Day Trip to A Coruña, with an Obligatory Pulpo Lunch
When I originally planned my Camino de Santiago walk along the Camino Inglés, I was going to arrive in Ferrol, and start on the camino the next day. But, one of the draws of doing the Camino Inglés was actually stopping by the town of Betanzos to try the award-winning tortilla de Betanzos at Meson O Pote! I called several weeks earlier to check if they were open in August (as many restaurants in Spain are closed for holidays). The friendly guy told me that August was actually their busiest month, so they would definitely be open - except for their usual closing day on Tuesday.
Well, it just so happened that my original itinerary would have me arrive in Betanzos on a Tuesday, so of course I was obligated to delay my departure from Ferrol one day, in order to arrive on a day that Meson O Pote was open!
That led me to make a day trip to A Coruña from my base in Ferrol. Ferrol is a small city, so its train station and bus station are just on the edge of the center of town. I took the bus: the company is Arriva, and the direct bus leaves every hour on the half-hour. The trip takes about 45-50 minutes.
What was sad, was that 15 minutes outside of Ferrol, we passed by the town of Pontedeume, the first stop on the Camino Inglés. 15 minutes in a bus, what would take me about 6-7 hours to walk the next day!
Then about 10-15 minutes after that, we passed by the exit signs for Betanzos, another day’s worth of walking!
It really gives you a sense of how modern technology has changed our notion of distance.
So eventually we arrived in A Coruña, and if I thought Ferrol felt kind of a down-on-its-luck kind of place, A Coruña was bustling in contrast, but it gave me a disconcerting, chaotic kind of feeling.
Buildings seemed to kind of grow into one another…
…or grow on top of one another, giving me a rather dystopian feeling.
Stepping outside of generally gorgeous historic centers, the “modern” parts of Spanish towns are often not the prettiest, and A Coruña’s outer districts seemed even a bit less pretty than others cities’.
That being said, A Coruña does have a well-preserved historic core.
And these famous glass galleries along the Avenida de A Mariña. They look directly out onto the marina, and were former fishermen’s homes. Their look is so… regular!
Another aspect of A Coruña that seemed rather unique in Spain, was the fogginess that I encountered. Hidden in the fog is the Tower of Herculese, the city’s most important sight according to the staff at the tourist information office.
I happened to be in town on a day the visits to the tower were free, but they are timed tickets and the next available ticket was after 2pm. So I decided to head over to Pulperia O Fiuza not far from the tower for some octopus, or pulpo. The pulpo of Galicia is famous, so I had to eat it at least once this trip! (Even though I did read somewhere that summertime is not really the season for pulpo in the seas…)
Pulperia O Fiuza seemed like a place that’s been around for a while, and suitable for both sitting at a table to eat, or standing around one of these barrels.
They basically only had pulpo on the menu, in either 1/2 portion or full portion. This was a half-portion, which came out to be 8€. I loved how geometric this presentation was! Perfectly circular cross sections of tentacles, surrounding a mess of narrower, longer pieces in the middle.
Good Galician bread was served, of course.
And that bread came in handy for sopping up the olive oil. You can see that the wooden plate is very interesting: a small lip holds in a copious amount of oil, made a bit smoky from the paprika. And no utensils here, only toothpicks!
Since it was almost 2pm, I went back to the Tower of Hercules after lunch. The fog had cleared… except just the area of the tower!
I had to wait just a bit longer for the highly localized tower-obscuring fog cleared. They say the Tower of Hercules is the oldest remaining Roman lighthouse in the world, and the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world, too, dating from the first century. Hopefully it’s not always covered in fog, for the sake of the ships.
Galician people claim a Celtic heritage, and among the evidence is the playing of bagpipes, or gaita. Even buskers play the bagpipes.
The views from the top of the tower were nice, although it was so windy I thought I might be blown over the railing.
Eventually, it was time to mosey on back to the bus station, but beforehand I looked in a pretty coffee shop along the way. The friendly waiter invited me in to sit - he was quite proud of the interior and promised me that I would enjoy my food more if I sat down!
Completing my day of eating typical Galician food, I had a slice of almond cake. It’s not exactly “Tarta de Santiago,” which doesn’t have sliced almonds on top and instead boasts powdered sugar with the silhouette of a cross, but this seemed even more almondy with its topping.
The cake was nice and moist, though quite sweet, which made my accompanying cup of coffee welcome.
All in all, I had a pleasant day trip to A Coruña. I was glad to have made the trip in the end, because I’m not sure what exactly would bring me back.