Wednesday 19th April 2016, Barreiros, Galicia
We were rocked to sleep last night as the wind gusted in with the white breakers beating against the shore. The street lamps of Candas along the quayside across the little bay reflected golden on the surface of the sea as it rolled in to crash over the rocks lying just offshore a few metres below us. Needing to cross to the toilet around 4am the force of the breeze came as something of a shock. It didn't prevent me falling straight back to sleep again once back in Modestine's cosy interior!

Breakers rolling in from the Bay of Biscay

Tonight we have found a lovely place to stay though the wind is as strong as ever. There are miles of golden sandy beaches all along this deserted north coast of Spain. It reminds me very much of Brittany's north coast where our friend Joël lives in a granite house beside the sea. Here we have palm trees and tamarisks around us tossed and bent by the force of the gale. The temperature is really warm in the sunshine despite the wind which makes even being out in it for a couple of minutes quite unbearable. It roars straight in from the sea, unimpeded by anything until it hits us sheltering ineffectually behind a low hedge that surrounds the campsite. Of course there are no doors on the shower block and the showers themselves are constructed from Spanish marble! The water is hot but you are blow-dried before you can even wrap the towel around yourself! The constant noise of the wind is beginning to become unpleasant. Once snug in bed later it will sound very different as we drift off into a deep sleep. There are only a couple of other people staying here now that the Easter break is over and school holidays have not yet started.

Saturday 22nd April 2017, Fisterra, Galicia
We have either been too weary, or unable to access the internet to write anything over the past few days. During this time we have continued along the northern coast of Spain until we today reached Fisterra and have now turned south with the coastline and started our way down towards Portugal.

We have still had not a drop of rain since we left Devon over a fortnight ago! The days have been very hot but morning and night-time temperatures have dropped right down to as low as 4 or 5 degrees. Yesterday started at 5 degrees and rose up to 39 around 4pm! Such a difference in one day is unbearable! I have come out in an itchy heat rash around my ankles.

Leaving our windy campsite at Barreiros behind us we made our way westward. Turning off to what looked an interesting little town with narrow streets of old houses we parked just outside and walked in. Thus we discovered Mondoñedo, a really delightful place with a stunning granite cathedral at its centre. The little town was surprisingly compact considering the size of the cathedral. It lies on the pilgrim route to Compostella and there were numerous rucksacked pilgrims settled on the terraces of the two little bars on the square facing the cathedral. It was market day but Spanish markets are rather mundane after the splendours of the French ones. Stalls were selling assorted undergarments, wooden rakes, sacks of dried beans and dried sausages, smoked meats and bread. Bread always looks okay but is invariably dry, full of big holes and tough to chew.

Entrance of a house in Montoñedo

Front of the cathedral, Montoñedo

Still, we enjoyed browsing the stalls, practising a few words here and there in Spanish and wandering around inside the cathedral, marvelling at the delightful, tiny and slightly naive statues of Celtic saints. In the treasury we gazed on the cathedral plate, censors, chalices and golden crosses; copes, mitres, alabaster carvings from Nottingham and granite and marble ones from Spain. There were worm-eaten statues of saints from the 13th century and numerous paintings of the crucifixion. The curator joined merrily in an international chuckle with us on poor St. Peter bowed down with the keys to the kingdom. They were as large as he was diminutive and would, in reality, be impossible for him to lift!

Small statue inside the cathedral, Montoñedo

Mural in the cathedral, Montoñedo

14th century English alabaster carving in the cathedral treasury, Montoñedo

Holy Family out for a walk, cathedral treasury, Montoñedo

Ceremonial slippers of the bishops, cathedral treasury, Montoñedo

We sat on the edge of the square with a couple of coffees watching the people of the town, all out from their houses to attend the market. They all knew each other and welcomed the chance to meet up in the sunshine. They were so obviously delighted to see their neighbours, patting each other on the back and squeezing their cheeks. Groups gathered outside the cafes, along with their dogs, walking sticks and sometimes even their wives, to catch up on gossip since last market day.

16th century well, Montoñedo

We returned to Modestine delighted with discovering this charming little town with such a cheerful and friendly population. By mid afternoon we had found our way to Santa Cruz, the nearest campsite we could find to A Coruña and settled exhausted, ready to visit the city next morning.

21st April 2017, Santa Cruz near A Coruña
The office staff at reception didn't seem to know how to get into the city by public transport. However, a session on the internet affirmed that we needed to walk a kilometre down to the main road to pick up a bus to the central bus station. From here we walked another kilometre into the old granite citadel of A Coruña, passing through the more recent streets of the huge, modern and sprawling city. The citadel is built onto a headland and cannot spread further, hemmed in as it is. At the base lies the port area with cranes and container ships. Cruise ships also call in here. Everything is built in granite and the streets are narrow and shady. We realised on this visit how fortunate we had been previously when we arrived early in the morning and chanced to find a parking space just as a bus up to the citadel stopped nearby. We had no idea how large A Coruña actually is. We walked round the headland, the sea breeze disguising the heat building up. What is claimed as the oldest lighthouse in the world stands on the headland of the citadel. It is said to have been in continuous use for over 2,000 years! One wonders whether a single brick of the original tower is still in use!

Praza Maria Pita - she helped repel an English attack in 1589, A Coruña

Town Hall, Praza Maria Pita, A Coruña

Glass fronted balconies facing the sea, A Coruña

Romanesque church of Santa Maria del Campo, A Coruña

Castello San Antón, now the archaeological museum, A Coruña

In the main part of the town we investigated a flamboyant public building, the Kiosco Alphonso, on a shaded paseo. It turned out to be hosting an exhibition of the works of a well known Spanish cartoonist, Miguelanxo Prado, creator of numerous cartoon books and comics. These are highly developed art forms here, as are the bandes dessinées in France. The exhibition was really good. We are unfamiliar with this form of art but were completely captivated by it. The artist is a resident of A Coruña and the exhibition displayed his original art work. An excellent exhibition.

Kiosco Alphonso, A Coruña

Kiosco Alfonso, poster for Miguelanxo Prado exhibition, A Coruña

At lunchtime we stopped in a shady street to share a plump Spanish omelette filled with thinly sliced potatoes. With it we had a couple of chilled Galician beers. The waiter asked anyone who could to help him take the order from a couple of ladies from Berlin wanting octopus salad, squid and sardines. Ian ended up rather confused working between Spanish and German! Not bad after only a couple of weeks here! Their order arrived correctly so Ian is feeling rather proud of himself.

We had been unable to relocate the burial place of John Moore, the British Commander during the Peninsula Wars. The waiter was able to explain to us where he thought we could find it, pointing it out on the map. He was correct. As this was the corner of A Coruña that stood out in our memory from last time we were delighted to rediscover it. Unfortunately by the time we did the nearby military museum had closed for the afternoon so we were unable to refresh our memories on the naval battle that led to John Moore's death in 1809.

Tomb of Sir John Moore, Jardín de San Carlos, A Coruña

Regional Archives of Galicia, A Coruña

We were exhausted by the time we had walked back into the centre of the city and found the bus station. It was unclear where our bus went from so we wandered around asking drivers if they passed through Santa Cruz. Then we had to recognise where to get off the bus and hope we'd picked the correct place. Luckily we'd found the right stop and returned the kilometre uphill walk to the campsite where we were too tired to do anything but create a simple supper, take hot showers and fall asleep exhausted by a hectic day on our feet in very hot weather.

Sunday 22nd April 2017
This morning Ian downloaded the map of central A Coruña onto his laptop and navigated me through the morning traffic very successfully out of the city and onto the coastal route towards Fisterra. The motorway has now been extended almost to Fisterra but we avoid such routes preferring to take the lesser roads through the little villages. Few of these, it must be said, have any great charm but we feel we are seeing something of the real Spain this way. We stopped at one pleasant little town, on the Rio Grande, Ponte do Porto. The river was limpid and beautiful but the grass around the trees turned out to be astro-turf! Near the bridge we found a charming granite fountain surrounded by eight or nine lions with water spurting from their mouths. It was charming!

Bridge at Ponte do Porto

Ria Grande at Ponte do Porto

Fountain at Ponte do Porto

We have also seen dozens of horreos. These are long, narrow containers for storing grain. They are placed high on stone pillars shaped like mushrooms and are vented. They allow for grain to be stored safe from attack by rats and mice. They are an integral part of the Galician landscape.

Horreos on a farm, Galicia

Galician horreo, Portonovo, Galicia

We made our way to the furthest tip of Galicia at Fisterra, the Land's End of Spain. Here we parked and walked out onto the headland with its cross to honour those who died at sea. The scenery was stunning and the light so bright and clear.

Fisterra from a distance, Galicia

Lighthouse at Cabo de Fisterra, Galicia

Cabo de Fisterra, Galicia

Cabo de Fisterra, Galicia

Cabo de Fisterra, Galicia

Gorse covered hillside, Fisterra, Galicia

Broom and bare rock at Fisterra, Galicia

Church at the tiny town of Fisterra, Galicia

Cemetery at Fisterra, Galicia

Monday 24th April 2017
Yesterday we stopped on our way through Noia. It seemed an interesting place. Being Sunday there was to be a market and people were busy setting up the stalls. It was only 10am and for the Spaniards, that on a Sunday is early dawn! Parking was just so easy down beside the water and we returned up into the town, strolled along a tiled paseo through the pretty public gardens beneath the palm trees and flowering shrubs. We made our way into the heart of the town where stalls were selling the usual assortment of shoes, bags and clothing. Then we found the covered market on two floors - fish, crustaceans and seafood below and meat products upstairs. All around the outside was the vegetable market. We bought some zanahoria, better known to us as carrots. We'd never have known that by guesswork but have since discovered that the word is of Arabic origin. Then we explored inside the market hall. Having gazed upon skinned rabbits and pigs' heads, trays of sheep's brains and others of pigs' trotters, we stopped in the corner where the residents of Noia where gathering for the traditional Sunday morning treat of chocolate and churros. This turned out to be really lovely. For two euros each we were given large cups of dark, melted chocolate and a pile of a dozen churros - extruded doughnut mixture dropped into deep fried fat to cook into six inch strips of hot, crispy dough served sprinkled with sugar. These are dunked into the melted chocolate and enjoyed by everyone. They are a wonderful Spanish treat that somehow we'd never tasted before.

Town Hall, Noia, Galicia

Sunday food market, Noia, Galicia

Chocolate and churros in the Sunday covered market, Noia, Galicia

Returning through the park we encountered a huge group of bagpipe players and tambourine rattlers preparing to entertain us on a sunny Sunday lunchtime. Well we certainly couldn't cope with anything to eat after our morning indulgence so joined those waiting for something to happen. There were so many bagpipe players that they had to form four groups, each with a different tune. The first group played for a few minutes, a tune that could be played over and over for as long as they had wind left to blow. After a while they marched off, still blowing, to somewhere in the town out of earshot of the next lot. They had a different but similar tune and did likewise. Eventually there were four or five groups of pipers playing around the town and if you were really lucky there were spots where you could enjoy several contrasting airs played on the Galician bagpipes at the same time! Their costumes were very colourful with the women wearing brightly embroidered dresses and mantillas over their shoulders. The men were wearing bright bandanas with dark hats and long boots that made them look like traditional Spanish soldiers.

Galician bagpipe players, Noia, Galicia

Galician bagpipe players, Noia, Galicia

Galician bagpipe players, Noia, Galicia

We also discovered a small granite church surrounded by its cemetery. Inside it was a museum of ancient granite coffins and there was also a beautifully carved baptismal font.

Granite church of Santa Maria a Nova, Noia, Galicia

Baptismal font, Santa Maria a Nova, Noia, Galicia

Back down beside the sea where we had left Modestine there were now long queues as people waited hopefully to park their cars. Several large marquees were busy feeding the crowds with sugared buns and seafood. The seafood always intrigues us. I never have the confidence to buy and cook it although I have watched so many fish sellers in the market preparing it for customers I should be able to cope, Fish, crabs, mussels, lobsters and oysters I can face with indifference but I felt really distressed watching someone preparing octopus for the customers. He had a large tank of them, which he worked his way through, dexterously cutting the limbs off with large scissors and snipping them into bite sized pieces which he dropped into hot fat to fry. Customers then carried them to long trestle tables to share with family and friends. I once met an octopus when Ian took me out on a birthday treat. It was watching me from a tank in Plymouth aquarium. I went to look and he communicated with me for several minutes. He wasn't fish-like at all. There was real intelligence in his eyes and he seemed genuinely friendly. Watching those long tentacles covered in suckers being snipped off like that was really upsetting despite the octopus being already dead.

So far the day had been lovely but from then on it became difficult. We had to follow the coastline which around here is headland after headland jutting way out into the sea. While the scenery is sublime the towns are generally unattractive and heavily snarled up with traffic. Motorways have recently opened up linking places and cutting travelling times but none are on any of our maps and immediately we turn off we are caught up in traffic jams. We got lost so many times and eventually reached the campsite in a state of exhaustion. It was a horrid campsite but we were fortunate to get a place overlooking the sea. We turned our back on the shanty town of chalets and dilapidated caravans behind us, opened the wine and settled to watch a pod of dolphins cavorting in the waves just off shore. Beneath us was a sandy beach and a chaos of granite rocks with rock pools into which the waves were breaking. The dolphins frolicked all evening making their way back and forth across the bay. After supper we went down on to the beach to explore some of the pools and walk across the fine white sand.

Dolphins seen from Modestine, Portonovo, Galicia

Clifftop, Portonovo, Galicia

This morning we again started the day happily making our way along the coast to find Combarro, a delightful granite village with a marina. Our purpose was to see the horreos for which it is famed. It is a delightful village. Inevitably it has become commercialised and much of its natural charm has gone. It is still delightful however and as we arrived early it was still deserted as we wandered its narrow granite streets of cottages. Some had balconies with flowers. Little squares opened up each with its granite crucifix. Facing on to the rocky, seaweed covered beach were the fishermen's cottages, each with its own, individual horreo. Here the fishermen would store their tools, hang their nets to dry and store fish, grain and potatoes. The little gardens were a mass of wild lilies, agaves, palm trees and climbing roses. Returning from searching the beach at low tide were perhaps a dozen young women from the village wearing welly boots and carrying heavy buckets filled with shellfish gathered amongst the rocks. They took then to a parked vehicle where they were paid for their harvest. They then cleaned off their tools and boots in the stream as it ran out across the beach towards the sea.

Plaza de San Roque with cross and library, Combarro, Galicia

Combarro from the beach, Galicia

Horreos in the gardens of fishermen's cottages on the beach, Combarro, Galicia

Shellfish gatherers returning home from the beach, Combarro, Galicia

The tiny houses on the main street have all become souvenir shops or bars. It is inevitable. Soon tour groups began to arrive, led through the narrow streets by their guide waving a number above her head. This referred to their particular group of around 30 people. Group after group were led around the streets with little time to do anything more than buy a witch on a broomstick from one of the souvenir shops before being hassled back to the marina where they had 20 minutes to explore before they had to depart to keep the flow of coaches in the parking area from jamming up. They were coming and going every few minutes.

Leaving the undoubtedly charming little town of Combarro behind, we continued our journey. There are only about three campsites listed along the deserted coastal road down to Portugal and Ian needed to navigate me through Pontevedra, Vigo and Baiona. They were busy and very congested, his map was useless and we kept getting lost, ending in the wrong lane and generally had a really unpleasant time finding our way across these large, ugly, industrialised cities.

When we eventually reached here we were weary and hungry. Nobody was around at the campsite when we arrived but it looked wonderful in the afternoon sunshine. We are now camped down beside the sea on a beautiful green pitch looking out over granite rocks at the clean blue Atlantic Ocean. Inland the granite hills rise up in grassy crags. There is nothing much around in the way of habitation and there are just a few other campers here to share one of the most attractive sites we have seen since arriving in Spain. Tomorrow we move on down into Portugual for a few days.