Monday, September 18, 2017

Back in Beautiful Galicia Again

We are back in the place we love in Spain — for 7 weeks this time. Alas, the first week has passed in not very good health: I came down with a case of shingles a few days before we left. Layered, so that I couldn't spread the virus, and armed with medication, I was fairly comfortable on the long, long flight, and rested up the first few days after arrival.  Luckily, as you can see, this is a peaceful place to rest up and muse upon things.

Shingles is active for a couple of weeks: Small welts blister, then crust over, and once they do, you aren't contagious to others (which is why you cover yourself thoroughly during the time that you are.) They are very painful, and in a peculiar way. The wounds are abrasively painful, but your muscles ache, and you feel a general mess. Think of it as grown up chicken pox, because it's the same virus. If you had chicken pox as a kid, you have the virus in you for life and can get shingles as an adult.

I had expected to feel much better this week-end, so off we set with friends for a day trip to Castromayor, a Celtic settlement dating back to 400 b.c. to 100 a.d.

A "castro" is a Celtic hill-fort typical of Galician culture before the Roman conquest. In this case, Castromayor appear to have been concurrent with a Roman settlement nearby, which we did not see for reasons I'll mention later.

Castromayor is a point just off the main pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela. In this picture, you can see some pilgrims ahead of us, walking along the main entrance into these ruins. The stone ruins are basically the foundations of the old settlement, built the way "dry walls" are built — i.e. no stucco or cement to hold the stone in place. And while some areas have fallen to rubble, it's amazing to think of these foundations still existing for 2400-plus years. Have a look:

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More pilgrims here and there.
"The Camino" is something I have wanted to walk for some time.  To get a certificate, you have to walk 100 km minimum. Being realistic, though, I don't think I'm going to be able to do anything more than walk parts of it. Actually, that's fine with me. I was excited to be walking on a small stretch of it Saturday—less than a kilometer. But it was the Camino!

Meanwhile, here is a good layout of the entire settlement. Rajan and I were simply amazed.

After that, we went to an interesting town called Portomarin, with full intention to sight-see some more after lunch  But then the aftermath of my shingles was catching up with me. I was suddenly very tired and hurting all over again the way I hurt when I first broke out in shingles.

I made it through lunch — and a delicious lunch it was, at an Italian lunch that really knows how to make penne pasta and pesto sauce, not to mention dough pizza with herbs. But I digress. We came home early, deciding to keep further sightseeing for another day.

At home, Googling it, I learned there really is something referred to as "shingles aftermath". You feel the pain, though not as keenly, but there are no new sores or blisters. You lack energy and may have sore muscles (like flu symptoms) Apparently you can feel this way for months afterwards. I don't think that's going to be my fate--again because I had the shingles shot, which has made everything less severe than it might have been, from everything I've read.

But I am so glad we went! I felt so good until I felt so bad, and I would have felt horrible to postpone and perhaps miss this trip, as our time here is more limited than last time.

Meanwhile, Trasulfe is a great place to recuperate. It never looks the same way twice: This is what it looked last night before the rain and then this morning after the rain.

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How about you? Have you ever gotten a sudden illness you didn't expect to have? Do you make a good patient? (I try to, and I'm usually a "good sport" for about two days, then I get cranky.) Do you like ancient cities? Does ancient history fascinate you?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cliff & Rock Formations at Praia das Catedrais, Galicia


For nearly two months I have meant to blog about a week-end trip Rajan and I took with friends Terri & David and their neighbor, Montse, to a town called Foz and the nearby Praia das Catedrais—"Cathedrals Beach in Galegan." The many stretches of beach are on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, essentially the north coast of Galicia and Asturias, and we actually visited Praia das Catedrais last fall for part of one afternoon. We are drawn to beaches, and this collection of beaches has captured our imaginations.

The name "Cathedrals" or "Catedrais" is due to the fact that wind and tides have sculpted the cliffs into shapes that suggest cathedrals. The tides especially have carved out caves that can only be safely entered when the tide is out. Here I am above inside of one of the caves, entranced by the fact that these caves go on and on. You wouldn't want to be trapped inside when the tide comes in.

I'm not sure what kind of rock the cliffs were to lend themselves to being shaped so interestingly by the elements. The rock in every case seems in layers and at angles. Simply beautiful and mysterious.

Here are a few pictures that can give you a feel for how deep some of the caves are, looking in from the outside, and then looking out from the inside.

We were also treated to a solo concert by a man dressed in traditional Galician garb who played his gaito (a Galician type of bagpipe) for quite some time. I don't know if he's always there, but he was there the second day we visited, and apparently he's there often enough to earn the moniker, "the Gaitero Galego."

We were able to visit the area two days in a row, because Montse's brother owns a flat in Foz. (It's currently for sale, so it was un-occupied.) Though Foz is now a beach tourist town, it was once a whaling town, so there is a promenade with a breathtaking view to a history center that tells a little of the town's past. Here are some pictures of our little group and a view from the promenade.

Terri, Montse (with dog I want) me
Rajan and David, deep in conversation

The view.

This man was reading his paper as he walked
So much for the view!  😊😊

There was also a small bird park where I saw black swans for the first time in my life. Swans are perhaps my favorite bird. (Well, peacocks are pretty high up there, too. )I have always thought swans so beautiful, and these were no exception. The light just shimmered off their black feathers. And look at those graceful necks. Naturally they made me think of the ballet, Swan Lake, and Odile, the sorcerer's daughter.

And soon it was time to pack up, find lunch, and return to Monforte and Trasulfe—about a three hour drive. But it was certainly a week-end to remember! Rajan and I want to go back during our next trip to Galicia so he can take some good black-and-white film photos.

How about you? Are you drawn to beaches? Do like swans? Have you ever gone deep into a cave?

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Thoroughly Pleasurable Week-end.

Time has slipped by, and I've been meaning to post about the lovely week-end Rajan and I had with a succession of special friends. It started on Friday evening when we went with Melanie and Craig Briggs to the city of Ourense, where a favorite fadista, Maria do Ceo, was giving a free concert in the Plaza Mayor. She was also sharing a new CD, this one for children.

Maria do Ceo has great presence onstage, and her voice is magical — expressive and emotional, as Fado should be. Gracious as always, she took time with people from the audience afterwards who

came up to speak to her and have pictures taken with her.

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We had arrived early on purpose, to make sure we had good seats. We were able to snag a good table  to one side, but quite close from which to enjoy the performance. Before the program began, we enjoyed a glass of wine with Craig and Melanie and watched the crowd as the plaza filled up.

Before that, as we walked through an adjacent plaza set up with kiosks advertising Portugal's fiestas, a familiar voice called, "Elizabeth!" It was a young woman at Braga Turismo (Cristina) who has helped me with information for my Braga mystery. What a pleasant surprise!
Our house

Craig and Melanie, by the way, sold us our house in Trasulfe, which we love very much.

They have another house they are selling that you can look at HERE. Craig has also written three books about their adventures in Galicia since they came about 15 years ago. You can learn more about his books and how to contact them HERE .

Saturday, our friend Jacki Edmonds visited from England. We met Jacki years ago when she lived on a farm in the province of Ourense. Even though she has returned to England, she frequently visits Galicia, and she introduced us to Elvira and José, about whom I wrote earlier.

Jacki is an artist who specializes in pet portraits and wild life portraits. She painted a picture of our
dog, Cezar, that has "pride of place" on one of our walls in Sacramento. Just seeing this portrait of him makes us miss him. Currently she works mainly in pastel pencils—you can see samples of her work at her website HERE . You can also visit her Facebook page HERE

I forgot to take pictures during her visit, because I was so interested in catching up on her news. Then Monday morning just before she left, I scrambled to get the camera and took turns with Rajan to get a couple of good photos. I think she is going to be one of those eternally young people, largely because she is full of energy and so interested in life.

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Meanwhile, Sunday, our good friends Terri and David Anderson had invited us all to lunch at their house.

Terri is an excellent cook and hostess, so her small dinners always have the sumptuous offerings of a party. (And she has given some wonderful parties, too.) Another friend, Mandy Rainy, joined us and brought her dog, Frankie, a rescue dog with a sweet disposition. (Rajan and I are dog people, so we were doting on Frankie all evening.) I forgot my camera, but Jacki took some good pictures:

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I have Terri and David to thank for hearing Maria do Ceo the first time during the summer of 2013. Things come full circle.
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   Rajan and I were taking turns with one of us traveling while the other stayed home to care for Cezar, whose health was failing.  Rajan came in April. I came in June. Terri and David took me to a special anniversary dinner for the restaurant/casa rural Rectoral Castillon one evening, when to celebrate the event, Maria do Ceo was the star. I had never heard Fado before then, but I became hooked on this art form immediately, and later Rajan became equally hooked. As I say, things come full circle.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Some of Our Good Friends in Galicia

Last week-end began with a visit on Friday evening to our good friends, Isobel and Santiago, who actually live in Germany but are from Spain. Santiago is from Toledo. Isobel is from Monforte, and it's quite possible they are going to retire here to her parents' home in the hills just above the town. We were invited for meriendas and, in true fashion, I took my camera and forgot to use it. Last year, I used it, and didn't find time to post a picture, so here is a picture of them from last year, when we spent another evening with them.                                    

We first met Isobel and Santiago a few years ago in the Madrid airport, en route to Santiago. I wanted to pet their dog (who has passed on since then.) As many of you know, Rajan and I are dog people, so it was an immediate bond. Later, we encountered Isobel while shopping in Monforte, and a friendship was born. Since she is from here, they have been coming twice a year, like ourselves — in their case, to touch base with relatives and take care of various paper works. Since then, we visit with them every trip when possible. They do not speak English, but they help us a great deal with our Spanish, both in visits and emails.

Meanwhile, what they called meriendas (a snack that usually occurs around 6:00 or 7:00 pm, was more like a feast—tortilla, which has to be one of the world's greatest dishes, an empanada, marinated cod salad, numerous accompaniments and condiments, wine, coffee. Needless to say, we didn't need dinner later that night. Then, because Santiago, being from Toledo, loves hot food (not the case with most Galicians), they sent us home with a huge jar of peppers that make even Rajan gasp and raise his eyebrows with each bite!
The hot peppers. Delicious, but beware!
Saturday and Sunday we spent with two other friends from Galicia, Elvira and José, who live in a small village outside the town of Celanova, in the province of Ourense. (They are also mutual friends of our good friends, David and Terri, of whom I'll be writing more in a future post.) Elvira and José live in the house of Elvira's parents, which is out a long ribbon of winding road near the village of Casal do Regueiro, and like many of our neighbors here in Trasulfe, they raise small crops, and have chickens as well. They, too, "feasted us" both days—there is no other way to describe the fabulous meals Elvira served up: fish lunches, pizza for dinner (but what a pizza!), hot, thick fried churros (ribbons of fried dough) to dip into mugs of thick chocolate.

On Saturday, they drove us into a small village, A Merca which is famous for its horreos.
An horreo is a small granary, built in a specific way, either wood or stone, often with slats to let air in and provide protection from moisture; always to keep rodents out; for that purpose, they are set on mushroom-shaped pedestals that would require rodents to hang upside down on the bottom of the mushroom cap.
A typical horreo
José & Elvira
Horreos are now considered as typically Galician monuments and are protected as such; thus, they cannot be moved off someone's property for personal boasting, etc. (apparently a problem at one time). In A Merca, I was amazed to see 34 all in one location, moved there for their protection.

So many horreos!

I don't think I've ever seen so many horreos in one place, ever.

After that, we went to a larger village/town called Allariz. Allariz is absolutely beautiful.  I had been to it before in the summer of 2013 with Terri and David, but I was so preoccupied with the health of our dog then that I didn't really take as much notice of the town as I normally would have. (Rajan and I were taking turns with our trips so that one of us could be home with Cezar, who was basically on his way "out the door."We miss him still!)

A river runs through a lovely park in this pretty town, with little waterfalls that pour into a pond. In the main park, a small van had been painted with flowers to advertise some shop (I think).

Flowers under the hood, too!
Then we wandered around—a lot of big name clothing stores are tucked into these charming winding streets. I love the cobblestone streets and stone walls that are such features of Galicia (and Iberian in general) architecture. You can feel the ancientness of the town as you walk along narrow alleys.

These towns are also built on various levels, so stairs lead up and down to other parts of town.  Soon we found ourselves in a plaza above the stairs, where the local orchestra was practicing for a later performance. you could walk out and see a grand vista of the town below and the countryside beyond.

Afterwards, we returned to Elvira's and José's home and spent a delightful afternoon and evening catching up on news.

The next morning after breakfast, we walked around the neighboring villages, in all about a two mile walk, up slopes and down, but all lush and beautiful. One of our stops was the village Elvira's mother was born in and the cemetery where she is buried. (We met Elvira's parents years ago, and they had the same warmth and exhibited the same kind hospitality Eli does.)

After a marvelous lunch (salmon!) it was time to go. They did not send us away empty-handed, either: We are still munching on cherries from their tree and reminiscing about what lovely people they are.

Do stone walls and cobblestones appeal to you as much as they do to me? Are you drawn to ancient places? How about different foods? Do you like hot peppers? Churros? Chocolate?