Just got back from a quick, one week, reconnoiter of Galicia in northwest Spain.
A great week, that just confirms that the Dauntless adventure on the Iberian Peninsula this year and 2017, will be fueled by fantastic food and wine at prices that even a New Yorker would love.
Everything good, nothing bad, don’t even need any of my usual qualifiers. And that includes two run-ins with the police that were so very helpful, not punitive; an example of what every inhabitant of this planet yearns for.
So much was good, people, wine, food, hotels, costs, etc. So here are just the highlights:
- Leon – City of free tapas. We spent 4 hours going to 7 different places, drinking a total of 8 glasses of wine (each) and eating delicious tapas at each place. Total cost 30 Euros or $35. Try that in NYC and the bill will be 10 times more, PLUS 20% more for tips.
- Our favorite place in Leon, Meson Jabugo.
- Wines & Tapas – I loved:
- Ribera del Duero, Rías Baixas aka Albariño; Ribeiro.
- My favorite tapa, morcilla, simply because it was so good. In Leon, the cured beef, sliced like the Jamon, was also great.
We went to check out these two towns in particular because they are large, good transportation access and most of all, the marina is within minutes of the town centre:
- A Coruna – The heart of Galicia. Only slightly more expensive then Leon, but Dauntless can’t get to Leon. Galicia is Celtic and the similarity is evident in the people. We took in the military museum after checking out the marina ($300 per month in October). We had gotten to the museum about 5:15 p.m., 45 minutes before it’s closing. Virtually empty of visitors, a wonderful.
- Vigo – The largest city in Galicia. Here the cost of the marina for a month for a Dauntless would be around $400, but it’s a year around cost and includes electricity.
Encounters with the police: EEK
- Went to get car upon leaving Leon. We had parked
just outside of the old center, but evidently, on the wrong street. My mistake, the hotel staff had told me exactly the area I could park in and this block was one block sooner, but I misinterpreted the parking sign. Yes, I know, cats speak better Spanish than I. So, I get to the spot and see no car. But I do see the spot it was in and as it had just rained, it was clear I had just missed the car disappearing by less than an hour. Two hours later, after having a great visit with the policemen of the traffic police, we were underway. Total cost was about $150. The police were so apologetic from beginning to end. I was relieved that the car had not been stolen nor damaged and it was clearly my mistake.
- Leaving Leon, we have headed north northwest, over the mountains to the coast of North coast of Spain and the city of Aviles, where I wanted to check out the marina. We took the smaller road N-630) and avoided the autopista. As we got north, we started climbing into the mountains, the clouds came lower and lower and the light rain turned quickly to snow and then very heavy snow (2-3” per hour). Our rental car had crappy summer tires, but I do know my snow. Going ever slower, we made the summit of the pass, at an elevation of about 5,000 feet (1800 m).
I was relieved, as going uphill in always more problematic, so my plan was to wait until a snow plow came by and follow him.
OK then I discovered that traction was really bad, temperature too close to freezing, so the snow plow track was icy. It was better on an unplowed road. And in fact, I had to get on the shoulder to stop the car.
After waiting a bit, maybe 15 min, it was time to try again we did at a slow speed, but I was in second gear and this let the car get going too fast, maybe 20 mph.
We come around a curve, and there is a car off the road, with a police car behind him, but a policemen was standing in the middle of the road.
I go to slow and pull left, but any braking action, even with the anti-lock brakes, did not help and I realized that I was close to losing control in this curve.
So first I honked the horn, to warn the policeman standing in the road and then got totally off the brakes to stop the skid and knowing it was the only way to get around the turn.
After those seconds we went around the curve in the outside lane and on the next straightaway, pulled to the shoulder to stop, which we finally did in about 12” of snow.
We were stopped, but now stuck. I waited a bit to think about the ills of the world and the errors of my ways. About 10 minutes later the police came by and I did not know what to expect. In the US, at best they would give you a lecture, at worst, give you a ticket and tell you the road is closed, so you must stay there for the rest of your life.
Being in Spain, we got neither. Instead, probalby grateful that I had not run him down, they were very helpful, he asked me what gear I had been in, I told him second and he said I needed to be in first gear, so the car doesn’t get going so fast (this was a 15 degree down grade).
We thanked him and he was gone. I tried getting the car out of the ditch and after a bit of thinking, (front wheel drive cars always have better traction in reverse) I got out and we were underway again.
In first gear for a few miles until we were down to about 3,000 feet and the road was not so steep, at which point, all was right with the world again.
I’m really looking forward to being in Spain and Portugal this coming year and into 2017. I wanted to share the details above because it is indicative of Europe in general and Spain in particular. In all my years in Europe, I have never been in such friendly countries as Ireland and Spain. I’m sure the Celtic connection is part of that reason. I am looking forward to meeting new friends and having new adventures.
The fact that Spain is the most affordable country I have been in Europe in the last 20 years just makes this choice even better.
Anyone who wants to see Europe, but has a limited budget, 2016-17, will be the time to take advantage of Dauntless’ hospitality. It won’t be until 2019 in South Korea before we experience such inexpensive places again.
The fact that Spain also has some of the absolute best wines and food, just make it ever sweeter.
And here is ashort, cute video of happy kids in A Coruna