Vigo is a blue collar city. The cruise line didn’t find many things to do in Vigo and sent most people far and wide around Galicia. We found Vigo to be very interesting because we were interested in seeing people and their culture rather than things.
The ship gave us 10 hours in Vigo but we only used seven of them, with at least three spent on the internet and eating. Nevertheless, I think the city provides a lot to see and I’d come back. I think the cruise ships don’t recognize what the city has to offer. We spent an hour riding around the city going out and another hour riding through the city on the way back. If one were willing to focus on the blue collar benefits of the city, it can be very interesting.
We got off the ship around 945am and immediately found wifi to be available in the terminal waiting room. Marilyn and I had a hard time getting used to the 6 hour time difference with the east coast and especially the direction of the change, since we were used to handling a five or six hour difference in the other direction in Hawaii. We spent an hour getting up to date on email and calling those in the states who wouldn’t mind receiving a call at 430am their time (Marilyn’s mother) and leaving a few messages. The internet turned out to be unreliable, so we left to start our ride.
A supervisor of Spanish security gave us directions to our destination of Baiona but warned us that the ride might be fraught with traffic and a few hills. She ran up to us later to suggest we try a visit to Bouzas, a beach area a little bit closer which also had the only bike paths she could remember in the area. We decided to try Bouzas for now and to decide after we had seen it whether to try for Baiona, 15 miles away.
The port area in Virgo is very new and open with a modern three story mall inside the area. It opens onto moderately busy city streets in town center. Our turn to the right took us quickly into the commercial port area. I found this extremely interesting. The first sensations are from the smell of fish as one rides through the fishing port and the packing houses for this, the largest fishing export port in Europe. These lie immediately across from service business offices and restaurant/bars. I believe anchovy fishing and packing are very big businesses here. I would have liked a visit to see the inside of the fish packing facility.
One then passes into the shipbuilding and repair district spread over the next 10-20 blocks. On the right lay fishing boats in port and building after warehouse for ship fitting industries, some small and some large. We passed at least one large container ship under construction and almost a dozen smaller ships, some in dry-dock for refit and others being built new. I’d have liked a tour of a few of these. Across the street lay dozens of shipbuilding support small businesses ranging from welding supplies to metal grinding motors and paint. Many of these were housed in modern glass front buildings. I saw at least one office for salvage businesses. In front of these buildings were parked hundreds of Audis and Citroen sedans along with Volkswagen, Honda, and Toyota subcompacts. Even more in abundance were motor scooters, parked neatly in rows of hundreds or more. The streets themselves were not wide, but the traffic also was manageably light and the drivers gave us plenty of room. We had to negotiate a dozen traffic circles but quickly learned to stay on the outside and to be brave when our time to exit came. Traffic lights at this time of day were set at mostly blinking yellow and we had to stop only two or three times for red lights. Again, traffic lined up calmly around us at the lights and I never felt threatened. I looked back frequently to ensure Marilyn was negotiating the traffic satisfactorily and found her keeping surprisingly close to me. I even speeded up, thinking she was having trouble staying far enough behind me.
We took one wrong turn which took us into the Bouzas port area rather than the beach area. This area, too, was very industrial and very new. The buildings were modern, well spaced from one another, and indicative of an industry which might have a competitive advantage over that of other countries because they could take advantage of modern methods and equipment. We saw many workers along the way too. They seemed generally young and diligent, appearing well dressed and cropped. Correcting our error, we headed up a modest incline on something like a superhighway which turned toward Baiona further up the hill and into a tunnel. This solved our question of whether or not to try to get to Baiona (Not!) and we turned back down the incline to find the beach and bike paths of Bouzas. Immediately after negotiating the traffic circle taking us away from the tunnel, I could see the bike path paralleling us on the other side of a fence. We rode to the bottom of the hill and turned to the right twice to find the bike path entrance. This was found on the right side of a narrow bay ending at the road we were riding on. We entered the bike path and rode for the next 2-3 miles on the path as it skirted the north side of the bay. A walking path lay between the bike path and the water. Children play areas appeared at 3-4 places along the path accompanied by adult exercise areas with some exercise devices. The path moved under the highway we had negotiated earlier and then rose to reveal a vast expanse of parking spaces nearly filled with new automobiles and trucks. This was part of the enormous auto assembly plant which provides many jobs for Vigo. I think there is another assembly plant on the other side of town. I then realized how many auto delivery tractor trailers I had seen on the roads. I think the Vigo assembly plants were busy. The bike path continued completely around the plant and changed into a walking path for the last half mile. Walkers, runners, and occasional bike riders were to be found every 50 yards or so. I stopped at the end of the path for pictures when the path came up to a locked gate in the fence. I was astounded when another biker approached and continued at high speed onto the18 inch wide rocky path next to the fence continuing from the gate. Opposite the fence was a 30 foot high rocky 45 degree slope leading to the bay. He stopped hurriedly twenty yards down the path and managed not to tumble into the water. After stopping for 10-20 seconds to view the lack of a path ahead, he turned around and took off back down the path in the opposite direction.
Two women led a baby in a carriage up to the gate and two older men joined us one after the other. We all contemplated the view of the bay, the ships in the water and the various inhabited areas on the other side of the water. The ocean lay to our right five miles off or so seen on either side of several islands guarding the entrance to the bay.
We also turned around and negotiated our way back to the beginning of the bike path. This time around, I realized that we passed the football field for one of the local professional soccer/football teams. I also realized that the narrow bay area next to us was replete with boat harbors housing 15-30 foot power and sailboats. Fishing and recreational sailing are also major pastimes here. I also spied another path with walkers and bikers on the opposite side of the narrow bay/inlet. We drove around the small beach at the end of the bay/inlet and rode up the path. At one point the path gave way to an area where the beach cut into the land here and the path had significantly fallen away. We had to walk the bikes past this point and continued to walk the bikes for 200 yards past stairs leading up to high-rise buildings atop the hillside. We stopped at a children’s play area and locked the bikes while we sought bathrooms in the commercial areas at the bottom of the high-rises. One of the businesses turned out to be a coffee shop and tapas restaurant.
We used their bathrooms and found out they had wifi. We decided to order espresso and the complementary chocolate croissants and complete our internet business over the next hour and a half. The connection was unusually fast and Marilyn even used it to download the podcasts for her iPod which she hadn’t seen for 5 weeks. We also tried three of their tapas, one of wurst, bread, and cheese, one of ham and cheese croquets served with lettuce salad dressed in balsamic vinegar and one of seafood baguettes with a beautiful and spicy orange tomato dressing.
Upon finishing the tapas and business, we headed back toward the ship back down the path and the beach area at the end near the street. Marilyn was astounded to see one of the four women on the beach walking topless down toward the water.
I opined that this was common in Europe and people here were not embarrassed to be seen half naked and managed to avoid gawking while missing the several people in my way on the path. We turned onto the streets and negotiated our way back to the ship over the next half hour through afternoon traffic. Again, I emphasize that I never felt threatened by the cars and trucks although the roads were busy. The frequently-stopping busses, autos parking, and commercial vehicles double parking left plenty of room for us to get past and then ride for most of a block before the vehicles behind us could get past those same obstacles.
Once at the ship, we decided to seek wifi in the port mall. The three outdoor restaurants turned out negative but the gelato establishment on the third floor was a jackpot. I had gelato, Marilyn had wine, and we set up our internet connection quickly. One odd thing occurred. I unsuccessfully tried first a credit card, then dollars to pay the $6.5 Euro bill. A gentleman behind me offered to pay the bill (He was also a cruise passenger), then first refused but eventually accepted my demand to accept my $10 bill in trade. Aren’t people wonderful?