Author: Adrienne L.
Date of Trip: April 2010
La Coruna is the second largest city in Galicia in northwestern Spain, second only in size to the port of Vigo. The city is the capitol of A Coruna province. It was the Galician capitol from 1563-1982 before that role was moved to Santiago de Compostella. La Coruna is a busy port located on a promontory in the entrance of an estuary in a large gulf on the Atlantic Ocean. It provides a distribution point for agricultural goods from the region. The land was once occupied by Phoenicians, Romans, and Moors, but Galicia has its strongest ties to its Celtic past.
La Coruna is built on a narrow strip of land jutting out of the Atlantic Ocean. This strategic location is an excellent base for excursions to Santiago de Compostella, the third holiest sight in the Christian faith, next to Jerusalem and Rome. Legend has it that Saint James came to Spain to preach the new word of the Gospel shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He later returned to Jerusalem and was beheaded by Herod Agrippa. Two of James’ disciples removed the corpse and brought it to Padron, 20 kilometers downstream from Santiago. Lost and forgotten for 750 years, a hermit who was directed by divine light to a field just outside present-day Santiago de Compostella, rediscovered the remains in AD 813. The story spread throughout Europe and a pilgrimage to Santiago began. At the height of its popularity, in the 11th and 12th centuries, the city was receiving over half a million pilgrims each year. Believing in the miraculous power of Saint James, it was thought the journey would guarantee a remission of half of one’s time in purgatory.
Despite the fact that La Coruna is an ancient city it does not have a wealth of historical and architectural monuments. The great event in the history of La Coruna occurred in 1588 when Philip II’s Invincible Armada sailed with a fleet to conquer England. Caught in a ferocious storm, most of the fleet was destroyed with only a few ships returning to Spain one month later. The spirit of Spain was badly shaken and to make matters worse, Sir Francis Drake and the English arrived one year later and devastated the town.
We sailed into La Coruna at 8:00 A.M. and the temperature was 68 degrees. Our prior research let us know that we could explore the city on our own, so we disembarked with map in hand. Our plan was to take a tour on one of the open-air tour buses that we had found in most cities. However, we soon found out that the buses only ran on the weekends and this was a Wednesday. So we stopped by the local tourist office to get more inside information. The Plaza de Maria Pita was a gateway into the old town section of the city where we visited numerous churches and even attended mass in one of the most beautiful Spanish churches we had ever visited. As we ventured further into the old town to get a sense the city we immediately noticed that the overall feel was medieval. There was an assortment of shops that featured contemporary attire for young and old alike. We noticed a plethora of restaurants that featured fresh seafood and cured hams. We visited several tapas bars that offered local specialties like mussels, crayfish, scallops and octopus. We also sampled the local wine such as Al Barino and beer, Estrella Galicia. Although the local people were quite friendly, we did not encounter the vying for our attention or tourist dollars that is so prevalent in other cities. It was easy to feel like a local. The weather, although warm, changed quite rapidly from sunny to rainy. Unfortunately we had left our umbrella aboard the ship and spent a fair amount of time huddling under shop awnings until we found an umbrella to purchase.
We found La Coruna to be interesting and charming. Does it have a lot to offer? Maybe for some, but our favorite Spanish cities are still Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca.
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