2011 Adriatic Cruise: La Coruna, Spain

DSC01119compressed6am awakening again, but managed to doze until 8am – it is still dark when I do get up, and didn’t get light until about 30 minutes later. When it did, we could see fog. We are due to dock at La Coruna at 11.30am; I’ve booked a ship tour to La Coruna and Betanzos, and we’ll have enough time to check out the town of La Coruna, as we don’t leave until 9pm tonight.

At breakfast this morning, we had the company of some birds – they looked like large, speckelled seagulls – which seemed to be floating alongside the boat for a few minutes. Donovan, the ‘sunshine coffee and tea tonic man’ was there again – he pushes a trolley of tea and coffee and serves you at the table, accompanied by a series of rhymes he calls out as he moves through the cafe – very clever and a nice touch.

As we return to the cabin, we get our feedback card, and this cruise I have too many excellent staff to mention and nothing really negative. It’s been a delightful holiday.

We met our bus tour for the 20 minute drive to Betanzos and heard about the history of Coruna and Galicia, which is, surprisingly, more Celtic than Spanish, complete with bagpipes.  Phillip II of Spain left from here to invade England, and Sir Francis Drake arrived about a year later to destroy the town.

DSC01152compressedWe travelled on the ‘high road’, a highway that skirted some mountains. It was still very foggy, so we didn’t get many views. Betanzos is a medieval town, built on a hill, near what the guide called the inlet; this is quite shallow apparently and the site of the San Roque festival on 16 August each year, when boats are decorated and sailed along the inlet. After driving through the new part of town, the bus dropped us in the plaza of the old town, where there was some activity, including a Bart Simpson jumping castle, as part of celebrations for the Bank Holiday or Columbus Day, when they celebrate the discovery of America by Columbus.

We head up a small hill into the heart of the old town, and right then left up and down, to reach two old churches – Inglesia de San Francisco (St Francis) and Inglesia de Santa Maria (St Mary). These are side by side on a hill. Only the Church of St Francis was open today because of the holiday.

Outside the church of St Mary, there is a stone crucerio in front of it, which were built to ward off the evil spirits that might meet you on the road and at crossroads. Apparently if you met these lines of spirits walking, you had to join them for eternity.

DSC01139compressedWe then saw some key buildings, the first bank in Europe which is now a stamp museum, and ended at the high point of the old town, near the town hall, and another church. Here some of the local children joined us on the steps of the church, which was right next to a cafe, above which a future Queen had stayed at one stage (missed who is was exactly).

Back in the plaza, where we had free time, we bought Kate’s newspaper, contemplated a cup of tea and settled on an ice cream – where we could point at the one we wanted – and sat watching people until it was time to board the bus. I am reminded that groups of teenage girls are the same the world over, dressed in jeans and tshirts, talking in earnest and laughing out loud, as are two year old tantrums! There is also a statue in this plaza of the two brothers who built many of the major buildings in the town – the Garcia Naveira brothers.

We drove back to La Coruna via the ‘low roads’ along the coast, and saw some countryside, some huge houses, some hoeffas (sp?), raised food storage structures, and some beach towns, including Sada which looked as though it is very popular.

The weather in Betanzos turned out to be delightful, high 20s and sunny. As we approached La Coruna, however, it was clear the fog was still around – at 3pm.

We had a tour of the city sights, and then headed to the Tower of Hercules, a 2nd century Roman lighthouse which is still in operation. We had ten minutes here, not really even long enough to walk up to the top of the hill, so we didn’t have time to climb it, just take photos. And given the fog, the photos weren’t great. Back on the bus, we waited and waited for some people to turn up – as it was, we could have climbed the Tower, which is probably what they did.

DSC01182compressedThe sea promenade here is over 10 kilometres long apparently, and divided into three sections, defined by the light posts. We drove along the promenade and back to the ship, passing several buildings where the balconies had been closed in by white frontages, which now form a long, long example of this style , then through the fisheries port and then to the tourism port, which looks fairly new, and has open air restaurants. At dinner that night, we could see many people and families strolling here, although the imminent departure of the Eclipse could have attracted people as well.

La Coruna has a few interesting sites and places, and a Che Guevera street as well as a street named Nirvana by the mayor after the rock band, but the old seems overwhelmed by its industry and commercial operations. It is clean, like all Spanish towns we have visited, and that adds to their attractiveness. The weather is a bit different to the rest of Spain, cooler and more rain and like most Mediterranean countries, was enjoying an Indian Summer when we visited. It has three museums – the aquarium for fish, the human body and science, all housed in modern and quite unique buildings. The football stadium is another example of modern architecture, although apparently the team has been relegated to second division.

We had afternoon tea when we got back as it was 4pm; we decided to wait for dinner, which was another lovely meal. The whole process of dining on a cruise ship is part of the experience – each night is an event in itself.

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