City of gifts and surprise encounters – Santiago de Compostela
For photos of this chapter, including a little 360 degree clip from the top of a hill near by an old windmill, click here
Arriving late on a Sunday evening, we find a lovely empty car park right near the centre of the city by a tennis court. We stroll through the old part on our first night – lovely! The grand architecture is predominantly religious and you get lost in the narrow streets, which criss-cross the city centre; everywhere is pedestrianised and there is a sense of quiet and calm, with whole families out on their ‘paseos’.
Early the next morning, we are woken by a flurry of cars parking all around us – within 10 minutes, every available space is taken – people have parked like on a ferry! They all must know each other and leave work at the same time. There is no way we could get out of this car park if we tried! So we settle in instead and light a nice fire. I practice the bandoneon and Frank cooks up a lovely meal – when suddenly a fire engine pulls up with much noise and blue lights flashing. They stop on the outside of the car park (they wouldn’t have been able to get in anyway!), they don’t even bother to get out, just look at our van with its happily smoking chimney and they drive off. One minute later, a police car pulls up. They come and knock on our door. We are worried that they might fine us for a fake call-out of the fire brigade, but they just check that all is ok and go off again. Phew! We really need a notice on the outside of our van telling people it’s ok when it’s smoking…
We had met the bandoneonista Alejandro Szabo in a little village 20km outside of Santiago, where he and his band had a performance some days ago. I was impressed by his playing – technically perfect and very expressive – and I had arranged to have a lesson with him. Alejandro teaches to my liking: giving me a lot of advice for the tone quality of playing, rather than getting stuck in one piece. Just like in dancing, it is far more useful to work on the principles than learning a figure. While Alejandro is teaching me, his wife Emilce is having a massage treatment from Frank in our Emma. When she comes back, she gives us both a haircut in exchange (Emilce having been a professional hair-dresser for 20 years!)
We don’t want to be hemmed in again in the car park, so the following morning we leave at 5am to find another location in town. We just randomly drive up the hill and park where we find a place and go back to sleep…. The next time we poke our head out the door, we find out that we have parked up outside a circus school!
This is perfect timing. Frank and I’ve been talking about stopping somewhere for a week or so to put in some serious Tango practice. Ask the universe and you shall be given!
The circus school is run by an association. There is a calm atmosphere of working and a lovely way of sharing the space – everyone getting on with their practice, classes happening in one part of the building, jugglers practicing in the other corner, someone on a ladder, others doing acrobalance… in some way, the atmosphere is a bit like during private lessons at the Tango Mango – very conducive to learning when everyone else is immersed in study.
We also meet the local Tango community who run a little club in the bottom part of town, we introduce ourselves with a free practica which leads to some people booking private lessons. I don’t know what the local teaching style is but it must be quite different from ours, as the people comment that they have never heard what I tell them – especially the women.
I seem to have been supercharged with energy in the last four days. I’m not sure what it is, maybe I have now fully recovered from the really hard work before leaving the UK, maybe it’s the fantastic food that Frank keeps creating from great local ingredients, maybe it’s all that fresh air, or the Kombucha that Rawley from Coed Hills gave us and that produces a lovely fresh and sparkling, possibly slightly alcoholic beverage (the Kombucha is growing – we have already left a piece with Mada and one with Rubén), maybe it’s the Aloe Vera juice we’re currently drinking every morning. In any case, I’m feeling very healthy, alive and awake.
Frank is missing the countryside this afternoon. It is true, the city has a very different feel to it, and it is easier for us to find what we need in a more rural setting: a stream to swim in, firewood, local food, a place to park by some trees etc.
Later, we take a little stroll out the back road on which we are parked. It turns out that we are actually right on the edge of the city and that there is piece of woodland with Chestnut and Eucalyptus trees 100 mtrs from our Emma! Today has been very windy, so we even find some blow-dried firewood for kindling! On the way back, we find some wild fennel too, and some mint. Perfect for our fish meal tonight!
Ask and you shall be given.
One afternoon we go on a hunt for a launderette. Someone told us it’s out at Monte do Gozo, which is the reception point for the pilgrims’ arrival in Santiago, just outside the city. We find a huge centre, with many bungalows for the pilgrims, with cafes and bars, a playground etc., but all is closed for the winter. While looking for the launderette we find a huge Fly Agaric, the size of one of Frank’s berets!
And after a bit of driving around, we also find the launderette, which is open despite everything else around it being closed.
Frank spends the afternoon in the launderette checking his emails and watching the washing while I practice the bandoneon… it is so lovely to have dry and clean washing. Actually it does rain more here than in England: apparently Santiago de Compostela is the city with the second highest rainfall in Europe, after some city in Norway.
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