Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tapas, Turtles, Gaitas and a Budding Marine Biologist

A Coruna is the most popular first stop for long distance cruisers from Northern Europe. The harbour is full (although less full than former years) of sailboats flying (amongst others) French, German, Norwegian, Danish, UK, Swedish and of course, Dutch flags. We exchanged stories with a couple of other boats and were invited for a coffee aboard the Dutch boat, the Victory. This is a lovely, large, spacious 47 foot one-off cutter and its owners Jan Bart Kolman and Monique Vonk welcomed us warmly. Emma and Macsen had a wonderful time playing with their winches and distributing cookie crumbs over their spotless deck while we had a friendly chat. Seb in particular, looks forward to bumping into them again to gain some tips from Jan Bart who has been a competitive fisherman.

A Coruna saw us sitting in the plaza, wandering through the old city, and gorging ourselves in the small bars and restaurants. The food of the area is fantastic and there is a huge market with succulent fruits and veggies, delicious bread, meats, and fish. Spanish people (at least the Galicians) love children, give treats, kiss and cuddle them, and even the young boys love to play with Macsen. We have met many more Galicians through our children than in any other way. Galicia also appeals to frugal Dutch amongst our crews - tapas comes for free when you order a beer and when you take your child to the market or shopping you don’t have to feed them dinner because they have received so much cake, bread, fruit etc. in free snackies.

On our second day in A Coruna, we had a rather surrealistic experience while sitting and eating shared tapas-ish dinner on the docks between out boats (Elena, Mjolner and a newcomer called the Zilvermeeuw). A very faint sound of bagpipes moved closer and closer - were our navigation skills so bad? Where we in Scotland? Finally we saw a small motor boat driving slowly past with about 5 people, 2 of whom were dancing around and playing bagpipes. We waved and clapped and they waved back. The boat then turned back to us and a chubby little man held out a bucket from which he fished a small turtle. He handed it over to us with a big smile and a wave and off they drove still swaying to the sound of the ‘doedelzak’ (I love the Dutch word for bagpipes). I have since learned that this is locally known as a gaitas galega and is a very popular traditional instrument in the region. The Galician bagpipes can be traced back to the middle ages (as far back as the 13th and 14th centuries), and are a staple instrument in all of the regions fiestas. And the turtle? He was greatly admired by the children until they began to poke and prod him a little too roughly at which time he was placed carefully in a big box with water, food and a hiding place to be taken back to the sea the following morning.

Our first rainy day in weeks warranted a visit to the aquarium and a trip up to the top of A Coruna to see the Torre de Hercules, a 1900 year old Roman lighthouse that is the oldest Roman lighthouse still in use. Macsen discovered a new side of himself in the aquarium. He loves to look at fish – we couldn’t tear him away. This is a great aquariam with enormous floor to ceiling tanks displaying examples of the local sealife. Macsen stood in front of the tanks with his arms and legs wide, waggling his head back and forth, pointing at the fish and giggling.

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