Monday, March 6, 2017

On the Move in Galicia

Trip date: October 2015

Northern Spain Trip Day 3

In the morning we checked out of Casa Rosita and drove to Santiago de Compostela, the end of the Camino de Santiago -a pilgrimage across Northern Spain that hundreds of thousands take yearly. There are different trails that people choose, walking for 20 to 30 days generally, bearing the symbol of the scallop shell on their way to the cathedral. For the next few days we'd be driving along the same route, you just can't drink all this wine and walk that much!

The square and the cathedral here are absolutely gorgeous! We spent quite a bit of time on our own checking out the massive church, also the reported burial site of Saint James the Great. Built in 1211, the church is additionally known for having the largest "Botafumeiro" in the world. Some say this was to clear the air of the body odors of all those pilgrims. Inside and out, this cathedral is filled with amazing sculpture, paintings, architecture, you name it. It's a do-not-miss for sure.

We walked through the square and made our way back to the van, continuing to the Abastos market in the main area of Santiago.

It was a brilliant sunny fall day and the market on this Saturday was absolutely bustling. We checked out the stalls of meat, fish, and produce, and spotted some singers dressed up in medieval costumes making merry before being set up with stools and a table in the middle of the market for a tapas lunch served to us by the chef Iago Pazos from Abastos 2.0.

We drank lots of Godello and had the absolute best pulpo (octopus) I have ever had. Plus it was very amusing to watch the market goers trying to figure out why we were having this very lovely and private lunch.

It was time to move on as we had an hour drive to our next stop, Ribadavia, a very sweet little town with an interesting old Jewish Quarter. It felt good to walk around the town and take in the scenery before continuing our journey to the Miño River in the Ribeira Sacra wine region.

This is where the white Godello and the red Mencia grapes are grown. At the river we were met by Luisa Rubines and ushered onto her zodiac before being jetted up the river.  From the water we could see how the vineyards here were planted and harvested on the incredibly steep slopes. These wines were a labor of love for sure! We also saw a burro having a little snack of grapes while checking us out. John told me that burros use to be used to transport the grape harvest and now they just roam.

Luisa also happens to own a bodega on the shores which she invited us to; we unloaded a selection of picnic provisions Gerry had acquired at the market. Wines were opened and we had a delicious and very fun picnic of local cheese, sausages, tomatoes, & bread while drinking the local Mencia and basking in the setting sun and stunning vistas. The colors of the vineyards turning in the Autumn weather were ridiculously stunning. This place is truly magical, if you ever get a chance, don't pass it up and be sure to book a river trip with Luisa!

It was dark when we returned to the boat launch and we still had a short drive to our home for the next two nights, the Parador of Montforte de Lemos; perched on top of the hill looking down on the town. Judy and I loved our big stone room with it's sweeping views. The parador was a convent in the past and had that very castle-like feeling that many of these Spanish paradors do.

That night we had dinner at Manuel, just down the road in town. The ambiance was a bit soulless, and the food was just ok, but the table-side gintonics served in "fishbowls" were awesome!

Day 4

The next morning we boarded our comfy van and took a day trip in the region La Ribeira Sacra. Our first stop was the wonderful walled town of Lugo where we were able to walk the entire circumference of the old town on top of the ancient Roman walls. My friends know I love a good walk and ancient shit so it was obvious that I loved this!

It was quickly approaching wine-thirty so Antonio drove us into the surrounding hills of the Ribeira Sacra to winemaker Roberto Regal's co-op for a private tour of the facilities as well as some barrel tastes. From here we were driven to the most quaint stone agrotourism, Casa Romualdo. There we enjoyed a long lunch with some of the winemakers from the area, courses and courses of traditional Spanish cuisine made with a bit of a modern touch, and of course wine- lots and lots of wine!

We had so much fun even though only a few of us in the group spoke Spanish and the winemakers spoke very little English. It was a case of knowing that everyone was happy, interested, and enjoying the meal and the company.

The meal finished in a separate room with a fire, local brandy, and live music. All this and here it was just past lunch time!

On the way home we made a pit stop at a look-out to take in the absolutely amazing views of the Sil River Canyon. These vineyards are so steep that there are rails in place so loaded boxes of grapes can be slid down to the river for transport. The leaves on the terraced vineyards were turning blazing colors of yellow and red; it was incredibly beautiful and a really nice finish to our afternoon.

Once back at our Parador, rested and cleaned up, I had a little "me" time with a gintonic at the bar, which was quite a cute & cozy space. We then walked the short way down hill to the restaurant O'Grelo where we were joined by the winemakers again for dinner. Most of the food was just ok but we had a "deconstructed stew" which was really tasty! And of course there was wine :)

Day 5

In the morning we checked out of the lovely Parador of Montforte de Lemos. This was such a great place to stay, I'd highly recommend it if you are in the area!

We were on our way to Corgomo for a wine tasting at the beautiful winery and vineyards d'Berna. The husband and wife duo treated us to artisan chorizo and cheese while we tasted through their line up of Godello and Mencia before some of us took a stroll through the vineyards, again gorgeous with fall colors.

We were just down the road a bit from the town of O Barco and its very well known Pulperia el Dorado so of course we stopped in for a few platters of the incredible octopus. The woman's sons who help run it were super friendly in serving us and telling us about their mom's history with the restaurant. This family also has their own wine label so of course we tasted through that as well!

Our van hit the road again. I was happy to have someone else driving as it was so relaxing to listen to podcasts while gazing out the window at the beautiful hilly scenery. And of course I wouldn't have had a chance to taste all this delicious grape juice!

As we arrived in Cacabelos, we saw a few pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, both in small groups and alone. Wow, we'd been driving for two days and these folks were heading to where we had come from. Amazing.

We stopped, as many travelers do, at Moncloa de San Lazaro. Part hotel, part gift shop, part bar, part restaurant. After a bit of shopping where I picked up some delicious cured beef and local jams, we headed to the bar and had some absolutely fantastic red vermouth. The Spanish vermouth was served on the rocks with a dried orange wheel and was so delicious I bought a bottle to take home. Sadly it is long gone but I'm on a quest to find distribution in the states.

We moved from the bar to Bierzo restaurant for a very fun lunch, great shared dishes and, you guessed it, lots of wine! Gonzalo Amigo, one of the owners of Madai winery in Bierzo, joined us with more than a few bottles of his Godello and Mencia. After all that it was back to the van!

It was dark when we quietly passed through the Picos de Europa on our way east, so there were no views. I was a bit disappointed about this as I had been on an amazing drive through these mountains years ago and I know they are stunning. I had my memories of that, but if in the area you should plan a drive of your own.

And with that we bid adios to Galicia and entered Asturias. This was an area I had known next to nothing about five days prior and now I had seen and tasted a lot of it. I came away with a deeper appreciation of the tradespeople who produce such amazing food and wine, as well as a love of the natural and manmade beauty of the region. I'd happily go back to Galicia!

All photos of Galicia here.
Other posts from this trip:
Northern Spain Food & Wine Tour
Shellfish & Grapes in Galicia
Shooting Sidra in Asturias
Beef and Basque

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