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5 Reasons for Visiting 5 Small Towns in Spain: A-Five-Part-Series, Part II--Foz

by Lu Sobredo

It’s not surprising...tourists, especially first time visitors to Europe, often choose for their destination: Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, Paris and Nice in France, Munich and Hamburg in Germany, Rome and Venice in Italy, and so on. These well-known and often-written-about cities boast iconic landmarks. These places are historically significant. In my experience, throngs of tourists descend on these cities especially during spring and summer. As in most major cities in Europe, and for that matter as in most major cities in the world, expect to pay high prices, unless you’ve done some homework beforehand.

I started this five-part series about small towns in Spain to make a point. Small towns for the most part are the antithesis of large cities. They offer similar comforts but in a more peaceful and slow-paced setting. They have much to offer a venturing soul who loves to uncover the less explored corners of the globe. 


A Photographic Exploration of Foz by Hubby--Photographer/Professor. ©Lu Sobredo
While in Spain, my family tends to search for that unique spot that makes you feel you have come home even when on vacation in another part of the world. And the spot must be photographically enticing. Part I of the series featured the beautiful town of Aranjuez, my top choice for a must-see-small-town in Spain. See the essay: 5 Reasons for Visiting 5 Small Towns in Spain: A-Five-Part Series, Part I.

Part II of the Five-Part-Series is about the small town of Foz (pronounced Foth in Gallego). Gallego is the language spoken in Foz. It is a variation of Spanish which could sound Italian to an unfamiliar ear. The population is about 9,800 and believed to historically link to immigrants in the 5th and 6th centuries when Britons fled the English Isles by sea during the Dark Ages.

A Welcoming Sign in Foz. ©Lu Sobredo
Foz is located in A MariƱa country in the Galician province of Lugo in the northwestern part of Spain. I caught glimpses of the Galician region when my family walked the Camino de Santiago in 2010. Eager to return in 2013, I couldn’t because the worst of symptoms from my autoimmune illness dominated my life. Encumbered by health challenges, I waited until 2016 when my mobility improved to join my husband on his periodic scholarly research trip in Spain. 

Foz is not a town you would find when hiking the Camino de Santiago Frances, the trail we took in 2010. Foz could be accessible to pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago del Norte, a pilgrim’s trail which follows the North coast of Spain from the French border in Irun. The trail runs along the Basque Country, and Cantabria (an area where my Spanish ancestor on my mother’s side was believed to have originated). The trail proceeds through Asturias and ends in Galicia at the Santiago de Compostela.

Camino Sign at Ribadeo, a Town Near Foz. ©Lu Sobredo
Foz could also be reached by a 2-hour car ride from Santiago. While in Galicia during our Camino hike in 2010, we were intrigued by the Galician region for its natural beauty, amazing seafood and the refreshing taste of their naturally filtered waters. We didn’t have to spend money on bottled water while trekking Galicia. Later in the Five-Part-Series, I will feature a small town in Galicia where my family spent the night on our way to Santiago de Compostela, and a town my husband re-visited during his 500 plus mile Camino journey in 2013.

For now, I happily share 5 reasons why the town of Foz is worth visiting. Although not on our mind map, my husband’s friend (a fiction writer known in Portugal and Spain) was familiar with Foz. Descriptions of his experience living there for a time made us stand up and take notice. And so we went. We set aside about a week and spent it getting acquainted with this town. 

For the curious traveler looking to relax and explore a corner of Spain on a budget, here are 5 of the reasons why we found the town appealing:

1. A COASTAL TOWN 

In as much as we love our life when visiting Madrid, it is landlocked. It is a city that would always be our destination, but not necessarily the only place to confine our adventures. 

In as much we adore Barcelona, since it is by the sea (the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea), tourists fill its main attractions especially during high season. It is also a place notoriously known for its band of pick-pocketers. Tourists receive warning about it over the intercom onboard the Barcelona Metro (rapid transit network). 

Fortunately, we have been spared from theft during the multiple times we have visited Spain in the last 10 years, and Europe in general in the last 32 years. No incident that is, until summer 2017.  My husband traveled to Barcelona to attend a conference and also conduct an ethnographic study of the Filipino community there. One of the days he was meeting with friends/colleagues from California, his cell phone was stolen from his zippered pant pocket. It happened in seconds and the band of thieves got away even though passengers in the Metro tried to intervene. I was just grateful, hubby was physically safe. I am writing a piece on the topic warning visitors about pick-pocket incidents rampant in Barcelona and other parts of Europe. Being aware of the environment as hubby was, could help up to a point. Unfortunately it might not shield one from being targeted. I hope to explore more ways one could take precaution against theft, as I would hate for travelers to miss out on all the other features about traveling abroad that are positive for the soul. 

About Foz: it is a coastal town on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean’s Cantabrian Sea. The name Foz comes from the Latin word "Maw." This describes the mouth of the Masma river that extends to an expansive estuary in town. Foz has short stretches of beach. Mostly locals and tourists from nearby towns enjoy the white sands. 

Playa De Rapadoira, a Popular Beach in Foz. ©Lu Sobredo
Public transportation is not as convenient or accessible in Foz as it is in Madrid. However, the beaches are walkable from many hotels in town. My son walked the main pathway by the beach, Playa De Rapadoira. A roundtrip of a little over 3 miles, it took our son about 30 minutes to make the trek. 


A Walking and Bike Path from One Beach to Another in Foz. ©Lu Sobredo

A Downhill Winding Pathway to the White Sands. ©Lu Sobredo
Even with my limited mobility, I managed to walk to one of the small beaches closest to our hotel. The small beach appeared to be where families gather and play during the early evenings. I managed to walk along a downhill pathway to the shore. I was near tears when I realized that I was touching the waters of the Atlantic Ocean for the first time ever. I did so while walking with a cane and with my son’s assistance. It was one of those unforgettable moments in Foz.

2. COOL TEMPERATE CLIMATE

As in most places in Europe during the summer months, the weather could be a challenge. If you find hot and humid weather unbearable, take a jaunt to a coastal town. Foz is accessible by car from Santiago in the northwestern part of Spain. It takes about two hours to drive there. There are buses you can take, but we wanted the expedience and convenience of being able to drive around and really get to know the area. So we rented a car.

Hubby Hanging Out during a Sunny Day in Foz. ©Lu Sobredo
Sundown lowers the temperature even further. Some daylight or afterglow from the sunset could be seen well into 10 o’clock at night in the summertime. Short rain shower during the day or night is not unusual; a welcome change from the dry heat in Madrid or humid days in Santiago. Temperature in Foz averaged 21˚C or 71˚F. A friend who has lived in Foz claimed that fall and winter months could be mild enough even for dipping into the sea. Yes, like most places in Galicia, it rains often in winter.

3. REASONABLY PRICED ACCOMMODATIONS

Hotel prices in the major cities could set you back. When planning your travel and you are able to travel during off season, do it. It would be the least costly time to go. Most hotels we have stayed in Madrid or Barcelona could run €200 per night or more during high season. A hotel at €100 per night is a bargain. Some travelers rent an apartment, which might be more affordable for a family of more than three and if reserved months in advance. Now that are our son is older, we tend to opt for three beds in a room, or a double and a single bed in a room. These configurations are less available in Europe than in the U.S. Thus, it tends to be more expensive for us when we travel with our son. 

View from our Hotel in Foz. ©Lu Sobredo
You could cut the cost of accommodations in half when in Foz. We found a nice hotel away from downtown at about €50 a night. What would have been the price of a one or two-day stay in a large city allowed us to stay for 5 days in Foz. We were so glad we did. 

Albergue Anchor in Foz. ©Lu Sobredo 
If you just want to have a home-base and don’t mind spartan accommodation, there is a fairly new hostel, Albergue Anchor in town. It is located in the center of town and only 5 minutes from the beach. Our son spent one night there for less than €20. It was a good experience for our son to feel like he was traveling solo. The hostel is walking distance from many restaurants close to the beach. The albergue also offers activities such as paddle surfing, kayaking, even sailing on small boats. It has free wi-fi, a kitchenette and wheel chair access. It is definitely family friendly. Even though it was only our son staying there, the young gentleman at the front desk gave me a tour of the facilities. Find Anchor at Rua Mestre Mateo 8, 27780 Foz, Spain.

4. FRESH SEAFOOD & OTHER TREATS

My family was introduced to Galician cooking while on our Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. We knew what to expect. We knew what a great pulpo dish tastes like. So we searched and found just the right place for our palate and perfect for our pocketbook.

Tomato Basted Clams at Barrilete. ©Lu Sobredo
As I mentioned in my blog post: Happy Eating on a Budget in Spain, we ended up going to a place recommended by an American friend turned Italian citizen. And we feasted on Galician cooking at Barrilete restaurant. The pulpo, or octopus dish, was just as scrumptious as the best we've tasted in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. You can't go wrong with seafood in cities and towns near the Atlantic Ocean in Galicia.


Pulpo a la Gallega. ©Lu Sobredo
Foz was previously a fishing village. Now a major part of its economic resource is from tourism. Being by the water, seafood dishes served by a friendly staff are fresh and tasty. 

Our Go-to-Market: Gadis. ©Lu Sobredo
Another convenient place in Foz is Gadis, mercado or supermarket. It was our daily source of food supply while staying at a hotel nearby. Ladies at the check-out stand were always friendly. Most of them spoke English, or for the most part engaged graciously with us despite our lackluster Spanish language skills.

5. SAILING PORTS NEARBY

Nothing sways our family decision about what town to visit than its coastal location. The attraction about Foz? It feels like a hometown. It is only 30 minutes away from places like the municipality of Ribadeo that has its own marina. 

Ribadeo's local economy is largely made up of the service sector, as in retail and hotel trades. There is a fishing and commercial port. The sailing boats and fishing vessels are docked in a protected Bay. Ribadeo is another small town and with some stretch of the imagination, it has a city-feel. The pace is low-key and tranquil for a small town of about 10,000. While I leisurely drank a cup of coffee at a cafe by the port, restaurants were preparing the large outdoor grill for a pulpo feast. Who could resist?

Coffee by the Bay in Ribadeo. ©Adrian Sobredo
Foz is also bordered by another coastal town, Burela, on the shores of the Cantabrian Sea. Fishing is the main source of its economy. Its fishing port, with a large fleet of ships, is touted as one of the most important of the Galician coast. Galicia is where I learned to eat hake, which is plentiful in the region. Apparently, the town of Burela supplies albacore and hake everyday to the rest of Spain. Also known for its canning industry, its high demand for laborers to work at sea brought a diverse workforce to the town. Hires from distant places of Peru, Indonesia and other countries have made the town multicultural. And this town is right next door to Foz.


Marina Viveiro in the Galician Region of Spain. ©Lu Sobredo 
Only about an hour drive from Foz is this secret seaside town of Viveiro. Picturesque? Yes! It has the vibe of a city in a small town of about 16,000 people. The rows of sailboats are a feast for the eye particularly to someone who loves to sail like my hubby. The sea breeze during the warm summer months, most welcome. 

WHAT SMALL TOWN NEXT?

Do you want to add at least a couple of days to your vacation itinerary? Include Foz. You might just feel like you’ve come home. You would have to fly into a major city like Madrid in Spain or Porto in Portugal to bring you closer to Santiago, then Foz. Foz, a small town on my top-5-list is a coastal town. The history of its population dates back to the Dark Ages. The town is safe and economical. Go see for yourself. Experience delicious Galician cooking. Experience life by the sea, but not at a hefty price. It is a vacation from being on vacation. 

Don’t hesitate to send me questions or request additional details. Watch for the next essay about a-not-so-small-town of Toledo or maybe the small town of Sarria. I will decide soon.


Source
Not much is written about the town of Foz. Perhaps written works may not be accessible to a non-Spanish speaker. This essay was made possible by my family’s collective memory, visitor brochures, Wikipedia pages and photos from my husband’s collection. (June 2017).

©Lu Sobredo
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Guest-Co Editor: Adrian Sobredo

© Photos by James Sobredo, Adrian Sobredo & Lu Sobredo

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