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Report 1969: Five Wonderful Weeks in Northern Spain

By caplanco from Colorado, Fall 2011

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Page 3 of 10: Cambados with a stop in Ribadavia

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Beautiful tasting area at Martin Codex

After a quick café, we were on our way to Cambados in Galicia. Some of the scenery was mindful of driving through Utah, then much greener with higher hills. It was fairly easy driving; the roads are good and well-signed. Except for a piece on a two-lane, most driving was on an Autovia or Autopista (toll).

We stopped in Ribadavia to see the old Jewish quarter and have lunch. Antonio at the information office asked where we were from and when we said USA he said, “What are you doing in this far corner. Are you lost?” That fit with our perception that few Americans come to Galicia. He confirmed this, saying that most tourism focuses on flamenco and the south. We had lunch at the Vinotecha Ribadavia on the plaza near the “i”: M; anchovies with cheese and pimiento; me: the standard ensalada de la casa: greens with tuna, crab, olives, egg, corn, and white asparagus (€19) and then walked through the Jewish quarter. We stopped at the Jewish bakery and bought macaroons. There were lots of photos on the walls, and old cooking and baking utensils.

When we arrived in Cambados, finding Casa Rosita (€75/night w/breakfast) was a problem. We stopped to ask directions, only some of which I could follow, and, as these things seem to happen, just at the highest frustration level, there was the sign pointing the way to the hotel. The room was a nice size and had a little balcony with table and chairs overlooking the water. We thought we would have dinner at the hotel but there was no one in the very large dining room. We chatted with Pilar at the desk and she assured us it was an easy 1k walk into town, so that’s what we did. The walk was along a busy street so not very exciting, but well-lit and okay.

When we got to town we discovered several lively places while searching for a couple that Pilar had mentioned. We found the walkway around the water and the restaurants we’d been looking for. Had tapas at Vinoteca Ribeira de Fifinans,which was going strong at 11pm. M: pulpo Gallego, clara; me: revultos i.e. eggs scrambled with with mushrooms and small shrimp, vino (€24.50).

Breakfast at the hotel was the usual European style which included cured meats, cheeses, fresh fruit, cakes and croissants, cereal, café, juice. The weather was somewhat overcast so we decided to drive into town and find the information office. Town was bustling with a market going on, and a fundraiser for an animal rescue group on a street corner, with very loud music.

We learned of a winery tour that we could take shortly at Martin Cadex, one of the largest albarino producers (€6 per person). We and a German couple were the only ones with Maria, who gave the tour in English. Because the harvest was going on, we couldn’t see the press in action, but we did go into the “smelling” room and could differentiate various aromas one might find in wine. On a beautiful outdoor deck, Maria turned us over to Paola, the export person, who conducted the tasting. She was delightful and gave us many good tips on seafood and restaurants. She also told us about a festa in Sanxenxo that evening and we planned to go.

In the meantime, it was 2:30 and we were hungry. We were heading toward the island of Arousal, just a short drive from Cambados. We had seen banners for a pulpo festival in that town, so we went into to try and find it. Of course, once in town, there were no further signs and no sign of any activity. But we did see several active restaurants across from the marina and plopped ourselves down at Bar O’Rison. When we asked the young man who was our waiter about some of the things on the menu, he couldn’t understand us. He called over an older man who drew a picture of a fish in order to explain that one was enough for two people and you paid per kilo. We opted for a lunch of cockles and mussels. Galicia is the mussel capital of Spain and they are plump and very fresh. The cockles were like eating popcorn: tiny little bodies in tiny shells. We each had a glass of albarino and it was the first time we were charged for bread (€24.50). It was lovely to relax and enjoy the people and the view of the sea.

Then on to the regional park for a walk. The first place we stopped, thinking it was the park, was not. It was a trash-strewn beach. Other people had parked there, too, and it was clear that others were also looking for the park. We got back in the car and found it just down the road. The literature made it sound like there was a simple loop trail. I guess you could say it was simple if you ignored all of the side trails that shot off of it. There were many little coves and, if it hadn’t been so windy which I think is a permanent condition, they would have been pleasant places to hang out. We finally found our way back to the car and back to Cambados.

There were two large wedding parties in the dining rooms. Until we’d learned about the festa in Sanxenxo we had thought about having dinner at the hotel; good we changed our plans. So, in a light rain, on to Sanxenxo. The rain continued. When we got to Sanxenxo and turned on to the main street, traffic was backed up. We did not know where to find El Abuelo Bernardo, Rua Augusto González Besada, 16 which had been recommended, so decided just to park anywhere we could and start asking for directions. It was now pouring, and blowing, and under our umbrella, we walked many blocks. Once at the marina we could see where the festa was sort of going on in the downpour – music in a tent – and were happy to get to the restaurant.

While waiting at the bar for our table, we saw lots of bowls of soup leaving the kitchen. Paola had mentioned that many Madrilenos come here to escape the heat, so maybe they thought this was too chilly. After we were seated in a cozy corner table, we had a good dinner. M was in heaven between all the shellfish and fish. We had razor clams (too chewy for me) and wonderful tiny grilled scallops still in their shell, followed by hake a la plancha (grilled) which was nice, accompanied with several glasses of albarino, and ending with café solo for each (€45.60). It was still pouring when we left at 11, so we decided not to see if more was going on in the festa tent and returned to Cambados.

There were a lot of folks in the dining room on Sunday morning, leftovers, I think, from the weddings. After breakfast we drove into town and parked at the far end, then walked around that part of town which was more residential than tourist, finally getting to historic San Tome. There were several little beaches near the tower and we sat on the rocks at one of them, enjoying the sun and peacefulness. Pretty soon it was time for lunch, so we walked back on the promenade and ate again at Vinoteca Fefinans. They brought a small pottery saucer of good white beans in a sauce with a small piece of bread for each of us to start (free). M: gambas a la plancha (grilled, heads on, eaten shell and all) Me: pate artisanal with toast. I had cana (beer) and M had clara and it was way more than enough to eat (€20.90).

After a Sunday siesta we went into town, which was very quiet. It seems that people play hard on the weekend and then either get ready for work on Monday or go back to their homes elsewhere. We had dinner at A Traina and were the only people in the restaurant, although there were a few in the bar. We shared ensalada mixta – the lovely lettuce, corn, white asparagus, etc. which could have easily been my dinner. M: oysters and a forgettable rabe (monkfish) a la plancha with boiled potatoes; Me: veal cutlet with nice roasted potatoes; beer and wine for both (€50.20).

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