How do mysteries, secrets, originate? In itself it is something mysterious. And it seems that the inhabitants of Galicia, however, know it well. These are the keys revealed by THE TELEGRAPH newspaper in its digital edition, through the excellent article, The spectacular Spanish region that the British haven’t discovered by Annie Benett, which appeared on March 17th.
“Galicia is one of those places where people live very well indeed but don’t really feel the need to shout about it – which might explain why, despite being a popular holiday destination for Spaniards, relatively few Britons make it there.
In the northwest corner of the country, bordered on two sides by the Atlantic and separated from Portugal by the Miño river, it is roughly the size of Belgium – about 180 miles from north to south. Galicia looks more like Cornwall, Wales or Ireland than other parts of Spain and shares with them a strong regional identity, with its own language and a Celtic heritage.
The rugged coastline is scored by deep inlets, known as rías, and has some of the best beaches in Spain. Inland, lush green landscapes are the result of higher rainfall than other parts of the country, but sunshine is pretty much guaranteed from June to September. It is cooler than Andalusia and the Balearics though – pleasantly warm rather than stiflingly hot.”
This hidden gem, however, is well known to many Spaniards who come to Galicia every summer from all parts of Spain, precisely those that host the majority of more than 80 million tourists each year (2019). But there are other secrets hidden in the shadows, far from the scorching sun of other coasts and the hustle and bustle that emerges between the waves. It’s time to eat, who’s got an appetite?
“Galicia is one of the best gastronomic regions in Spain and for many visitors it is the main reason for their trip. Lunch in summer often means a shaded table by the sea, with a bottle of Albariño and a vast platter of shellfish including spider crab, langoustines, scallops, clams and mussels. Percebes – goose barnacles – are harvested from the rocks as the waves ebb by nimble pickers in wetsuits – quite a skill and dangerous too, which explains the high price.
Even if you think you don’t like octopus, try it in Galicia, where it is the signature dish, fresh and tender, drizzled with olive oil and scattered with pimentón. Order some little Padrón peppers as well, blistered and sprinkled with salt. In the Rías Baixas, you see hundreds of the rafts that are used to cultivate mussels and oysters – the mix of fresh and salt water creates the ideal marine environment.
Galicia has five winemaking areas, the best known of which is Rías Baixas, where Albariño grapes are grown on pergolas that stretch across the craggy fingers of land jutting into the Atlantic. You can taste the tang of the sea spray in these white wines, which are a perfect match for shellfish. Make the pretty town of Cambados your base and follow one of the wine routes, taking in cultural heritage and festivals as well as vineyards, many of which are in estates with grand granite mansions.”
There are many more fascinating things in this corner of the Iberian Peninsula which, with the British in mind, someone defined as “the part of the world most like the British Isles, but with better weather and better prices”. And almost all of them are yet to be discovered.