Day 1 – A Coruña

Sunday 28 April 2024 – We arrived here in A Coruña yesterday, after a largely unremarkable journey. Only a couple of things were noteworthy: firstly that the Vueling flight from Gatwick to Santiago both pushed back and landed some 10 minutes early; and secondly, the hire car.  I had booked a small saloon (Seat Leon or similar) and asked for an automatic gearbox, a strong preference for me, since driving on the wrong side of the road is bad enough without having to worry about where the flaming gear stick is all the time.  It turned out that the only automatic car they had was

a BMW X5, which is much more modern and sophisticated than anything I have ever driven before (on either side of the road).  It’s also much larger; I’ve driven full-sized Ford Transit vans, and this felt bigger than one of those. It took several minutes even to work out how to engage forward gear but I gradually got the hang of it without actually crashing into anything, and we made it from Santiago airport to our hotel, the Melia Maria Pita, without any incident other than an unexpectedly closed road which we had to navigate around. Thank heavens for satnavs, that’s what I say. Thank heavens also for a wife who’s armed with Google Maps for when the satnav traduces the driver.

It’s a nice hotel and we get a splendid view across the bay.

Remember the hotel name, by the way; I’ll come back to that later.

We have just the one full day here in A Coruña, so we went for a walk. Obviously.  Jane did her usual great job of looking for items of interest, because if you believe the internet you’ll form the impression that there’s only one thing worth seeing here.  We did see it, of course, but Jane had unearthed a route which passed all sorts of striking scenes.

A significant chunk of A Coruña is a headland, somewhat appropriately named since it sits atop a neck, and it was a very pleasant walk to go around the perimeter.

Before crossing the neck, we walked along the prom

(tiddley om-pom-pom) which is allegedly the longest promenade in Europe.  It certainly winds its way a long way beside the sea side (beside the sea), where they appear to have shipped in a load of spare sand, in case the beach runs out.

Crossing the neck took us by some lovely architectural flourishes,

The dove is by Picasso, who lived in A Coruña as a child (1891-95)

through the Gardens of Méndez Núñez

past the Kiosko Alfonso with its decorative windows

and “La Terraza”, once a leisure centre, now the headquarters of the broadcaster RNE Galicia, which is a very ritzy building,

and into the Plaza Maria Pita (remember the name?), with its impressive local council HQ.

Maria Pita is a good example of nominative determinism, as she was, at least as far as Sir Francis Drake was concerned, a Pain In The Arse (PITA). She was a heroine in the defense of A Coruña against the English Armada attack upon the Spanish mainland in 1589. It’s worth noting that although Drake did a number on the Spanish Armada in 1598, he wasn’t always successful in his military exploits, as well as being, basically, a pirate. Anyway, there is a statue of Maria Pita in the square, obvs,

but what was also engaging was what the square was being used for – there was a lot of noise and bustling activity.

A Zumba session, and lots of kids’ sports made for a great atmosphere in the square – so energising, in fact, that we immediately had to go and have a coffee.

Also in the area is the church of St. George,

so we had to visit that, of course.

Also nearby is a very quirky square, called the Plaza Humor.

Having crossed the neck via these engaging sights, we then embarked on the Paseo Maritimo, which could very well count itself as the start of that long promenade I mentioned earlier. Whatever, there’s a path which winds right around this headland, across the bay where our hotel is, over to the other side and round where Monte de San Pedro overlooks the city. It’s a very well-designed path

with separate walking, running and cycling tracks and very distinctive lampposts.

It passes evidence of the once-fortified state of the city,

including the Castelo de Santo Anton.

Not all the buildings are old, though. The Port Authority building is strikingly modern

and rather cleverly designed, since, as you walk round the Paseo Maritimo and look back, you see varying reflections of the city.

The Paseo Maritimo also leads past a cemetery, which is catnip to Jane, so we went and had a look around.

The Paseo winds its way past a very attractive little beach, the Playa de San Amaro,

which features an interestingly decorated restaurant.

By this stage, we were approaching the top of the headland, and various strange-looking items could be seen.  As we neared them, they resolved themselves into: Monumento aos Fusilados, which has the appearance from a distance of a henge,

and, in a contrasting nomenclature, the Menhirs for Peace, a set of standing stones.

As you can see, the stones have openings through them, and it is, of course, a great game to use these as frames for futher photos.

and one of these openings frames the One Thing that the internet thinks that A Coruña has to offer the visitor.

The Tower of Hercules, the oldest known extant Roman lighthouse, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As you can see, I whizzed the drone up to get some footage, and in doing so discovered a couple of things: firstly, the best time to do this would have been in the morning so you can have the light behind a shot looking from the tower to the city; and secondly that I’d pillaged the drone’s memory card to use in another camera – which I didn’t have with me. Fortunately, the thing has some internal memory which was sufficient for this short clip, so carrying it all that way wasn’t in vain. But still – rapped knuckles for me for not checking it over before we set out.

The Tower is very photogenic

and also very useful as a secondary subject in photos of other things, such as the menhirs and this installation called “A Cup of Sunshine”.

The relief flooding through me that I had at least some footage of the tower almost immediately gave way to the realisation that it was time for one of our signature Late Lunches. Jane had picked out a couple of likely restaurants and so we headed off to find them (thanks again, Google Maps, the eSim capabiiity of modern phones and my brother for suggesting an eSim as a way of getting data cheaply whilst in The Foreign).

En route, we passed a building that would once have been magnificent, but which was now clearly disused;

the old prison.

We discovered quite swiftly that 3pm on a sunny Sunday was not the best time to rock up to a restaurant in A Coruña without a reservation. But the nice people at La Maritima managed to squeeze us in and so we got a decent and copious lunch there, after which we tottered back the couple of hundred yards to our hotel. Even that short distance was not devoid of photographic interest; it passes a big mural of Neptune and Hercules,

a rather oddly-shaped statue called Escultura soldado Botero (Botero being the name of the sculptor, who is known for the exaggerated proportions he gives to his subjects)

and, in the rocks below our hotel, a statue of the mermaid with the big boobies*.

So, for a place with supposedly only one point of interest, A Coruña had shown itself to be a charming place full of interesting sights, scenes and vignettes.  We’d had a great day wandering round, and we’re glad that we added it into our Camino itinerary.

Tomorrow sees us departing for another noted town in Galicia, Lugo; Jane has also spotted a couple of things we should investigate on the way there.  I’ll report back on it in due course, so stay tuned to these pages to find out what we got up to,


* This will only mean something to anyone who ever watched ‘Allo ‘Allo!

3 thoughts on “Day 1 – A Coruña

  1. Karin Wennås

    A beautiful town! I liked the old houses, and the modern Port Authority with reflections of the town. I also enjoyed seeing the Botero sculpture (I liked it) and the Roman tower. As it really from roman time? If I ever get to time travel (ha, fat chance) I’d love to go back to the roman times. Thank you for taking us on this trip to A Coruña!


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