While the Canaries and Madeira Islands are technically European territories they are not part of the Continent. Today was our second last day aboard Queen Mary 2 as we approached mainland Spain, and entered the Canal Del Sur for Vigo Spain after embarking the pilot at first light.
We sailed gracefully up the placid waters with the Galician city of Vigo Spain before us. As we entered the main harbour area the captain took the ship through a full turn, to bring her alongside with customary precision. Our bow faced in the right direction to slip our moorings in the evening. Queen Mary had arrived!
The port of Vigo Spain was a village until the 15th Century when King Phillip IV awarded it trading rights and it remained unconquered. The nearby Cathedral of Compostela is a jewel among its perfectly preserved treasures. Its fortunes really took off when pilgrims discovered the remains of the Apostle James in its crypt.
Today visitors flock to Vigo Spain for delicious regional food, seductive culture and throbbing nightlife – and its well-known football team Celta Vigo playing in La Liga. The estuary is festooned with giant rafts beneath which mussel farms hang suspended. Each one supports a family in perfect green fashion.
The Atlantic Ocean provides a maritime climate that keeps Vigo cooler and wetter especially in winter, and earns it the nickname of “Green Spain”. Vigo Spain is a well-kept city in a magical setting. Above the plain trees on the foreshore tier upon tier of houses rise up to meet the skyline.
Tour to Santiago
We only had the daylight in which to travel to Santiago, view the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral and return in time to board our ship. This was the first time we joined a coach tour and our expectations were exceeded. The driver was knowledgeable and respectful of the different religious dialects he had on board. In no time at all our smooth one-hour ride was over. We held back to let the others get ahead. This was an experience to savour.
The town was bigger than we thought and well supplied with magnificent golden sandstone buildings that witness to its past as a seat of religious power. We popped into the Cathedral that had a Mass on the go, found the crypt and tomb of Saint James we glimpsed through a tiny window, and headed off for a light lunch not quite in Queen Mary league.
Our coach driver was punctually waiting for us. On the way back he pointed out a string of islands on the horizon. The locals believed these were the ‘end of the world’ in medieval times. He touched on the incredible bravery of Spanish explorers who set out into the unknown, to discover America and return with untold wealth.
It was not long before we felt the engines throbbing gently. We slipped our moorings and hit the throttle as we entered deeper water. Small craft followed us with cell phone cameras popping. A fast-moving coastal patrol boat kept up for a while longer, until it turned away in deference to our mighty Queen Mary 2. We were alone on the ocean.