Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.
If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.
- More fun with Google Maps yesterday, trying to find the Oficina de Informacíon in Utrera. I think I can guarantee that the best way not to find what you're looking for is to use a combination of Spanish urban signs which point in a general direction and the Google Maps app which pretends to be specific and accurate. As reader Sierra says, this is the company which promises a totally safe self-drive car within a few years,
- In this case, we eventually gave up and then immediately stumbled on the 'oficina' - a kiosk - in the main square, nowhere near where the nearby road sign was directing us towards. Need I say it wan't open? But, then, neither was anything else in Utrera, yesterday being May 1 and so a national holiday.
- As I've said, the Andalucian accent is notoriously difficult to understand, the main element being the dropping of the letter S wherever possible. Yesterday, I complimented a waitress on her clear Spanish, to get the response that it was because she'd spent time in the Basque Country and that her father had married una vaca. In Spanish una vasca means a Basque woman. But un vaca means a 'cow'. How we laughed.
- Checking in to our hostel yesterday took 30 minutes, largely because passport details had to be entered into a computer. When I asked what was done with the information, I was told it was sent direct – on an official form – to the police in Madrid. This might help to explain why the latter have a good record against potential Islamist terrorists, but I still felt a little like I was now living in a police state.
- As in every other town on this camino, we found the staff in Utrera's tapas bars extremely friendly and chatty. And pig ignorant of the fact that a camino goes through their town. I gave them all my forecast that, once my friend has published his guide in English, the place would be overflowing in 'pilgrims' within 5 years. And suggested that they think about opening an albergue or five.
- It's not only bar staff who've been friendly and helpful. Yesterday, as we stood perplexed at a street corner dealing with the problem of no street names on any of the several walls, a chap on a scooter stopped to ask if we needed his assistance.
- Talking of signs on walls, this was on ours in our rooms in a hostel last night:-
- There were other examples of almost-English around the town but, as you know, I don't go in for cheap laughs . .
- Which reminds me . . . As there are, as yet, no pilgrim albergues on this camino, your choice is a usually between a pension, a hostel or – if there is one – a reasonably priced hotel. And what you get for your money varies enormously, depending – I guess – on supply and demand. And, of course, on whether one of the multitudinous fiestas is taking place that day. Our best value – by far – has been a fully-equipped apartment in a '3 star' hostel, and the worst has been in hostel in a town without a reasonably priced hotel. The latter hostel costing 50% more than the former.
- If you're going to be doing the Camino Augusta and washing your clothes regularly, bear in mind they might well dry overnight north of Jerez but possibly never in the humid towns around the Bahía de Cádiz – Cádiz, Sand Fernando, Puerto Real and El Puerto de Santa Maria.
ODDS AND SODS
- I'm a big fan of the Mercadona supermarket chain, primarily because there's plenty of staff and they're all trained in customer service. As a result, their market share has been increasing - at the expense, of course, of other chains. Which have reacted, not by emulating Mercadona's performance, but by planning to open on Sundays and offer the same crap service they offer on the other 6 days of the week.
- Pedestrians get killed on roads throughout the world and I suspect Spain isn't the only country where this happens on zebra crossings. But being killed by a rubbish truck reversing down a one-way street, this must surely rank as quite unusual.
- Here's a few interesting stats on Brits abroad. Spain clearly suffer most from the antics of the worst kind of my compatriots.
- Don Quijones comments here on the continuing saga of IT problems being suffered by TSB/Sabadell in the UK. And their customers, of course. I wouldn't be surprised to see the TSB bank goes under as a result of this. Says, DQ: TSB’s data migration was intended as a showcase to the world of Sabadell’s savoir faire in the IT department. Sadly, it will prove the opposite. As for the reporting of this disaster, The Guardian noted last night that it was now entering its 10th day but neither El País nor El Mundo seem to said much about it. The latest thing I could find was this report of – 8 days ago - of the president of Sabadell boasting that things had gone exceptionally well. The Gaurdian cites a rift between TSB folk in the UK and Sabadell folk in Madrid. Who'd have thought it? The former, of course, stand to lose their jobs. The latter, probably not.
- Whatever one thinks about the verdict in the infamous Pamplona rape case, it was utterly wrong of the Justice Minister to attack the judge who felt that the men hadn't committed any crime. Sadly, it's perfectly possible for a judge to believe that defendants are vile but that the law is so badly drafted no offence has been committed. I don't know, of course, if this is what the dissenting judge believed or, rather, that he's a throwback. Either way, Ministers of Justice should not turn themselves into populists, especially when their party has previously prevented change to an obsolete law. Some would argue it's actually the duty of judges to expose the deficiencies of bad laws by acquitting the accused and so forcing the pace of change. Whatever, the judge should be given the benefit of the doubt, not pilloried.
Nuns attending Mass - behind bars - at a time when their shop in the adjacent convent is supposed to be open and selling pastries. But, like everything else in Utrera except the bars, restaurants and cake shops, it was closed. One gets used to arbitrariness in Spain.
A holy stork and its young. Presumably brings only Catholic babies:-