After two straight days of pouring rain and gusting winds, we couldn’t stand being indoors one more day. Thursday promised to be partially sunny, at least on the coast, so we blew our popsicle stand in Santiago and headed toward the sunshine.
I had chosen the little town of Cambados for our escapade and ran it by our host. Yes, we couldn’t do better for a scenic village on one of the Rías Baixas, the estuaries that interlace the fingers of land reaching into the Atlantic Ocean on the western coast of Galicia, the little part of Spain that juts out over Portugal. We practically ran to the car.
I just have to interject here, for the practical traveler, that there are no public restrooms in Spain. If you feel the urge, you need to go into a cafe, bar, or restaurante. And, according to the guide books, you are obligated either to buy something when you use their facilities or leave a tip on the plate at the bar. Never having seen a tip plate on the bar, we always feel compelled to buy something – and it’s usually liquid, which kind of defeats the original purpose of visiting the establishment.
Regardless, we had had an hour’s drive to Cambados, post-morning coffee, so we ducked into a little chocolatería/churrería near where we parked. This was my chance to taste (hot) chocolate with churros. Chocolate competes with a good Rioja wine or perhaps a Basque cider for the national drink. It’s so thick, you have to have it with churros (if you haven’t had them in the U.S., think fried dough put through a Play-doh extruder) to wipe out your cup. Delicious!
Although the weather had improved as we headed west, there was still a threat of rain out over the ocean. We walked along the Paseo Marítimo (path along the water) when we arrived and were disappointed not to see women digging for clams, despite the low tide. (Gwyneth Paltrow’s favorite experience on her gastronomic road trip through Spain with Mario Batali.) We felt sprinkles and looked for a place to duck into for lunch. Nada. But my restaurant radar was on, and I sensed better opportunities ahead – a red awning. El Rincón de Tío Paco (Uncle Paco’s Hideout). They had a cart out front with the catch of the day, and I was in the mood for mussels and a good albariño, the best white wine in Spain. Coincidentally (or not), Cambados is the heart of albariño country.
We spoke to José. Yes, they have mejillones (mussels), but he recommended the zambariñas (bay scallops). Great! We’ll have both with a salad and a couple of glasses of albariño.
We sat outside on the terrazza, the sun came out, and we had a view of palm trees with the ocean beyond and the most amazing meal so far in Spain. The mussels were good (the largest I’ve ever eaten and bright orange!), but the scallops were absolutely amazing. And the wine…. Well, let’s just chalk this one up as a good day.