31/10/2022, 11:42

It’s been quite the year.

I’m finally ready to start sharing a bit about what’s happened and changed within me. This time, I plan to actually write and share with honesty; not the thing I was doing before — hiding behind some semi-curated veneer of who I actually am for the sake of ignoring some of my shadows. Let’s see if any of it makes sense and/or is helpful to others.

In the meantime though, here’s my pilgrim credential from my four-day camino de invierno a Santiago de Compostela (I collated some Instagram Stories from along the way):

Day 1: Monforte de Lemos → Chantada
Day 2: Chantada → Rodeiro
Day 3: Rodeiro → Silleda
Day 4: Silleda → Santiago de Compostela

I also re-connected Micro.blog to kickstart the slow move away from Twitter/Instagram.

Goodbye Nanín: Random Photos from 18 Months in Allariz

I’m sitting in two shipping containers converted into a small 30 square meter house. They’re installing drywall in what will be the bathroom. I’d like to be outside, but it’s raining off and on. I’ll use this time to share photos from the last eighteen months in Allariz.

This was one of the first houses for sale we looked at. I’m very happy to report that we didn’t jump into this and spent more time feeling out the area and where we wanted to be.

Our rental in all her glory. Refreshing and cool in the spring and summer, freezing and unbearable in the winter, but better than an apartment in a city for a global pandemic and the ensuing quarantines.

Like the house, the fig tree was a mixed bag. It gets messy and attracts bees.

The fuente of Nanín, according to locals, gives some of the best water in all of Allariz. Indeed, we’d often see people with many glass jugs of water filling up for the water .

I never tired of trying to photograph nature. As is the case, it never comes out how I saw an felt the landscape at the time, but the the colors of this one from December 2019 is special.

What’s left of the castelo de Todea at the strategic top of a hill in O San Salvador, another village close to Nanín.

The Arnoia river from a walking path close to Vilariño do Río. Monforte also has a river running through it, the Cabe.

Then a pandemic came and I started noticing that Allariz gave me a different feeling. Yes, it was small, that hadn’t bothered me. But only heading down for a weekly market trip was a bit surreal. For months, I would walk up the monte and see what Allariz looked like that day from afar.

I started escaping to the monte much more than usual, usually with Alqo, many times with Patricia. I saw the changes in season and the cycle of vegetation on the same worn paths. Further down from the above image, I saw the tail end of a big boar running from us.

I named landmarks and paths to differentiate them, and to recount what I saw to Patricia if she hadn’t come with me. This is Nanín’s Uluru, aptly named Big Rock by me.

Nervous of the longevity of the quarantine and bored of being cooped up inside, we decided to spruce up the ignored small patch of garden in front of our house. Back up the monte to collect sticks and soil, we made a small raised bed where we planted carrots, arugula, strawberries, spinach, and beets.

With the two-person hammock our friends gave us when we left Germany, the small space actually turned out relaxing. As relaxing as the first months of 2020 could be. The better weather helped immensely.

Last Ramadán, en plena pandemia, felt strange and familiar. As a convert, it reminded me of my first year, fasting at home, trying to explain my decisions to my family. Patricia fasted a bit in solidarity and helped provide us with amazing vegan or vegetarian iftars every night.

Patricia kept up the garden, Alqo did his part and mostly watched, not trying to lay down or dig it up.

And I continued my daily after-lunch walks with the pup, admiring what I hadn’t noticed the day before.

After a strange summer of house hunting, a few weekends at the beach house, and a quick trip to Portugal, fall arrived again. At the peak of summer, the monte was too hot and full of bugs to enjoy. The weather cooled, the bugs disappeared, and we were back to exploring.

In October, we found our spot and the rest is history. I’ll miss a few friends in Allariz. They know who they are. But after talking with a friend yesterday, I realize I don’t have bittersweet feelings about leaving. Here near the Val de Lemos, I’m reinvigorated to explore, keep improving my castellano and galego, meet local and foreign residents, and work on skills and habits I’ve been cultivating. So, Allariz, ata logo!

Wednesdays At Home

I’ve been internet absent for a while but everything is good over here, all told. Our house search is finally over. A couple weeks ago, we bought a small late 18th-century stone house with some adjacent ruins. They sit on 1,800 square meters of land in a depopulated village close to Monforte de Lemos, a town of around 20,000 and the capital of Ribeira Sacra. The area is filled with oak, chestnut, cork, and other plants native to Galicia, as well as pine for paper pulp.

It’ll be a few months before we’re able to leave our rental in Allariz. So on Wednesdays, our day off, we drive the hour up on truly one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever seen in Spain and do whatever we can.

Yesterday, it was sweeping, fixing the door, and temporarily closing one of the windows so we can start storing tools there.

Bo Nadal, everyone!

Photos From Ribeira Sacra Lucense

As the first trip out of our town since the quarantine, we started north to Ourense, then headed northeast to explore the towns just before Monforte de Lemos on the lucense side of the Ribeira Sacra. The weather was mostly dry but a little chilly, the end of an unusual cool streak.

We passed the small railroad town of Canaval (or Canabal in castellano), right off the highway near Ferreira de Pantón, quite a few times this week. Along with the train station and a cluster of old homes was an old brick industrial smokestack that reminded me of Cologne. For whatever reason, memories of driving through rural France on the way to Germany came to mind. The town felt forgotten, but in peaceful way. Perhaps its train service and proximity to Monforte de Lemos.

After Doade, a touristy town dedicated to the area’s signature viniculture, comes the Lookout of Souto Chao with its great views of Canón do Sil and its granite statue of a grape picker.

We bounced around between lugares and parroquias in Sober, Pantón, and O Saviñao looking at different houses from idealista, talking with neighbors, and getting a feel for the rural life in this corner of Galicia. On the way, we found a lake near Rosende. It turned out to be private property but we still managed to have a nice lunch and walk around without disturbing anyone, or them us.

Alqo has been getting braver with going into the water and swimming a bit since we showed him the Arnoia river by our house. The last time he swam was in Long Beach and I think the waves scared him!

Van camping is fairly easy in Europe. While not exactly legal, if you’re off private land and and not conspicuous in you’re vehicle, you shouldn’t have a problem. When you camp off-season and in less-populated places, this becomes easier.

Alqo and I are almost always the first out of bed.

Many of the fincas we looked at have been long abandoned. Occasionally all that is left is the stone foundation, like this house that was built in the 19th century. Other times, we’ve seen houses with the bedspreads still on and knickknacks on the bookshelves. The older generation emigrated out of necessity. The Galician land inheritance system of minifundium prevented families from growing enough to sustain themselves, so they left; to Cuba, Argentina, to Catalonia or Basque Country. The younger generation inherited these places but either can’t or won’t live in the rural world for myriad reasons. No jobs, no option to telecommute, used to city life, etc.

Perhaps there will come a de-urbanization phenomenon due to the pandemic and financial crisis that pulls young people away from the cramped city life back into España vacía, empty Spain.

This mirador is actually on the Ourensan side of the canyon. Our last night we decided to cross over the river and camp near Paradela and Castro Caldelas. The mirador As Penas de Matacás offers a stunning view at sunset. I don’t think it’s possible to tire of looking at the canyon walls, the vineyards, and the villages nestled close to them.

There’s been a lot going on in the world, and I need to disconnect a bit. So I brought Castelao’s Sempre en Galiza, translated by Craig Peterson, with me on the trip. It’s a very interesting book. The publisher Francis Boutle sums the book up quite nicely:

Forever in Galicia is the most extensive account of Galician identity ever written, an idiosyncratic text that spans and erodes the traditional genres of memoir, political treatise, historical essay and revisionist analysis.

I’ll share more after I’ve read more, but suffice it to say that it’s a compelling read for another interested in the history and cultural diversity of Iberia.

Lastly, on our route home, we saw a few reservoirs on the map. We stopped at the small beach near the town of Pradomao and found a great potential camping spot for the future.

The trip was both refreshing and intimating. Refreshing as it removed us from the monotony of the quarantine life while still being safe and socially distant. But intimating as it made us confront new potentialities.

  • How big of a rehabilitation and agriculture project can we both handle?
  • How far is too far removed from nodes of denser society for economic and social futures?
  • What will the area look like in ten, twenty, thirty years?

And so many more. Patricia said it didn’t feel like a vacation since her brain was in constant overdrive with possibilities. I agree.

Next week, we head back to the Rías Baixas area for a few days to visit family and plant a small garden.

Phase 3 to la Nueva Normalidad in Galicia

The Xunta of Galicia, the autonomous community government, will allow inter-provincial travel as the region enters phrase 3 of the deescalation/transition starting Monday (along with 46% of the Spanish population in other communities). Phase 3 will be directed by the autonomous governments rather than the national government of Sanchez, and they will decide when they are ready to transition out of phase 3 to the “new normal”.

Galicia has long petitioned for inter-provincial travel during these phases. I’ve seen some interesting stories about people living next to provincial borders not being able to easily get groceries, as the market is in the other province. In fact O Bloque Nacionalista Galega, the left-wing Galician nationalist party that holds one seat in the Congress of Deputies, has abstained from Sanchez’s state of alarm renewals due to this unrequited request.

Galicia with a population of 2.7 million, currently has a total of 11,172 COVID-19 cases with 609 fatalities. The cases per million is 4,138 and the fatalities per million is 226. Of the 17 autonomous communities and the 2 autonomous Moroccan enclave cities, Galicia falls about in the middle of severity in cases and deaths.

Personally, this means we can cross the río Sil and explore Terra de Lemos, the heart of the Ribeira Sacra, in a few weeks on a first road real van trip of the year. The van life is excellent for maintaining social distance I might add. After that, we plan to head back to Rías Baixas on the coast for a few days of beach before all the madrileños are able to make their post-coronavirus summer holiday exodus from the capital.

While I still love our village and the adjacent town, I’m ready to move around responsibly, hike, take photos of something other than the monte, enjoy the spring and summer weather, and take advantage of all that Galicia has to offer.