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Published: October 14th 2014
Vigo and Ourense in western Spain 12 October 2014
We had a late start after many phone calls to South Australia. Love you all.
The sky looked a little dark when we set off at 11.00am and whilst driving the 90kms to Vigo, we drove through several showers of rain.
When we arrived in Vigo, it was Sunday, the Tourist Office was closed and even though is was a medium sized city, the streets were very quiet. All we had was our GPS which included the attractions we could see, as well as my notes on the city.
We did know that during the Middle Ages the small village of Vigo was part of the territory of Portuguese speaking neighbouring towns, and suffered several Viking attacks. However, the number of inhabitants was so small that, historically, Vigo was not considered to be a real village until around the 15th century, when the earliest records began.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the city was attacked several times. In 1585 and 1589, Francis Drake raided the city and temporarily occupied it, leaving many buildings burnt. Several decades later a Turkish fleet tried to attack the city. As
a result the walls of the city were built in 1656 during the reign of Philip IV of Spain. They are still partially preserved.
So the poor town has had a rough start to life! Later it was even occupied by British troups and then, still later again, by French troops.
Today it is a big harbour town as it is on the gulf of Vigo and many cruise ships and cargo ships keep the area very busy. It has a population of 300,000 people
We climbed up the 100s of steps to the top of the hill where there was the old castle and the walls. We could see why they built the castle there as the vantage point was excellent. We also walked around the harbour as there was a cruise ship that was loading its passengers ready to depart. It was very busy.
After a couple of hours of walking around and sitting down for a cup of coffee, which was made of sweet milk (yuck!), we drove almost due east to Ourense.
The origin of this town can be traced to the Romans and the presence of hot springs called the
Burgas. We visited 2 lots of open air, public thermal baths which were well used, with beautiful gardens around them.
After we settled into our hotel which was very close to the centre of town, we walked into the old area of the city. It started to rain so we hopped onto the little tourist train which took us to the thermal baths. This is one of the main tourist attractions is related to hot springs, as Ourense holds one of the greatest amount of geothermal water in Europe. There are several places called pozas, with or without entrance fee, where you can have a bath outdoors. This is what we visited on the train.
Most of the time the train travelled along the banks of the Miño River which was very pleasant.
We learned that there had been a need to fortify the city in the early centuries and one of the easiest ways to protect it was across the Miño River. There is still a Roman bridge in good order which the tourist train uses.
The economy of the city of Ourense is marked by a predominance of service sector, plus it has the
largest shopping and leisure in the province, and administrative, educational and health services. Construction industry is also important here. With a population of over 100,000 it's a nice sized town.
Again, as it was still Sunday, the streets were reasonably quiet. It wasn't until 8.00pm did we start seeing more people gathering at the Tapas Bars and cafes. We had a light dinner (because there were no other options on a Sunday night) in one restaurant and a coffee in one of the bars before returning to our hotel. It had stopped raining.
You may guess that our focus is really on getting to Madrid rather than being the detailed-tourist, so I guess we are certainly ready to come home. Over the next 2 days we have one long days drive and a short days drive before we arrive in Madrid.
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