Crosses, beggars and disappointments. But also cake

Pontevedra, our guide book says, is ‘compact, charming and very tourist friendly’.

A town of views and bridges, I’m expecting. Well, we see the bridges, and the view, from the train, as it pulls in to a modern, bustling town.

The station’s part of a shopping complex and we wait some time for a taxi.

Portents. Do you believe in them? The taxi’s our first that isn’t a positive experience. And as the high rise buildings, ring-roads and patches of barren city land unfold around us we’re feeling a bit, oh-oh, was this a mistake?

Parador in Pontevedra taken from roof terrace outside our room

Parador in Pontevedra taken from roof terrace outside our room

But pulling into our hotel’s forecourt the sun beats down and the traveller’s weathervane swings round to ‘phew, that’s a relief’.

Another Parador. For one night.

A grand but not enormous building it nestles below the old town, just inside the cordon sanitaire of buildings that separate it from the real world, with its bins and lorries and edginess.

View through our open window

View through our open window

Our room has a grand view but smells a tad damp. We fling open the window. Try to flush out the scent of disappointment that infected us on the way from the station.

P1020497The hotel is lit by motion-sensitive lights. They’re slow to react and I feel like an intruder as we make our way to the imposing stone staircase.

 

 

Map in hand we trudge up another hill.

Most of a day. That’s all we’ve got.

Come on legs, you can do it.P1020456

More churches. More crosses. More narrow streets and graffiti.

P1020494

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s past the middle of the day when we light upon the first church. A beauty.

The church can only be entered fromt his side, its main entrance is blocked off by iron railings

The 16th century Basílica de Santa María Mayor can normally only be entered from this side, its main entrance is blocked off by a gate and iron railings

Dark inside. The elaborately carved front is bound tight by railings.

Because of the iron railing this is as far back as I can get to see the doorway

Because of the iron railing this is as far back as I can get to see the doorway – in error Christ is depicted as being on the left hand side of God the Father

 

 

 

 

 

 

A stone-carved man in glasses keeps watch on the right, a regal young woman looks down boldly on the left.

Who is this man with glasses and a skull?

Who is this man with glasses and a skull?

DSCN0544

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back inside, Our Lady – like our Lady of Fatima – gazes out beneath a halo of lights. An elderly woman sits at a desk and pulls out postcards for us to buy, patient as we delay her closing time.

P1020454The church feels good, a place where weddings, christenings and funerals happen. Flowers decorate the altar.

Revived, we march on. Vainly trying to find other places marked on the map.

Tired, a little dejected, we return to the hotel for lunch.

A tumult greets us. A froth of babbling bodies clasping glasses of beer and smoking.

It seems the dining room is theirs, but we can sit outside and eat.

This proves to be A Good Thing.

P1020447The garden, with its fountain, is a soothing sight for stone-weary eyes.

The plate of air dried ham and meats, the salad that turns out to be huge, the dish of empanadas – slim slices of flat pastry sandwiching tuna and pimentos – is delicious.

 

A dragon of an ashtray

A dragon for the smokers

A copa of wine each helps the food go down and after a rest on the stone benches outside our room, basking in the warmth of the terracotta roof tiles as well as the sun, after checking out the orange trees, we set out once more as tourists.

Orange tree in courtyard inside hotel

Orange tree in courtyard inside hotel

Lower part of the old town from the roof terrace

Lower part of the old town from the roof terrace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The town’s bigger than it seems. We wend our way up to the museum. Which is closed.

The scallop-shell-shaped pilgrim church leaves us less cold. We avoid the man selling lottery tickets and rosaries. The doorstep beggar, a woman, receives a coin – how can we leave a church without?

A strong wind arises. The sky turns grey. We hurry past shops and we stop – I stop – outside a pastelleria.

DSCN0546

Tarta Rusa.

‘You cannot leave without trying me’ (in Spanish actually) says a label on one cake, the Tarta Rusa.

Too right!

It looks like a huge ‘Jap’ – the meringue and hazelnut cake that’s been a favourite since I was tiny.

I buy a slice from a borderline surly shopkeeper and risk his wrath by asking him to wrap it up when he serves it just in a napkin.

While I’m inside, the other half of the party receives some unwanted attention. Taking pictures in the window he sees a suspicious character approach his bag from behind and moves away.

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Jesuits. Honest.

Cake carefully stowed in said duffel bag we vow to return for more cakes, ‘Jesuits’, later and set off, without much enthusiam, for the next sight on the list.

Grudging, now. That’s how I feel.

Because I’m tired.

Because I don’t feel welcome in this commercial part of town with its shops and hurrying people.

Outside the Convento de San Francisco two more beggars are setting up. One puts his leather jacket to one side and the two take up strategic positions.

We’ve already seen a woman being directed to her place by another man. It seems obvious there’s a team at work.

A gloomy day at the monastery

A gloomy day at the monastery

Feeling gloomy and despite the guide book opining that it’s, ‘best admired from the outside’ I step inside.

It’s the darkest interior so far.

And that’s when things change.

Some inanimate places seem to suck in the bad things and some the good. Some seem to exude a very human attitude – pride or shame, pity or joy – even distaste.

P1020488

I believe this is a St Benedict of African origin and yes, those are electric votive lights in front of him

In the convent church I feel compassion. The walls and saints and pews and floors and even the electric candles (10 cents per glow) are just the background. This church is about acceptance not about glory.

Back at our hotel, the rain settles in. We return to the terrace, sitting under cover. The greenery is grateful – and so are we. Saved from venturing again into a town we’ve left with some relief.

Fountain in the rain

Fountain in the rain

 

 

We order a plate of Galician cheeses which comes with artisanal breads and biscuits. A bottle of red wine lasts until the night turns dark. We retire to our damp-scented room.

And eat the cake.

Which is heavenly.

Before breakfast someone suggests he might go and get a couple of ‘Jesuits’ for the journey.

But, after empanadas, ham and fruit, he recants.

We know we haven’t done Pontevedra justice, but we’re not sorry to leave.

And we are rather anxious.

Vigo is the next stop on our train journey. Of which, our guide book says, ‘although it makes a good base for trips … has few attractions of its own’.

We’re there for three nights.

Oh dear.

Let’s hope the guide book’s got us wrong, again.

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4 Responses to Crosses, beggars and disappointments. But also cake

  1. EllaDee says:

    There’s an interesting distinction between tourism that celebrates a locality & its attractions (no matter how modest) and that which primarily derives commercial benefit, with attending opportunism… It’s a shame the purveyor of cakes wasn’t as sweet as his offerings. But still, the buildings look old and interesting even on a gloomy day, and the gardens lovely. Getting a good hotel/room/B&B etc is always adventure. But still the dining terrace and menu were pleasant, if not, sadly, making up for the damp room. Next…

    Like

    • Hi Elladee thank you so much for persevering with my travels! I think we were both a bit unfair on Pontevedra but once one thing goes a little awry others seem to follow. Anyway, the whole experience was ultimately mind-broadening. Next episode up now – and I’m tiring – just Lisbon to go and then a different view of things later when I ‘ve recovered. Hope they’re helping banish the winter chills for a few minutes!

      Like

  2. Heide says:

    Yes, I believe in portends — though I try not to, because sometimes my negative state of mind can negatively sway the experience. But in this case you did everything you could to retain your sense of optimism and wonder, and it seems you came away from the day with a generally OK impression (damp rooms be damned). So … where are we off to next? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It turned out fine, in fact very interesting for the sheer variety in such a s small place – well, the old part that we restricted ourselves to. So, Vigo next then a long train ride to Lisbon after that then home again jiggety jog 😉

      Liked by 1 person

Thanks for reading, please comment if it struck a chord

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