I will start by saying that Galicia is not a place you can only visit in the summer. This trip to A Estrada proves it. The fog that accompanied us for most of the visit, also created a magical, always changing environment, very different from what you can see in the summer, but not less interesting.
I arrived there invited by the Tourism board to go through the must-sees from the village, starting at the famous palace of Pazo de Oca.
Pazo de Oca and its worldwide famous gardens
This is one of the most interesting palace complexes of Galicia: Versailles-style gardens, ponds, a small orchard, even a walk surrounded by lime trees, where they used to hold horse racing competitions.
We started the visit at the outdoor patio, the meeting place where we would learn about the main facts and the history of this place. From an XII century fortification to the wars between Isabel the Catholic and Juana La Beltraneja… to become the best preserved palatial complex in Galicia.
Usually, people come here attracted by its gardens (yes, they call it the “Galician Versailles”). But, planned in advance, it is possible to visit the inner rooms of the building. You will need to request a visit before the Ducal House of Medinaceli with time (enough), since this is the Summer house of one of the most important noble families in Spain. Otherwise, you can come around one of the days were they will be holding the new guided tours (more info on the website.)
We were able to visit two of the inner rooms downstairs. They both offer interesting features, but I would suggest to visit the one on the left as you enter the manor. It is full of “trophies” and old games. Personally, not my type of decor, but it gives you an idea of how the inhabitants of the house were (or are), their tastes and hobbies.
Once outside, many interesting details, such as the vases scattered around the grounds (originally from Sargadelos traditional pottery), camellias, ponds and messages hidden in the walls.
The pond is divided into two levels and full of symbolism, representing heaven and hell through the images on the stone boats.
Below, organic orchards culture and access to topiary, which changes every year to incorporate new elements, all from tales and children’s stories. And there’s more to it: stone mills, the chapel, the lime trees …
But some things you should discover yourself ;)
Our next step would take us to the river Ulla:
Areal of Berres, a great place to experience the green Galicia
The Ulla River is, after Miño, the main river at Galicia. Before meeting with the Atlantic ocean at Catoira, it goes near Pazo de Oca, surrounded by a beautiful green landscape.
One of the most interesting points to contemplate its beauty is called Areal of Berres. A river area recovered by a neighbor of A Estrada, where they celebrate an atypical San Juan every year.
This is what you can expect to see in the Winter:
After this short stroll we moved to Ribela, where we met a local producer of Sidra. You may have heard of Sidra at Asturias region, but you can also find it now in Galicia, where they are recovering the tradition to produce this alcoholic beverage made of local apple varieties like Freixerana, Rabiosa, Sangre de Toro, Raiada, Pimineta, Marafouza …
¿My favourite? An apple wine they have started to produce this year and that is called Bágoas na choiva (tears in the rain).
It was getting about time to lunch, so we headed towards Casa da Pastora, where a Cocido Gallego (a traditional dish with all sorts of meats – including all sorts of pork pieces – and vegetables) was waiting for us. Here we would discover the Entroido.
Traditional Carnival: Entroido at A Estrada
When I learnt about this trip to A Estrada, one of the things I expected the least was the entroido (carnaval in Galician, the local language). But there I fell in love with the main figures of this traditional carnaval festivities, with deep roots and a sarcastic tone.
Two great figures to note: the Father Xiao (father Xiao), a priest that blesses the year with an ironic tone (retranca), covering the ups and downs of the last 12 months.
And then, the Xenerais da Ulla. Their fight is only a fight of words and rhymes, but still with their horses and the feathers in their hats they cause a great impact in the audience.
Wish I could have seen them in real action, up their horses and crushing their spades while they speak.
Other things to see
A Estrada has many more things to see, like the prehistoric forts of Barbude and Castrovite or the Rapa das Bestas, where horses and humans fight every year. Also, here elapses the end of the Silver Way at Camino de Santiago.
A highly recommended visit within 25 miles of Santiago de Compostela.
How to get there: