16 September 2019
Late to bed, early to rise. All packed up and heading for the subway station on a brisk Tuesday morning. The air was crisp with a light breeze and the narrow streets were already humming with activity. The sound of suitcase wheels being dragged over cobblestone, diesel engines, supplies being unloaded from trucks, the rev of motor scooters and the clink of coffee cups from outdoor cafes serenaded us as we scurried down Calle de Carettas to the Metro.
Puerto del Sol was buzzing with energy. The usual tourists and tourist magnets were gearing up for the day. We entered the outer hump entrance of the Metro station and descended down several escalators and through ticket gates. We have become somewhat competent at maneuvering the subways and found our track. It was packed with morning commuters. We squeezed into the crowded car and a half dozen people squeezed in along with us. The Metro trains not only allow bicycles but scooters too. The ride to the airport was not pleasant but that’s the reality of rush hour on a Tuesday morning.
Our flight to A Coruna on a mid-size Iberia airbus was short and sweet. I was delighted to find recipes for Gallago Octopus and Paella (in Spanish and English) in one of the airplane seat pocket magazines. We chose to do the cheap flight alternative so that meant we didn’t get to choose seats. I had a window seat with two locals sitting next to me … Señora Dona and Señor Macho. The flight attendant was nice enough to move Mr. Macho to a better seat so we could all spread out. Mrs. Dona didn’t understand this. She rattled something to me in Spanish. I smiled and said, “habla usted English?” She looked at me, laughed and indicated that she spoke very little English. Then she said, “you English”. I nodded. In broken english she communicated that the flight attendant wanted both of us to move over to the open aisle seat. I said I wanted to stay by the window. She said ok and remained in the middle seat. The plane was stuffy and I don’t know how she survived in her thermal outer jacket. Her arm was secured by the arm rest and her elbow was poking into my ribs the entire flight. The seat next to her remained empty. At least it was a very short flight.
It was a quick Uber ride to our hostel. Like pack mules we hiked up three generous flights of stairs to our room with backpacks in tow. It was small, clean and comfortable with a large window draped so you couldn’t tell you were looking at a wall.
After settling in and shedding the hiking boots, we went out to explore. We chose to stay at Hostel Linar because it was located in the middle of two bodies of water. One was a beach and the other a harbor. Both were a short walk from the Hostel in opposite directions.
Being a warm, sunny day we chose to do the beach side first. We took the higgely piggely route because there is no other way to get there. Weaving through the town’s small narrow streets we window shopped and made a few stops. The cool breeze and smell of salt water led the way. One of the interesting things about A Coruna are the beautiful glass fronted balconies.
A Coruna is often called the Crystal City because of the glass fronted balconies on the sea promenade. On a clear day when the sun faces the harbor front during the evening, the reflection can be blinding.
It was about 80 degrees and sunny. The long sprawling beach was empty. Sun bathers were few and far between even though it felt like a beach day to us Minnesotans. A Coruna has a population of about 200,000 … where was everybody? Maybe this felt cold to them and September isn’t typically a ‘beach’ month and maybe not high season for tourists. We saw a few unsuccessful surfers. The waves just weren’t there today. And yes, the water was cold.
There are five beaches in the A Coruna area.
After testing the water, we spread out a Zubana (backpacker’s lightweight nylon version of a ground cloth) and began to enjoy the sun, sand and surf. The grainy sand was coarse and it felt good to grind my feet around in it. There was something sparkly in its composition. I examined it carefully but couldn’t identify what it was. For a brief moment, I thought about bringing some sand home to add to my beach sand collection which was started many years ago with several sands from Hawaii. I quickly realized that it would not be a good idea to haul it around in my backpack for five weeks. Customs might not like it either.
Looks like were the only ones on the beach today.
After we soaked up enough sun to feel rested and replenished with vitamin D, we set out for the harbor side. It was a slow walk because we went down the shopping street instead of the sea promenade. So many interesting things to look at. We have become Hyper Bazaar junkies. This store is a version of the dollar store but on steroids.
We weren’t really looking for anything but enjoyed perusing the maze-like aisles. Around every corner is a surprise … it could be hardware, cookware, toys, underwear, lawn ornaments and lots of plastic stuff.
Welcome to the Real Bazaar store! Very similar to Hyper Bazaar.
Tons of merchandise is compacted into an extremely small store space. Anything you might need to survive the Camino can be found for cheap at the Hyper Bazaar. They have many locations all over Spain and they are usually run by Asians.
It was about 3:00 pm and we hadn’t eaten since the fast food quiche found at the airport. Hunger was setting in. We beelined to the harbor side.
The harbor side promenade was interesting but not as pretty as the beach side. Lots of sailboats.
Terry with a giant flock of parrots.
We are back in the land of big drinks and tapas. Gin Tonica hits the spot followed by calamari, croquettes and Russian salad which is similar to what we know as potato salad.
From our seaside table Terry, who is employed as a business administrator for a church in St.Paul, Minnesota was conducting daily business via cell phone. What a lovely place to work from.
On to Old Town
We went to the Maria Pita square which was beautiful but a little quiet. Maria Pita lived in the 16th century and was a heroine in the defense of Coruna.
Leaving the square, we entered what is known as old town.
We continued walking around Old Town until we realized there were many flights of stairs to reach the rest of old town.
After a long day of hiking around, I wasn’t too excited to climb the stairs. It wasn’t just a few steps, it was many. I spotted something that looked like an elevator. Out of curiosity, I had to see what this elevator thing was. As I thought, it was an elevator but it looked more like a grain silo. I really wanted to ride it and so we did.
This is the elevator we took out of curiosity and to avoid flights of stairs.
The “grain silo’ style elevator had a glass ceiling and walls.
We stumbled across a beautiful courtyard with very tall trees that canopied the square.
Large blossoms hung from trees.
As we were soaking in the ambiance, we discovered a church. Of course we had to take a look at it. We circled to the front and eventually tried the door. Disappointed, we started to walk away when a local came running up to us and started speaking in Spanish.
The Church of Santiago La Coruna
He pulled out a ring of keys and directed us to the side door. To the best of my Spanish knowledge, he kept saying he was San Pedro. We just laughed and smiled as he led us into the dark church.
We sat down in pews as he locked the door and walked away. We were in the dark. Slowly and dramatically the lights went on one by one. Eventually, he came back and opened the main doors. This church had really good energy.
Santiago La Coruna is an ancient monument built in the 17th century. It is the start of the English Camino pilgrimage that leads to the tomb of Santiago (aka St. James) the apostle in Compostela.
San Pedro (aka Saint Peter) holds the key to heaven.
As we were leaving the Church of Santiago La Coruna, we crossed paths with a young man from the Netherlands named Thomas. He was starting his Camino the next day. This church was the start of the A Coruna leg of the Ingles Camino. We will be starting from the Ferrol branch which is longer.
Buen Camino! Terry chatted with a pilgrim from the Netherlands who was starting the Ingles Camino.
This was Thomas’s first Camino and he was very excited to start. Perhaps we will cross paths with him somewhere. We wished him a Buen Camino and we were all on our way.
Shoes and Tambourines
Heading back to the Hostal, we made one major stop. Terry has a fondness for footwear stores and this one was a gem. It was a combination shoe store and tambourine store. That is not a spell check error. Yes, I said shoes and tambourines. Both are made by hand at this store and you can pick the color and fabric of the shoes you want.
Handmade shoes and handmade tambourines.
You can buy a tambourine to match your shoes.
There was even a pair of tambourine boots. Can you imagine Mick Jagger, Prince or James Brown bangling around in these??
Terry was in shoe heaven and needed to call her daughter Helen in Peru for shoe consultation. There are only two places you can buy these shoes one being the store in A Coruna and the other in Pontevedre, Spain. The brand is Eferro and they do have a website which is quite interesting to look at.
We made a pit stop at our hostal to freshen up and then hit the streets again to find dinner. Being in a harbor town, we were looking for seafood.
Sea Scallops hit the spot.
Another pleasant day in Spain. Our next stop is the nearby city of Ferrol.