Travel Journal through a Gastronomic Paradise

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

"A journey from Redondela to Tui, on the way to O Rosal, enjoying the treasures from the sea and from the land."

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!). Going down towards Redondela, land of Xan Carrallás and chocos (cuttlefish) we passed through the village and saw its two train bridges, one of them built by Pedro Floriani, disciple of Eiffel (Architect of the famous Eiffel tower). 

In Rande, we see at distance in the Ria what is known as the Inlet of San Símón with its two islands San Símón and San Antonio joined together by a small bridge. These two little islands alone behold so much history that a book could be written solely about them. They belonged to the Templar Knights and the Monastery of Poio. But the part that the travelers are most curious about is when we tell them the history of the Battle of Rande and how the Algo-Dutch squadron sank the Spanish fleet loaded with gold and silver brought from America. Once we told the story they asked if we could take a little dip to see if we can find some gold pieces, I asked if they have read the book "20,000 leagues under the sea", answering "yes" I told them the gold that sunk in the Battle of Rande was taken by Captain Nemo. 

Arriving to Vigo -the largest city of Galicia-, we visited the hill of La Guia, from here there is an excellent view of the city and the port. The Chapel that sits at the top of the hill acts almost like a lighthouse at night with its bell tower light up. Crossing through Vigo we stopped to admire the city from another vantage point on the hill of O Castro, which use to be a Celtic hill-fort and has the remains of a Castle at the top. After this we made our way to Casterlos Park the beautiful lung of Vigo, with its gardens designed in the style of Versailles, but on a smaller scale. The Manor-Museum of Casterlos holds inside a good collection of Galician paintings and an archaeology section. 

Continuing our journey along the coast we passed 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. Here is where the caraval Pinta arrived piloted by Martín Alonso Pinzon, who gave word of the discovery. There exist a replica of La Pinta anchored at one of the docks in Baiona. The comments are always the same; "They crossed over the Atlantic Ocean in a little nutshell like that!

Tonight we stayed in the Parador "Condes de Gondomar" (Counts of Gondomar), or better known as the "Parador de Baiona". It sits on a stone walled peninsula, with marvelous views of the sea and the village. We took advantage of the situation by watching the sunset, then we had dinner and called it an early night. 

Today we dedicated our journey to the sub-zone O Rosal of the D.O. Rías Baixas. We followed along the coastal road that took us to A Guarda; here on stormy winter days the waves from the open sea crash violently against the rocks. It is the land of percebes (barnacles) and wild horses, here they celebrate the famous "curros" (horse corrals). They round up all the wild horses to brand them and cut their manes, in Galician it is called "a rapa das bestas". Entering for the first time in the town council of O Rosal, sub-zone of the D.O. Rías Baixas, not to many people know that this town council on one side has the sea as its limit and the opposite side the river Miño leaving the town council of A Guarda isolated at the point of the peninsula. 

A Guarda, is a picturesque sea-faring village with a quaint fishing port, situated at the mouth of the river Miño, which converts into the last coastal village of Galicia in the south, after is the river and on the other side Portugal. To speak about A Guarda apart from the mouth of the river Miño, -the biggest river of Galicia-, is to talk about Lobster and the Celtic hill-fort of Santa Tecla. The lobster we left until lunch time. First of all we talked a little bit about the Celtic hill-fort. It is one of the most important Romanized hill-forts of Galicia, discovered in 1913 when they where building the road which goes up to the top of the hill. While traveling up the windy road with its tight curves, we told the curious archaeology theory about this site. 

Albariño wine is considered to be the "gold" of white wines for its color and quality. But there also exists another theory that is related to the production of this wine and gold. If we analyze it a bit, it is not really crazy. The Romans colonized Galicia for its great riches in minerals, one of them being gold; the system that they used for extracting the minerals, was the dominating "Terra Montium", which consisted of excavating tunnels, then after that they lit them on fire so that they would collapse, and with this system they achieved destroying mountains. But to excavate these tunnels they needed to soften the rock and to do so they used no other than vinegar!. It is very curious that with this application of the vine originally industrial, through the centuries has transformed into one of the best wines in the world, thanks to the Romans. Although they take all the gold at least they left behind Albariño wine.

Arriving at the remains of the excavated hill-fort we see reconstructed circular thatched-roofed huts. At the top of the hill we visited the small archaeology museum that consists of artifacts found on excavations. From the vantage point at the top of the hill the views are marvelous; from one side the sea and the other the mouth of the river Miño. 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. 

From this moment on our journey continued alongside the river Miño. Descending the hill we entered again into the land of O Rosal, where we visited the winery "Terras Gauda". Augusto Álvarez-Borras, Welcomed us. Before entering the winery he showed us the vineyard and explained their methods of cultivation. We took a small drive the length of the seventy hectares of the vineyard, -it is the largest plantations in the D.O. "Rías Baixas" owned by one winery-. The vineyard is in the form of a valley with small sloping hills so the sunlight reaches every vine. Augusto explained and showed us the different varieties of grapes that are cultivated in the vineyard: Albariño, Caiño Blanco and Loureiro. After taking a few photos we returned to the winery for a tour of the interior facilities. 

Starting with the process of the vedimia (harvest) to the bottling of the distinct wines. Augusto showed us the two principal wines that are elaborated in this winery: "Abadia de San Campio" which consists of one hundred percent Albariño and "Terras Gauda O Rosal" consisting of a blend of Albariño, Loureiro and Caiño Blanco. They also have another brand called "etiqueta negra" (black label), which they only produce 3,000 bottles a year. This wine is aged six months in oak barrels. Finishing our visit we made our way on to Tui, where we visited the Fortified-Cathedral and the old quarter of this bordering village with Portugal. Tonight we stayed in the Parador of this monumental city.

ART #4: Condado de Tea, Land of  the Lamprey Eel and Condado wines

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: 


Leaving Tui this morning we crossed over the ancient iron bridge, with the Miño river below us which acts as the natural border between Galicia and Northern Portugal. Reaching the other side we entered the Portuguese bordering town of Valenca do Minho. Our first stop we visited the walled fort of Valenca, which holds a dominating position with the Mino below and an eagle eyes view of Tui to watch out for attacks from their Galician neighbors in feuding times. Within the walls exist the town now very well restored with many artisan stores. Continued alongside the bank of the river Miño crossing back over into Arbo, "Land of the Lamprey Eel and Condado wines". Here we made a special visit to my Father-in-law's Artisan winery....