Monday, April 6, 2015

Luarca

Fishing villages, traditional fishing villages, are a beehive of activity. Especially when they have a fleet of smaller boats, fishermen that go back generations and traditions that seem embedded in everything you see. Luarca, situated on the Cape Verde or Green Cape in the north of Spain, is one of those places. A natural harbour, sheltered from the sea by huge cliffs. Over thousands of years Luarca has been crafted by the people that have lived here. Streets are incredibly steep and narrow as they were made well before the age of the motorcar started. Houses have been built close to each other, sometimes almost on top of each other as space is tight, against the steep mountain. Everyone knows everyone and people know they need each other to get things done.

It’s no surprise then that the harbour is a Cofradia, which stands for Cooperative. The fish is sold right at the harbour and also finds its way to the many small restaurants that line the water’s edge. Tourism plays a big part of Luarca’s income too, but not obtrusive. It fits in well with the traditional way of life. There are plenty of small local pubs for instance, rather than tourist cafes. The only concession done to tourism is a translation of the menu in 4 languages, on request.

The ride up to Luarca had been a long one. As you can see in the video in the previous post, we rode up there from Portugal in one day. The plan had been to stay a bit longer in Portugal but as heavy rain was forecasted for the rest of the week, we went a bit quicker north. We had lots of rain and muddy roads. At some stage we were hanging on the handlebars, battling strong sidewinds with the bikes at 45 degrees. Staying an extra day in Luarca, with fine weather, was a nice bonus. The rest of Portugal will have to wait for 'next time'!

While we were there, an old fishing boat was being dismantled. The wooden boat had apparently come to the end of its lifespan. It had been simply lifted out of the water and was dismantled at the harbour’s edge. Useable parts and sections were sold-off on the spot. No doubt the way things have been done here for thousands of years. Further into town more history emerges in the form of old buildings, bridges and narrow streets. Unfortunately quite a few buildings are more modern, like the monstrosity they call the Police headquarters, which is a style-less 1970s box.

Wanting to try a traditional meal, we entered an as authentic Spanish cafe as we could find. Plenty of choice there. The menu was, of course, in Spanish… We tried to work out the menu of the day when the owner presented us with a translation… pfew. Looking at the translation, we would have made the wrong choice for sure. We tried Paella, fish Paella! At least that is what we thought it was. Just about every kind of shrimp, muscle and clamp available was in the Paella but found no fish.

For sale: stylish family home in need of some TLC...
We also had something with big beans… It looked a bit like Mongolian soup, soup with balls… cow-balls! It tasted fine though but Mike had some reservations. When we finally persuaded him to at least try it, we were ‘rewarded’ with a face that displayed absolute horror! He thought it was disgusting, to put it mildly. According to him it tasted as bad as the Menudo he had in Mexico. True, the sausages in the bean mix looked like they were worms held together with an intestine… and yes the chorizo was somewhat, eh, fat and spicy… The bacon was, well, a strip of animal skin with traces of bacon on it. But hey, this is what they eat and so we had to try!

Guess what the cat on the left is waiting for...
Living on the edge...
The cafe owner made sure we didn’t have to wait for anything. In fact you had to hang on to your plate or he grabbed it while you were still eating… as Mike discovered! Lucky for Mike the menu had 2 dishes, the second one being French fries and two poached eggs. Then out of the blue came a cooked rice desert as well. Which tasted great! As the service was good and the food no doubt fine too, I gave him a tip as well. It’s an experience we will talk about for many years to come, so the tip was well spend I think.

Judging by this mural, Luarca hasn't always been as peaceful as it is now...


Cats are everywhere in Luarca!
While visiting Luarca, the best place to camp is possibly Campground Los Cantiles. It’s one of the few campgrounds with a covered day use area where you can cook a meal too (bring your own stove though). Villages like Luarca are a great place to see history as we like it. A way of life that has been honed for centuries and clearly works very well. No concessions have been made for the sake of modernisation, everything is simply as authentic as can be. The views from the cliffs are magic and reminded us of Tasmania… how weird!


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