaurants swimming pools, playgrounds and picnic areas in a lovely wooded setting. Buy yourself an ice-cream and join the locals in this afternoon ritual and you'll know a little more about what it is to be Spanish.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

El Mirador Castro, Vigo

On the top of the hill leading back from the old town, is one of the best places to sit down relax and sip a cool drink, and take in the stunning views across Vigo, the bay and out to the islands. You may well deserve that cool drink as it's quite a hike up to the cafe, not that it involves ropes or karabiners!

El Mirador Castro is a one of two cafeterias/restaurantes situated at the top of Parque do Castro. (as close to the top as you can get with a car) It's made up of two parts, a large indoor area, with an outdoor terrace all accessed by walking down a set of external stairs and up along side the road is a large terrace area looking out over Vigo Bay. The atmosphere is relaxed and the road is merely for access so has little traffic, a world away from the hustle and bustle of Vigo.

Tips: try to get up there early, the cafe opens around 10:30am and avoid the tourist buses especially during the summer months, enter the old 16th century fort further up the hill and take in more stunning views of the bay, whilst walking around it's lovely gardens, then take a stroll through the woods further down the hill and view the remains of a Celtiberian fort.

El Mirador Castro doesn't tick all the right boxes for an excellent cafe/restaurant. On the two occasions we've been for an evening meal, we were disappointed with both, but as a cafe it does most things right but charging premium prices isn't one of them, I assume only for it's location. A shame it can't deliver the full package and warrant a deeper review. Don't let me put you off though it's still well worth the walk to the top!

The evening is another great time to be up here. While your sitting back and relaxing and watching the sun set over the Atlantic, just remember that what your seeing was once the edge of the known world, enjoy...!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Santa Claus Owns a Cafe in Vigo

I couldn't help myself with this one...

Travelling home one night from Bouzas, up a one way back street we use quite often, we had stopped to chat to one of my wife's cousins.(I don't know about anyone else but when your out and about in Spain you always happen to bump into people you know, especially family, almost like it was pre-planned...) When I spied a cafe I hadn't seen before with a name that made me chuckle, so I took out the camera and took a shot from the car, the picture speaks for itself...

Monday, 21 January 2008

Real Club Celta de Vigo Sociedad Anonima Deportiva

Vigo's football team is described by one guide book as a 'have-a-go football team', this isn't far off the mark, although I prefer to call them the 'yo-yo team' as they seem to be up in the first division (La Liga) one season then down in the second the next.

Real Club Celta de Vigo Sociedad Anonima Deportiva is the teams full name or Celta Vigo or just Celta. The team was founded on August 23rd, 1923 from the merger of two Vigo teams, Real Vigo Sporting and Real Club Fortuna de Vigo, this merger gave the chance to perform more competitively at a national level.

Celta's performance in La Liga has been mixed, their best achievement was finishing 4th in 1947/1948 and 2002/2003 season, earning them the right to play in the Champions League. In total Celta have spent 45 seasons in La Liga, 25 in the Second Division and even one in the Second Division B. Celta have never managed to finish top of La Liga and have had three attempts at winning the Copa del Rey (Spanish equivalent to the FA Cup) but on each occasion, even though they went in as favorites, have stumbled at the last. They have been referred to in the past as 'giant killers' and are not a team to be taken lightly, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Juventus and Liverpool are a few of the big teams that have been on the receiving end of Celta on a good day!

Celta don their sky blue strip at Estadio Municipal de Balaidos (Celta's home Stadium), with a capacity of 31,800 and is situated 3km to the south west of town. The stadium inaugurated 23rd August 1923, also houses a Museum and a shop for all your Celta needs. El Museo Deportivo was opened on the 12th March 1999 and covers all Celta's history since it's inception.

There is one match that has to be watched at Balaidos and that's the derby between Celta and Deportivo La Coruna, the atmosphere is amazing and you can't help but be swept up in the euphoria! Unfortunately there will be no derby during the 2007/2008 season as Celta were relegated to the Second Division last year... never mind there's always next season!
If you are in town and there's a match on, make the effort to go along and watch a game, you won't be disappointed, it's hard not to get caught up in the emotion with the locals, whilst watching Celta's highs and lows!

Those wishing to see a game can buy tickets from the stadium a couple of days before the match or ticket booths which open a couple of hours before the game.
Adults prices start from €10 for the cheap seats and €35 for the best in the house.
Junior starts from €8 - €20

Getting There:
By Bus: From Porta do Sol (centre of town)
Take the C4 "A" Fragoso - Coia
Then get off at Plaza Manuel de Castro, stadium can't be missed!

By Taxi: Expect to pay around 7-8 euros and will take less than half the time.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The calm before the storm in Vigo...

Well we're not having a wonderful start to 2008 weather wise, with gale force winds and driving rain. Early today wind gusts were topping 149km/h. Although we don't really feel the affects of this weather front in our 12 storey block of flats, maybe the odd rattle from a window but nothing more.

Conditions out at sea are a lot worse. Off the coast of A Coruna, 160km north of Vigo, five fisherman have lost their lives due to rapidly deteriorating conditions. Questions are now being asked, why didn't the boats return to port earlier. One of the boats that went down was well equipped with all the latest equipment for weather tracking. But sadly, I'm sure these questions have been asked a thousand times before.

January so far has been a complete contrast to December, which was one of the driest on record, in fact Vigo had received only ten percent of it's normal rainfall up until December! Obviously making up for lost time now...

Monday, 14 January 2008

"Car-nage" on the Streets of Vigo

This is not something I would normally write about, but it's close to home and it also highlights one of Spain's major problems.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, in the centre of Vigo, two cars, one an Audi A3 and the other a BMW 328, driven by a 20 and 21 year old respectively where racing along la calle Jenaro de la Fuente at speeds of 130km/h (80mph). Without going into detail, a Citroen AX with a married couple of 55 and 53 years of age, were travelling in the opposite direction, the driver of the BMW had moved into their lane to avoid the Audi which was avoiding a double parked car, the BMW hit the Citroen head on causing the instant death of both occupants, the driver of the BMW sustained minor injuries and the driver of the Audi fled the scene in his car, although was not physically involved in the accident. Police later tracked him down and was arrested.

This senseless, needless act has ended the lives of two Innocent people, I only hope the punishment handed down by the courts will be fitting for such a callous and indiscriminate act.

For those wanting to see the aftermath of the accident, click on the link below.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Getting to know Vigo

Vigo is a large city and can be a bit daunting for the first time visitor, especially when you'r driving, getting into the city is easy, it was the getting out that was the hard part (I speak from first hand experience!). Although this isn't a bad thing as you can easily lose yourself in what Vigo has to offer.

Casco Vello, Vigo's historic quarter, is a lovely reminder of Vigo's humble beginnings, where you can still buy fresh oysters from the bay from the old women on the street who have been selling them there for generations.
Much of the old quarter has been sympathetically restored, but there still remains a large portion in need of restoration. Fortunately the Vigo Council with help from the EU (URBAN project) are slowly undertaking the refurbishment of this area and when completed will revitalise this otherwise neglected jewel in Vigo's crown.

On the waterfront with Casco Vello behind you lies the Real Club Nautico, Vigo's yacht club, then take a stroll down Rua de Montero Rios a new development with its many cafes and bars catering for the cruise ships and the well heeled, seemingly a world away from the old quarter.

Further back from the waterfront and up the hill, you'll find Puerta del Sol the very centre of Vigo, where a very curious sculpture stands a top of two very high columns. Walk up Principe a pedestrianised shopping area with every manner of designer fashion store, but where you'll also find the MARCO (Museum of Modern Art) housed in the old (refurbished) Civil Guard headquarters/courthouse/jail.

If Principe is Vigo's high street, then Calvario is a high street from another time, situated approximately 1km from Principe and in fact is on the same road which turns into Urzaiz.

Moving further round to the south is Mt Castro rising some 150m above sea level. At the top you'll find fortified ruins offering stunning views across the bay. Head back down into the city along Rua Areal for all your late night requirements.

Taking a stroll up Gran Via (when I say up or down, I don't mean figuratively, Vigo is a very hilly city, you've been warned!) on which every street leading off reminds you that there are a lot of countries in South America! You'll also find shopping malls and department stores. And lets not forget the five running horses at the top of the hill!

If footballs your thing then head to the south west of town and watch the local team in action at Estadio de Balaidos, after the match you may want to head up the hill from the stadium and try your luck at Bingo (yes there is Bingo here!). Or head east and relax in the wonderful Castrelos park with the Quinones de Leon, Municipal Museum.

Fancy the beach. There are more than 40 beaches to the west and south west of Vigo, there are nine beaches within 4km of city centre.

There are many things I haven't mentioned but will be covering them all in due time, such as the many more museums and galleries, exhibitions, theatre and traditional fiestas, the various nautical activities, the beaches, parks, the islands and sport. Gastronomy, something not to missed! The many urban sculptures and where to stay.

If anyone can think of anything else...

Hasta Luego