A MAGICAL CORNER OF GALICIA
A PAMPLA in Galicia, north west Spain is a magical, 200 year-old house overlooking a valley on to the Deva and Mino rivers. Owners, Magdalena and Javi have lovingly restored the house and now continue the work of Magdalena’s grandparents, tending to the vineyards and selling the delicious wine they produce through their bodega TORGO. They also run Spanish, Portuguese and English courses so that you can fully immerse yourself in the local culture. Here, Magdalena tells us some of the things she loves about the house and about Galicia.
A Pampla has been in your family for years. Did you always know that you wanted to continue the work of your grandparents?
It actually took me a few years to realise that. All I knew was that I loved the place and I loved the house.
We often have particular memories of our grandparents’ houses. Is there a part of the house that brings back memories for you?
My memories are especially from our summers outdoors. I remember grabbing a book to read on the terrace and being distracted by the sounds of the crickets, birds and water in the pond; the aromas of grass and wild mint and the colours; riding a bike on the quiet roads nearby; the incredible starry skies and being surprised by the sight of a beautiful moon.
What do you think it is that makes A Pampla so magical?
The house hadn’t been used for many years and was in a derelict state when we renovated it in 2004. But it had such lovely stone walls, a nice window with tiny stone benches where you could (and can) sit to look at the vineyard and amazing views onto the valley that I knew it was the place I wanted to be my home. For me, the fact that it’s a surprisingly beautiful place completely off the beaten track makes it very special.
What gave you the idea to start running courses?
After over 25 years teaching foreign languages I decided to start something I really believe in. Personally, I prefer to learn a language in the place where it’s spoken, doing something I like and where I can participate in the local culture. We grow excellent wine in a beautiful wine region with a very attractive wine culture, so it made sense to put everything together to offer SPANISH LANGUAGE HOLIDAYS AND WINE EXPERIENCES. It was a natural progression to offer Portuguese courses because the Portuguese region of Vinho Verde is just 10 minutes from A Pampla.
Do you need to know much Spanish/Portuguese before you start?
The courses are adapted to your individual level, so if you don’t speak a word of Spanish or Portuguese, we start from the very basics. We don’t leave our students alone during the evening activities, so they have the opportunity to practice according to their level whilst still enjoying a glass of good wine and experiencing the local culture without fear of getting lost in translation.
How can guests get involved on the vineyard?
Guests are always very welcome to visit the vineyard and we’re happy to explain what’s going on throughout the year. My favourite work is grape picking in late September or early October and it’s probably the best time for guests to get involved with the vineyard. The weather is usually excellent – dry, with mild temperatures – and you have the opportunity to experience the winery working full time. Best of all, lunch is in the vineyard!
Is your wine available to buy outside Spain?
We’re currently selling in Scandinavia and are hoping to start selling in the UK and Central Europe.
What’s your favourite time of year and why?
I love the colours in November. The vineyard and the oak tree woods turn yellow and the mossy tracks, covered in leaves of different colours, become very quiet and peaceful, the only sounds coming from the river. Spring is also incredible, with myriad, brightly coloured little flowers. You suddenly discover that lots of birds live in the area because you hear them all the time. June is also fantastic as it has the longest days of the year, usually with wonderfully warm and dry weather. All you want to do is to stay out in the garden until late.
Galicia is renowned for its food. Is there a particular dish that you love?
I love the traditional octopus (PULPO A FEIRA), which is our local street food. On summer Sundays, the pulpeiras (specialist octopus chefs) set their huge copper pots in the streets and sell wooden dishes filled with cooked octopus cut into thick slices and seasoned with coarse salt, olive oil and paprika. It’s even more delicious than it sounds, I can tell you! You get the dish from the street and go into the next door bar for your wine or whatever drink you choose to go with your meal (I definitely suggest wine!). I also love the empanada, which is a pie with different types of filling – meat, sea food, vegetables… My favourite one is made with a cornflour and cuttlefish filling.
What are some of the ways that Galician culture differs from Spanish culture?
Galicia’s culture is very food oriented, and is extremely simple but rich and tasty. Galicia also has a very rural character with a taste for legends and mystery. It perfectly matches the green and misty winter atmosphere with our music, with its Celtic reminiscences, poetry and our musical language, Galician. The combination of these different aspects of our culture can often be found at our local festivals, where there’s non-stop food, wine and music.
Finally, what’s you idea of a perfect holiday?
I love destinations that are off the beaten track and cultures with very different habits from ours. A perfect combination would be nature and culture with the possibility of going trekking or hiking.