I have this thing with windows. For some the obsession lies with doors or walls but for me it’s definitely windows. I’ve been in Pontedeume (the first of many sleepy fishing villages we’ll visit along Galicia’s rugged coastline) for mere minutes and already my camera roll is full of shutters, frames and flower boxes.
It’s been more than two years since I stepped on the continent, longer since I last visited Spain, and suddenly the myriad reasons I love this region have come flooding back to me. As I admire the architecture, learn the history of the unusual indoor balconies we spy on homes throughout Galicia, and smell the scent of freshly baked bread wafting from some hidden bakery, I think this is why I am so glad to be back here.
I had no previous expectations of Galicia. Situated on the northwest coastline of Spain it takes less than 2 hours to fly to Galicia from London (we flew with Vueling from Heathrow to A Coruña) yet the lack of British tourists (or any nationality really) is noticeable. I find it very refreshing.
In Pontedeume the streets are filled with doddery old men, having conversations on the corner and selling various bric and brac at the weekend market. We enter the fresh food market, stopping so that our guide can explain the various seafood on offer. We take a few photos before we are waved on by the stall holder, ‘If you’re not buying,” she tells our guide in Spanish, “move on. You’re blocking my produce.” I laugh out loud at the old ladies directness. They are not used to bloggers here and she has a valid point about us being in the way!
From Pontedeume we take a short, still boat ride to Redes, located in the Ria of Ares. The Galician coastline is speckled with these Rias, inlets caused by centuries old valleys, where fresh water meet the ocean – an occurrence that is said to give the region its spectacular seafood.
Redes is supposed to be somewhere we pass through on route to our next stop but not one of our group wants to leave. We wander the cobbled streets that lie hidden behind the sea-front houses and start to picture how serene life must be in these sleepy, sun-reflecting villages.
Returning to the village square – or rather circle – that is surrounded by brightly coloured houses and a co-ordinating ocean – we find ourselves pulled towards the village bar. It’s early but we’re craving snacks and some of us are in desperate need of coffee (that would be me!). The owner, who speaks unexpectedly good English, has something already prepared that she often serves up complimentary with drinks orders. She seems unsure about whether her English guests will like it but I can’t see how we wouldn’t. Along with the coffee and beers we order (it’s never too early on holiday, right?) she brings us each a small warm pot of chorizo and potato . It’s the best thing I’ve eaten in ages.
More pleasant surprises are to come that afternoon when we stop at one of Galicia’s wild beaches. Backed by green hills and seemingly displaced sand dunes it takes a while to spot Playa Doniños. Following the path from the single beach cafe we head down onto the sand and find there is hardly anyone else on it. There’s a solitary beach umbrella, a few surfers in the water and some locals reading the weekend papers. I’m struck by how pure and empty the sand is; it feels like we’re in some remote region of Australia. It makes me reassess what I think I know about Europe in the summer.
Another beach that sticks in my memory is Playa de las Cathedrals. It’s not so much a secret as Playa Doniños (at least not to the Spanish) but is somewhere I have not read or heard of in the travel media despite it’s overwhelming beauty. Known for its arch rock formations and craggy caves, Cathedrals Beach seems to me like a place that was made by giants. At low tide us little people follow the paths made by nature (or giants?), in and out of the golden caves and through the massive doorway the giants must have made to get to the ocean. I once travelled all the way to New Zealand to see a beach such as this – I can’t believe no one told me there was one just past the Bay Of Biscay.
Our trip has one last surprise for me in A Coruña. We end our weekend in Galicia visiting a World Heritage Site – the Torre de Hercules. Built by the Romans in the 1st Century, the Tower of Hercules is the oldest working lighthouse in the world. Understandably it’s had a little work done to it, mainly during the 18th Century, but you can step inside the lighthouse to see it’s ancient foundations and climb the interior staircase that was added to replace the exterior Roman ramp.
Many climb to the top in order to see the view lighthouse managers have watched over for hundreds of years. I did the same and, looking back on the coastline we’d eaten and admired our way along, thought it was the perfect way to end a weekend of uncovering secrets in Galicia.
You can fly from London Heathrow to A Coruña with Vueling or from London Gatwick to Santiago de Compostela with Vueling and Easyjet. More details on where to stay in Galicia will be coming up shortly.
Click here to discover 5 of my favourite Galician dishes.