Travel Journal through a Gastronomic Paradise

ROUTES - RIAS BAIXAS - PART #1: In the Heart of O Salnes

Leaving Santiago de Compostela we started our coastal journey down the Rias Gallegas following around the Peninsula do Barbanza, passing though the picturesque fishing villages of Porto Sin, Porto do Son etc…and making a stop in Baroña. The rain didn't stop us, actually it gave a more mystic Celtic atmosphere while walking through the forest trail until reaching the Castro de Baroña. This is a spectacular Celtic Coastal defense fort, not only for it's historical beauty but for the ancient legend of "Lion's Head". Before entering the stone walls of the fort I recited to the travelers the legend that say's "If anyone sees the image or sculpture of a Lion's Head in the rock formations of the fort they will be selected to join the Rebirth of the Celtic Clan of Baroña". It adds a bit of curiosity to the visit hunting around the fort trying to find the Lion's Head. After exploring the fort and exiting through the entrance I then asked the travelers "Now can anyone see the Lion's Head?" some said yes and pointed to what they thought it was, once they are done I reveal where the Lion's Head is Hidden. I said to the travelers at the end of the visit, "Even if you didn't find it take a photo and then next time you will be selected to join the Clan of Baroña, they need lots of recruits".

While driving to our next stop we listened to Milladoiro, which at the end of the tour almost all the Americans buy a copy of their latest CD. Arriving at the Dolmen de Axeitos, an ancient Neolithic Burial tomb very well conserved. This is a great photo opportunity and almost everyone takes advantage by getting inside the Dolmen.

I have accustomed to the Galician way of enjoying food and always look forward to this part of the day, "La Comida". Today we had our meal inside a restaurant in the fishing village of Corrubedo, with panoramic views of the coast. But the views are not what we came for, it is the excellent seafood dishes. Pepe, the owner of the restaurant, always has a special treat for our American guests. I leave it in his hands to decide on the menu for us. Even though we are not yet in Albariño wine country, D.O. Rias Baixas, there is nothing better that goes along with seafood then a good bottle of Albariño, I guess that's why they are known as the "Wines From the Sea". At every meal I carefully select a different Albariño wine, for this meal Valdamor was  selected. Our guests always get a surprise when dining with us, seeing we do not tell them what will be served, until it arrives at the table. The waiters brought in our first course "Navajas y Almejas a la marinera" (Razor Clams and Clams Fisherman's Style). That course never last long, they seem to be a favorite of everyone. Our second course now making its way to the table in ollas de barro, (Clay serving casseroles) with a nice delectable surprise inside "Lubrigante con pimento, cebolla, ajo y arroz" (Lobster with peppers, onion, garlic and rice, similar to a pallea, but much tastier in my opinion). Our guest mouths began to water as the steaming Lubrigante is served. Beforehand I had the honor of picking out the Lubrigantes from the tank, which would be prepared for us. 

At the end our meal some of the comments from our American guest are "WOW, I never really liked Clams because in the US every time I had them they where really chewy and rubbery, but these where so fresh and tender" or "This Albariño has the perfect body and not sweet which is an excellent compliment to the Lobster" After our café and cupitos de Aguardiente (Galician Liquor) we continue on our journey, now entering the Rias Baixas. Crossing over the Bridge of the River Ulla, we see our next stop the Torre de Oeste (Western Towers) and the replica of a Viking ship sitting in the small bay. The remains of these 17th century defense towers where order to be built by the Archbishop Gelmirez to protect from Viking evasion up the Ulla River to Santiago. In August I recommend to come back here for the Festa Vikinga (Viking Festival). Every year thousand of people attend dressed like Vikings dancing about with their horns on, and a big pitcher of wine in hand. They reenact Catoria's Viking attack and sail in with a replica Viking Drakkar ship that was built in Catoria with the real designs of an ancient Viking ship provided by the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in Denmark, who come to join in the Festa every year. 

Passing by Villagarcia de Arousa's port and beach we continue deeper into Albariño wine country stopping in Vilariño to visit Bodegas Martin Codax, our first winery visit in the Val do Salnes. The winery sits on top of Monte Burgans, which is the name of one of the wines available. The situation of the winery offers excellent views of the Salnes valley and the Ria do Arousa. Our welcoming winery guide Sonia greeted our guest and took us on a detailed tour of the winery's facilities. The various brands of Martin Codax's wines includes: Organistrum, Burgans, Martin Codax, Allegro and Gallaecia, a brand that is rarely in stock and they do not make it every year. The reason why there is such little quantity is because the grapes for this wine are picked over-mature, approximately 20 days after the normal harvest. Sonia explained that they are not able to do this every harvest, it depends on how much grape production that year. It is a splendid wine! I was lucky to try one of the few bottles (6,000 approx.) it was kindly given to me by Pablo Buján Blanco the Commercial director of the Bodega. At the end of the tour we had the honor of trying a cata (wine-tasting) of the most popular brand called Martin Codax.

Before we went back to the centre of Cambados we took a scenic drive through Ribadumia's vineyards stopping at another Salnes winery, Bodegas Lagar de Pintos. Though the wines are young, the Pintos family has been producing wine since 1887. Their bodega is situated in a beautifully restored stone manor house. The Pintos family produce 3 different brands of Albariño wines which are: Lagar de Pintos, Vizconde de Barrantes and Castaneira. After touring the winery we where joined by the owner José Pintos to taste his wines inside the bodega's quaint tavern. 

Returning to the centre of Cambados in the Plaza de Fefinañes, we took a look
inside the noble 17th century winery, Palacio de Fefinañes. In this Plaza every August the Festa del vino Albariño (Albariño wine festival) is held. One of the most heavily attended gastronomic dates in Galicia, sometimes reaching 40,000 people. 

Tonight we will dine and enjoy the comforts of the Parador de Cambados, installed inside a 17th Century noble mansion. After a long day of touring I took advantage of my free time by sitting on the courtyard with it's tall palm tree, and fountain providing a relax atmosphere. Our dinner was fabulous! The Parador's specialties, first course "Empanada de Berberechos" (Cockle pie) and second course was "Lenguado al Albariño (sole prepared in Albariño). I ordered Palacio de Fefinañes Albariño with our dinner, which went along perfect with our sole. For desert we tried another specialty of the Parador "Tarta de Chocolate" (Chocolate cake), it was a sweet end to our dinner in Cambados.

Today we started out by visiting the resort island of La Toja famous for its bath soaps and 5* Spa hotel. We made a brief stop to view the Capilla de las Conchas (The Chapel of Scallop shells) the whole exterior of the Chapel is decorated with scallop shells the cultural symbol of Galicia. We stepped inside the soap shop of La Toja so our visitors can bring some reminders back home with them. We drove around the whole island passing by the golf course and crossing back over the bridge into O Grove. This small village has gained tourist importance thanks to its Fiesta del Marisco (Shellfish Festival). This well attended gastronomic celebration, has been a tradition for over thirty years. Continuing along we stopped at the golden beach of Lanzada, visiting the small 12th century hermitage of Santa Maria.

While getting a panoramic view of the beach and the sea, which is believed to have the power to cure infertility, the legend of "Las nove ondas" (The nine waves). We passed through Sanxexo a famous beach town. Then we made a stop at the fishing village of Combarro. We sat down on one of the tavern terraces at the end of the port to watch the clam diggers in action while enjoying a glass of Albariño, a nice end to our journey in the Salnes valley.

PART #2: Tracing the footsteps of Pedro Madruga Soutomaior

Author: Sean O'Rourke

Fascinated with the Celtic World, perhaps because of his Scottish & Irish roots, Sean O'Rourke, a Canadian living in Galicia, is not your average Tour Director. We discovered Sean through his collaboration in the magazine "Wines From Spain". What caught our attention is his love for this land that he resumes in his articles and the curiosity led us to find out that we are practically neighbors in Vigo. EuroAdventures, the company of Sean O'Rourke, is dedicated to organizing vacations for small groups, fundamentally from the United States of America and Canada, which in a few days enjoy to all degrees the excellence of various wines and gastronomy of Galicia. One of their tours covers, precisely, the areas that form the Denomination of Origin Rias Baixas. For this reason we have asked him to tell us about his gastronomic adventures. With him we will take an emotional trip from the eyes of a foreigner, which for him every hidden corner is a grand discover. On this trip his tourist will accompany us, who have kindly sent in the photographs which, together, form a photo album almost like a family album. To understand better the initiative of Sean O'Rourke you can visit his website: 


From the tower of Soutomaior castle we got a great aerial view of the vineyard valley of Soutomaior, a newly appointed sub-zone within the Rias Baixas. While dining in a small Rural Tavern with antique furnishings, we tried our first bottle of Soutomaior, called Val do Castelo along with tapas of Setas revueltos (Sautéed mushrooms & scrambled eggs) & Chorizo al vino (Chorizo sausage in vino). Then after dinner the owner Jose Pereira invited us downstairs to the wine cellar. Pereira converted his tavern "Heicho de dar Queridiña" into an authentic museum dedicated
to Celtic music, with gaitas, (Galician bagpipes), tamboriles (snare drum) & bombos
(bass drum). Hanging on the walls photos of famous Celtic bands from all over the world, the Chieftains, Seivane, Milladoiro etc...Pereira picked up his bagpipes and the fun began and didn't stop until six O'clock in the morning.