The International Writers Magazine:Galicia Spain
In Your Eye
Stop it! No, it wasnt Sybil screaming at her husband
whilst he beat Manuel (hes from Barcelona) for setting the
fictitious Torquay hotel on fire in yet another episode of the
old BBC television serial Fawlty Towers. It was my
wife warning me to be on my best behaviour.
All I had said was
take a look at that lot. As we were checking into one of
the tucked away Galician spas to spend our first peaceful New Year celebration
away from the madding crowd. Waiting behind us was a group of old age
pensioners, all dolled up and ready for a dinner party. It was only
eleven in the morning! She knew from past experience that the moment
we began any holiday, my sarcastic mental video camera would sprout
into action and any moving human that entered my sights would be in
for it. But its only
I shut up and filled in
The Kingdom of Galicia as some locals call it is a part of Spain unknown
tomost of the British lager-louts or fish and chip lovers. As opposed
to the South or most of the Mediterranean coast, the landscape is lush
green and wet. Its coastline, caressing the North Atlantic Ocean is
blessed with breathtaking fiords hiding hundreds of golden sandy beaches
all separated by menacing yet beautifully carved natural cliff-tops.
Sporadic sunshine during the summer months attracts the inland Spaniards
that escape the hot arid plains for their annual holiday break. Galicia
is best known for its famous cathedral in Santiago de Compostela where
St. James, the moor slayer, is buried. Thousands of Christian pilgrims
visit the shrine each year having travelled from different corners of
the world in all manner of conventional and other means of transportation.
Travel inland and one is confronted with pure nature. Tiny forgotten
villages, connected by twisting roads that circumvent cascading rivers
will cause many a foreigner to forget that he is in Spain.
Hidden in this jungle of beauty is the province of Ourense. As its Latin
name Aquae Urentes implies it is famous for its hot water
springs, discovered and exploited by the Romans back in the Ist century.
The particular area around the town of Rivadavia straddled by the river
Miño that separates Spain from Portugal is the most revered and
sort after with the largest concentration of spas in the region.
My wife and I chose a relatively new one called Laias Caldaria half
way between Rivadavia and the capital city of Ourense. We booked for
the whole long weekend from the 29th of December to the 2nd of January.
As I mentioned earlier, we were miles away from any national or international
mischief. As we dumped our luggage in our room and readied ourselves
for the first dip, I thought, sorry George. Im on holiday!
I am sure that most derelict humans around the world have spent many
hours or weeks in places full of natural swimming pools of all shapes
and sizes, dozens of secret cubicles hiding an array of torture gadgets
and an army of young healthy masseurs all dressed in white, ready to
pounce on them. Spas are as common as apple pie. There are so many of
them dotted around the globe and have been for centuries that even I
became convinced that there must be some reason for their attraction.
My wife incidentally, had just undergone a couple of complicated back
operations and the doctors had recommended hot baths and mud sessions
as part of her therapy. Mud sessions, I thought. That was
a new one. I must confess that this was not the first time I had been
to a health farm, or whatever they call these places. It was the second.
Clothes off, bathing suits on, my wife and I were ready for the real
It was midday and there was nobody about. We were all to ourselves in
this magnificent Roman watery temple. Like the three bears,
there was a small hot pool, next to a larger one followed
by an Olympic size super pool that straddled the exterior wall of the
building. You could either boil inside or freeze to death outside. The
choice was yours. I ventured into the middle one. Slowly I moved to
the centre to acclimatize my body and then floated like a retired walrus
to one of the edges. Four separate underwater pressure hoses intermittently
phased to either break your neck or bust your ankle gave me a broadside.
It was total bliss! Goldilocks had chosen the open air one to exercise
her body and prove she could still swim. Clouds of steam spread across
her body with every stroke she took. It wasnt long before a couple
of lithe sexless youths turned up, and, clipboard in hand ushered each
of us separately into two of the mysterious cubicles ready for the next
May sound familiar to a great deal of you, but sitting in a hot bath
with a myriad of tiny water jet streams tickling your fancies, followed
by the local fire brigade practicing their aim at you with a larger
than life hose and finally ending up covered in mud, wrapped in a plastic
bag and left to fry for half an hour was new to me. I have no idea what
they were doing to my wife. All I know is that we survived the first
day and after a healthy nutritious meal, retired to bed without even
bothering to watch the 9 oclock news.
Just before lights out, I went out onto the veranda of our room. For
a few seconds the mountain silence hit me. Not a whisper. Then the sound
of a cock crowing in the distance pierced the evening hush. Another
was heard in the neighbouring farm followed by yet another. You
male chauvinistic roosters, I know what youre up to! I went
Being a nosy parker I asked one of the pool attendants the next day
what type of person came to these joints and whether they had a resident
doctor. Was I surprised! To start with, my wife and I were attending
the spa that specialised in skin ailments. Had we suffered from old
age bones we should have gone to the one on the opposite side of the
river. No wonder I got the mud treatment! A third one specialised in
handicapped persons. As far as medical assistance was concerned, he
was pleased to inform me that their quack was trained in thermal therapy.
As Confucious said, you learn something new every day.
31st of December arrived in all its splendour. The hotel was full and
that evening everyone was dolled up and ready to eat, party and usher
in the New Year. A five course meal including lobster, fish and sirloin
steak gushed down with plenty of white Alvariño and red Rioja
was over in no time. The large dinning room television set was then
switched on and as midnight approached images of Madrids Plaza
de España, packed with people and the town council clock ready
to strike were flashed at all of us. Clong, Clong, followed by twelve
Dings brought us into 2006! The uncorking of champagne bottles could
hardly be heard amidst the roaring screams of all the guests. I
guess weve survived another year, I said as I kissed my
My real surprise came the next day. Once again my wife and I were the
early birds and had the pools to ourselves. Not for long. In twos
and threes they began to appear, disrobe and slither into the water
alongside us. God, arent they ugly! I whispered to
my wife. All these characters looked like movie stars the night before
but now they seemed like extras in a scene from Stalag 17.
My wife didnt bat an eye lid. Basil! Have you looked at
yourself in the mirror recently? I went back to the four hose
© James Skinner. January 19th 2006.
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