Vigo is the biggest city in Galicia, and not really a tourist destination. Our main reason for going there was to visit the Cies Islands, a nature reserve off the coast, but it turned out to be a great city in and of itself. It’s perched on the side of a fairly steep hill with views out over the Ria, and is largely modern and 19th century, with sweeping boulevards through the city centre. It reminded me of Marseille without the constant feeling that someone is about to mug you. The old town is quite small, you can cross it in five minutes, and is filled with shaded winding passageways leading out into bustling light filled squares. We stayed in the centre in a hotel that seemed to have acquired all of its furnishings from some kind of adult film company prop sale. Each night, without fail, we ended up starting off in A Lareira, a lovely little wine and food shop in the Old Town which had a few tables. There you could get a selection of great local wines by the glass and delicacies such as cured beef ‘jamon’ and little pinchos. We also enjoyed Taberna Baiuca another wine bar in an adjoining square, which was playing host to the world’s largest dog while we were outside.
Sanxenxo is trying to market itself as the Marbella of Galicia, and honestly, the comparison is a bit too kind on Sanxenxo. It’s a town of high rise sixties flats crowded around a city beach. Apparently, it’s the favourite holiday spot for Madrilenos. We spent a considerable portion of the trip in the bus station there, wandering up to various staff, pointing at buses and saying ‘Pontevedra’ in an increasingly fearful tone as bus after bus disappeared off with no regard for timetables. Its saving grace was a visit to the lovely vineyards at Adega Eidos, where we were given a tour in impeccable English by Noella (despite the fact that they get about one set of English language visitors per month). Adega Eidos is at the top of a large hill near the bus station, which we climbed twice. Learn from our mistake, the vineyard is not open from 1-3pm. They make three different albarino wines here as well as some liqueurs, which we tasted after a tour of the lab, vat rooms and the vineyard itself. The tour was genuinely interesting if you’re curious about wine, and trying three entirely different tasting wines made from the same grapes in the same fields gave a great insight into viniculture. Noella was knowledgable and chatty, and we ended up staying far longer than expected. I didn’t bring a camera, but you can see it all on their website.
The Cies Islands
The largest of the Cies Islands is home to the best beach in the world according to the Guardian. It is in fact home to two mountains and multiple beaches, including a nude beach that the guidebook explains is referred to locally as ‘the German beach’. They islands are a nature reserve which only allow 4000 visitors per day, which means that you need to book well in advance in order to be sure of being allowed to visit. We did none of this, and instead turned up at the port hungover and half asleep at 9am in the hopes of getting a cancelled ticket, which we immediately did. Fighting nausea and exhaustion on the boat over, I wondered if spending 8 hours on an island in the Atlantic was a bad idea. It wasn’t. It is one of the most spectacular places I’ve been. In our eight hours, we managed to climb to all of the various peaks, and swim at most of the beaches (my convent education didn’t leave me feeling suitably prepared for a nude beach). There are two reasonably priced restaurants on the island, as well as public toilets and a supermarket in the small campsite by Lanzada beach which made my hoarding of litres of bottled water and toilet paper in my tote bag pretty redundant. Bring lots of suncream.
Halfway through our hellish five hour journey from Cambados to Vigo, a journey of some 50km (timetables are basically a sick joke in Galicia), we spent a large amount of time navigating the suburbs of Pontevedra. They are some of grimmest suburbs I’ve ever seen. So much so, when we arrived in Vigo, I frantically tried to figure out if we could cancel our upcoming two day stay there (we couldn’t). Fortunately, the old town of Pontevedra turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, straight out of Don Quixote. Medieval squares lined with arcades gave way to narrow streets lined with tapas bars. We didn’t actually end up eating or drinking anywhere spectacular, in part due to spending a night watching the World Cup final in a bar that kept loading us up with stodgy free pinchos, but exploring the old town after dark was one of the highlights of the trip.