Day 4 in Galicia: Cambados

28 Aug

I loved this town, despite the fact that it tried to kill me. But, more on that later. Cambados is a darling little town of 6700 (according to my guidebook) that sits in the Rias Baixas area (the area of the southern rivers, and the southern part of Galicia, as you head south from Santiago de Compostela).

By the hightlighted picture at top, you can tell that Cambados is about the grapes…which means it’s about the wines, and more specifically Albariño. It’s also about the mariscos (shellfish). So, when you step off the bus, you are greeted by this lovely fisherman about 100 yards to your left, in a darling park (Paseo Da Calazada) full of palm trees that line the water promenade (Paseo Maritmo).

Here’s a pic of my first friend in Cambados:

After a 2 hour harrowing bus ride in which my 125 year old bus driver alternately stomped on the brakes and gas every 5 minutes while trying to figure out the gear system (did he break out of the home and steal the bus, I wondered?), I was glad to see how darling the town was even near the bus station, but, it was time to lay down before I lost my cookies. I had researched hotels and I decided on a 4 star hotel that seemed reasonably priced and whose restaurant had excellent reviews for its seafood. The name: Casa Rosita.

Here’s a pic of the cute exterior:

Well, it’s a bit outside the main city center, but I think good things come to those who walk. I’ll explain later. Hint: home brew.

I check into this promising hotel (from the outside) and into a very stark, weird, yet clean room. I kind of felt like I was in The Shining. The hotel was super quiet, the staff gave weird looks and were seemingly all in a dark mood, and I didn’t see any other patrons around.

Obviously, I had been spoiled with either very modern rooms (A Coruña) or very antique, charming rooms (Santiago de Compostela) along my adventure so far. This was neither. It had no fridge (my other 2 hotel rooms did and they came standard in the standard rooms), it had no wifi, it had no safe in the room (other two did), it had no pens/paper to write on, and the “exit” sign above the door inside the room had such wonderful interior illumination that at 2:00 a.m. I was pondering how I could break it without anyone hearing. Not sure why the extra, extra precaution is needed to show me where my door is at night. I’ve never been in a hotel room that had that super annoying feature. And, I couldn’t turn it off. Seriously, in Spain you’re worried about liability in case of a fire in the middle of the night and me needing to find my door? Trust me, if no one cares about that in U.S. hotels, you certainly shouldn’t be worried about liability here. I’m more worried about an ax coming through my door and someone saying, “Here’s Johnny.”

I’m a little unnerved and unpleased with my hotel, so instead of laying down, I decide it’s probably better if I walk it off, go get some food and then do some wine tasting!

As I walked through the outskirts of town toward the main square called Praza de Fefiñans, I came upon a promising looking restaurant – Obopaladar. It was a disappointment. I had a piece of tuna that was perfectly seared, but the chef must have been having a bad day, as it was WAY over-salted and someone apparently dropped the salt shaker in the ratatouille my bonita was sitting on, as well. Gross. Umm, didn’t the description on the menu highlight asparagus? Why is there only 1 spear cut in half on the plate? The only thing good about the restaurant was the cool, very modern light fixtures and the ceiling. Here’s a pic:

After my bad lunch I decide that now I really need a drink. I start walking on the main road and come upon the old part of the town starting at Praza de Fefiñans. Here’s a view of the entrance to the square:

Here’s another, where all of the restaurants, bars, and wine shops are lined:

On the side of a building in the courtyard, here’s a woman holding her family crest:

My first stop was a cute little wine tasting room.

After about 20 minutes of chatting about Albariño, this region, and what tastings were being offered, I ended up tasting 2 wines and then I told the wine pourer I was done. Seriously, after two tastes I’m tipsy? What has happened to me? The wines here typically have lower alcohol content than those in the U.S.

Anyway, we talk a bit more about the other growers and producers in this region, and I decide to buy 3 bottles: one from a bigger and more commercial grower (whose wines are imported by a New Jersey importer in case I’m interested in getting more in the U.S.) and 2 from a brother-brother team who are small production growers and bottlers. These, I won’t be able to get in the states.

I decide to lug my 3 bottles back to my room and set off again for more discovery. I decide to take a back, residential street to look at the houses. The street is called Rua Carreira. Here’s a view of one of the houses on that street:

Darling, isn’t it?

I had heard that some of the best Albariño in this pueblo comes from home brewers – essentially those who have several grape vines and ferment and bottle for home consumption only (and for sale to tourists, apparently). Low and behold, I come upon a cute little green house with gorgeous flowers out front and a sign hanging above telling me they sell Albarino.

The house number, in case the wine is good and anyone else wants to find her (or, in case it poisons me and we want to go back and blame someone):

Her gorgeous hibiscus:

It’s about 5:00 p.m. now and I knock. An older woman comes to the door in her camisole and crazy white hair (probably how mine is going to look in another 30 years when I let it go). It looks like she just rolled out of bed.

I ask in Spanish: Did I disturb you? Abuela: Why, yes, you did. Can I help you with something? Me: I saw that you sell Albariño wine. The abuela: I do. How many bottles would you like? Me: How much are they and when were they bottled? Abuela: They were bottled last year and they are 3 Euros each. Me: I’ll take 2. Her: Okay, but you need to drink them soon because they are all natural with no sulfites. Me: Okay. Can you show me your vines? Abuela: Sure.

She closes the door, puts some clothes on and comes out with 2 no-label wines with suspect looking corks. No matter. I’ve spent a lot more on a lot worse, I’m sure. In fact, unbeknownst to me at this point, later I’m about to spend nearly 10 times that on a dinner that will again poison me.

Anyway, she shows me her vines and says this year is a tough year. It’s too dry and the productions will be low.

Here’s her small vineyard, which is above a walkway in between her house and the neighbor’s house. It’s all latticed grapes above the walkway.

She tells me to take care and I’m wondering if there’s an implied meaning there: does she mean take care when I drink the bottles, like they might poison me? Clearly, I’m still reeling from the bus ride, the fact that I’m staying in the The Shining hotel, and that I’m now pretty sure my lunch chef wanted to induce a heart attack in me through salt consumption.

I decide to shrug it all off. It’s a gorgeous day and I’m up for the challenge as I’m so charmed by the idea of buying home brew. What a fun experience!

I walk away smiling with 2 bottles of home brew under my arms and come upon this darling, old little church.

Yep, more church going for me! I walk under the thick metal, front door and go in. I’m the only one there. It’s dark and musty. I’m a little unnerved as I start to hear this thumping noise coming from behind the jesus statue. I think: Is he mad because I entered with 2 bottles of wine under my arms? I mean, I’m happy to share, jeeesh!

Anyway, it’s a hidden clock that I realize is thumping (why not chiming like adorable church chimes and clocks are suppose to do?). I decide I’ve had enough of church for the moment. I’m going to find a winery.

On my way to a winery a little way out of town, I come across this awesome library. Here are the pics of the library. Now, if I were a kid again, this place would make me want to read.

This one’s for you, my prince:

We should construct and “vine” libraries like this in the states! I think we need all the help we can get to get our kids to focus on reading and learning more through some amazing paper documents instead of defaulting to wikipedia on the internet (yep, when I taught high school not too long ago, my students were citing wikipedia as a source in their history papers. Really? You couldn’t find a primary source or a reliable secondary source? Wow, have we gotten that bad about teaching our children? I was disgusted).

Sorry, I digressed. After the library, I walk to a winery called Pazo A Capitana and a nice woman invites me in. She’s speaking French to another couple and they look at me and tell her to speak in Spanish. Nice! I fooled them again. Anyway, she is kind enough to do double translation and tells us about her winery and that it has been in the family for 100 years, etc. We’re told we can walk the grounds and then come back for a tasting. So, I walk the grounds and take some pics. It was a gorgeous day and she had gorgeous grounds, to be sure, filled with fruit trees and flowers.

I love the local pears here. I bought two from a fruit shop and they were delicious.

The old v. modern barrels:

And the flowers….oh, the lovely flowers..:

Ahhh, this is a dream. Wish I could have one of these properties!

Well, by now, it’s around 6:30 p.m. and earlier I was told by another woman to come back to her place for a wine tasting at 7:00. So, I forgo the wine tasting here to go back for the other one. What’s the saying, “A bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush?” When I arrive at the 7:00 p.m. wine tasting, the woman now tells me that she’s going to charge me 10 euros to taste 3 wines. Why didn’t she tell me this before? Now, I’m irritated and I’m certainly not paying 10 euros ($13 US) to taste wines from one producer since most of the bottles of Albariño cost less than 8 euros and some good ones as little as 4-5 euros (and my sketchy homebrew, 3 euros each!).

So, I opt to go to a wine shop where a hippy looking guy is running the joint. I ask him if he knows about Albariños. He gives me a, “are you stupid, lady?” look and then I know I’m in the right place. He asks me what type of Albariños I like and I say I don’t really know, I’ve only tasted about 6 different kinds. He says I look like a kind of “classic Albariño” drinker – slightly dry, a little complex, smooth finish, great with seafood. He’s smiling a kind of odd smile, so I’m thinking clearly there’s a joke I’m missing in there. But, I shrug it off as I think I’m in a paranoid mood today, and I go ahead and buy 2 more bottles.

By this time, I realize I have added 7 bottles of wine to my stash of food from Santiago de Compostela that I’m carrying for another 2 days. I need another bag, but only a small one. So, I buy a cute little wicker bag that looks like a picnic basket. I don’t even want to think about how I’m going to get any of the wine back to the states. We may have to drink it all when C comes!

Here’s my wine stash:

It’s almost 8:00 p.m. and I’m ready for some good food! I ask a few locals where they like to eat and they say Casa Rosita. Why, that’s my hotel. I also did read great reviews on the restaurant, although the reviews said it’s weird eating off to the side of the hotel lobby, which it is. But, I decide that it must be good anyway, if locals like it.

I don’t want to go into all the horrid details, as I’m super bummed about it all, but everything, including the wine they served me, was awful. I’m pretty sure I ate a bad scallop, which I told the waiter. He just took it away. No offer to replace it or take it off the bill. Well, all told, I paid 55 Euros for an awful seafood dinner, save the seafood salad that had large chunks of freshwater crab in it that was dressed with shaved egg yolk, olive oil and vinegar. The worst part is 30 minutes after I finished the meal, I lost it to the sewage system. Good thing I was in my hotel already! So, my review is an unequivocal stay away from Casa Rosita.

I’m really getting tired of losing my cookies, but tomorrow is another day!

Despite the total weirdness of the hotel and 2 horrible seafood meals in a town that is heralded for its seafood, I LOVED this town. It oozes charm and I’m really a fan of Albariños. I can’t wait to try them back in the states when I attempt to make my Galician-inspired food.

*Note about the 4 blog posts regarding Galicia: The entries are transcribed from the notebook I used to take contemporaneous notes during my journeys. I didn’t want to go back and edit out my goofiness, so these posts capture some of my thoughts at the time they formed – for better or for worse 😉

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