Friday, September 11, 2009

Vigo: "Man, I'm gonna mow through some oysters"

The Swimmer abstract art

My first steps on mainland Europe came in Vigo, Spain beside Francisco Leiro's The Swimmer. As we made our way into the city, I felt a familiar awe coming over me, different, but reminiscent of my first steps out of Knightsbridge Underground station in London. You can't help but compare the narrow, winding cobblestone ways to scenes you've read about or seen in movies; it just doesn't seem real. Stephen actually said that it was like we were in Epcot's (planned, but never completed) Spanish pavilion. (And it seems to be a fairly common reaction, as I just remember a Brit uttering the same thing -- i.e., Disney-like -- as we toured Bletchley Park a few weeks ago.) We walked by a quiet alley called Oyster Street with one man just setting up a stand with an enormous wooden crate of said shellfish on it, and while I was impressed, I really didn't anticipate what the area would be like in full swing.

Almost at O Castro now
The streets started widening as we moved away from the port, widening and rising, as we worked our way up the hill topped by O Castro Park. It was actually a good hike, and we all were winded by the time we made it to the monument to the Rande Galleons -- which were sunk at the battle of Vigo Bay in 1702 -- still a bit of a climb from the park proper. While the view from the park was very impressive, I was puzzled by the proliferation of antennae and power lines that took away from the beautiful statues and buildings, to say nothing of the fortress's state of disrepair. (I really had to work to keep my pictures free of this stuff; guess I won't be winning any journalism awards. ;-) )

Since the ship was set to sail at 3 p.m., we decided that we'd have a later lunch on the water and try to see as much as we could in the meantime. Well, I don't think we'd made it halfway down to the port before I muttered, out of the blue, "Man, I'm gonna mow through some oysters." There was some laughing, and Tea's sarcastic "Nice, Jae," but no one seemed to mind my change of plans. :-) And change they did as we came upon a transformed Oyster Street, with stalls and people everywhere. There were ladies shucking oysters with an ease that comes with uncounted years of experience, their lined faces full of stories. I think we had two big plates of oysters, one of sardines (that reminded me of the caplin runs we used to do as kids in days gone by, fish cooked right there on camp fires), and one of calamari. What a feast! I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. (Tea wasn't a big fan of oysters -- neither was Stephen, come to think of it, although I won't tell you what he said they taste like :-) -- but I was proud of her for trying 'em.) It was the highlight of the cruise for me -- in fact, I'm sure I said to Stephen, "Best day ever!" -- which is really saying something when I think of how great Madeira and Tenerife were (in very different ways).

Up next: back to our home away from home.

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