Travels through History – Northern Spain – Vigo

This book is a travelogue about the cities of northern Spain.

I travelled to Valencia, Barcelona, Pamplona, Burgos, San Sebastian, Valladolid, Segovia, Leon, Gijon, Oviedo, Santiago de Compostela, Pontevedra, A Coruna, and Vigo on board the fast, modern trains of the Spanish railways.

Here is an excerpt about Vigo:

Vigo is the largest city in Galicia, the most north-western province of Spain. Vigo is arrayed along the sloping southern shoreline of its namesake ria or estuary. Over 300,000 people call Vigo home and it’s a lovely place to spend a couple of days exploring the sights as well as taking a ferry to the Iles de Cies in the mouth of the estuary.

Vigo is supposedly the largest fishing port in the world with around 5km of wharves where stocks are landed. If you love seafood then this is probably as good a place as there is in Spain to sample the fruits of the ocean. On the Rua de Pescaderia there are permanent granite tables where people sell fresh oysters on an almost daily basis. Fish is also sold at the Mercado de Pedra throughout the day and at stalls along the seafront early in the morning where the fish is fresh.

For an orientation to the geography of the area, it’s best to climb up the streets and staircases to the top of the city, called the Castro Park. This hill offers spectacular views over the city, the estuary and the Cíes Islands.

In the gardens of the castle, the visitor can see the remains of settlements from the Castreño or hillfort culture (dating between the 3rd Century BC and the 2nd Century AD), the steep walls of a seventeenth-century fortress, and monuments to the renowned mediaeval troubadour Martín Códax. There are three anchors in the gardens in memory of the Battle of Rande otherwise known as the The Battle of Vigo Bay.

This was a naval engagement fought on 23 October 1702 during the opening years of the War of the Spanish Succession. Admiral George Rooke received news that the Spanish treasure fleet from America, laden with silver and merchandise, had entered Vigo Bay. Rooke was convinced to attack the treasure ships, despite the fact that the vessels were protected by French ships-of-the-line.

The engagement was an overwhelming naval success for Rooke and his allies: the entire French escort fleet, under the command of Château-Renault, together with the Spanish galleons and transports under Manuel de Velasco, were either captured or destroyed. Yet because most of the treasure had been off-loaded before the attack, Rooke missed capturing the bulk of the silver and taking it back for Britain’s coffers.

From the castle gardens, head towards Rei Square, which contains the Town Hall, and then on to Paseo de Alfonso XII, where there is another fine lookout point over the estuary and the port. This street contains numerous examples of the city’s symbol, the olive tree. I continued along Poboadores and Anguía streets towards O Berbés, the old quarter of the fishermen which still preserves some of the typical houses, with arcades and archways. Nearby is the fish market and there are plenty of places to eat.

Teófilo Llorente Street leads to A Pedra Square, with its market and oyster sellers. I then headed along Oliva Street until I reached the Collegiate Church of Santa María, the Cathedral of Vigo. Afterwards, I continued to Almeida Square, which contains the fifteenth-century Casa Ceta and the Casa Pazos Figueroa, a Renaissance building from the sixteenth century, occupied by the Camões Institute.

I would recommend visiting the Museo do Mar de Galicia even though you will need a taxi to reach it. The museum is about 3 miles outside the city centre and should be visited. It might be worth asking the taxi to come back in two hours for you, as there aren’t any taxi ranks outside the museum and the bus seems to run on an irregular basis.

This museum is about the sea in Galicia and everything connected with it. Thus there are diving suits, anchors, whale skeletons, ship models, cruise line posters, small fishing boats, board games, and boats for children to play with in the bath, on display. There’s an in-depth analysis of how reliant Vigo has been on the sea with statistics such as 4345 people used to work in the sardine canning plants of Vigo when production was at its height. There’s a light house at the back and a small aquarium.

Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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