A Lesson in Galician Philosophy

For more photos of this chapter, click here



After so many days in a rainy city, a sunny day by the sea feels like such a gift!

We have arrived at Praia do Vilar, part of a 4km long beach south west of Santiago de Compostela. As we are about to go down to the beach, an emergency vehicle stops by and the man coming out of it tells us they’d received a call from someone about a dead turtle that had been washed up on the shore. Of course we follow him! Sure enough there it is – it is a leatherback turtle and it is HUGE!


We loll on the beach, we soak up the sun, we collect pine cones and drift wood for our stove, we walk on the wooden board walks that lead across the dunes and through the pine forests… we don’t go swimming, as the beach is too dangerous for that; you can see that there are strong currents by the way the waves come in and the sand piles up in great irregular heaps. There are rocks out there that break the water too.

We get talking to Constantino whose job it is to pick up plastic from the beach and he takes us to the eco-centre nearby. We meet Xoán who seems to be in charge of the tourist centre, a very friendly man full of information about Galicia. We start asking him all sorts of questions, from the name of the turtle and how they will get it off the beach, to questions about Galician architecture. We find out that the strange house we saw in Toxosouto was a Pombar, a dovecote! Apparently, they used to eat the young doves.

Xoán laughs about our experiences with farmers and hunters who claim not to know whether we can park up near their house for the night. He says it’s very typical for a Galician to be non-committal. He once asked a group of workers if he could borrow an axe. The response he got was ¿a ver?, hands up in the air, shrugging their shoulders.

A Galician does not like to make decisions like this, he says. The Galician Horreo is a typical expression of trying to hedge one’s bets: on one end it is topped with a Christian cross, on the other end it still has the pagan pinacle, a symbol of fertility, just in case one or the other religion doesn’t work. Apparently the Galician humour is close to English humour – Black Adder has been dubbed and is very popular. The mind boggles!

There is a saying here that God is good but the devil is not bad.


In the afternoon, we drive to a nearby town to connect to the internet. This town seems to have a connection with the English, but something got lost in translation… Shops are called Me Two (clothes for men), Womens’ecrets (a beauty shop) and The Children Garden (a café). We meet a very helpful man at a cobblers/keycutters who manages to cut us a copy of the key for our water tank. As it is not exactly the right key, he comes halfway across town to personally try the key in the lock, and when it fits, he gives it to me as a present. When I suggest putting a link to his shop in our blog, he says he’s too shy to be mentioned by name, so here is a thank you to the anonymous key cutter from Ribeira :-)


Returning to the beach, we can see the stars for the first time in weeks!

The next morning the turtle gets dragged off the beach rather unceremoniously but involving lots of people and not much strategy :-(    It is looking rather worse for wear too, having been dinner for the seagulls for the past few days. A scientist comes to take a sample from the shoulder of the turtle (this is to ascertain its provenance), and then the turtle has one glorious flying moment before it is carted off to the marine lab in A Coruña.



Before we leave the beach for Ourense, we meet up with Constantino the beach comber and his soon-to-be-wife Patricia for a cup of hot chocolate (you can get this really yummy hot chocolate in Spain, the kind that is more like hot chocolate pudding).  Constantino is dreaming of having a campervan, so he was keen for Patricia to see our Emma. We spent the morning sprucing her up, sweeping and ordering everything and hanging nice curtains over our disorderly shelves :-)

I had actually already noticed Patricia the day before, when she walked past us on her way to the beach, and I thought to myself there is a strong spirit, an interesting person.

Patricia was happy to meet us to chat, a chance to improve her English, and as she is pregnant and a teacher, we talk a lot about children and education. She feels quite passionate about her daughter’s future; she wants her to be raised outside of religion (there’s a tricky situation with both sides of the family waiting to erupt), she wants her to be rooted in Galician and Spanish culture and language but also to travel and experience many other cultures and learn other languages from native speakers. Speaking other languages will open her horizons. Patricia would prefer not to send her child to a regular school in Spain. She speaks very passionately, and all the while she is talking about her daughter’s future, I can’t help feeling that this is as much about her own life as her daughter’s. I hope that she can fulfill her dreams, not just for her child but also for herself.

It’s that time in life, when we get pregnant, that we consider everything in our lives and want everything to be so much better for our children than we had it ourselves. I think of the dreams and visions I had for my children and how many of them I/we managed to realise… and which dreams fell by the wayside, and why.

All this water around you really makes you introspective! The rain, the sea, and then hot springs in Ourense… but more of those in another posting!



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