Saturday, 7 April 2012

A town like Foz, you might say

We have been on site for nearly a week now so we have seen a bit of Foz. Strange little town. Started out it seems as a port, taking advantage of a natural small ria. It celebrates little else in produce terms except that it served the famous camino, although it is a few kilometres off the route. This was one of the pilgrims' roads to Compostela and thus into the arms of the reliquary and sanctuary of St James, Santiago . But where else around here is not?
In reality the road to Compostela starts from many places and it is the one from Britain and France that commands our attention. The thrilling bit is the Pyrenees - they have to be crossed somewhere and many came over the high pass at Roncevalles. We have stood there and admired their grit. After that the routes vary but many came along the coast perhaps as far as here. After that it was across Galicia to the shrine which is south west of centre. So we too are, inadvertently, following much the same route.
Foz thus fed and hosted the travellers, weary by now but maybe starting to feel hope. And they would have fed them fish and provided the salted variety for their onward journey.
But Foz must have fallen on hard times more than once. The stream of pilgrims dried up many time and in the early 20th century fell to a trickle and Foz is not a natural tourist detsination - tourists of course being the modern evocation of the pilgrim; the one in search of salvation, the other in search of diversion or elevation. Foz offers little of either and today less so than in the past. Though it seks to show it has one - everywhere are splendid displays of large print pictures from their mid 2oth century past.
But the old charms have been swept away in that wholesale manner found all over the Costas - this is course is the Costa Verde (so how do you think it got so green....). Some of the replacements are in style - galleried and balconeyed and if a bit OTT at least done with bravura. The rest come in two forms - truly boring or truly ugly. And some are truly never going to be finished - the recession has stopped almost all work.
But Foz, which may have allowed too much development within has been wiser without. As I have said already, along the charming coast nothing has been allowed closer than 100 metres from the cliff edge. Along the cliff edge of several kilometres and many sandy bays is a superb promenade with lots of parking and picnic spots. And behind that a slightly too narrow road that, as a result, is its own speed bump.
The supermarket has not totally hit Spain as it has elsewhere so hypermarkets are rare. But smaller supermercados are many and of different proprietorship generally. Mercadona is here and we have seen El Arbo but the rest are unfamiliar and thus more varied. They have however proliferated to the cost of the smaller shops so few traditional butchers, fish shops etc remain. And the markets, as elsewhere in Europe, are increasingly just cheap clothes. Sad really.
Drove west yesterday (5th) seeing some nice little harbours and an amazing aluminium works and mines on a promotory. And then tried to visit Viveiro, reputedly still some medieval walls, gates etc. No idea as the traffic jam left us 30 minutes in the queue before we gave up and turned round! We'll try again. Bet it wasn't like this in the days of the Camino de Santiago!

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