La Corona, Spain

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January 7th 2016
Published: January 10th 2016
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Thursday 7th January, 2016. La Corona, Spain

M had a lie in as it was hammering it down outside and we were not going to arrive until about 12.30 (some 4 hours or so later than scheduled due to the horrific weather). D went for some breakfast. We spent the morning on board and M had a light lunch of soup before we decided to brave the weather and go and have a look at the town.

The province of Galicia, of which La Coruna (population 252,000) is the capital, is a unique area of Spain (where M's favourite wine comes from). Its geography with two coastlines exposed to the Atlantic and numerous sunken river valleys similar to those in Cornwall, addds to the feeling that you are in an ancient land. The Celts were, in fact, some of the early settlers during the 6th century BC. The city was founded by Hercules. The Romans first arrived in Galicia in the 2nd century BC and their settlement here was driven mainly by economic aims since the zone was rich in minerals. In 62 BC Julius Caesar came to the city and found a population composed of a few fishermen living in primitive conditions. Due to the strategic position of the city it soon became important for sea trade which is demonstrated by the building of the Hercules Lighthouse during the 2nd century AD. The influence of the Romans is significant and affected all areas of life from language to culture and religion. La Coruna was officially recognised as a city in 1446 by King Juan II who also authorised free commerce between England and the Spanish city which caused a significant growth in the city's trade.

After grabbing a map from the tourist information, we sploshed our way out of the cruise dock and onto the waterfront by the marina. It soon became very clear that M's snazzy new lime green and yellow trainers weren't going to hack it unless the drainage improved (which it didn't). The waterfront was dominated by some really lovely imposing buildings where the terraces had been glassed over to protect the occupants from the elements. It is these 'galerias' which have caused La Coronua to be known as "The Crystal City". We followed the bright yellow sign which said "City Centre" (in English) solely for the benefit of the cruise ship passengers. This was the last English we were to see - everything else was in Galician and/or Castillano Spanish. We found our way to Maria Pita Square which is dominated by the imposing Palacio Municipal which is the City Hall and home to the town council or Ayuntamiento. Mayor Fernandez de la Camara y Pita, known locally of Maria Pita, is a symbol of the Coruna people's defence against English attack in 1589. Her deeds took place at what is known as the Aires Gateway in the old town and the Town Council square is named after her. After chatting in Spanish to a friendly policeman outside the Palacio Municipal we established two things. The first was that the Tower of Hercules lighthouse was not walkable and that we would have to get a bus but that it was closed. This is thought to be the oldest lighthouse in existence, alerting seafarers since the 2nd century. We decided to give it a miss and head to the old town (ciudad vieja) which was the second thing that the policeman told us - not a lot to see in this weather - and none of the museums were open yet (siesta).

Undeterred we made our way up some steep steps towards the old town. We sploshed along (La Coruna is just one big 2" deep puddle when it rains!) until we came to Santa Mara del Campo Collegiate Church. The church is so named because at the time of its construction it probably stood outside the city walls (campo means field). The modern-day building may date from the end of the 13th century or the beginning of the 14th. Since ancient times, it was the church of the sailors' and traders' guilds. In 1441, the Archbiship of Santiago established the church as the Collegiate and in 1494 Rome granted it the title of Abbey. Throughout the 18th century there were several attempts to rebuild the church, although all failed. Extension work was carried out in the 19th century bringing the impressive doorway forward.

It was still raining heavily so we sploshed around to the Maria Pita museum which was closed. However a nice lady came out and informed us in Spanish that she opened in 7 minutes. We debated whether to go inside but decided to continue with our walking (sploshing) tour of the old town. Next we made our way to Plaza de Barbaras which is where the Convent of Barbaras is located. This was also closed so we settled for taking a couple of snaps. We made our way around the corner to another religious building - The Monastery and Church of Santo Domingo which once stood outside of the town walls. It was rebuilt inside the city walls during the first half of the 17th century and extended around 1726.

We sploshed our way down to San Carlos Gardens which is where the tomb of Sir John Moore is located. These gardens were originally a defensive castle which was erected in the 14th century outside of the town walls. It was incorporated into the city in the 16th century. Slowly it lost importance as a bastion and after its arsenal exploded, it was abandoned until the 18th century when it was recuperated as a garden by Don Carlos F de Croix. Its modern day appearance is due to the Governor of Mazzarredo. The gardens house the tomb of the English General Sir John Moore, who died in the Battle of Elvina. He is buried here in fulfillment of an oft-expressed wish to be buried wherever he might fall. There is also a bust of the General in the gardens together with commerative plaques and a seedling of the oak tree planted by Moore at the house where he lived with his mother in Cobham near London. From a sheltered (had a roof) viewpoint in the gardens we had great views over the harbour and over to the cruise terminal. In the other direction we could see some kind of a castle or fort which appeared to be on an island. We decided to go and take a closer look.

We sploshed down the hill (yes there was still 2 inches of water on the top of the hill) to the bottom and turned left towards the castle/fort. We negotiated the road which was now a river. Both our pairs of footwear were soaked by now. The fortification turned out to be the Castle of San Anton. We paid the extortionate entrance fee of 2 euros for M and 1 for D (pensioner price) and went inside. At the end of the 16th century, Felipe II had San Anton Castle built on a small rocky island as a fortress for defending La Coruna port. After successive restoration projects it took on its current appearance at the end of the 18th century. it was also a prison until the middle of the 20th century. Since 1968 ithas housed the municipal Archaeology and History museum. It was a very interesting place (not least because it was dry), with loads of artifacts from the Roman times onwards. We looked at various sculptures, carvings and bits of pot before walking up a ramp towards the "planta alta" (top floor). On this ramp was a reconstruction of an old boat. Once we emerged from the ramp we were again, exposed to the elements. It was raining harder than ever. We walked around the walls and had a look at the lighthouse. This was installed in 1861 to aid sailors accessing the interior of the port following a petition from the consul of England in 1846 (long time coming!). We squidged our way across the soaking lawns until we came to the museum and church of the castle. The museum was fascinating with many artifacts and weapons from different wars and consquests. Of particular interest to us were the conquests of the Philipines and Mexico. There was also a lot of stuff about the Spanish Armada which sailed from here to invade England. There was a replica Armada ship and lots of writing in Spanish. From this M learned that Isabel is the Spanish name for Elizabeth! We had a quick look at the sanctuary in the old church before deciding that enough was enough. We were absolutely soaked! We made our way back towards the ship. It was a long splosh round 3 sides of the harbour. M got a FM (Fridge Magnet) at the cruise terminal.

Once back on board we stripped off our soaking clothes and shoes and hung them out to dry. At the reception desk M enquired about laundry facilities - there aren't any! Well not self service ones anyway. We only wanted a tumble dryer! Dinner was roast lamb with mint sauce (yum). The ship was listing seriously to starboard because of the heavy winds. Poor Pam engaged in a discussion with our waiter Boyann (spelled Bojan) - trying to learn his name - when all of a sudden she ended up sprawled on the floor because the ship was listing so badly. Luckily she was not hurt - more like bruised ego. M checked out if she had, in fact, now learned our waiters name. "Oh yes Boy George" she replied! The show was a guest act called Andy Leach who is a comedian. He was funny in parts. After the show everything was off as the ship was flooding. Water was cascading down the rear and middle stairs into the cabins. The Kareoke was cancelled. D helped Pam find her way back to her cabin before joining M for a drink in the bar. We went to bed expecting another rocky night. We weren't going to be disappointed!

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