Last Saturday, my roommate, Marion, and our friend, Irís, went to La Coruña, a city a little over 30 minutes north of Santiago de Compostela by train. I’ve been so happy because although Santiago is one of the rainiest cities in Spain, these past two weeks have been nothing but sunny! Last Saturday was no different, with blue skies and the sun shining, and what made the day that much better was that La Coruña situated right next to the water.
I was a little scared by this pruning job, though…
We started off the day by going to la Plaza de María Pita, essentialy the heart of the city of La Coruña, just outside the limits of the Old Town. Here is a picture of the Palacio Municipal (City Palace), or City Hall:
I wish the U.S. had town squares/plazas like the ones found in Spain! Every single time I come across a new plaza, I am in awe of how beautiful it is and it’s so nice to walk around the edges of the plaza when it’s nice out and to check out the different restaurants/cafés/shops.
Anywho, after checking out the plaza, we walked through la Plaza del General Azcarraga and La Plaza de la Constitución (pics below):
Then, we walked along the waterfront to el Museo Arqueológico e Histórico Castillo de San Antón, in the background of the picture below.
The island of San Antón is situated on an island of the Bay of Coruña. The old fortress was built to defend the city against attacks coming from the sea. During the English assault by Francis Drake (and the English Armada) in 1589, the castle effectively served to defend the entrance to the city. Starting in the 18th century, the fortress became a prison, which it continued to be until 1960. Here is me defending the city of la Coruña!
After visiting the castle and museum, Marion, Irís, and I went out for lunch and had el menú del día (a several course meal offered at most restaurants for lunch that costs around 10 Euros total) at a small restaurant. I ordered a Coca light, revueltos de chorizo (scrambled eggs with chorizo), guiso de pollo (chicken stew), macedonia (which I found out was just a cup of Dole fruit that was opened up and poured into a bowl) for dessert, followed by coffee. Not bad for 10 Euros. I was definitely full by the end of my meal!
With our stomachs satisfied, we made our way to the famous Torre de Hércules (The Tower of Hercules), which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2009. Before getting there, we walked for like 20 minutes along the pier. Ahhh, how ocean air can make you feel like your on vacation even if it’s freezing out:
Then we got to the big attraction. The Roman Tower (which would eventually turn into the Tower of Hercules) was built by the Romans in the 1st century AD (it’s almost 2000 years old!) and it is the only lighthouse of antiquity that is still in operation today.
The lighthouse has undergone several transformations over the centuries:
- Originally, it was somewhat lower and wider because it had a ramp that wound its way up around the outside so fuel could be taken up to the beacon.
- As the tower gradually fell apart between the 4th and 10th centuries, the destruction of the original outer wall of the Tower began.
- From the 10th century onwards, some constructions were added, and at this time, the tower functioned as a coastal watchtower against Arab and Norman attacks.
- In the 12th century, stones were taken from the building so they could be used as construction material during the expansion of the city, which completed the ruin of the outer wall and part of the access ramp.
- Between the 16th and 18th centuries, the building was surrounded by defensive structures as well as tower guards.
- In the 17th century, an attempt to recreate the tower was carried out, and included the installation of two small towers on the top in order to hang two lanterns, which helped ships navigate through the waters.
- Today, there is a “casing” around what remained of the Roman lighthouse, as well as an addition to the top of the lighthouse (the reforms carried out between 1788 and 1790). Yet, despite all the construction carried out over the centuries, many of the primitive Roman stones from the original Roman Tower can still be seen upon entering the Tower of Hercules.
Anyway, enough history! We got to the Tower of Hercules just in time because it was going to close at 6, so we rushed to the top of the lighthouse to see the views, and dayummmm were they spectacular: