Of course, every coast is salty. But northwest Spain’s Galician coastline seems the saltiest of all: its landscape licked into shape by the churning, whirling waves, its cuisine at one with the sea and its architecture, history and general attitude shaped by the way that surf reaches the shore.
This is a place to experience the real side of Spain, away from tower blocks, fake paella and concrete-edged, crowded hotel pools.
Overdeveloped resorts, you know who you are.
In Galicia, the curves and swerves of the coastline resemble the fused sutures of the skull: intricate, delicate and yet immensely strong.
Few regions in the world are like this, the closest one to mention would be Ireland’s wild Atlantic way. In fact, should you set sail without a sail from that part of Ireland, Galicia is where you would wash up, as many monks did centuries and centuries ago.
With short flights from London and a car and sat nav on board, it’s easy to wiggle your way along the coast from La Coruña to Santiago de Compostela and enjoy an authentic Spain that few visitors get to see.
I cheated, a little, in this case. Heading off with a guide, a driver and a couple of good friends, this plan left me with more time to gaze through the windows, to stand on the clifftops and to track down some churros.
The fields may be green, the weather changeable, but some of the sweetest parts of Spanish culture still, of course, remain.
Galicia’s distinctive landscape, a mix of lakes, valleys, soft-sand beaches and ferocious, raging-black cliffs, results from a blip in geography.
Like most places, valleys developed as the rivers ran into the sea. Years ago, when the sea levels rose, cutting off Britain, the coastline of Galicia flooded. The sea flowed inland across the rivers, creating marshy, wide rias you can still see today.
It’s these rias that explain the extended, Loch Ness monster-like bridges.
And it’s these rias that explain the high quality, ubiquitous seafood.
It’s Galicia’s coastline that creates its lighthouse trail: from black and white and candy-striped red right to the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Roman lighthouse in La Coruña.
In short, and much as I hate the overused term, a road trip along Galicia’s coastline provides a real taste of the real Spain. And yes, everything we experience is real, no matter where we are.
But. Well. You know what I mean…
Flights take around two hours from either London Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted to La Coruña, Santiago de Compostela or Vigo. Find more about travel to Galicia here.
I also received a complimentary ticket from the Heathrow Express to connect from my Cardiff – London Paddington train to the airport. The Heathrow Express has changed a lot since I used to live in London: it’s now possible to get tickets for as little as £5.50 if you book in advance.
Disclosure: I travelled to Galicia, Spain as part of a project between Captivate and the Spanish Tourist Board. As ever, as always I kept the right to write what I like. Otherwise I lose the will to even enjoy my churros. Life is just too short.