FEVE fever : 1
In which we find the Holy Grail
Guy sez: What can one say about the 9.15 8-coach ALVIA Talgo from platform 21 of Madrid Chamartin for Ferrol, calling at Zamora, Ourense, Santiago de Compostella, A Coruna, and Betanzos?
Very little really, and I doubt much more tomorrow when we pick it up again from Santiago to Ferrol. Miles of empty countryside which give way to single-track snow-lined passes and peaks after the ritual of gauge change. A friendly guard who shows us where we are on the map. An anxious glance at the speedometer as we come to the curve leading into Santiago where a train derailed last year. Virtually no other traffic.
Lou was offered an Eeyorish dinner at Pepe’s on arrival last night, branded (in the English menu) as beans and thistles. But with no sign of the thistles in practice. I finished my nice acorn-fed ham boccadillo in my stuffy little room. We depart from Chamartin not too much the worse for wear with Burnard family blessings.
Lunch in the first restaurant we encounter coming out of the station at Santiago. Galician soup proves a splendid invention. And then we set about hunting for the Holy Grail, located after some brief confusion under a dusky portico. A charming elderly establishment, with old wooden floors, much wooden pannelling, low ceilings, and walls too thin to keep out the rhythm section rehearsing next door.
Destination the cathedral. We come to a hat shop. Lou needs a new beret — cheaper here than in France, it seems. Both emerge wearing berets.
We proceed to purchase obligatory tourist tat, e.g. postcards, snow globes, etc. etc. Electric candles in front of St James’ relics on behalf of Sandra and Adolfo. But I draw the line at joining the queue to embrace the saint’s statue from the rear, so can tell you nothing today about his bottom. His main claim to fame (apart from apostolic status and biblical references) appears to have been helping Alfonso the nth to defeat the Moors in 700 and something. Will try and find out more about this guest appearance in history. Certainly convenient that his martyred remains had been imported from the Middle East for the occasion. Expecting to find floods of pilgrims, but there seem relatively few tourists around, and between showers we wander round bookshops (- Do you have a book called Transcantabrica. I don’t know the author or publisher. — No.: this allusion reserved exclusively for the surviving Pixies among our readers.)
Dinner is in what we gather is a former gentlemen’s club across the road, with large armchairs and carved wood panelling mainly but not exclusively depicting naked ladies (the panelling that is). If my guts would only behave I might appreciate it more. As it is, I give up on my second Galician soup of the day and on Lou’s surfeit of small green peppers, and retire for an early night: Lou shortly knocks clutching consolatory bottles of water and clementines. More tomorrow, hopefully not of the same, from Lou.