Wednesday, 30 December 2009

a day of two halves

written 26th december

This is only the second time we have been $away for christmas, the first time was at the end of our Austin experience in 2006 when we decided to spend our last two weeks in the US driving from San Diego to Napa Valley with Christmas in San Francisco.  It was good but the pacific coast highway was not so spectacula in the fog :(

On that occasion, with christmas being rammed down our throats in a very commercialised way, and when on ringing home when we woke up at 9 to find everyone in that "eaten too much, drunk too much, can't move, its all over stupor" between the end of the washing up and the start of James Bond or Dr Who, when we hadn't even started our day yet, it was all a bit odd to be so far away.  We found that San Francisco is quite good for it though.  The sourdough bread factory was open for breakfast and then we found Go-Cars which are small yellow three wheeled gokart things, just big enough for two people, which have gps city guides in them which tell you where to go and all about the city as you drive round with various dfferent routes and optional detours.  They also talk to you to say things like "go down the hill, don't go too fast - you know where my brakes are!" and "don't take the exit for the Golden Gate Bridge - I'm not allowed on the freeway".  they were brilliant, we went all over the place - although, being about midget sized, ie same height as your average american 4x4 truck wheel, it was probably good that the roads were so quiet! 

we then watched a James Bond film at the cinema - christmas is not complete without James Bond! - and had dinner in chinatown, so it was all ok in the end!

Christmas day in Spain was a day of two halves.  The sun was shining brightly and the sky was blue when we woke up and set off back up the hill for another look at the cathedral.  The streets were packed with people milling about and chatting and I swear there were more bars open at 11:30am christmas morning than there were the night before (ie at least 1) what's all that about??

Unfortunately, there was a service about to start so we couldn't go back in to the church as we had planned but honestly, I think I could have sat and looked all day and still walked away feeling I hadn't taken it all in.  So instead, we set off to to the coast road which we had missed out on the day before. 

Laura and Cedric had circled a couple of places on the map of the "Coast of DEATH" (I'll take death please, no wait, coast, I mean coast - you said death...) and said that Finisterre was the most western point in spain.  We headed first to Camarinas where we found a beautiful orange sandstone lighthouse and a coast line of scrubby cliffs which reminded me a bit of a deserted beach we hiked to in Mykonos many years ago (following the instructions of the "crazy German" whom no doubt I will tell you about when we get to greece). 

We stopped up for christmas picnic lunch on a headland in perfect, perfect quiet, windturbines behind us (I don't know what all the NIMBY outcry is about wind turbines, I think they are elegant graceful structures and these were perfectly silent) and nothing between me and the sea and sky except a cheese sandwich  (yes, the picture is W'll chorizo sandwich!).


Bliss  I have never been so happy (except for all the other occasions on this trip so far where I have never been so happy, which are many and various... :)

We went next to Muxia which I am sure would have been nice for a wander but it was then that we noticed nasty grinding noises coming from one of the wheels so spent our time there up on the jack spinning the wheels - passengerside rear ringing noise was the problem - but with nothing we could obviously see or do and as it was getting late, we did what all good drivers do, carried on and turned the radio up so we couldn't hear it...

We got to Cape Finisterre just as the sun was setting and did our phone calls homes and it was glorious.  Although, with the benefit subsequent internet we have found that it isn't the most western point, that was another cape (Cape Tourinan), slightly further north which we had driven past en route, but as it wasn't signed and we are definately not going back, I am happy with our end of the world.

It was obviously getting dark by this point and without the wheel worry - if it is a wheel bearing, that will be expensive and time consuming, and we have a deadline to be in Porto for New Year - we would have stopped for our christmas dinner of sausages and potato wedges - yes, not very traditional I know but I like sausages!  we did spend a long time in Euroski tryng to work out how we could do chicken - can you steam a chicken??? probably not - and even considered buying and heating up a shrink wrapped pre-cooked one before just deciding to go with what we like :) - but instead, we decided to press on to the nearest big town in the hope of finding somewhere open on the saturday day after christmas and so did the rest of the coast road in the dark (which was a shame, it was a good coast road) and finally ended up in Pontevedra, where after a fruitless search for vw arages or carrefours with Kwick-fit-esque places, we finally parked, late, in a random carparking spot near a random bar.

Although it does seem that the spanish go out on Christmas day evening, even if they stay at home on christmas eve.  Every town or village we went through had an open bar with lots of people in it.  We went into the bar for a drink and ended up with christmas hamburger and chips (like the locals) and watched the end of Happy Feet - even with no language, I think we know what happened but this doesn't mean that I am not going to force Will to watch the whole thing one day anyway... I like penguins!

We asked about garages to look at brakes and got a promise that he would show us somewhere in the morning if we came back but then he massively over-charged us and didn't show up the following morning (we like to think he dissed the van and then found his own car wouldn't start in protest... ;) - and thus dented our faith in the general good nature of people.

However, in the morning, we found by chance a big Carrefour with a Feu-Vert (green light) where we managed to make them understand we needed our brakes looking at.  Unfortunately, they took the wheel off (which is as far as Will had got the previous day) before telling us that they couldn't actually fix brakes until Monday - and of course it wasn't making the same noise by this point either.  so they put it back together, (overtightening the wheel nuts and leaving the hub cap loose - monkeys) but at least they didn't charge us.  Will had another look at it in their carpark but taking the drum off apparently involves a big spanner and more torques than we have the wrench for so couldn't get very much further. 

So, with tomorrow being sunday, a day when we never manage to achieve anything, and with the noise less bad, we have set off to the next biggest town in the portugal direction (Viga) and have found ourselves a nice sunny beach where we intend to stay until Monday and attempt to do nothing in the meantime - working on the theory that if you start with low expectations you can't be disappointed!

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