A Parada das Bestas, a former 18th century Galician farmhouse, today is a benchmark for hospitality and gastronomy in Galicia. Located in the village of Pidre, in the town council of Palas de Rei, and at the foot of the Camino de Santiago, it is one of 44 tourist establishments that have recently joined the Galicia Calidade seal.
The aim is to certify hotel establishments that clearly commit to agri-food products endorsed by the Galicia Calidade distinction, by including and promoting them on their menus.
“Our commitment to kilometre zero and seasonal products was clear from our inception, supporting agricultural and livestock farmers in the area, and as the Galicia Calidade seal shares our philosophy that is why we decided to join this initiative”, explains Maria Varela, co-owner of this rural tourism guest house, together with her husband, Suso Santiso.
“We are committed to kilometre zero and seasonal food and the Galicia calidade seal shares our philosophy”
Therefore their sought after restaurant serves veal and beef from small livestock farms in the A Ulloa region, organic cheeses, yoghurt and milk from Arqueixal, infusions from Milhulloa, eggs from Pazo de Vilane or Granja Campomayor or a wide selection of Galician wines. “We are trying to serve genuine cuisine, taking advantage of the many opportunities our products provide, and during the mushroom or hunting season we also include them on our menu,” says Maria Varela, responsible for the kitchen that has earned her a prestigious place in the new Galician cuisine.
And of course, the bread from Palas or from the Antas de Ulla is not missing from the table, authentic delicacies prepared in a wood oven and with Galician wheat.
Suso is largely responsible for the vegetable garden products; he was born in Bilbao and has emigrant parents from Palas de Rei who in 1992, when he was just 24 years old, decided to leave lorry driving and bought a rambling, run-down manor house in the village of Pidre.
Maria Varela joined him to build up this dream of a rural tourism guest house. “I came from the Basque Country, where at that time rural tourism guest houses were in full swing, and I came to this area, where there was still nothing, and I saw the enormous potential that it had,” he explains.
Initially they began breeding horses to hire them out for rides in the region, and hence the name of “Parada das Bestas”. “We wanted to live in the country with our animals and our vegetable garden. We were young, we were in love and wanted to start a business and a life in common,” says Maria Varela. “We were very self-taught and one thing led to another: the horses led us to start serving food and drink and in September 1997 we opened the restored house to the public,” adds Suso.
Today, and following several acquisitions and extensions, A Parada das Bestas consists of three main buildings: the main house, the hay barn and oven drying area, and two annexes: the hórreo (raised granary) and one of the few wheat sheaths (where the wheat used to be separated from the chaff) that is still preserved in Galicia.
For accommodation, the main house offers 7 double rooms equipped with bathroom and heating, two of them with jacuzzi baths, to which must be added the four apartments (three double and one single).
The surroundings of this rural tourism guest house offer an opportunity to enjoy nature on the banks of the river Ulla, and representative monuments of Galician history: the Pazos de Ulloa, where Emilia Pardo Bazán set her novel, Romanesque churches such as that of Vilar de Donas or the Castle of Pambre.
The boosting effect that this rural tourism guest house has on the local economy is seen in the employment: during the high season, between Easter and the beginning of October, A Parada das Bestas employs between 6 and 7 people, while in the winter season this drops to 3.
“Administrations should get more involved so that young people can come to the country to live and work,”
“Our guests change according to the season: during the summer there are very international customers, linked to the Camino de Santiago, and that want to stay and enjoy something authentic and different, and at the weekend we have more Galician guests, with people who come to dine at our house,” explains Suso Santiso.
In this sense, a decisive boost for making known A Parada das Bestas was Gwyneth Paltrow’s visit and the Xacobeo of 1999. “A place in the middle of nowhere,” the actress literally wrote on referring to A Parada das Bestas as a paradise for gastronomy and peace. Her stay in the house and the subsequent publication in a book of what she had felt in Pidre was an endorsement for the establishment in Palas de Rei.
“What encourages us the most is the contact with our guests”
However, Suso underlines that “all customers are equal for us”. “The vast majority of people who visit us are anonymous people, who want discretion and to have a good time,” he stresses.
In fact, asked what has encouraged them over the years, María and Suso responds that “without a doubt, the contact with our guests.” “It is something wonderful to achieve that people visit us from all over the world, and which has opened the doors to many places,” confesses Suso.
A wish for the future?: “That good people continue to visit us and that the Administrations really get involved so that young people can come and live in the country, to provide life to our countryside.”