28 March - 1 April 2007
While we have been in La Coruna it mostly rained. Hard. And the weather yet again stopped us from progressing any further south.
So we did touristy things instead. First we, erm, went to the Military Museum. Only to escape the rain, honest, and not because of any old professional curiosity!
While in the Military Museum I realised that all traces of the Navy Weapons Engineer in me have finally disappeared (apart from the capacity for sleep, were they really ever there! – J). I totally failed to get excited by the rows and rows of bullets and plug bore gauges in the glass cases (phwarr - J). However, the Warfare Officer in James got very excited by the models of battles of the English vs. the French on Spanish soil. I definitely heard him mumble “call for fire coming through”…
A fine example of Spanish Army uniform on display at the Military Museum.
What you can’t see under the gold medallion is the drawn chest hair.
The other mannequins had big moustaches and cravats.
And we used to complain about wearing knee length white socks with shorts as part of our summer uniform!
Mark, James’ brother, arrived on Wednesday. Our first visitor! Unfortunately, as the first client of Hotel Rahula, he had to endure some teething troubles we had. We discovered that the “guest” duvet was a single, not a double, and we have no guest pillows… I promise all will be rectified by the next guests’ visit!
We spent a day wandering around that old city, which was full of pretty narrow streets hugging the hillside. All the houses had lovely glass-enclosed balconies with pretty ironwork, which the city is apparently renowned for.
La Coruna Glass Balconies
I was tour guide, so I first tried to go to a 12th century church, but it was closed for mass (damn - J). Then we followed the old city walls round to St Barbara Convent, which was closed for lunch!
We visited Maria Pita’s house. She was a local heroine who helped repel an English siege in 1589 by (according to legend) killing the standard bearer just when he was about to climb the city walls. More interestingly, she managed to outlive 4 husbands, and was married to the first 3 for only 2 years before they died. She was either a very feisty woman, or did far too much sailing with her husbands! It was interesting to see in the museum the Spanish version of events during the “Great” Armada and its “retreat” (not defeat!) from Drake’s ships.
San Anton castle was the last place on the old city tour. This is a fort on a spit of land poking out to sea, which was used as a garrison and prison. James liked it because it gave the best view of the navigation marks in the harbour. Though he was disappointed not to be able to take a picture of two of them in transit!
Off Track from the Fort
Continuing on the theme of local navigation marks, we went to see the world’s oldest working lighthouse in the world, the Tower of Hercules. The lighthouse was originally built by the Romans, but the current building was completed in the 18th century. A long climb up a spiral staircase took us to the top of the lighthouse where we had stunning views of the city and coastline. It was another wet and windy day, so it was very dramatic watching the waves break over the rocks.
The Tower of Hercules Lighthouse Stormy Seas in La Coruna
With time to spare waiting for the weather to improve we decided to take the train inland and visit Santiago de Compostela. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the third holiest site in Christendom after Jerusalem and Rome. (I have now been to all three, which is not bad for a Jew!) It is where St James the Apostle is believed to be buried, and has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. It is a beautiful city, full of huge Baroque buildings and pretty monasteries. We spent a few hours in the Cathedral, exploring the church, admiring the huge diamonds in the treasury, and freezing in the crypt.
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
There are also a few interesting museums in the city, including one on Galician culture and custom, which had the coolest staircase! It was made of 3 spiral staircases which intertwined, yet they all somehow led to the same floors. It was very confusing, and looked like something from an Escher drawing!
Three Way Spiral Staircases
Another great place is the Museum of Pilgrimage, which tells the story of the pilgrims who came to Santiago. It was interesting to see from how far and wide people came to see St James’ tomb. The museum also housed the first known guide book, complete with routes, lodgings, water holes and people to avoid. It was good to see that even then the maps in ancient Rough Guides missed out half the streets!
During our stay in La Coruna we also met our first “cruising chum”. A very nice chap called George, who has been delivering yachts for a living since the mid 80s. He had some great sea stories to tell, advice to give and is even featured in Heavy Weather Sailing, a book which is held and revered on nearly every yacht! James gave him his card in the hope of some future employment – never miss an opportunity!
It looks like we may be able to escape here tomorrow. We plan to day-sail around the coast towards Finisterre. This area is called the “Costa da Morte” (the coast of death) so we are not taking any chances!
James looked away as all he got from the man sitting next to him was a stony silence.