Valladolid and beyond – to Pontevedra

Valladolid and beyond – to Pontevedra

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Getting to Valladolid with Ryanair

– Ryanair from Stansted to Valladolid was generally a “good buy”, and made us feel that our first budget experience was a good omen. The airports at both ends are small and somewhat more human as a result, and there was no sense of being herded or harried – perhaps because of the time of year though (?) We’re in our early sixties, and are a bit past liking the cut and thrust of modern travel environments.

– The flight was as expected at budget level, and everyone was friendly and helpful. The inboard advertising announcement on the way to Spain was , however, extremely rapid and garbled, and because it was almost totally incomprehensible, made us feel annoyed. Of course, though, the announcer was on a loser from the outset. Who’d want to buy expensive aeroplane trash on the way from Britain to Spain, when most of it was either irrelevant or likely to be available cheaper where we were going to?

– Why do all airlines do this inflight sales thing – is it worth it? Does it enhance customer relations in general?

By bus to Toro

– By bus or train is so much more likely to give us a feel of “real Spain”, so we happily forego the hired car caper. Just a few miles down the road from Valladolid is this little town. Not a wondrous write-up by Lonely Planet, of course. Not enough splendour.

– It’s at the top of the slope that runs down to the river Duero and the fertile plain beyond.
The bus arrives in the newer part of the town, but a short stroll across the perilous main road takes you under an arch into the older part, and the world changes. Quiet and untainted in its Spanishness, gentle, and well worth a day or two to those who are not fuelled by a “must do” mentality, but prefer top sit or to amble, and to watch the sunsets, like the locals (who know so much more than do we about how to “chill out”).

– That said, there are things to see and to look at. From the pedestrianised Plaza Major it’s just a few yards to the Colegiata, and a wonderful view down to the river. The area that you look down upon was apparently “done up” some years back with Euro-money, but it’s slipped back into Spanish-style space, much untended and overgrown. No manicured grass for Toro. There must have been much planting – cypress trees and many footpaths.

– You can still easily walk down (or drive your hire car to save your tootsies too much strain). The Puente Major is a delightful sight from the river banks, and a gentle walk across its ancient arches is a pleasure : trout, barbels, wagtails and herons abound. The banks are green and lush. The sound of the weir beneath the arches is lulling.

– About a dozen places to bed, across the price range. Handy little tourists’ centre. Another of the many places to confirm the fundemental differences between Spain and so much of modern Britain. Full of shops of every kind, open and active, and not a single one for cat protection or the Red Cross. Not yet forced into a disintegration of its society by the like of Sainsburys, Tesco, or TK Maxx …. though the like of these are available a few miles down the road.
Toro’s a really nice place to get started.

Astorga’s awful, on the other hand

– You might expect something a little nice about this place, although a “between the lines” read of the Lonely Planet entry might forewarn you. We found it heartless. A one night stay was like an encapsulation within an old town’s old quarter, from which all ordinary day-to-day life has been sucked out.

– Yes, there are lots of things that one simply “must see”, including a church by Gaudi, but none of the small shops and bars that are essential to make it a Spanish setting of a social kind, with bustle and bumble. Perhaps we didn’t go to the right spots, but we were slap bang in the middle, which could be a buzz like the squares of Toledo, but isn’t.
Almost ran all the way to the bus station in the morning.

Ourense is alright

– Having rushed out of Astorga we headed for Ourense via Ponferrado, by bus. An interesting ride in its own right, and plenty of window gazing opportunities. The Lonely Planet description of the steel-town is about right. Not a place to dwell for too long, but the older part is reasonably pleasant as a sit-for-an-hour option. We took the train from Poferrado to Ourense, which took us into Galicia, and what a good choice that was. It’s a delightful trip, most especially the sections that take you through the rivers’ deep valleys. The Spanish trains are not expensive at all, and it’s as enthralling an experience every time as is going by train in any part of the world.

– A reasonable write up by Lonely Planet : Isibi is closed. The riverside areas are worth a stroll, and the seven bridges (there may be more, that’s what we counted) include one that spans upwards like a whale’s jaw, and which you can walk up for a wonderful view.

– If you look around, you’ll also find that there are hot springs out-gushers at various sites within the upper town, where old and young gather to stick their elbows, hands, and other bits & bobs into the healing heat to be cured. But be careful – it’s hot. You can also stand and chat for an hour or two if it turns you on.

– Down by the riverside there’s an area with a clutch of small pools about the size of big jacuzzis where you can sit and soak up the heat of the waters, come rain or come shine. And it’s free! No-one is there to rip you off, just a couple of blokes to drain the pools and give them a bit of a scrub down every now and then. There are no dogs to foul the area. There are no railings to stop you from slipping down into the water and breaking your toe, then claiming ten thousand from the community coffers. Is this the same Europe of which Britain is a part?

– Back up in the upper town there are two indoor market halls, and stalls around that sell all manner of snacks, seeds, and shovels. Plenty of people ambling all the time.

-Yes, Ourense’s alright for a short visit

Pontevedra

– Not much to say about the place really. Disappointing on the whole, though it’s not at all short of interesting buildings and some nice little squares in the old town, and a good little museum. Seemed a bit “posey” in its old quarter and busy medium townish, perhaps. Not really sure why we weren’t strongly struck, but we wanted to leave fairly soon. Probably getting a bit fed up with towns – no fields, no cows, no birds, no amble.

– Wondered what to do. Decided that we really couldn’t hack Santiago, despite the fact that we’d come to this neck of the woods to do just that. Getting already cheesed with towns and shops and commerce and glitz, so decided to not be pilgrims after all. Where shall we go, then? South coast – not terribly attractively written up by Lonely Planet. Portugal – a little later perhaps.

– So let’s just go to the bus station and, map in hand, look at the itineries on the walls, and find out just where all the buses DO go to. Then we’ll think about going there. Now there’s a place that isn’t even mentioned in Lonely Planet – next posting includes Lama.

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