PONTEVEDRA

                                                                                                                                        21.9.10

 BASIC DATA

 

Pontevedra is an ex-port in the estuary of the Rio Lérez. It numbers c. 80,000 souls and is the administrative capital of the province of Pontevedra, which is one of the four provinces of the Autonomous Community of Galicia. It is about 30km north of the much larger city of Vigo and 60km south from the not quite so much larger city of Santiago de Compostela.

Facing the Atlantic, Pontevedra lies in the mouth of the Ria de Pontevedra, one of the fjords of the Rias Baixas, south of the Costa de la Muerte and the Rias Altas. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty, both along the coast and into the mountains of the hinterland.

The airport of Vigo (‘Peinador’) is 25 minutes or so away on the A9 autopista and the airport of Santiago (‘Lavacolla’) is about 55 minutes away in the opposite direction on the same motorway. Madrid lies 4-6 hours away by road – on the AP9, A52 and A6. Coming up from Portugal the relevant motorways are the A3 in Portugal and the N550/AP9 in Spain, which is merely a continuation of the former after it reaches the centre of the river Minho/Miño. There are no longer any border controls and neither, of course, is there any need to change money when moving from Portugal to Spain.

Pontevedra can be reached by direct train from Madrid but other long-haul trains tend to stop in Vigo, where you will have to change. It is well-served by coaches from anywhere in Spain.

Apart from (summer) tourism, the main commercial activities of the town and its hinterland are wood-processing and wine production.

 CLIMATE

Pontevedra is not exactly Ireland but it certainly has a maritime climate. What this means is that – outside the peak season months of July and August – you can get either brilliant sun or rain, usually for the whole day in each case. Or for several days at a time. It is this rain, of course, which makes Galicia as outstandingly beautiful as it is. It also prompts my resident mole to reappear in my lawn.

Happily, this rain is rare in the high-summer months of July and August, when Pontevedra can be relied on to have a much more appealing heat than that of Andalucia, with temperatures between 22 and 30 on most days. Plus cooling sea breezes, if you must spend 8 hours on the beach. Outside these two months it’s effectively pot luck.

In June and September you could be lucky and have one, two, three, even four weeks of magnificent sun - at a time when the town is completely empty of (other) tourists and you can have it virtually to yourself. On the other hand, if you come during these months, you would be wise to have some wet-weather options to hand. Plus an umbrella. Of course, the more foreigners who read this and come in June or September, the less true this observation will become.

If you come in mid-winter, you may not need a heavy overcoat but you will certainly need an umbrella, and possibly a back-up as the winds can be very strong in the narrow streets. But even then, the north wind often brings warm, sunny days, offset by cold nights. Sometimes very cold.

Likewise in spring, you certainly won’t need a heavy coat but you would be daft to come without an umbrella. Though you can easily buy one; they are not exactly in short supply in the town.

If you haven't already seen it, there's a section on Galician weather on my home page.

ACCESS

This section is probably redundant if you are already here. Or nearby.

Airports:

Your options are:

Santiago: This airport has traditionally been best served by direct flights [Iberia, BA, TAP and others] from, e. g., Heathrow and Gatwick. However, things are now in a bit of flux, following strange decisions on the part of Iberia. 

Ryanair have been flying into Santiago from Stanstead for some time now and, as of October 2006, will also be flying from Liverpool. In high dudgeon, Iberia have responded to this local treachery by routing their flights to the La Coruña airport, further north. If you are coming to the south of Galicia, you should look at the Porto/Oporto options.

Vigo. This is the closest airport to Pontevedra but direct international flights are rare. You will usually need to change in another Spanish city such as Madrid or Barcelona. If you don’t leave a good margin, your luggage will probably not make it to Vigo with you but will always be delivered to your door soon after the next flight. 

La Coruña: As indicated, Iberia now use this as their Galician hub. Not very convenient for passengers but what the hell. And note that Iberia, at least, no longer serve free food and drinks on international flights to this airport. And the prices for sandwiches are said to be exorbitant.

Oporto: [or just Porto] in North Portugal. This is an excellent alternative if you are going to hire a car as the drive from Oporto to Pontevedra is door-to-door motorway and you can make it to Pontevedra in an hour and a half, even if you are one of the few to obey the speed limit. On the other hand, if you are in no particular hurry, it also affords you the chance to see some of North Portugal, which is at least as pretty as Galicia. And has more flowers.

Low-cost Flights:

Ryanair:  Fly from Stanstead into Valladollid, Santander and Santiago. They used to fly into Santiago but, as of September 2010, they no longer do so. However, they do fly to Oporto, at least during the summer.

EasyJet: Regularly rumoured to be looking at flying into Oporto, La Coruña and Vigo but, as of July 2006, negotiations seem to have stalled. Failing this, Oviedo in Asturias is the nearest they currently get.

Car: Pontevedra is easily reached by motorway (the AP9) either from Vigo or Santiago. Likewise, the A6 and A52 from Madrid will take you to Pontevedra in 4 to 6 hours of scenic splendour, depending on how faithful you are to the speed limit. Needless to say, you are advised to stick to it as police patrols are heavy. Not that you will get this impression from the number of cars rocketing past you. The alternative to the motorways are the National (‘N’) roads, which are good but busier and slower, in some places much more than others. For example, the N550 between Pontevedra and Santiago is less busy than between Vigo and Pontevedra

The Galician motorways (autopistas) are toll roads and the charges are hefty when compared with those elsewhere in Spain. But value for money if you really need to get somewhere fast.

As elsewhere in Spain, Galician roads can have as many as 3 numbers (including the EU one) but you are on your own with this problem. Don’t immediately blame your co-driver and navigator if you get confused or lost. Most of us do.

Train and Bus: There are train services from all over Spain but they are slow, and often delayed, essentially because the lines are usually single track. Local services, e. g. to Santiago, are quicker and more reliable. Likewise, there are long haul coach connections from all over Spain. The coach line serving Vigo and Pontevedra from Madrid is Alsa [www.alsa.es]. Both the trains and the buses arrive at stations within a hundred metres of each other on the south side of the town. If you’re coming to the bus station and don’t want to get a taxi, turn left at the exit and walk north up Calvo Sotelo; keep going straight at the first roundabout, up Av. de Vigo, and you’ll end up in the Praza Peregrina. From the railway station, go across the roundabout in front of the concourse, walk past the bus station and keep going down Calvo Sotelo, etc., as above. Or you can turn right out of the concourse and walk towards the town centre down Eduardo Pondal. This will take you to Praza Galicia.