Traveling through Galicia’s ‘Rias Baixas’

Every since I’ve been in Spain, there has been one comment about America that I’ve heard repeatedly. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with our foreign policy, our fatness, or even our violence. It’s about our patriotism.

I’ve had quite a few people tell me that they respect, even envy, American patriotism.

At first, it struck me as strange that people would find that appealing, but whatever. I’m all for patriotism, even at its most annoying, hooting and hollerin’, rednecky best; its ability to be touching, funny and way over-the-top all at the same time is something that always brings a smile to my face.

If you’ve ever been to the infamous Stone Mountain Laser Show in Georgia, well, you know what I mean.

Over time, I’ve realized that most Spaniards don’t really have that same type of patriotism for the country itself. It exists, but on a different level. There’s just way too much discord between some of the regions. (You know who you are.)

But its not as if people don’t love their mother land. Its just that, generally speaking, that would-be Spanish patriotism is generally lauded upon “el pueblo”. For most Spaniards, your pueblo is your country .

And nowhere is that more true than Galicia. Galicians love Galicia, and they have every right to. Blessed with a rugged, beach lined coast, fresh seafood, and an incredible spirit, Galicia truly has it all.

This summer, we were lucky enough to take a road trip from Santiago de Compostela down the coast to Portugal. Spectacular doesn’t begin to describe it. The rocky coastline along the Rias Baixas offers incredible landscape views and sandy, white beaches. Driving down from Santiago, we hit up some incredible pueblos along the Galician coast: Corcubión, Cambados, Combarro, Pontevedra, the Cíes Islands, Baiona, and La Guarda.

This post is already way too long, so I’ll just put up some photos with some snarky little comments, okay? Feel free to ask me anything specific about traveling in this region. I’ll pass it on to my husband since its already been established that I can’t remember all the silly little details…

The Cathedral of Santiago Compostela is, of course, the end of the route for pilgrims that come from all of the world to walk the famous Camino de Santiago. Its incredible to watch the different types of pilgrims stumble into the city with their aching feet and wobbly legs. Its heartwarming to see the strong conviction and strength of some families, couples, and friends as they make it to their final destination after weeks of walking or biking the rugged roads of the Santiago way. Its also a good place to listen to some massive arguments from those who are sick spending so much damn time together.
Multi-lingual Mass inside the cathedral. And yes, they let me inside a religious house, you jerk.
If you get the chance, take a tour of the roof , "el tejado". The tourist office is to the left of the entrance of the cathedral. And no, that's not how I snuck into the cathedral. Jerk.
More roof top. Spain really doesn't worry about the little things, like liability in case you go rolling off the slanted roof.
View from the city park
Howdy, pilgrims!
Outside the pilgrim passport office where you get you final stamp. I guess some prefer to travel the camino in style?
If you get the chance, go to the indoor/ outdoor market. Galicia is unique in that, historically, the women are very prevalent money makers in the family because the men in the family are often fishermen who are gone for months at a time.

 

Finisterre was thought to be the end of the world before Columbus did his thing...
Sunset at Finisterre

More Corcubion

This is Corcubion, the highest region of the rias baixas. The region is known as the Death Coast for its rocky coastline that has seen more than it fair share of ship wrecks. Although Corcubion is a bit small and there
A beautiful beach along the coast. Which one? I can't remember
More rustic beach somewhere
Our next stop was Combarros, the ´Horreos Coastline´. These little structures were used as storage to protect food and keep out little critters. Now, little elves are kept in there and are only allowed to come out at night when they chase tourists around with monkey wrenches.
More boats!
More elf-hiding Horreos.
Another blurry photo. This is the sardine man, who was grilling sardines. I think he was a little over it. That and the elves wear him out.
Yes, more boats...
The legend says that is you go under this rock 9 times that you will be relieved of any back pain for the rest of your life. However, the astute spectator might realize that this preventative action is more likely to actually cause damage to the back. But whatever, I'm not a doctor...
seaside fortress
Everything about the Rias Baixas is awesome. The culinary adventures, the generous people, and the landscapes are really unique. But, I have to say that our best time started in Baiona where we caught the ferry to the Cies Islands, voted the most beautiful beach in the world.
Arriving to the island
You can get to the Cies Island by ferry coming from either Vigo or Bayona. As I understand it, in Vigo its possible to make a reservation ahead of time. Since we were in Bayona, we woke up early and got the first ferry from the harbor.
They only allow a limited number of people onto the island a day. So, if you plan on going, make sure that you get to the line early or have a reservation.
There are no hotels on the island, but you can camp there if you bring your own materials and you must make a reservation. If you want to go in summer time, make that reservation early in the year as it fills up pretty quickly.
There are walkways for hiking all through the islands which I think is less than 10 kilometers long. Once you get over the beauty of the beach, take a walk and you can see some spectacular views. Am I saying spectacular too much?
Our last stop was in La Guarda, just a few minutes away from the Portugal border. We had the pleasure of being there during their summer "fiesta". Every pueblo has their own fiesta and the locals have their distinct way of celebrating the pueblo. In La guarda, the youngins climb to the top of a nearby mountain, drink all day, and at night, they stumble down into the pueblo beating the hell out of anything they can find. The more professional beaters of the crowd has his or her own drum and leads the drunken bandits in a march that can last all night or at least, until the strongest drummerboy, or girl, passes out.
Drummers!
No, this isn't the Gordon's Fisherman - sheesh! La Guarda, like most of its neighboring pueblos, is immensly proud of its fishing traditon. In most of the pueblos you will find monuments dedicated to the hard lives and sacrifices of the towns' fishermen.

I know I’ve put a ton of mediocre photos to show you this unmediocre place and I know that these photos really can’t show the true beauty of Galicia. Crappy photographer or not, its just impossible to accurately capture the incredible spirit of Galicia. All I can say is that I’m in love with the beauty of this region and the spirit of the people who were so kind to us during our visit.

After so many years of living here, I have never been able to choose a favorite region in Spain. I have immensely enjoyed exploring this country, which never fails to surprise me with its diversity, from one autonomous region to the next. However, after my trip to Galicia, the food, the greenery, the scenery, and the kind-hearted people were all I needed to convince me that, if given the chance at claiming a Spanish pueblo for myself, I would proudly choose to be “una Gallega”.

Update: I just had to add this video about Santiago de Compostela that was recommended by Heather of On the Fringe. Its just beautiful…

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9 Responses to Traveling through Galicia’s ‘Rias Baixas’

  1. Heather says:

    For me there is no better place on earth than the entire northern Spanish coast! You can also see hórreos throughout the Asturian countryside, though there they are square-shaped wooden structures with four stone pillars. The unique shape of the hórreo pillars keeps rodents from getting inside to pillage the grain stores.

    I’m fascinated by this YouTube video of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela: http://youtu.be/hCwuF5BuIcc

    • Hamatha says:

      Hi Heather,
      Yes, but do the Asturian horreos have elves? :)
      Great video! I’ve added it to the post because it really is just beautiful…thanks!

  2. Erin says:

    Strangely enough, I’ve always thought the misconception to be that Spaniards think Americans are more patriotic. It obviously depends on the regend, but most Americans I know don’t own any patriotic paraphernalia whatsoever, and the most patriotic they get is during a BBQ on the 4th. But here in Spain (well, Madrid, anyway – certainly not some regions), they seem to get crazy patriotic about almost anything. Anyway, as usual, being from the SF Bay Area probably totally taints my perspective on all things American…so maybe I should shut up now.

    BTW – love Galicia. It’s my favorite place in Spain! Nothing beats grubbing on empanada, pulpo and tarta de Santiago.

    • Hamatha says:

      Tortuga,
      I think its obvious to all that you have never been to the Stone Mountain Laser Light show. That should be your next destination because there, you will be exposed to an American spirit few will be able to view in their lifetimes. At the SMLL, you will be witness to shirtless wonders double fisting coors light while simultaneously lighting their smokes and holding half-naked motherless babies in each hand, while proudly screaming, “I’m proud to be an American, at least I know I’m free – like your mother!” while lasers ( yes- lasers! ) outline former presidents etched on our precious stone mountain. If that’s not patriotic, I dont know what is…
      You know what, I’ll just have to show you in person next week, okay? Be prepared…

  3. aldybaldy says:

    I dream of going to Galicia. Superb photos. I went to Biarritz this past summer in drove across the border to San Sebastian. Phenomenal. Can’t wait to go back.

    • Hamatha says:

      Hi AldyBaldy,
      I agree…Biarrtiz and San Sebastian are incredible. I’ve been to both cities, but I am dying to go back and explore more of that part of the coast.
      I love your blog, by the way! Great design!

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