Tag Archives: History

Day 4 – Santiago de Compostela

Wednesday 1 May 2024 – The target for the day was to retrieve the panzer from its car park spot, use it to get us to Santiago Airport (via A Thing To See that Jane had identified as a diversion for us) and thence be wafted to our hotel in downtown Santiago on a pre-booked taxi.  We achieved much of this, though not entirely without incident.

Our first concern was that someone or something might have damaged the tank in the car park, but all seemed fine when we got to it. The two days’ parking charge was a princely €12, which I’d say is remarkably cheap for parking inside the walls of an ancient Roman city.

The first incident concerned getting out of Lugo.  Whilst we were wandering around, we noticed that there was a huge amount of road maintenance/repair/upgrade work going on.  While I suppose it’s good that crappy old roads are being upgraded, the result looks a bit like this.

It’s a lovely smooth surface, but it seems a bit sterile in the context of the traditional buildings that surround it. The combination of frequent roadworks and such surfaces also means, as we found out, that such a surface gives the tank driver no clue as to where the nearest route might be that would enable him to squeeze out through the walls. Satnavs were of no use, as the brand new roadworks perpetually conflcted with the on-screen directions given.  All in all, it was reminiscent of an episode in the Canary islands when we drove round a town called Arucas for what seemed like several hours trying to find an exit which wasn’t blocked by roadworks.

We made it, eventually, and without any damage to the beemer, thankfully.

So, the Thing To See was next: an ancient temple in the tiny village of Santa Eulalia de Bóveda, a few kilometres off the main drag between Lugo and Santiago. Exactly how ancient seems to be a matter of debate; many sources claim it was Roman, but at least one other I’ve seen talks about it as a Visigoth site. Who knows?  Maybe visiting it might help clarify?


The satnav took us along successively narrower roads until it swore we were in the village of Santa Eulalia. We drove very slowly through it on a very narrow road, trying not to run down a beagle which was intent on being friendly. The building which Jane thought might be the temple seemed a bit covered in scaffolding, but there was nowhere to park and no way of turning round to go back and look again to see if that was the temple. Eventually some people, not unconnected with the beagle, came along and Jane had a chat with them, as a result of which we discovered the place was closed today.


Jane had checked that it was open on Wednesdays, but this Wednesday was May 1st, a holiday – International Workers’ Day; or International Non-workers’ Day as it should more properly be called. Anyway, the practical upshot was that our best move would be simply to carry on to Santiago, which we did, along beautifully-surfaced but alarmingly narrow roads and with short but lively debates at each intersection between country lanes as to whether we should believe TomTom or Google Maps’ advice about which was the better route to Satiago airport.

The route we ended up driving along was the road that led through many of the towns that the Camino Francés winds through. So we drove through Medlide and Arzua in some 15 minutes, as opposed to the several hours it took us on foot last Autumn.

From there on, our journey to our hotel in Santiago proceeded smoothly.  Enterprise car rentals agreed that we hadn’t damaged their precious beemer, and Jane persuaded our pre-arranged transport driver to turn up early to take us from the airport into town.  (The driver did a good job of actually coming to find us rather than skulking outside whilst we searched for him).  The taxi was one of these vast van-sized Mercedes people movers, and I have to say I’m glad it was he who was driving – getting through the streets of Santiago old town is not a job for the faint of heart. But he managed it without any crashing, swearing or gesticulation and deposited us outside our hotel.

This is the very fine Mosteiro de San Martiño Pinario, an absolutely vast establishment which was once a monastery and which dwarfs the very substantial cathedral opposite which it stands.

The red blob above is the entrance; the blue blob is where our room is. Ignore the “temporarily closed” – I can vouch it’s open, because I’m currently sitting in the bar, drinking gin served by a very courteous and generous barman. Because it was originally a monastery, the rooms are agreeably monkish; this is the sight that greeted us as we opened the door to our room.

and the room is comfortable enough, but luxurious? Nope.

That’s why I’m writing this in the bar, altogether a more appealing environment for content creation. And I am indeed content.

As one would expect, there are many monasterical touches: stone-floored and wooden-beamed corridors

rows of monkish cells;


(note the Camino sign in the middle);

and agreeable spots for sitting and contemplating.

So we’re well set up for an overnight stay before embarking on the meat of this sojourn in Galicia – the Camino Finisterre. For nostalgic reasons, we did take a stroll through Santiago, to reacquaint ourselves with the cathedral

and opposite it the Pazo de Raxoi, a French neoclassical palace which now serves as the town hall, now free of the scaffolding which disfigured it when we were last here.

We also took a bite of lunch at the Taberna de Fuego Lento, a lively downtown eatery. All this wandering around had to be done paying due respect to the Galician weather which was being very, well, Galician; sunshine one minute and the next…

…one is glad for nearby shelter.

I seem to have found quite a lot to write about in what I had actually expected to be an unremarkable day. It may be a case of displacement activity to stop me thinking too much about tomorrow; as usual, day one of any extended walk always seem to be the tough one, and tomorrow will have its challenges. I will of course write about them so that you can sympathise with my pain, as I’m sure you’re only too certain to do. So be sure to keep an eye on these pages so you can have a good laugh about our exploits.




Day 3 – Lugo again: Victor Lugorum

Tuesday 30 April 2024 – We got a lot more touristing done today than I had expected given the dire (or at least rainy) weather forecast by Accuweather. And, in truth, the prospects at the start of the day weren’t particularly appealing.

It seemed that seeking indoor touristing would be the way to go for the day, so we set out for the cathedral, through the rain.

En route, we stopped in at the central pharmacy, which was well-decorated in an art nouveau kind of way,

You can only really see the stained glass in this door from inside the shop, where it appears reversed. So I have flipped it left-to-right

and were reminded that Lugo is actually on various of the Camino de Santiago routes – the Primitivo and XIX.

I’m grumpy about visiting the cathedral. They charge €7.50 for entry and then won’t let you take photos. My feeling is that you can do one or the other. So I sneaked a couple of illicit photos anyway, yah boo, in both cathedral and cloisters.

There’s some lovely detail in the cloisters and some fine stained glass in the cathedral itself.

After this peremptory visit to the cathedral, we walked around in dampness that was gradually escalating from slight drizzle to proper rain, taking in some other nice corners of the city.

but the dampness became too oppressive, so we scurried off to the Café del Centro, where we’d noticed hot chocolate and churros advertised. And very nice they were too; we were amused to note that the café seemed to regard this as a normal breakfast.

The rain appeared to be easing as we left the café, so, rather than go back and skulk in our hotel room, we decided to take a walk out of the old city to a Roman bridge across the river, passing a couple of installations in the main square that we hadn’t really taken note of before

and passing some nice scenes as we went.

Delightfully, as we got to the river, the sun came out,

and showed the 7-arch Roman bridge off to its best advantage.

The walk to the river is quite steeply downhill, which meant that we got some practice for our forthcoming hiking as we worked our way back up to the city, up to and through the Parque Rosalía de Castro. This is named after a Galician poet and novelist, considered one of the most important figures of 19th-century Spanish literature and modern lyricism. Widely regarded as the greatest Galician cultural icon, she was a leading figure in the emergence of the literary Galician language. The route also involved climbing some 180 steps and 100 metres vertical, so constituted a nice preparatory workout for the day after tomorrow, which is when we take our first steps on the Camino Finisterre.

By this stage we felt we’d earned some lunch, so once again visited the Terrazza restaurant at our hotel. Although we weren’t much later than yesterday, the restaurant was very quiet, with only a couple of other tables occupied; a great contrast with yesterday’s buzz.  The food was just as good, though.

Having (slightly over-) indulged ourselves, we noted that the rain which had come on just as we arrived at the hotel had now eased, and so we went off for a post-prandial constitution in search of some final sights to take in. There were still a couple of churches to be visited, after all.

Having passed the “Monumento do Bimilenario”, the city’s nod to Y2K

(dubbed “The Millennium Falcon”, by Jane), our first stop was the church of the Convento de San Domingos, a very tranquil place.

I noticed that it featured an organ with horizontal pipes,

which appears to be A Thing in these parts – we’d noticed similar setups in the cathedrals of Burgos and León.

The other was the church of San Pedro,

which has some fine stained glass.

There remained but one other Thing To See, which is something we’d completely missed in our walks around because the last thing it looks like is a site of significant historic interest.

It is actually the Museo Universitario A Domus do Mitreo. “Domus”, as anyone old enough to have studied Latin at school knows, means “house”*, and this unlikely-looking building houses (sorry) a really interesting site – the remains of what must have once been a palatial residence that was also a Mithraeum, a temple dedicated to the cult of Mithras, a Roman mystery religion. It’s a very extensive site

with great archeological significance for the city. The site of the domus is important to the city, since it has allowed the documentation of archaeological remains from the entire history of Lugo, starting at the moment of its foundation, around 27BC, until the 20th century. The site is very well laid out with lots of detailed information on info boards and in videos and enabling one to get really very close to the original Roman stonework. Interestingly, when The Powers That Be of the time decided that the city needed a wall, they just went ahead and built it straight through one end of the place.

And that was about it for our wandering around Lugo – a very pleasant city with a significant Roman history. The morrow involves departing for Santiago de Compostela and (after an overnight stop to draw breath) the start in earnest of our proper peregrination to the coast. It will be interesting for us to find out how we get on with some serious walking; I hope it might also be interesting for you to come back to these pages to see how things went.


* Domus was also the name of a now-defunct chain of (originally co-operative-run) department stores in Sweden. This fact may be of use in some bizarre set of circumstances, such as when writing a blog about a Roman city in Spain.

Day 2 – Lugo. Not at all lugobrious.

Monday 29 April 2024 – We squeezed rather more into the day than had been our original plan, because today the sun was shining but the weather forecast for the coming days was gloomy at best, dire at worst. We had originally planned just to potter over to Lugo via an archaeological site today, and leave the morrow for wandering around Lugo itself. But time permitted us to do both in the one day, and the good weather encouraged us to adopt that as plan A. The result was a good day – we even had time for another decent and copious lunch.

First challenge, though, was to get the panzer tank beemer out of the underground car park at the hotel, which we managed without incident by dint of Jane watching closely from outside the car as I negotiated exit barriers. It’s a lovely car in many respects, and probably not actually that much larger than my old Citroën. But it feels fucking huge!


Jane had, as ever, spotted a potentially interesting site to visit as we made our way to Lugo. I tried putting the name Viladonga into our TomTom satnav, and it was not at all impressed. But Google Maps came to the rescue and so we found ourselves at Castro Viladonga, the site of a mainly Roman hill fort, where there’s a rather nicely laid-out and totally free museum beside the remains of the castro itself. The museum has a model of what it’s imagined the place looked like in its day.

and, particularly given the lovely weather, this cried out to me that I needed to get the drone up and over the site.

Whilst I was busy dealing with the drone, Jane was taking photos of the site itself, which has some quite remarkable stonework still visible.

There’s a lot of detail visible for those who want to dive into it.  For example, as you enter the site, there’s a stone in the middle of the path.

The groove in it indicates that at one stage a gate would lodge in place there, and one can see at the sides the ridges which would support the gate.  Looking at the stone from further away

shows that there would be a second gate, for added security. The museum also has several interesting artefacts, including fragments that show that glass was being blown during the time of the greatest occupation of the encampment (2nd – 5th Century AD).  They also had a booth with a cute video simulation of some of the activities that would be daily tasks of the time.

All in all, it was a pleasant diversion from the journey to Lugo and we’re glad we took the time to nose around it. There was a tiny treat for us as we drove off the motorway to reach it – a stork’s nest with a stork on it! Sadly, traffic meant we couldn’t stop without causing an unacceptable amount of tutting from the drivers behind us, but it was lovely to see. On the way back from the Castro, we did manage to stop, and Jane got a snap of the three chicks that were in the nest.

With luck, we’ll see more of these during our time in Galicia. We saw plenty of nests here last autumn, but never ones with actual occupants.

Lugo is a town best known for its Roman Walls, which was the main reason for us to visit, obvs. Our hotel is the Hotel Méndez Núñez. Now, this is the second time we’ve come across the name, as, you’ll of course remember, there was a park of this name in A Coruña. It turns out that Castro Méndez Núñez was a Galician who fought Filipino pirates, won a war, scared and intimidated the British and American navies and was the first to sail around the world in command of a battleship. Who knew, eh?

Anyway, we arrived with a determination to exploit the day’s nice weather to walk the Roman walls which have made Lugo world famous in Spain. First , though, we had to wrestle the tank beemer through one of the Roman (i.e. chariot-sized, rather than SUV-sized) gates and along a typically Roman Old Town set of narrow streets to find the recommended car park somewhere near our hotel. Remarkably, in another of the day’s small and somewhat unexpected treats, not only did we manage to get into the Anxel Fole car park with the paintwork intact, but there was also a space big enough for it there. What larks!

We were further delighted to note that we had time to eat lunch and use the walls as a post-prandial constitutional, since it was only about 2pm when we got to Lugo. Conveniently, the hotel features a restaurant and the receptionist told us that it would be open for lunch until about 3pm.  So we headed with alacrity to the 6th floor terrace, where it looked like we might have a desultory hotel lunch alongside the other couple who were there.  We ordered food and noted that after a while a few groups came in. And then a few more.

By about 3.30pm, the place was practically full, so our rush to get there was, after all, not necesary. It did, though, enable us to have a decent and copious lunch whilst still having plenty of time to walk the walls.

The walls that I’ve been banging on about are ancient Roman defensive walls stretching a couple of kilometres and completely surrounding the Old Town – I think it’s the only city which has an intact set of completely surrounding walls; York runs it a close second, but there are a few gaps there. The Lugo walls were built in the third century AD to defend the ancient Roman town of Lucus Augusti. The fortifications were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Deservedly, they’re a popular tourist attraction.  Here are some photos from our walk round them.

It looks to us as though the walls have had some restoration work done on them, even if we can’t immediately find verification one way or the other.  They’re just somehow in suspiciously good nick for construction that old.  Sure, the Romans knew how to build stuff, but still….anyway, they’re wonderful to behold, and the city obviously takes great care of them.

Jane had a quick chat with these guys and, yes, it’s a year-round task to keep the walls looking good.

The feeling we’d got from various sources was that there wasn’t much else to see in Lugo apart from the walls. On the basis of our short stroll around today, I think we’d beg to differ; it’s a charming place

This chap was outside the place we stopped at for a well-deserved coffee after walking the walls

and we haven’t explored the cathedral or other churches yet – we’ll leave that for the morrow. There’s even a statue of the chap who lent his name to our car park.

Anxel Fole was a writer, well-known in Galicia, since he wrote books, poems and stories in the Galician language.

As the evening drew to a close, we wrung the last photographic drops out of the city, as it’s quite attractive lit up at night.

First prize for photogenicity has to go to this view of the back of the cathedral, though.

We really enjoyed the day and being able to take advantage of the good weather. Tomorrow – who knows? If it rains, perhaps we can find some indoor places to explore.  Come back soon and find out whether we were lucky or not, eh?