I’ve previously written several posts about my 2 trips to Galicia and Porto in 2014 and 2015 (my thoughts on Santiago, running the Camino to Fisterre, Galicia: A Seafood Lover’s Paradise and running the Porto half marathon. This time, I’d like to share some lesser known cities which are well worth a visit for a few days: A Coruña in the north and Pontevedra in the south of Galicia.
Day 8: Exploring La Coruña
La Coruña was a city that really exceeded my expectations. It really is a nice place to visit. My pre-conceived image was of an industrial port with little in the way of tourism or history. How wrong was I? all I knew before was that Deportivo La Coruña once won the league in 1999/2000 with players like Diego Tristan and Roy Makaay.
Anyway, like so many cities located on the coast, there are beaches within a stone’s throw of the main town. Several along the coast of the city which is built along a peninsula. It’s a really old and historic city, so the port is central. The cidade viexa has old city walls surrounding narrow cobbled streets. Lots of old churches, military building and forts and of course a million little places to grab a cana or tapa. The Museo da Belas Artes, Casa Picasso and Casa Maria Pitin were great – and all free. Now I know why the Spanish Armada came to Ireland.
I oriented myself with a really enjoyable run along the coast and around the peninsula. I got to see all the main sites: Playa del Riazor, Monte Pedro, Torre de Hercules (a Roman lighthouse), cidada viexa. The next 2 days I repeated the coastal run, it was that enjoyable, with the Atlantic waves crashing on the rocks. The sea was really alive.
The Mercado de Abastos is meant to be one of the best in Spain, after Madrid. It’s a glorious experience to shop there. I had trouble picking fish there was so many amazing options. I went for yummy tuna fillets in the end. Gently fired and served with a tasty tomatoes and avocado salad. Yum.
The food on the street is also amazing and reasonably priced compared to other Spanish cites. Una cana could be €1.80 and a tapa could be €1-2. La Bombilla is an old tapas bar with super croquetas and tortilla, all for €1. I also tried the chipirrones, pimientos del padron, tigres (mussels) and had top notch pulpo a la feira con patatas in A Pulpeira a Melide in Plaza Espana. Gonzalo Caro recommended this place and it was great. His advice was “remember the price-quality relationship never lies” – you have to pay more to get the best ingredients.
I also squeezed in 2 concerts – a jazz jam session in Jazz Filloa and then a big auditorium concert from Catalan legendary folk singer Joan Manuel Serrat, who was on his 50th year anniversary tour. His story about his song “Tinc vingt anys” was funny: “Fa 20 anys que dit que fa 2- anys tinc vingt anys.”
Day 9: Exploring Pontevedra
Pontevedra is a city located between Santiago and Porto and since I would have to change from train to bus, I decided to break the journey and spend the afternoon exploring this old Roman city. Even though I’d been here in 2014 for the Duathlon World Champs, I didn’t explore the city that time as we were there to do the race and were staying down the coat.
Anyway it’s not as famous as other Galician cities, but is the home training base of 5-time triathlon world champion Javier Gomez Noya. It’s also a key stop on the Camino Portugues to Santiago. The Peregrina is the famous church build in the shape of a concha de vieira (clam shell).
The old city can be explored in a nice loop in 2-3 hours, with lots of narrow old streets – more churches and lots of lovely squares. There’s a nice parador (4 start hotel located in a very old house – these hotels are state owned and amazing ways to stat in a beautiful old historic building.
I also paid a visit to a convent where one of the sisters who saw the apparition of the Virgin Mary gat Fatima, lived. Her bedroom is now a sanctuary as many also Mary the appearance there. Lots of people (women mainly) were deep in prayer in the convent.
The Museo de Pontevedra is newly expanded and has a lovely mix of Spanish and Galician art, nicely arranged to take you through the centuries. From the religious influences of the 16th and 17th centuries through the more landscapes and portraits of the 18th and 19th centuries through the more abstract 20th century.
I’d a lovely lunch in a square (€12 menu del dia). I got a nice salmon appetizer, a simple tomato salad and pork ribs with potatoes and salad. Yum – so simple, not much food, just good ingredients presented well.