Deportivo away - Tales of a Randy Highwayman
Posted by Roddysul on November 6, 2004, 12:09:09 PM
I knew it wouldn’t be the easiest way to get there and I knew it wouldn’t be the cheapest either, but when we were drawn against Deportivo I knew what way I wanted to get there. As a nipper my folks always used to take us to Spain in the car - they were always massive treks and took days to complete but I used to really enjoy them and back then when Torremolinos was still a small fishing town with only 3 hotels – huge adventures. I remember looking at the map as a kid and seeing that some ferries went straight to Spain from the UK - when I asked my dad about them he dismissed the suggestion that we take one of them one year - back then such a trip through the Bay of Biscay actually took 48 hours and anyway my parents were committed Francophiles – and so every year we would take the drive on spec to Dover and meander through France and the Pyrenees.
Now however the boat to Spain goes a little bit quicker. At 14 hours it’s still a bit of a cruise rather than a sailing but the boats are a lot more stable these days and that length of crossing does give you the opportunity to have a few pints on board and then have a kip overnight to sober up. What’s more I had only visited the northern coast of Spain on one previous occasion - my family had always headed for the Med but when I had found myself stranded at Santander 4 years ago as a result of the French fuel protests I had been impressed by the beauty of that part of the world – what’s more it had reminded me a lot of the Spain of years ago in that it had been relatively un-anglicised. No endless tower blocks and “Red Lion” pubs offering “full English or egg and chips” – this was the Spain where English if spoken at all was most peoples third language (if not fourth) and that customs were undeniably Iberian in origin.
So basically – that’s why I did it this way - plus the fact that I really enjoy driving – especially on roads that are really really squiggly on a map. A big bit of nostalgia, a thirst for adventure and the chance to drive like an absolute c*nt.Beer, boats and Keira
Saturday night I found I couldn’t really sleep that well. Not really sure why. When 6.30 am came and I was wide awake I thought – oh fuck it, might as well think about getting up and going early – so I did. Threw a few clothes in a big bag and hit the motorway. I got down to Plymouth at about midday. They appeared to be having a roadworks convention and for some reason the town smelt of eels - still I watched the boat come in from a small hillock overlooking the harbour. The crossing was pretty smooth I have to say. Not at all the nightmare I had expected the infamous Bay of Biscay to be. A few pints in the bar, a Keira Knightley film and a fit bird in the live band - pleasant evening indeed. I woke up at about 8 having found my reclining seat remarkably comfortable - or maybe it was just that I’d been a bit pissed. Still a quick walk on deck blew away the cobwebs. It was beginning to rain.The Rain in Spain
Two hours later when we docked it was absolutely fucking lashing down. Hmm – not quite what I’d anticipated but still – got a long drive ahead. 10 miles later, just after joining the motorway - my wipers stopped working.
Nada - absolutely nada. Not a sausage. Couldn’t see a fucking thing.
Limped into a service station and started dismantling the car. Now being Italian and 5 years old I am used to bits falling off this car – that’s why before I left I had treated it to new tyres, new exhaust, new spark plugs new cam belt and even that expensive nice petrol. I hadn’t banked on it being a twat some other way. Probably just the fuse I thought so I changed it - still nada. OK so this is interesting. I limped into the nearest town - Puente de San Miguel and parked up. The rain was now falling so heavily there were rivers running through the streets as I set off walking in search of an open garage.
I found two but both were shut – I also started looking for a hotel in case I was going to be there overnight – there wasn’t one and the rain was showing no signs of stopping. OK so now I’m getting a bit pissed off and then that gnawing fact that had been lurking at the back of my catholic education managed to eek its way into my frontal lobe: Well yesterday was Halloween – that’s All Hallows Eve – so today must be All hallows - All Saints Day - A bank holiday in most Catholic Countries. Oh Fuck. I’m going to be kipping in the car till the rain stops aren’t I.
An hour later it had faded to a light drizzle. Time to make a decision. If I’m not going to be able to fix it I’m going to need to have to mo-mo near to the boat as possible to get it home. A drive through the mountains without wipers was not an option even if the weather looked like behaving - so I limped back to Santander. As I mentioned before I had been stranded there before and knew just the place I was going to stay - a rather posh hotel just next to the terminal that 4 years ago I had turned up at looking very bedraggled in search of a room - I did the same thing again only this time I was in luck. On the way back I wondered whether Nov 2nd would be a bank holiday too being All souls day. I daren’t think about it. Later that evening as I tucked into a 6 course silver service dinner with a bottle of Rioja Reserva I started thinking of alternative ways to get to the game.No functionan
Up early the next morning in search of a garage. I found one at about 8.30. The sign outside said they opened at 8 and it was still shut. Oh bollocks they’re going to be shut today after all. I walked around a few more blocks and shops appeared to be opening so I returned to the garage and found them opening up. Hurrah. Now then – this should be interesting. I don’t remember ever learning what the Spanish word for windscreen wipers was but somehow words from an O level taken some 21 years ago were retrieved and I made myself understood. With bits of Spanish, bits of French and an occasional word of English I understood that he said he’d have a look at it – park it there and come back in 2 hours.
I wandered round Santander – where once before I had wandered before in a similar stranded situation. It hadn’t changed much and in the sunshine it is a delightful seaside town. I left it 3 and a half hours – this being Spain and returned to the garage. A different bloke was still assembling the windscreen wipers assembly. It wasn’t looking good. He said he’d show me something in a few minutes so I watched him reassemble the masterpiece of Italian styling, put the key in the ignition and flick the lever. The wipers worked. Fucking ace. What a hero. His mate called him a “bandido con solder” and with a lot of gesticulating, and some head scratching I figured that the electrical circuits were all fucked but that he had temporarily repaired them with his soldering gun in four places. What a star. I gave him cash in hand and a hefty tip for helping me out of a jam and he wished us look in the match – he was a Racing Santander fan himself. – so on the way out of the city I stopped off at the Racing stadium to buy a shirt of my newly adopted favourite Spanish team.En camino
The route to La Coruna starts with a motorway. It squeezes its way between the impressive Picos de Europe and the rugged coastline. Tunnel follows viaduct follows impressive view as the excellent road makes its way along a series of v shaped valleys emptying water from the mountains into the Bay of Biscay. A couple of industrial areas follow and then one last impressively high viaduct as the road enters the region of Galicia. At this point the route turns away from the coast and into the mountains, becomes a lot narrower and more squiggly on the map. La Coruna seems permanently to be 213km away, the letter X features heavily in place names that look more Portuguese in spelling and the urban architecture looks decidedly French. The countryside is as green as you will see anywhere and the road becomes a lot of fun. This is not a road for you if you are nervous about driving or are uncomfortable having to drive on the wrong side of the road for your steering wheel. It is not a road for those who dither about driving decisions – it a road for those that like “kicking it down a couple of gears and flooring the fucker on this long bend before something else comes over the brow of that hill” and I loved every minute of it. I passed a minibus full of reds that had stopped for a piss - I was obviously on the right road. Eventually I came to La Coruna. It had started raining again but this time I had working wipers - working so well in fact that they were now impossible to switch off as the smeared fly remnants on my windscreen were testament to. Still – it had got me to the game.El hotel del equipaje
I checked into the hotel and explained that I should have been arriving the day before but had been delayed. “Ah I see,” said the receptionist. “Mr Garcia is it?”
Errrr…. “I thought for a minute about saying yes but then remember the puzzled expression he’d had on his face when he’d found me in his room in the Hope Street Hotel - twice might have been pushing it a bit. “Er no “ and I gave them my confirmation e-mail. I’d had a text from Lee to say that the team might be in our hotel looks like it was right. There was no sign of them at the moment but there were a lot of children hanging around outside and a TV crew. Sounds like I’ve come up trumps again. However I could feel my throat itching for a couple of Estrella Galicias and some rawkites were convening in a nearby pub – so out I went.
I don’t remember much of that night. I remember examining Lee’s thumb again, I remember a lovely plate of food in a nearby bar/restaurant while watching the Barca v Milan game and I remember getting locked into a bar having sung the “La Bamba” Ra-ra ra ra ra rafa Benitez song solidly for 2 hours. I don’t remember going back to the hotel or falling asleep with a German TV station on - wonder what that was about.Morning in Galicia
Next morning there was no sign of the team at breakfast. Had always wondered what Igor ate in the mornings but I wasn’t going to find out. Rafa was there however, talking to a reporter. I made a “lets twat these Galician bastards” type gesture and he winked back. I wandered out to explore the town and found another delightfully unspoilt city. The old town was delightful and I wandered from bodega to bodega to get an idea of what local wines to take home. The people were wonderfully helpful and genuinely happy for us to be there. There was a complete absence of any police presence on the streets – unusual considering there was an English football team playing there that afternoon - looks like the local policia had done their homework and realised they were unlikely to be needed in any great numbers with Liverpool compared to other teams. I had a wander down the beach to the stadium and saw reds were beginning to set up in a bar there so back to the hotel to get changed and meet up with the rest of the gang. Hally’s bus full was just about to arrive.
Now on most European aways the reds usually congregate in the biggest fuck off square in the city don’t they? I thought so anyway so having led the group to Plaza Maria Pita and found it totally deserted I decided to usurp my title of Galician tour guide. Eventually we found a few reds in a bar – then a few more - then an Irish pub full. Across the square from the Irish pub was another bar serving beer cheaper – so over there we moved. Some bloke shat himself on the way out of the toilets, graeme got a face full of hamburger and they seemed to be serving baked penis on the menu (Graeme has a photo) plus there were two obviously lesbian barmaids that saph would probably have missed the match for. But the beer kept flowing, the songs got louder and I got a bit ruder with my perving - well that bird in the shop over the street was a bit of a honey.Estadio Riazor
So to the Riazor stadium we made our drunken way. The stadium is right on the beach the other side of the bay from the hotel I was staying. It’s not the biggest or best equipped but I actually quite liked it. The atmosphere was very friendly with both sets of fans mixing amicably. Obviously disappointing was their turnout and lack of any home singing - don’t think I heard a single home song. Even more curious was the group of Galicians who made their way over to be next to the Liverpool fans. They were joining in with the Liverpool songs and seemed quite in awe of us. One of them had a decidedly fit girlfriend too quo I was going to give my scarf to but ended up swapping it with one of her ugly mates instead. At the end of the game they rushed over to shake hands with us - all of them - about 30 of them all just wanting to shake hands with a Liverpool fan - most bizarre.
The game itself – well there are other reports better than I could write as I was pissed at the time but I shall just say one word - IGOR! Had a belter of a singsong and our away support seemed from my vantage point to be pretty vocal. Fantastic result Roll on Monaco. At the end of the game they kept us back quite a while. We didn’t care - we kept singing until the team came out to warm down. Igor and Djimi got huge chants, as did Henchoz for some reason - Rafa of course acknowledged his adulation in usual style.Will the wipers hold out
I couldn’t risk going out for more beers after that because my boat was sailing at 4pm the next day and it had taken 6 hours to drive on the way out. I was up pretty sharpish to drop Graeme off in Santiago and set my Italian wheels on course for the mountains. I did it back in just 4 hours this time - driving like an absolute c*nt. Enjoyed every minute. The boat home and English motorways were long and arduous at times – especially weighed down by the large amount of Rioja Reserva I had loaded up with at a local Carrefour - but in the end an absolutely stonking way to spend a week off work. © Roddysul 2004
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