A Coruna is a port city sitting on a promontory in the Galicia Region of northwest Spain. Its a place that many people will never have heard of except for football fans – Deportivo de La Coruna is a professional football club once playing in La Liga but currently in the Spanish Second Division.
A Coruna (and also Ferrol nearby) is where the Camino Ingles began where medieval pilgrims disembarked from their boats to start their treck to Santiago de Compostela. It’s also famous for a Roman lighthouse – the Tower of Hercules and some standing stones ,Menhires for Peace , which appear monolithic from a distance but were actually built as recently as 1994 as a tribute to the Celtic heritage of Galicia.
Its a pleasant town with an interesting port , at least one nice beach that we saw , a commercial centre and some interesting architecture with a medieval area ,like all the towns in N W Spain.
We stayed in the commercial area at the pleasant Moon Hotel , conveniently beside our favourite Department Store El Corte Ingles. From here its a short walk to the Paseo Maritime , a 24km long promenade which gives some very nice walking around the promontory on which the city sits.
We didn’t enjoy the best of weather during our visit but its fair to say that this probably isn’t a town which overseas visitors would visit other than as part of a tour of the area or as a port of call on a Cruise .We enjoyed the visit nevertheless but 3 nights here were enough. Next stop Leon.
Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the Galicia Region of north west Spain and was the shrine of Saint James and the foundation of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela which is said to contain the remains of Saint James and has been the destination of thousands upon thousands of pilgrims every year since the 9th century.
There is quite a large historic centre contain the Cathedral itself and many historic buildings in narrow winding streets. Sadly much of the historic centre is a tourist trap lined with bars and restaurants and shop after shop selling tourist tat.This is also the site of the University of Santiago de Compostela and the numbers of students and young visitors result in a busy and noisy nightlife .This is a lovely city but for us spoilt by the crowds .After 3 nights here we were ready to escape the herds and move on to the far north and the town of A Coruna.
We arrived in Pontevedra on July 16 2018. We were staying in a small but quite modern and comfortable hotel and within an easy walk of the historic centre. This was our first stop in our summer 2017 Spain itinerary which would take us north through Rias Baixas to Santiago de Compostela and then on into Galicia, Asturias ,Leon , Cantabria and Rioja , ending up at San Sebastian in the Basque Country in time for their Semana Grande , their August Festival.
We stayed 3 nights in Pontevedra and this was quite enough for what is only a small town .This north west corner of Spain is very different to the East coast Costas that we are more familiar with.The towns very much have their own identity and cuisine which majors on fish and seafood and especially octopus and there are some beautiful little villages with fabulous beaches. The downside is that it does rain quite a bit more than on the east side of the country although not during our visit.
A Day Trip to O Grove
Ogrove is a small fishing holiday resort a few miles from Potevedra , much favoured by the Spanish. There are hotels and restaurants galore but the highlight for us was the fresh food market with some great fresh fish stalls.
We arrived in Porto from Coimbra by train on the 9th July and were soon unpacked and ready to go. We had rented a super private apartment from a lovely english couple who kindly spent some time explaining how to get around the city , what to see etc etc. The apartment was in a great location on the “wrong ” side of the River Douro and high above the river which meant that we had great views looking down on the river and of course the riverside buildings. The apartment was also only 500 metres or so from our favourite Spanish (yes Spanish) Departmental Store and Supermarket – el Corte Inglese .
We stayed for a week and loved the town , a great place to hang out , good shopping , nice people and inexpensive in comparison with other Med countries. The city centre is nice enough with plenty of decent restaurants but of course , here it’s all about the river – and port !
Its hard to get away from the port. There are trips and tours and tastings to be had everywhere
A few photos around town – there are some nice municipal buildings but its not as photogenic as some
A Day Trip Down the Dourro River
We had originally planned to travel from Porto along the Dourro and over to Salamanca in Spain but those plans were scuppered when we discovered that there was no longer a train service from this part of Portugal to Salamanca. However , the area looked interesting when researching it so we decided to pay a visit.We don’t normally do winery tours any longer ( having done plenty over the past few years ) but this seemed to be the only way we could get to see the region without renting a car.In the event we had an excellent tour including tastings at two tiny producers.This is a stunning area and well worth a stay for some fabulous hiking.
After a super week in Porto , it was time to leave Portugal. We would now travel north by bus to our next stop Pontevedra in Spain.
Coimbra is a riverside university town around half way between Lisbon and our final destination in Portugal, Porto. Lisbon to Porto is quite a long journey unless you fly and since time was not an issue for us, we decided to break the journey with a couple of days at Coimbra.
Two days, actually three nights, were enough here. This isn’t a big city and in truth the historic city centre, the Cathedral and hill top university area (this is the oldest university in Portugal) were easily “done” in a 2 day stay. Nevertheless we enjoyed our time here with a few nice meals at some interesting restaurants, notably Ze Manuel dos Ossos where a plate of bones is the popular speciality of the house. This place is very cheap and always busy – they don’t take reservations and its a must visit in Coimbra and so there’s a queue whenever the restaurant is open. The decor is unusual consisting of notes of appreciation stuck on the wall by customers!
Coimbra Old Cathedral and Cloisters
We attended a Fado (traditional melancholic folk music) show in Coimbra as we hadn’t got round to it in Lisbon. Attending a fado show is must in Lisbon/Coimbra/Porto, or so they say. The musicians and singers were very professional but the songs are dirge like and the highlight of the show for us was the glass of sherry and nibbles provided at the end.We found that like flamenco in Spain, the best “shows” are those spontaneous ones which can be found in out of the way locals bars where friends take turns in singing a song with the backing of an acoustic guitar or two.
The University Area
The main University buildings stand high on a hill above the town providing great views over town and river on a nice day – unfortunately it wasn’t a great day when we visited, as you can see….
After two days in Coimbra we had exhausted all the sights we had wanted to see and left by train for our next stop, Porto.