tHiS PaGe a stone statue depicting the nun of Montserrat blessing the chapel of Santo estevo Monastery. the place. The artfully incorporated spa has an indoor pool and an outdoor Jacuzzi overlooking the forests and canyon. a WindinG drive tHroUGH tHe canyon Spread over 30 kilometres, Ribeira Sacra offers a colourful array of vistas, farmhouses, vineyards and old forests. Nestled in the area is the old village of A Teixeira, an hour's drive east of Santo Estevo. Following the Sil river, I steer along the winding road that traverses across the wildness and ruggedness of this terrain. The conditions are ideal for a slow drive to absorb the region's beauty. Grapevines in stone terraces cover vast areas of the riverbanks. Chestnut trees introduced by the Romans are predominant. Chestnuts were used to feed the troops and legions during their occupation. The shiny round nuts now litter the ground, and only Roman monuments left from the occupation remain. Ancient churches and farmhouses dot the landscape, as well as small villages untouched by modernisation. Time has slowed down. From the top of the canyon, at 600 metres, the views are magnificent. artS and craftS Antonio, an entrepreneur who works in Ourense, a nearby city of just over 100,000 inhabitants founded by the Romans and famous for its Burgas hot springs, is proud to show visitors the area's unhurried way of life. "I love this kind of traditional rural lifestyle, it's good for my wellbeing," he says, as he walks along the narrow road towards some of the local grapevines and centuries-old farmhouses. Chickens run free here and there, and a herd of goats is being brought into a stable. Nearby, a gorgeous medieval stone house is the home and workshop for an artist couple, Anna Champeney from Norfolk, England, and Lluis Grau from Catalonia. Anna is an ethnographer and weaver; Lluis is a basket maker. They produce high-quality handicrafts such as linen shawls and towels, felpa (terry cloth) cushions, and woven baskets, all in Galician style that they sell to different clients in Spain and other parts of Europe. The yarn that Anna uses comes from local sheep and is tinted using a mixture made from natural dyes using local leaves, fruits and flowers. Lluis uses cherry and wild willow for making baskets. Anna and Lluis fell in love with the local culture and settled here nine years ago. Their Casa dos Artesans (The Craftmen's House/ www. casa-dos-artesans.com) is a holiday cottage available for rent. According to Anna, people oPPoSite PaGe toP Left a farmer in a teixeira displays some of his produce, a caki fruit. toP riGHt Mencía grapes adorn the slopes of the river Sil. BottoM an abandoned old water mill is tucked into the forest on the way to a texeira. from different parts of Spain and Europe, mainly England, come to the Craftsmen's House to take courses in textile or basketry techniques while enjoying nature, local organic gastronomy and the peaceful surroundings. octoPUS à feira and tHe atLantic diet Ribeira Sacra is renowned for its dishes of beef, pork and seafood. Beef is often prepared in a succulent Galician stew called cocido Gallego. Galician ox is another favourite for those who prefer their beef well done. As for pork, no part of the pig goes unused. Cooked ham (lacón) or the typical smoked and salted ham served with cabbage is also a favourite, while sausages are common in the form of chorizo (comprised of several types of pork) and salchichones (a thick sausage served sliced). A speciality of the region is seasoned boiled octopus. The Galician coast is a treasure trove of seafood. Galician fishermen supply the fish markets with a wide variety of species ranging from lobsters and crabs to different kinds of fish. Tuna, pollock, mackerel, sardine and cod, to name but a few, have long been part of Galicia's cuisine. Oysters, mussels and goose barnacles supplement the menu of Galicians, who consume the highest amount of seafood of all Spaniards. This, combined with healthy eating habits, has created what is called the "Atlantic Diet," which combines top quality produce with basic preparation techniques such as steaming, the unhurried rural lifestyle is good for one's wellbeing. 24 BLUe WinGS NOVEMBER 2009
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