All EOS blogs All Spain blogs  Start your own blog Start your own blog 

Journey To A Dream

In May 2002 my wife and I journeyed from Huddersfield in England's industrial north to rural Galicia. Join us on our journey and immerse your senses in the sights, sounds, and tastes of this remote and little known region of Spain.

Baiona – A pint-sized paradise
26 November 2014

The seaside town of Baiona (Bayona), on the west coast of Galicia, is a modern resort with a long history. The earliest settlement dates back to 140 BC. Ownership of the town has changed hands many times, as has its name. For a short period, back in 1388, it even fell into the hands of John of Gaunt, the first Duke of Lancaster and the sixteenth richest person in recorded history.

The modern town is dominated by the Castelo de Monterreal. This medieval fortress occupies a prominent position on an outcrop overlooking the entrance to the bay. Its construction began in the 12th century and continued through until the 17th century. Today, this magnificent castle is operated as a luxury hotel. It was purchased by the state in 1963 and after extensive renovations re-opened in 1966 as a Parador Hotel.

On a clear day, the castle grounds provide the perfect location to view the islands of Las Illas Estelas. This small archipelago consists of two main islands and a group of islets called As Serralleiras. Together they form a protective barrier, sheltering the bay from the worst of the Atlantic weather. They’re home to huge colonies of gulls and cormorants but it’s what lies below the waterline that makes these islands so special. On the 30th of January 1976 the Liberian registered cargo ship Ivy, ran aground in high seas. The ship broke into three pieces and sank with the loss of four lives. The wreck formed an artificial reef that has spawned a unique marine environment, teaming with an extensive variety of marine life.

Historically, Baiona is famous as the first place in Europe to hear of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. On the 1st of March 1493, Captain Martin Alonzo Pinzon of the ship Pinta, sailed into harbour with the news. The town celebrates this historic event with an annual fiesta The Pinta was one of three ships in Columbus’ fleet, Santa Maria and Niña being the others. An exact replica of the Pinta has become a floating museum. It’s moored in the harbour and shows visitors the life of a 15th century seaman.

At first sight, Baiona looks like many contemporary seaside resorts. A wide, sweeping promenade runs along the front. A variety of boats are moored in the harbour, from the smallest rowing boat to luxury super yachts. Opposite the prom is an endless line of souvenir shops, fish restaurants, and fast-food eateries but behind this modern façade is an historic old town.

This ancient world of narrow, cobbled lanes, medieval buildings, and small squares is in stark contrast to the modern seafront. Here you’ll find old churches and ancient fountains; and wherever you venture, the unmistakable smell of the sea.

Unlike some towns along the Galician coast, Baiona has managed to move with the times without sacrificing its historic heritage.

Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

*************************************************************************

Craig and Melanie own and operate a luxury farmhouse rental property called Campo Verde. To find out more about a stay at Campo Verde and Galicia in general, visit their website getaway-galicia

Craig’s book, Journey To A Dream, is available exclusively from Amazon, to purchase your copy click here for your national Amazon store.

Find out more about Craig, and Galicia or look him up on Facebook



Like 0        Published at 11:00   Comments (0)


What treasures lay hidden among the chattels of life?
19 November 2014

My question is prompted by the recent discovery of photos I once thought lost; in particular, a comical snap of a dear companion. The picture shows her lounging in an armchair, wearing the mother-in-law’s ridiculous sun hat and nuzzling up to a glass of red wine. It brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye: a smile for all the wonderful memories and a tear at her passing.

We first met one another in July 1998 at the Halifax branch of the RSPCA. Described as a Collie-cross, she was a shy, young puppy about 18 months old. The fact that she was more, ‘cross’ than Collie didn’t matter to us. We hit it off straight away and Jazz, or Badger as she was then known, became the dog for us.

We decided that a fresh start called for a new name. We tried all the old favourites, but not a twitch: the mother-in-law even suggested, “Ambulance”. But dogs have a way of choosing their own name and when Jasmine was mentioned, she plumped for that.

‘I’m not going out in public shouting Jasmine,’ I protested. So Jasmine quickly became Jazz.

She soon settled in to her new home but the past of a rescue dog is hidden in their eyes and viewed through their behaviour. Jazz was terribly nervous, the slightest gust of wind or rustle of leaves would see her jump with fright.

From the security of the lounge she would bark ferociously at the sight of ladders, much to the amusement of the window cleaner, and the appearance of another man in the house would send her cowering beneath my legs. Progress was slow but little by little she began to trust others.

When Melanie’s granny had a spell in hospital, Jazz delighted in her role as the ward petting dog. She became a firm favourite with patients and nursing staff alike and revelled in the attention. She would happily trot along hospital corridors and straight into the ward, cheering the lives of the old and infirm.

When we moved to Spain, in 2002, Jazz took it in her stride and literally jumped for joy at the size of her new garden. With each passing year Jazz became more confident and more popular. If for any reason we went away without her, friends would queue up to look after her.

In 2005 we decided to take a three week break in Lanzarote over Christmas and New Year. Jazz came along, travelling in the hold as excess baggage. We arrived at Arrecife airport not quite sure of the procedure and hovered around the luggage carousel with all the other passengers. Imagine our surprise when first onto the moving carousel was Jazz. A crescendo of ahhh, echoed through the arrivals lounge as Jazz barked her way around the revolving conveyor.

In later life, Jazz overcame major illness and a life threatening accident. Late one evening, on her final outing of the day, she spotted a rabbit and took chase. No longer a young pup, her ageing frame could not take the strain. The vertebrae in her back opened, trapping her spinal cord. She collapsed to the ground paralysed; screaming out in pain. Quickly I gathered her in my arms, ran home and called the emergency vet.

Breaking every speed limit, we arrived at the surgery within minutes. Our urgency saved her life. After spending two weeks motionless, she finally began to recover.

Shortly after her accident, she inexplicably collapsed; the diagnosis, a heart condition. The passing years were taking their toll. Her walks became shorter and less frequent; as a consequence she started to put on a few pounds, or so we thought. So concerned were we over her weight, we decided to have a word with the vet. Jazz had been through a lot over the last twelve months but her biggest fight was still to come – cancer.

Her, “few extra pounds” turned out to be a six kilo tumour, the size of a football. Once again she remained strong. For fifteen months she overcame this new medical challenge, much to the surprise of the vet.

Increíble, increible!’ he exclaimed.

Slowly but surely the last grains of sand slipped through her glass. She developed secondary skin cancer. Daily bathing kept her sores clean but they quickly spread. Jazz had given us a lifetime of selfless devotion; the time had come for us to do the same for her.

That final morning broke our hearts. On a warm, sunny autumn day, surrounded by those she loved, Jazz quietly passed away. She had trusted us in life and did the same in death.

Without her, the house felt empty and our lives incomplete. There was no bed to step over or dog to walk around. The house fell silent: I swear Melanie and I spoke more to Jazz than we do to each other.

We couldn’t possibly have another: the pain of losing Jazz was too much. We gave everything away, her food, her treats, even her toys. For almost four days we stayed steadfast to our decision.

‘You know all the things we were going to do when we didn’t have a dog?’ I said on the morning of the fourth day, ‘Well I don’t want to do them anymore – let’s get another.’

We knew that our vet volunteered at a rescue centre; we’d flicked through a folder of abandonados when Jazz was being treated.

‘I have just the dog for you,’ announced the vet. And so she did.

Slawit is our new companion, a beautiful Podenco Galego. Like Jazz it took her a while to settle in, but she has. Our family, and our lives, were once again complete; and harmony has been restored.

Giving a rescue dog a loving home will never repay the debt of loyalty they will show to you - but it’s a great start.

Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

*************************************************************************

Craig and Melanie own and operate a luxury farmhouse rental property called Campo Verde. To find out more about a stay at Campo Verde and Galicia in general, visit their website getaway-galicia

Craig’s book, Journey To A Dream, is available exclusively from Amazon, to purchase your copy click here for your national Amazon store.

Find out more about Craig, and Galicia or look him up on Facebook



Like 0        Published at 11:10   Comments (4)


Montefurado – Tunnel vision
12 November 2014

Ancient history indicates that the alluvial plains along the river Sil in Galicia were a rich source of gold. However; it wasn’t until the Roman occupation in the 1st century, that extraction began on an industrial scale.

By the 2nd century work had begun on an ambitious engineering project in a place known today as Montefurado. The name originates from the galego words monte furado (pierced mountain). The project involved changing the course of the mighty river Sil by tunnelling through a mountain. In a pre-gunpowder era, tunnelling 120 metres through solid rock was no mean feat. Engineers achieved this by heating the rock with fires and then cooling it very quickly with water. This process weakens the rock, making tunnelling much easier.

The tunnel became known as A Boca do Monte (mouth of the mountain) and is considered a masterpiece of Roman engineering. Most scholars agree that its purpose was to divert the course of the river. By doing so, a large meander, two and a half kilometres long, could be drained and the riverbed mined for gold. Others theorise that the tunnel itself was an integral part of the extraction process.

Mining activity can clearly be seen on the approach to the tunnel. Tall rock stacks stand like geological giants against a backdrop of a near vertical embankment of reddish rock. The Romans favoured hydraulic pressure as their primary mining tool. By using this method, large quantities of gold-laden debris would be washed into the river. Earlier surveys of the tunnel showed a 12 metre downstream incline which rose sharply towards the exit. The theory is that heavy gold particles would be trapped at the base of the incline. Periodically, the river’s flow could be altered in order to drain the tunnel and expose the accumulated gold deposits.

Today’s tunnel reflects only part of its former glory. In November 1934 heavy rainfall caused severe flooding resulting in a catastrophic collapse and reducing its overall length to 52 metres.

Overlooking the mouth of the tunnel is the village of San Miguel de Montefurado. The focal point of the village is the impressive 18th century parish church of San Miguel (Igrexa Parroquial de San Miguel). Oxidisation of the stonework has left the building with a rusty-red appearance. The three storey bell tower is particularly interesting; built on a scale out of character with its surroundings.

On first sight the village looks like many others in the area; once outside the main square its appearance rapidly changes. The narrow village streets are quiet and abandoned, as are most of the properties. Many village houses are either derelict or in such a poor state of repair that restoration is financially impractical.

The only hope for this decaying village rests in the sign of the scallop shell. San Miguel de Montefurado lies on the camino invierno (winter route). This alternative route from Ponferrada to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, gains in popularity every year.

For seasoned pilgrims looking for a less popular way, or those yet to take up the challenge, why not consider the camino invierno? – I’m confident that you won’t be disappointed.

Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

*************************************************************************

Craig and Melanie own and operate a luxury farmhouse rental property called Campo Verde. To find out more about a stay at Campo Verde and Galicia in general, visit their website getaway-galicia

Craig’s book, Journey To A Dream, is available exclusively from Amazon, to purchase your copy click here for your national Amazon store.

Find out more about Craig, and Galicia or look him up on Facebook



Like 0        Published at 11:32   Comments (2)


The Castle of Monterrey – A Spanish Acropolis
05 November 2014

The palace-fortress of Monterrey (O castello de Monterrei) sits in a commanding position on the outskirts of the city of Verín in the province of Ourense. During the Middle Ages, the castle was of major strategic importance due to its close proximity to the Portugese border.

Construction of the exisiting castle began in the 12th century under the supervison of Alfonso Henriquez. Following his victory against the Moors at Campo Ourique in Alentejo in 1139, he was crowned the first king of Portugal.

Later in its history, in 1366, the castle became the venue for talks between Pedro I, also known as Peter the Cruel and his brother Henry of Castile. Attempts to resolve their family disputes failed. Three years later, Pedro I was murdered at the hands of his brother who went on to become king Henry II of Castile.

Located just outside the main fortifications is the Hospital de Pelegrinos (Pilgrims Hospital), built in 1391. For those making their way to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Monterrey was an important stop off. The castle intersects three camino routes; Via de la Plata, Caminho Português, and the Camino Sanabrés.

Monterrey is the largest castle of its type in Galicia and is aptly named, ‘The Acropolis’. The fortifications were built along an elongated hilltop with excellent defensive qualities and unobstructed views over the surrounding countryside. Within the courtyard of the castle there is a 14 metre deep water well, essential to any defending force.

The Palacio de los Condes (Counts Palace) lies within the three walled enclosure. It was built between the 15th and 17th centuries in the renaisance style and features a symetrical upper and lower arcade with arches and columns. Adjacent to the palace is the 14th century Torre das Damas (Tower of the Ladies).

Beyond that is the church of Santa Maria de Gracia. It’s built in the gothic style and dates from the latter part of the 13th century or early part of the 14th. The belltower is a later addition, built between 1660 and 1661.

Perhaps the castles most outstanding feature is the Torre de Homenaxe (Homage Tower). Commisioned by Don Sancho Sanchez de Ulloa, the first count of Monterrey, in the 15th century. It’s 22.5 metres tall with walls 3 metres thick. The chiselled emblems of individual masons are clearly visible on many of the huge granite blocks needed to build this outstanding monument.

On a nearby hilltop are the remains of a 17th centruy watchtower, also part of the fortifications.

Today the castle stands guard over the Parador of Verin. It’s a great place to stop for coffee and cake or sample a glass of the local wine. During the summer months, visitors can rest in the gardens and look out at the grapes ripening on the slopes below.


Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

*************************************************************************

Craig and Melanie own and operate a luxury farmhouse rental property called Campo Verde. To find out more about a stay at Campo Verde and Galicia in general, visit their website getaway-galicia

Craig’s book, Journey To A Dream, is available exclusively from Amazon, to purchase your copy click here for your national Amazon store.

Find out more about Craig, and Galicia or look him up on Facebook



Like 0        Published at 10:55   Comments (0)


Spam post or Abuse? Please let us know




This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. More information here. x