Fat Hands

she used to sit in this cafe, and just face the wall. And it wasn’t coffee she was drinking

Manos Gordas

Posted by Alix on 29 November 2005

I spent the weekend in Galicia, briefly in Santiago de Compostela , but mainly in a Coruna. Santiago was pleasant – pretty dilapidated outskirts, but a much prettier centre with small alleys filled with cafes with live crustaceans in tanks in the windows, and hams hanging from ceilings. Had a look inside the huge cathedral, the exterior of which made it look like it had recently emerged from under the sea, and the interior had a PA system requesting loudly in different languages that visitors be silent, somewhat ruining the atmosphere. We went for lunch after an old man stationed outside a restaurant enticed us in there, and soon realised that none of us could understand any Galego, so used the international language of vague gestures and pointing. My GCSE Spanish was not very useful, although the waiter seemed to take a fancy to me and tried to teach me how to pronounce words, but sadly I had no idea what he was saying, so just grinned politely a lot. I ate shrimp in garlic sauce, and it was tasty, with a lovely herby and buttery juice.
We then left Santiago and caught the train to a Coruna, where after checking in to the hotel headed to the old town where we split up into smaller groups to eat. We had some pimientos padron as a starter (actually was too much for 5 of us), and a giant platter consisting of crab claws, whole crabs, langoustine, winkles and goose barnacles. It was an impressive array of seafood, but not varied enough in taste to be delicious. It was pretty overwhelming though. The least tasty part by far were the goose barnacles which were deeply disturbing. I don’t really know why the Spanish go to such lengths to procure them. After this we went to an Irish bar, which still had its Halloween decorations up. I was pleased to be informed that they had a Kriek at the bar, so drank a bit too much of this. We retired to the hotel and drank one and a half minibars, then fell asleep. Sunday, we went to the bay and looked at the waves, then walked up to the Aquarium Finisterre, passing lots of graffiti en route. The aquarium was good, and it was quite refreshing to not feel obliged to read all the information (as it was in Spanish). I did note that the Spanish for cephalopod seems to be ‘Con pies y cabeza’, which pleased me. After we considered going up to the Tower of Hercules, but concluded we were too hungover. Wandered back to the old town and ate in a café off the square (chips and a proper hamburger with thin sliced Spanish cheese and fresh salad), then I went up to St Anton castle, and the amazing port authority building and walked out along the harbour wall to the end, stopping along the way to converse with indifferent feral cats, then walked back to the hotel, enjoying the juxtaposition of palm trees and the wintry fading light at dusk.
In the evening, after a brief nap we went for more food (shared some queso, tortilla, pulpo, zorza, and grilled prawns, then had a steak to myself). Everything seemed to come with chips, and was pretty greasy. I wasn’t too keen on the pulpo to be honest. Then, somewhat inevitably we ended up in the Irish bar again, where much drink was drunk. There was a golden retriever in there, which meant we could finally interact with the locals using the language of dog admiration/ fending off. The dog was nuts, incidentally. Got up a bit early on the last day before going to the airport so I could go and buy some chorizo, goat’s cheese and morcilla. And a snood.

Other things of note:
1. The hand driers in the toilets at Stansted airport are amazingly strong, and actually push your skin around; a bit like a bloodhound sticking it’s head from a speeding car (depending on how fat your hands are).
2. The train seats in Spain are reversible, so that you can choose to face people or not.
3. The heraldic device for a Coruna is a tower, some scallop shells and a skull and crossbones. There was a whole flowerbed planted in the shape of a large skull and crossbones, but sadly I was unable to get a picture. I did get some other pictures of the device though.

More photos here.

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