It was beginning to get dark as we approached As Pontes. Thanks to my incessant Internet stalking of all things Gallego , I for one was dizzy with excitement when I finally spied the huge chimneys of the power station looming on the horizon, their plumes of steam belching heavenwards in the brisk night air. Immediately I felt at home. The scene reminded me of the Industrial north of England, a place I lived close by to for many years. However, a sneaky sideways glance at Irishman revealed he wasn’t feeling the same love. His expression was a picture of abject misery. I desperately wanted to say ‘cheer up you mardy arsed miserable git, I’m leading you to paradise’ but something told me that now, probably wasn’t the right time.
Tired from the drive and bored of bickering, it was time to find our hotel and lay down the gauntlet for the night. Purely out of guilt, I’d booked us in to the cheapest place that I could find, a no frills hostel in the centre of town. Unusually for me, I’d managed my expectations; it was as basic as I had imagined but the delightful and welcoming Chinese family that ran it more than made up for the lack of amenities and glamour. Once we’d checked in, we were ushered through what once upon a time must have been a large restaurant area, but was now a depressing cheerless space strewn with mountains of tired bedsheets and damp towels draped over chairs and tables. We made our way through the ‘laundry’ and up the dank, tatty stairwell to the second floor. Our room had its own modest bathroom but when I ran the tap, it was abundantly clear that whatever hot water there may have been, had been used up some time ago. I gave up on the idea of a bath and suggested that we go out to find something to eat.
I shan’t bore you with the details of our first evening in As Pontes but suffice to say although the evening started badly, it ended a lot better than I had expected. Irishman perked up considerably after our delicious dinner and one thing we both agreed on, our first sampling of Galician food was better than anything we’d ever experienced when eating out in the south. As I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but feel encouraged. Maybe this trip north wasn’t going to be an unmitigated disaster.
Our first viewing appointment with the estate agent was later in the afternoon which meant that we had plenty of time to do some exploring. Keen to see some of the coast, we heeded northwards towards O Barqueiro, a small fishing village in the heart of the Rías Altas (northern estuaries) an area which covers the coast at the top of A Coruña and the entire coastline of Lugo. This area is particularly famous for its seafood and if the previous nights dinner was anything to go by, we were going to be in for a treat. Leaving the Blade Runneresque landscape of As Pontes behind us, we headed north. The early morning veil of mist had lifted revealing to us, the incredible landscape of northern Galicia. Mountains, hills, valleys and moors. Forests and woodland. It was familiar and yet unfamiliar. Like Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Ireland all rolled in to one. And green, oh how achingly green it was after the arid landscape and scorched earth of the south.
I have no recollection of exactly how we found our beach. I suspect that I must have wanted a pee and by happy chance, that’s how we discovered it. Anyway, something rather magical happened that morning as we walked through this wonderfully unspoilt coastal woodland. We could both hear and smell the sea and then in a clearing we saw some sand dunes ahead and a glimpse of the water. This place was quite enchanting, I felt it and I knew Irishman was feeling the same. We scrambled up the dune and down to the beach. The tide was high and as we walked along the edge of the beach we could see where the Rio Sor and the sea joined. Opposite us was the pretty village of O Barqueiro and its tiny harbour. We watched the fishing boats and collected shells off the beach and then I heard Irishman say something that I wasn’t quite expecting so soon; four very important words ‘I could live here’
To be continued very soon…