Travel Journal through a Gastronomic Paradise

ROUTES - RIAS BAIXAS - PART #2: Tracing the footsteps of Pedro Madruga Soutomaior

North Americans love sunsets and on this stage of their trip they had the opportunity to enjoy a few of them.

The Canadian Sean O'Rourke continues his trip through the Denomination of Origin Rias Baixas, accompanied by his special guests, the majority of them North Americans. In continuation he offers the second part of this series, where we can rediscover these changed lands solely "By the color you look at them with".


Leaving Combarro we made our way to Pontevedra. Passing by Poio, with its spectacular monastery, which also posses an important library and houses the school of stonemasons. The monastery in addition is a Rural Inn. We Crossed the bridge that goes over the river Lerez joining Poio with Pontevedra. Since many of our travel guests don't speak Spanish, it is hard for us to tell the little joke about this bridge, "One of a kind in the world" which has "aPoio" (support) only on one side. If you notice the word aPoio contains the name of the village on the other side of the bridge. It is worth while taking a stroll around the old quarter of Pontevedra passing through the plaza de la Leña (Firewood Square) and the plaza de la Herrería (Blacksmith Square), the Ruins of Santo Domingo, and a must see is the Museum. Continuing our trip we followed around the coast of the Peninsula of Morrazo, passing through Marin and making a brief stop on the beach of Mogor to see an interesting petroglyphic rock.

Then we headed on to Hio, with its Romanesque church of San Andrés (St. Andrew). In the atrium there is a magnificent cross from the XVIII century, sculpted by the Pontevedran Sculptor Xosé Cerviño. One of the characteristics of this cross is that it was sculpted from one solid block of granite rock. 

Taking a bit longer than expected, after all the strolling around we are all now a bit hungry. We made a reservation for lunch in the village of Donón. Spending the morning looking at creation made from rock, now we are going to eat what clings to them. Underneath a cloth covering the serving casserole are one of the specialties of the Costa da Vela: The exquisite precebes (barnacles). The usual comment at first appearance is they look like devils toes. Its a lot of fun eating precebes with our travel guests. It takes skill, and as always we all end up squirting each other across the table because of the water which has collected inside them from being boiled with bay leaf and coarse sea salt. When the next course arrived at the table everyone put their serviettes on like a bib, what a funny photograph. At the end of this course the comments where: "they are devilishly tasty little things". After the precebes came the steamed mussels and razor clams, with lemon or vinaigrette.

Finishing the seafood while admiring the picturesque Cies Islands as our back drop view through the windows our next course arrived at the table, which was a selection of fried fish: rapantes (Megrim), acedías (wedge sole), xoubas (small pilchard/sardine), jurelitos (scad), pez espada (sword fish) and fanecas (flatfish/pouting) . After all this no one felt like dessert, instead we decided to walk off our delicious meal and enjoy the incomparable views revealed with every footstep. In Donón, at the Cabo Home (Man's Cape), offers panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Ria (Bay) of Vigo. Now we made our way on to Soutomaior. 

After crossing the Pontesampaio bridge, we enter in Arcade. To talk about Arcade is really to talk about oysters, which are appreciated very highly by the Galicians. At last we arrived to our final destination of the day: the Castle of Soutomaior. Tonight we stayed in the Castle's rural inn. All of us decided to rest a bit because it will be a long night of surprises ahead. The Castle of Soutomaior dates from the XIII century, although afterwards they made different amplifications and renovations. One of the most famous owners was Pedro Álvarez of Soutomaior, better known in history as Pedro Madurga (early riser) because of his habit of waking up really early. This characteristic by itself, fills up an infinity of pages in Galician History, which extended through the XV century, reason being for his constant battles against other nobles, the Bishop of Santiago and the Kings of Castile. 

At dusk we walked leisurely through the gardens of the castle, and from the castle tower we looked upon the valley of the river Verduga, an incomparable experience. We got a privileged view of this sub-zone of the D.O. Rías Baixas, where the plantations of vines prevail. With time to kill before dinner, we decided to go and see the sunset. Close by to Soutomaior is the Hill of Penda, shaped like an extinct volcano. From the top of the hill we contemplated practically the whole Ria of Vigo. In the background, we see the strait of Rande dominated by its spectacular bridge of the highway that unites Vigo with Pontevedra, and a little farther on guarding the Ria are the Cies Islands. The sky became an intense red color and the sun dropped behind the islands.  We then left for dinner in A Insua.

Entering the tavern our guests percept something special. Musical tradition breaths here in every corner. Pereira has converted his local tavern, the "Heicho de dar Queridiña" into an authentic museum, with full homage to Celtic music. For dinner we selected various tapas like; cured meats, sautéed eggs with musrooms, also chorizo al vino. For dessert, tetilla cheese with membrillo jelly and crepes with honey. We have been in this sub-zone for a few hours now and we haven't had a chance to try the local wines, so I order the local Soutomaior Albariño of "Val do Castelo" (Valley of the Castle) with our dinner. Accompanying our dessert we had Galician Aguardiente liqueurs. 

After dinner Pereira invited us downstairs to what originally was the wine cellar of this manor. He picked up his Gaita (Galician Bagpipe) and started to play. Our travel guest where delighted. Many of our guests are of Irish and Scottish descendant, and have heard the Bagpipes before, but at first they couldn't believe that there are bagpipes in Spain. It didn't take long for the atmosphere to heat up. Other locals, Paco and Noly joined in with another gaita and snare drum. Song after song, everyone started to sing and dance and instruments passed from hand to hand. It came to the point you couldn't figure out how many gaitas, snare drums, bass drums... where being played at once in musical harmony. The magic of the music united us all together. The hours flew by and when we realized it was six o'clock in the morning. All tired out we went to sleep.

PART #3: "To Vigo I go" on the way to O Rosal valley

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: www.euroadventures.net 




UPCOMING CONTINUATION: 
O ROSAL

It was a long night of entertaining Celtic music well worth the couple hours less in sleep. This morning we started off the day at a slow pace following around the Ria (Bay) of Vigo and like the famous song says ¡Para Vigo me voy!. (To Vigo I go!). Continuing our journey along the coast passing by the beaches of Samil, Corujo, Canido, and a must see America Beach where Europe first got word of the discovery of the New World. We followed along the coastal road that took us to A Guarda entering for the first time in the town council of O Rosal, sub-zone of the D.O. Rías Baixas. Time passed by fast, and we where all ready for lunch. We ate at the top of the hill in the restaurant "Mar y Cielo" (Sea & Sky), no better name than this because from the restaurant it is the only thing you see. Our menu selected today, was a tremendous mariscada (seafood feast). Starting with pulpo a feira (Octopus fair-style), second course mussels, clams, prawns, scallops, crabs and of course lobsters, and everything accompanied by albariño of this sub-zone.