Vigo – Spain

After a bit of a ‘rocky’ night, we arrived during breakfast at the port of Vigo in the province of Galicia, Spain. It is the home of the Spanish fishing fleet and an important industrial city for car making and shipbuilding. Sir Francis Drake bombarded it in 1585 and again in 1589 when it was destroyed by fire. In 1702 the English fleet destroyed a combined Spanish and French fleet anchored in the harbour, then in 1719, another English fleet conquered the city from the Spanish. I do hope that the citizens of Vigo have short memories or else a visit by the mostly English Magellan may not be wholly welcome.

We are only here to avoid the sea conditions created in the Bay of Biscay caused by storm Dennis, yet there is another storm front quickly following on from Dennis and there is only a small window of opportunity to ‘sprint’ across the Bay of Biscay before the waters become troubled again. We have to depart Vigo by 4 pm.  The cruise line had organised a few excursions to pass the time and amuse its passengers, but Sue and I had opted to sample the delights of the city on foot and had no other plan but to discover what Vigo has to offer. Last night we had said goodbye to Ken and Chris during dinner. They live in Spain and it seems a sensible move to leave the ship in Vigo and take an internal flight home rather than attempt to rebook a flight from Gatwick. However, booking flights on Atlantic internet is fraught with connection issues and certain to cause problems, it did. They were departing the ship not sure whether they were booked on a midday flight or an early evening flight, only at the airport would they find out. Over the past six weeks, they have been good friends and very pleasant company and we wished them well. Perhaps one day we will book a few days at their B&B and meet up. Thankfully it was warm and sunny when we departed the ship at 9.30 am eager to begin wandering, but our plan changed when we discovered there was a coach tour of the city being offered from the port terminal, leaving at 11 am. We spent the interim time visiting the nearby cathedral (The Church of Santa Maria) and the narrow cobbled streets around it. The cathedral is devoid of the usual golden, glitzy trappings as seen in most Catholic churches in Spain, instead, the walls around the altar are covered in bright mosaics depicting the religious history of the city. The building gave a strong impression of solidity and strength, rather than opulence and awe. My kind of church, I think. Outside the Cathedral and set in a raised bed, is a very old olive tree.

The city was once known as Cidade Olivia (city of olives), in a battle between two Spanish noble families over the city, the victor Isabella de Castilla ordered that all the city’s olive trees be cut down as they symbolised peace. However, one tree planted in the sacred ground couldn’t be uprooted, a descendant of that tree is the one outside the cathedral. Not quite as good a story as the ‘Sword in the Stone’, certainly nothing that Disney would exploit, but mildly interesting never-the-less.

We arrived back at the port in time to ‘sneak’ onto the coach. On arrival, we were told that the coach was full, but as everybody had not yet turned up, we would be first in the queue for any no-shows. Fortunately, after cheekily occupying a couple of seats we weren’t turfed out as another bus had been laid on to accommodate the latecomers. The itinerary was quite comprehensive, covering most parts of the city with three stops to wander, investigate and take photos.

The first stop was at Samil Beach. It is a public city beach with lovely views across Vigo Bay and great sporting facilities for its citizens. Its large expanse of sand would be perfect for families to spend a weekend in the summer months. Today, on a mild Monday morning in winter, apart from a school party with clipboards and worksheets, we cruisers’ were its only visitors.

The second stop was in Castrelo Park. Here there are French and English-style gardens set within the grounds of a 19th-century Galician country mansion which now houses a museum. Unfortunately, as this is Spain the museums are shut on Mondays so we were limited to visiting the gardens in which we found a magnificent collection of magnolias, most of which were wearing their very best party dresses. They certainly are impressive trees when in full bloom, the downside was evident by the number of gardeners with leaf blowers and rakes gathering up the discarded petals into large colourful drifts. I guess perfection also has a sell-by date!

The third stop was at O Castro Mountain. This is a hill rising near the center of the city that could easily be seen from the deck of the Magellan. It was once part of the fortifications of the city which in the past the English appeared to have no problem in overcoming. Today, these now ruined, but well-maintained remains were once again stormed by a band of English privateers (with the aid of a few foreign mercenaries) and readily succumbed to a barrage of photography. The views over Vigo Bay, the shipyards, and the city as far as the suspension bridge that spans the Ria de Vigo was impressive in the mid-winter sunshine. Too late, a rescue party of Spanish schoolchildren armed to the teeth with pencils and lined paper poured into the fortress to find that the English had already left with booty safely stored in the camera. Ha, ha, ha, haaaa!

We returned to the port terminal in time to take a late lunch on board the ship. A morning well spent and much easier on the feet than we had planned. That afternoon, we did venture out and wander a few more of the streets of Vigo, we frequented quite a few of its shops but bought nothing. We did sit for a while in a shopping mall to phone Jamie, we spoke to Ruth as he was driving back after a snowboarding trip from a very cold Scotland. It looked like (from Facebook) as if they had been staying in a Glamp, brrrrr!  With Dennis howling around I think it must have been quite an experience.

Chatting to fellow passengers as we re-boarded the ship we learned that during the night a large fishing trawler had sunk in the Bay of Biscay. A good call I think by the captain to stop in Vigo. The ship left on time at 4 pm. Fingers crossed the trawler wouldn’t have company.

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