Friday, May 31, 2019

Burswood sunset

Since I got home, I have rested my knee completely. The furthest I’ve walked is around the supermarket. Every afternoon, I sit on the balcony getting winter sunshine on my body. The weather has been beautiful, even though people are crying out for rain.

This is my favourite spot for a G and T as the sun goes down:

Napoleon’s Hat and Morher-in-Law’s Tongue in the foreground.

Sunset reflected on Crown Towers. James Packer has just sold half his share in Crown to a Macau based company. Who knows what will happen next?

Those town houses directly in front of us are not selling well, so maybe it will deter people from building any more.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Home again

Trains, boats, planes.... and now back home again, resting my knee. I received a lot of sympathy from the Croatian taxi driver who drove me from Perth Airport. He knew all about meniscus injuries being an ex-footballer. He told me about a guy he knew in Croatia who had cured his knee with bee stings. The trick is to put 5 bees on your knee and let them sting you! (And just hope you are not allergic!)

On the plane home I watched 3 episodes of My Brilliant Friend based on the novel by Elena Ferrante about growing up in Naples. I’m now reading the book:

How did I miss this before?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ourense to Madrid

I arrived at Ouense Station in good time to have breakfast and buy a ticket for the 8.29 train. I was amazed to be told there were no trains to Madrid for the next 2 days, “due to work on the line”. For some unknown reason, the incompetent woman in the ticket office sold me a ticket for Leon, then change for Madrid. It later transpired that this ticket was for tomorrow! I only discovered this when I was trying to board said train. After much argument, it appeared there was a replacement bus to Zamora, which would connect to a Madrid train. Why I had not been told about this originally, I don’t know. Anyway, the replacement bus was a very comfortable 3.5 hour trip, in a luxurious bus on the motorway. It was a lovely sunny day, with nice scenery from my front seat, but I was still fuming over the misinformation I’d been given previously.

The train from Zamora to Madrid fairly rattled along reaching 250 km per hour, even in the long tunnel after Segovia. I began to feel more human after finding the buffet and ordering a beer and a sandwich. It was a relief to arrive at my hotel in Madrid, the Barcelo Imagine, with its strange musical theme, a little haven of tranquility 2 minutes walk from Chamartin Station. I was given a nice quiet room on the 1st floor, but I was keen to visit the roof garden and look out at the view. I remembered last year having a room on the 6th floor, from which I could observe trains coming and going all afternoon (as well as watching a homeless man who was squatting on the waste ground just below, and had even planted a veggie patch). He was still in residence!

Trains coming and going at Chamartin.


Now for a glass of sparkling in the bar.

Healthy fruit platter.

Monday, May 20, 2019


I came by bus, south from Chantada to Ourense. This is my last chance to do some sightseeing before returning home. I’m staying one night at the Barcelo Ourense, which seems brand new. Just across the road is a stop for the Thermal Tourist Train which crosses the river by the medieval pedestrian bridge, turns left and chugs along for half an hour, stopping at all the various thermal pools. Discovered by the Romans, hot water gushes out of the ground into pools, where you can lie and soak yourself till you get wrinkly. There are private spa establishments at Chavasqueira (recently destroyed by fire, though) and further along at Outariz. I intended to visit the latter, but didn’t get off in time, so I proceeded to the next public (ie free) pool. So I saved myself €5.50 by not going to the private one. The public pools were full of oldies like myself (though mostly a lot fatter, I have to say)  soaking in the warm water. The whole area was warm and protected, with big blocks of granite or sandstone retaining any sun that fell on them on a slightly overcast day.

An exotic tree has been planted near to the pools
(an Australian bottle brush just like the one at home).

Thermal Tourist Train.

The fast flowing River Miño, seen from the train.

New bridge: similar design to ours in Perth.

Approach to the medieval bridge.

I finished the day at this place, which boasts that it is the No 3 place in the world for G and T , based on the number of gin types that it has!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Catamaran Trip

At weekends, there are catamaran trips at 11.30 am and 4.00 pm. They go from the landing stage at Belesar and around a big meander in the Miño which I could see from my terrace. Only €5 for seniors. I had booked by email for the 4.30 departure and Esther kindly offered to drive me to the landing at lunchtime. The narrow winding roads in this area are not for the faint hearted, but Esther is an expert driver, I’ll say that for her!

The catamaran set off 20 mins late. It was waiting for a group on a bus tour but the bus had either broken down or crashed into a narrow bridge on the way. Everyone on the catamaran was fed up of waiting, so finally we set off without the bus load of passengers. We were offered our money back, but I didn’t bother: I’d enjoyed the trip, though a cold wind was blowing on the return.

Catamaran seen from my terrace.

Catamarans moored at Belesar.

Leaving Belesar.

Pretty villages en route.

Vines come right down to the waters edge.

Very intensive production.

Cabo do Mundo 2

This Casa Rural has a lot going for it, if only the owners were in residence. I was relying on them being here to talk to me in English about the various local attractions (as reviewers on TripAdvisor had mentioned). Instead they had left a local woman, Esther, to attend to visitors. She was very excitable and spoke rapidly in Spanish, though she claimed to have been attending English lessons for a month! She didn’t know about using Google Translate and was attempting to communicate via Siri. She also comes and goes from her home in Chantada.

So I was alone overnight in my Wine Cellar room, looking out onto my view of the River Miño down below, until darkness fell at 9.30 pm. For dinner, I cooked myself a cheese omelette with bread and red wine. “I have dined well” as the pirates said in Bendinat, Majorca. I explored the house, left to my own devices. There was a bar with an honour system, full of various whiskeys and gins - you name it, it was there! But my bottle of Cabo do Mundo red was enough. There was also a lounge, with books in several languages and a better supply of Galician tourist brochures than had been available in the various tourist information offices I’d visited.

When I woke up at 7.00 am. There was a thick mist hanging over the tops. At 8.00 am I heard a church in the neighbourhood somewhere with Westminster chimes. It was 4 degrees outside; no wifi and no phone signal inside the bedroom!

Imagine my surprise when I went for breakfast and discovered a French family helping themselves to the buffet: mum, dad, little boy and grandparents. Mum had studied in Perth 20 years ago. Esther enlisted her help to translate for me. 

View from my room early today.

Cherries for breakfast from the tree in the garden.

This woman was spraying her veggie patch on the terrace below me.

Her little dog came to visit me.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Cabo da Mundo

This Casa Rural (Cabo do Mundo) is a long way from civilisation, but has an amazing view over the vineyard terraces and a meander of the River Miño, to the south of Chantada. But it is really too remote to do any good, even though it’s only 9 km from town. The road in is really narrow with hairpin bends, but fortunately there is absolutely no traffic on it!  Cabo do Mundo can be translated as End of the World!

A woman called Esther is looking after it in the absence of the owners and has departed leaving me a free run of the place, including the kitchen.  I can cook myself an omelette w. chorizo tonight. The room comes with a bottle of local wine. The fridge is full of goodies, which I can help myself to. She will return to make my breakfast at 9.00 am tomorrow morning. I am sitting on the terrace outside my room, enjoying the sun on my back. 

My room is called the Bodega Room.
It’s cut into the rock and was a wine cellar. But there is aircon if it gets cold!

The incredible view!

But wifi is non-existent.

More views of the house.

More info on the region here:

Friday, May 17, 2019


Chantada is a charming town, untouched by modern development. Houses have closed in balconies and  the streets have arcades of wood or stone going back centuries. Going down to the river, the winding streets are narrow and cobbled. The sun appeared in the late afternoon and families were out in force along the river walk.

Pub by the river

River walk

House of Lemos, which now houses the library and tourist information centre.

Typical coat of arms on the old houses.


Before leaving Chantada, I had another little walk down to the river and took a few photos of an old mill:

Looking back into town from the mill.

Belesar Dam, near Chantada

After leaving Diomondi, we drove a few more kilometres and started to see the dramatic scenery for which the Ribiera Sacra is known. An enormous dam came into view. Here is some info from Wikipedia for any engineers reading this:

This monumental reservoir is another of the great hydroelectric works that the Franco regime carried out and that covered with water large areas of valleys in Galicia and that today forms part of the landscape of the mythical Ribeira Sacra in this province.  It was built in 1963 on the largest river in Galicia, the Miño River.  The name of the reservoir is given by the parish that is 4 km downstream called  Belesar.

Weather still chilly and showery, so I didn’t want to stir far from my hotel. Imagine the good news: one of the top restaurants in town is right next door (A Faragulla) so without stepping outside I could dine well. The bad news: it’s a public holiday, so everybody will be here for a celebratory lunch with family and it will be choca! However they found me a table and an English speaking waiter (who had previously worked at the Wine Interpretation Cantre in Monforte). He looked after me and served me:

Cantabrian anchovies on toast

Baby goat.

This is him:

Monforte to Chantada

I seem to have lost track of the little blue train. The line has disappeared from the map and the Tourist Office knows little about it. So it’s road travel for today.

We had a lot of rain last night and early this morning, and there’s a very grey sky. Last night, there was constant hooting from cars in the street below. It’s a very narrow one-way street and the traffic seemed to be permanently snarled up. Photos in both directions:

I later discovered that it’s a Galician public holiday today, which explains everything - including why there are no buses running!

I was picked up at 10.00 am by my taxi driver and we were soon speeding along to Chantada. On the way, the plan was to visit the Romanesque Church of San Paio de Diomondi. This was off the main highway on a narrow winding country lane - a long way for even fit pilgrims to walk, which is what the guidebooks advise.
We passed a cheese factory and many plump cows enjoying the grass. I found the Church rather austere with its grey stone blocks, but the carvings were in good condition:

Side entrance - but everything closed!

Ruin next door: nobody is looking after this place.

Information from the Turismo Ribiera Sacra website: 

An inscription inside the tympanum of the main door shows the date of 1170. The earliest documentary sources refer to the 8th century and the bishop Odoario. Ferdinand II and Alfonso IX also benefited from donations and privileges to the monastery, being confirmed by Popes as Alejandro III and Lucio III. Now it depends on the bishopric of Lugo and serves as parish church, after being restored to the bishopric on one occasion by King Fernando III in 1231. The early 13th century is the date when it was finished.

Architecturally, it follows the model of apse, with a semicircular head preceded a straight stretch, with triple arch which connects with the single nave.
According to some authors, it reminds us silverware workshops of the Cathedral of Santiago of Compostela.
Three windows at medium altitude with arched columns light up the nave. In the apse also three windows illuminate the interior, though there are only semicircular arches and windows, both inside and outside.
In the beginning, it was intended to build a vault in the nave, although it was not made in the end and it has a wooden roof supported by pointed arches, resting on a few curious capitals of the Romanesque of the moment. The interior windows have simple decoration. In the nave, those on the north side have been blinded by the annexation of the building of the former Episcopal Palace used until the time of Bishop Aguirre in the nineteenth century as a summer residence. Inside semicircular arches decorated with trim were probably intended to accommodate graves that were never carried out.
In terms of decoration, chess impost is in several parts of the building reinterpreted both inside and outside. There are especially looked after north and south doors on the sides, and the main one is divided into three openings and has blind sides.
At the front door, we can see a large archivolt of four arches carved into torus and half round columns with groups of small balls The outer archivolt has chess decoration. The columns on which the archivolts rest are from local marble. The capitals are symmetrically paired decorated: centaurs, quadrupeds, birds and dogs. This symmetry is broken here, since one capital on one side has a human head. Centaurs remain us once again the silverware workshops. The quoins of the door also show animals, perhaps wolves or threatening dogs.
The side doors also show a delicate decoration. The north one can be seen only from the inside, and presents a fine chess decoration that is repeated throughout the entire church, as well as two heads of dogs in the quoins. The south gate is also decorated with chess motifs inside, and has a tympanum with a double row of blind arches outside. Symmetry surprises us again in the quoins, but in this case with two finely carved oxen.
The church is dedicated to San Paio, also known as Pelagius or Pelayo, a martyr of the 9th century who was beheaded in Cordoba by order of Abd al-Rahman. Of Galician origin, his relics are venerated in Cordoba. He is usually represented as a teenager due to his youth looking at death and holding a palm of martyrdom.
It still remains in the collective memory the summer resort of the different bishops of Lugo. In order to do so, a palace was built and attached to the Romanesque building. A recent collapse in this palace ruined the 15th-century facade and shows possible Roman remains.
In the surroundings of the church we find important references of traditional Galician architecture as a pigeon house in the garden of the palace, a laundry and an oven. Nearby there is a nice set of hórreos (typical Galician granaries). We must not forget that the church is very close to the passing of the Winter Way to Santiago, where the descent by Belesar begins to later cross the river Miño in the village.