New Year's Eve bell chimes at noon in Vilagarcía de Arousa
Vilagarcía de Arousa is not satisfied with celebrating New Year once. From 1998, the city brings forward twelve hours the bell chimes of midnight on 31 December for a multitudinous celebration at Ravella Square, next to the Town Hall. Music, confetti, grapes, cava (sparkling white wine), fruit jellies for children… There is nothing missing in this event which other towns joined in subsequently. However, the capital of O Salnés, the ninth most populous city in Galicia, with 37,500 inhabitants, pioneered this festivity.
Entrepreneurs in the commercial sector and the catering business, and volunteer assistants are involved in the so-called Festa das Uvas (Grape Festival), which was interrupted only in 2003 by the Prestige catastrophe. They bag and distribute everything necessary for the celebration among the attendees while a show gets ready one hour before entering the new year under the noon light. Christmas carols, classic songs and other styles liven up the atmosphere of this celebration that enjoys great media interest at national level. After the bell chimes, the confetti triggers the beginning of the celebration. Before New York, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, London, Berlin or Cairo celebrate New Year in style, the people of Vilagarcía de Arousa and the visitors that go to Ravella Square symbolically set the clock at one past twelve of the next day.
One of the many appeals of the capital of O Salnés is the festivities: throughout the year there are more and more different celebrations of tourist interest, from religious and historical to gastronomic and purely ludic. The Festa da Auga (Water Festival) is one of the most unique festivities and with enormous potential for bringing people together; thousands of people gather in the central streets meanwhile the firefighters, in the streets, and the neighbourhood, from the balconies, wet them with water. The San Roque procession, the patron saint of Vilagarcía de Arousa, with the parade floats and the battle of flowers (procession in which flowers are thrown at the crowd); Santa Rita; the Naval Battle and, in cuisine, the festival of the famous clam of Carril and the Albariño Exhibition (type of Galician white wine) are other important dates in the calendar that more people bring together.
Furthermore, the Revenidas Festival has strongly reawakened in Vilaxoán with the performance of national and international artists and bands, and with activities suitable for all audiences.
Vilagarcía de Arousa, blessed with a temperate and hot climate in summer, as is the case in all of the Rías Baixas, is a first class tourist destination. One of its strong points is the cuisine, particularly with regard to seafood. The highly appreciated clam of Carril has achieved a tremendous prestige and the food that you must try includes exquisite delicacies such as velvet crabs, spider crabs, mussels, razor shells or lobsters. Octopus is another classic dish, just as fish and all its types. The best way to pair this kind of food is with a glass of albariño, white grape wine that is recognised worldwide and it is produced in O Salnés Valley, in the Tea County, in Soutomaior, in O Rosal and in the bank of the Ulla River.
The town has beaches such as A Concha and Compostela, both of them connected by a promenade that spans more than two kilometres and links the city centre of Vilagarcía de Arousa with Carril. Vilaxoán, for its part, boasts the sandy area of O Preguntoiro. Furthermore, in the municipal boundary, we can find the Cortegada Island which is part of the only national park in Galicia, the one in the Atlantic Islands; it also includes the islands of Cíes, Ons and Sálvora. In the town's surrounding area, at the top of the Xiabre Mountain, 641 metres high, you can picture the whole area. The panoramic views of the ría (coastal inlet) from up there are stunning.
The urban centre invites us to take a stroll through its streets, interesting spots and buildings. In O Cristo Street you can see the homes of Juan García and the Marquis of Aranda, with its unique portico supported by columns. The area define the historical heart of the town together with O Castro Square and the adjacent streets.
The pazos (Galician country houses very similar to manors) are another of the hallmarks of this town. Near its centre, the pazo of the Marquis and the Marchise of Vilagarcía de Arousa, from the 16th century, rises. Next to it we can find the Augustinian Recollects Convent of Vista Alegre, that it is thought to date from 16th century. The Pazo of Rubianes, the only lordship in Galicia, with attractive gardens; the Pazo of A Golpelleira; the pazos of Sobrán, Pardiñas and Rial, the last one reconverted into a hotel, are other ancestral houses from the city.
Vilagarcía de Arousa is also rich in religious heritage with temples such as Santa Eulalia Church, of Baroque style; San Pedro de Fontecarmoa, San Martín de Sobrán, Santiago de Carril and San Salvador de Sobradelo.
New Year's Eve can be a good date to get to know the town. Of course, you need to be in Vilagarcía de Arousa twelve hours before in order to eat the grapes. It will be worthy!