Sunday, 10 February 2013

La Corrada, Santiago de Compostela and a week of wow.

We planned to move on to the next destination in an unusual mode of transport for us, we had hired a car for a week, Mark’s parents had rented a casa and all was set for us to meet up. Two days before they were due to leave England they received a phone call informing them that all ferry crossings across Biscay had been cancelled due to bad weather. After a strong coffee and a few more phone calls an alternative plan was hatched for them to cross the channel then drive down through France – two days driving. On the previous visit to us, they had also been forced to drive for two days across mainland Europe, due to ferry strikes, this was becoming habit!

Once the car was loaded and the boys were wound up nicely with anticipation it was time to set out. The dog had picked up on all the excitement, watched us packing and knew that something was happening. As we climbed off she decided to follow instead of waiting for someone to lift her. Dogs are not designed to climb off boats moored at 90 degrees to a pontoon, she discovered this at the point her front legs left the boat and her back legs remained on the deck. After a short and circular swim she was fished out and dried off.

Morning mist in the trees.
The house is set high up in the hills with stunning views across other hills and in the distance a peek of sea can just be seen. The forests are full of lofty trees and wisps of mist drift through the valleys in the early morning. There is very little around, it is a very peaceful area complete with bird song and soft brown cows with tinkling bells.

The house.
The house itself was very nice and had a lovely big garden with tennis court and table football, ideal for keeping the grandparents entertained. The dog also enjoyed the chance to mooch around in a nice secure space and when she discovered the remote controlled gate had mysteriously opened itself one evening she decided to take herself for a nice bimble along the lane. We were relieved to find her, she didn’t think she had ever been lost and didn’t seem to know what the fuss was all about.

It was a week of varied foods, a mixture of sharing some delicious Spanish treats and favourite meals with our visitors (fabada, a selection of cheeses, local cakes and tortilla amongst others) and to enjoy some British treats brought over which we had been missing – bacon sandwiches and cheddar cheese were high on the list! We enjoyed spending time together, playing games, completing a challenging jigsaw puzzle, cooking, chatting and generally being together. Spending time apart certainly makes you value the time you get to spend together.

 A trip up into the mountains by car was quite a novelty for us as we are used to being at sea level. We enjoyed the fantastic views from the dizzying heights of the twisty, windy roads where the edge always seemed a bit closer to the road than we would like. There were stunning bays and plunging valleys, huge arched viaducts and rushing waterfalls. Just as we came down onto the straighter and lower road, travel sickness kicked in for some of the passengers resulting in a quick stop to clean up and get some fresh air.

The ancient city.
We travelled to Santiago de Compostela partially following the ancient pilgrim route. It was a long trip taking 4 hours each way in the car (yes, children were dosed up with travel pills this time!) passing through some really scenic areas.
 The buildings are spectacular, every corner you walk round there is another ‘wow’. Inside the cathedral itself the gilding is breathtaking. The buildings and roads around the city feel like they have seen everything, from pilgrims seeking meaning to tourists buying tat.
Each building is covered in carvings, gargoyles and every decoration you can think of and the city is now a UNESCO world heritage site. They have stood there over the years in the wind, rain and sun, ornate and beautiful, a powerful monument to Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture and the wealth of the old church.

According to legend, the cathedral was built in the ‘field of stars’ where a local Bishop was guided by a hermit after seeing strange lights. The apostle, St James the Great’s remains are believed to be buried here and people now travel the Camino de Santiago or Way of St James in pilgrimage from all over the world. The route is marked throughout by the scallop on signposts, walking posts, tiles in walls and embedded in pavements. Many pilgrims also wear a scallop and carry a pilgrims staff.
The Cathedral frontage. This is reproduced on the Spanish 1, 2 and 5 cent coins.

The coast along this part of Spain is also spectacular in a different, more raw and natural way. We visited Playa Aguilar and had a lovely walk. The breakers rolling in from the Atlantic hit the jagged rocks with huge power, carving out arches, stacks and caves. Watching the rugged beauty of the beach whilst the children ran along the sand was bracing, slightly damp for some as the waves can move quite fast, and a wonderful sight. This was also an opportunity to collect more driftwood and do a bit of beachcombing, some members of the family being more selective than others about what is a treasure.

As usual the week went far too fast and after a few more games of tennis and the chance to teach the Grandparents the Spanish game Oca, it was time to load the cars and set off for home. We were, as many times before really touched by the gifts and kind wishes sent by friends and relatives in Britain. It was a great week and has given us many more happy memories to treasure.


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