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The best part of this tour was the last bit so read on to
find out why!
Tour guides come in many versions, mostly pretty good but
I suspect that the young lady we were landed with was wearing 'L' Plates. Her
English was heavily accented and a bit lacking in the colloquial department. By
the end of the tour we all felt that if we heard the phrase 'As I told you' one
more time we would scream. Yes, the guide had a lot to tell us and, yes, she
also had to interrupt herself to point out statues and buildings but didn't
seem to know how to return to her narration without those fateful words.
I don't know about anyone else on the coach but I felt
that the start of the tour was so depressing it took time to begin to see the
charms of Vigo. A 2kl. long tunnel (not good for claustrophobics) to reach La
Guia Hill for the panoramic views of the bay, the countryside and the mussel
farms - obscured by loads of vegetation - then a drive back to the city through
a derelict area is not good for Public Relations.
The City of Vigo is very hilly - which is why I had opted
for the tour. We drove along many streets, the names of which were a blur as we
passed the street signs, so I am not sure of the location of many of the
statues and memorials we passed. For example, there is a Worker's Monument, The
Merman, Fishermen and, in Plaza de Espana (hard to miss this one), a fabulous
statue of several wild horses - in black. According to the guide these horses
represent the wild white horses that roamed El Castro Hill and each July
there is the fiesta of white horses celebrating the cutting of the manes of these
beautiful animals. (I've searched the internet but haven't found any references
to this Fiesta).
In Montero Rios Avenue is a statue of Jules Verne because
the second chapter of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is based on a Spanish
treasure ship which was sunk in the Bay by the British.
If you don't like bagpipes check very carefully when
planning to visit Vigo. As the pipes are a popular local instrument, every July
there is a bagpipe festival when pipers from around the world gather to share
The penultimate 'treat' was a stroll through the 17th
century Castrelos Park. I am sure that they are beautiful in spring and summer
but in October they were a tad dreary.
A small Folly in the garden
Now we come to my favourite part of the tour.... The
final stop on the tour was at the 5* Hotel Playa los Escudos for tapas. Most
people had tea or coffee but I opted for a very nice white wine (not the usual
plonk dished out on these occasions). And, I confess, ate a lot of the tapas
which I adore. I certainly didn't need lunch when we returned to the ship!
Even from my whistle-stop tour of the city it was easy to
see that Vigo is a beautiful place to stroll around. And, shopaholics, there
are plenty of shops! It is no good blaming P&O for a not very good tour -
the local tour operator is the one at fault. Something which I had to point out
to several of my fellow passengers.
I understand that Terciera, the third largest of the
islands of the Azores acquired its nickname due to the pastel coloured sunsets.
Unfortunately we weren't there long enough to find out.
Although the capital is Angra do Heroismo as it wasn't
possible to enlarge the harbour, the east coast town of Praia da Vitoria is the
major port. Here you can have a lazy few hours on the beach, head for the
shopping centre or go sightseeing.
The first stop on the tour of the island was up a
mountain from where we saw the most spectacular views. Looking down at the
farms I was reminded of English farms of long ago. Small fertile fields and
meadows but divided by stone walls rather than hedgerows. As dairy produce is a
big earner there are herds and herds of cattle, mostly Holsteins with some
Jerseys which provide a richer cream.
The drive took us along virtually deserted roads, across
a bumpy cobbled road (a nod to historic preservation) and across to the capital
Agra do Heroismo. So named by King Pedro IV in 1834 in recognition of its
patriotism against various threats (from pirates?) and resistance to the
Portuguese King Miguel during the Civil War (1820 to 1831).
This was the only place where we saw a lot of traffic.
There was a walking tour available but as it is a hilly town, much as I would
have liked to join it, common sense prevailed. Instead I sauntered on my own -
to the port, back to the town square (for a sit down) then to amble around some
very pretty gardens. Of course, if you cannot walk far or just feel lazy you
can always sit in the square to watch the world go by and maybe have an ice
In the centre of the island we also drove to the top of
another mountain via San Sebastian Fort. A word of warning to the nervous - the
entrance/exit to the fort is about 6 inches wider than the coach. Definitely a
time to shut one's eyes then cheer the driver once he has successfully
negotiated his vehicle through that aperture. As well as fantastic views, there
is also a tall Memorial to walk around.
Although Portugal was neutral during World War II, due to
the important strategic location of the Azores, the United States was allowed
to construct a small airfield on this island. This is now the airport of Lajes.
Visiting the island of Terceira was a last minute
decision due to some unfortunately rough seas. The designated island had been Horta
but as landing there is by liberty boats, it was deemed too dangerous so
P&O did a quick bit of re-organisation, along with the island's tourist
board and we had an excellent half day out. Those of us who went ashore weren't
disappointed and I think congratulations are in order to the people of Terceira
for organising the last minute tour of their homeland.