The day dawned foggy and rainy in La Coruna but turned glorious before day was done. By the time we exited the gangway at 945am, the sun was peeking through the clouds and the temperature was warming up through 60 degrees. We each wore sweat shirts. The fog still hung over the hills behind the city, but the port was clear in all directions. We rode the 200 yards from the gangway to the customs building and passed through security quickly. A large four story glass front building adjacent to the pier driveway held an exposition center with a mall behind it. A few commercial ships were in the harbor to our left but the harbor to the right held mostly sailboats and yachts. The city facing the port here showed intricate-fronted four and five story buildings interspersed with a few older stone buildings like cathedrals and government buildings. The net effect was one of a clean, very attractive city.
We turned to the right or north upon leaving the port and came upon a small park with statues and fountains through which we rode on wide paths which eventually led to a marked bike path which we didn’t have to leave for the remainder of the day. During 99% of this ride, the bike path was part of a 10-20 yard wide marble walking path along the water. La Coruna here is a peninsula reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean with demonstrable knobs both to the right and to the left. The bike path runs along the entire length. It appears the coast is cleanly delineated into first the commercial harbor on the south side of the peninsula with space for the cruise ships, then marinas for private ships and sailboats, then eventually into the majority of the coast as rocky coastline beneath 100 foot high cliffs and several beaches, one as broad as the entire city on the north side of the peninsula opposite the commercial port. The older part of the city lies on the land connecting the knobs to the rest of the mainland.
Several lighthouses mark extremes all along this coast. The most prominent of the lighthouses lies on the most prominent hill about 20% into the ride at the 4 mile point.
This is called Torre Hercules and is surrounded by open grassland stretching 300 yards in all directions from the 100 foot high spiral staired building dating back to the Romans.
Pablo Picasso is a big benefactor to this city and one of the large buildings inland from the bike path on the way to the Hercules Tower is a school of art funded by him. Another architectural highlight along this way is a more than half mile long jetty stretching to the north which passes through and under a thirty story high building appearing like a large football goalpost with the offices at the cross bar. I think this building is some kind of a scientific or technical maritime center.
The road rises gently 300 feet above the water over about 2 miles and is accompanied by unique ornately shaped light posts on both sides of the street. Each post contains four unique ceramic pieces, two on each side. There are more than 300 of these orange painted posts along the stretch running up the hill and almost all of the way back down the hill as the coast turns back south along a wide bay.
The back side of the old city lies at the center of the bay coastline and is fronted by the more than half mile long 200 yard deep beach which is being reseeded with clean, light-colored sand from a dredge ship in the center of the bay. The sand is stored in 30 foot high dunes while construction equipment redistributes it along the beach. On our way back in the opposite direction later in the day, we could see sand saturated ocean water streaming from a three foot diameter pipe being fed by the dredge. The buildings fronting the beach are mostly modern shops selling high end goods. The people walking along the wide path on which we rode were well dressed, many with dogs on leashes, and many also accompanied by children. An upscale nursery and grammar school is found along the beach providing a stream of uniformed well-behaved children for activities like studies of the marine environment, running games, and parental education about the birds flying over the water and the fish in the water.
We were accompanied along this path by many people riding bikes, too. La Coruna seems a very bicycle friendly city with racks at several places along the path (including immediately in front of the cruise ship pier) containing bicycles which can be picked up at one location and dropped off at another location for a small fee per day. Each bike contains a latch on the steering post which fits into the rack for securing the bike. None of the cruise passengers could have an excuse here for not seeing the city aboard a bicycle; although one pair of passengers pointed out that they lacked helmets.
We stopped at three or four places along the path up toward the tower to take pictures. One of these picture opportunities was of a fishing boat in the northeastern part of the harbor being both ridden and followed by a huge flock of seabirds.
I also remembered a picture opportunity Marilyn and I had used in 2007 when we also rode through La Coruna. This was of a large colored (I thought it was maroon red) obelisk. I spotted several towers at various points in the distance and worked to get a picture from off in the distance before we approached it along the path. I therefore stopped several times for photos; along they didn’t match my memory of where the tower lay.
We passed Hercules Tower and vowed to walk up it on our return later in the day. We turned around this point/knob and spied the beautiful beach as we headed down the hill toward the old city. We stopped about half way down and locked the bikes to the stone fence for a bathroom break at a café with internet capability opposite the water. The espresso was served with a cookie and the wifi worked immediately. What else could one ask for? The bathrooms! The bathroom was notable for its décor, both modern and attractive. I made sure Marilyn tried the ladies’ version and she agreed the bathrooms here were special.
I asked the waitress for directions to the obelisk I had remembered and she didn’t know of any such landmark. I tried unsuccessfully to describe the color, the shape, and the approximate position relative to Hercules Tower. Eventually, I found a picture on the internet, showed her, and she rushed to the window to point to the huge landmark on the opposite side of the bay. It was much larger than I had remembered and it was more blue green than maroon.
Afterward, we tried to buy aspirin at a Farmacia nearby but decided the pills were much too expensive. Then Marilyn remembered she needed eye drops to relieve the dryness resulting from her laser keratotomy many years ago. We needed the type without the redout capability. You can imagine the show as we tried to explain with our meager Spanish. They showed us four options. When I tried to explain that we needed the stuff for “after laser surgery”, I found out they didn’t get my words for laser or surgery. When I tried to liken a laser to the light from the lamps in the ceiling, we got nowhere. Eventually, I learned they knew laser only when it was pronounced with a short”a” sound and the accent on the second syllable. For about 10 minutes they thought I was asking whether they could do laser surgery from this shop and tried to direct me to an ophthalmological hospital. When I tried to emphasize the “no redout” characteristic, they thought I was looking for colored liquid drops. Eventually, we straighten it all out and went to work on the price. Eventually, we learned that the drops ranged in price from 3 Euros for 15 ml to 20 Euros. We chose the cheap stuff and then went to work on how to pay, since we had not Euros. I thought the said they wouldn’t accept a credit card so I tried dollars. No go! I returned to the credit card and they eventually pulled out a credit card machine. We completed the transaction and went on our way laughing about the event.
We also remembered a restaurant from 2007 where we ate tapas. This was near the obelisk, but I couldn’t spot it from across the bay. Once we rode to the other side of the bay, I spotted the place about 400 yards from the obelisk. We rode to the obelisk for several pictures before returning to the restaurant which was actually called Argo and had some Greek heritage. We took pictures similar to the ones we took 3 years ago.
We ordered Spanish beer and wine and four orders of tapas. The wine order got mixed up about my use of “cupa” for the container. The waiter brought beer in a glass and beer in a bottle. But he happily exchanged the glass of beer for a glass of wine. We had Chorizo, squid, croquettes, and meatballs, all excellent. The place looked just like it did three years ago, but the surroundings were very different, much more built up and much better landscaped. For the previous trip, we had circled the town in the opposite direction and suffered along many hills. From across the bay, we could hardly believe we had actually ridden the almost-mountainous route we could now see.
The ride back was even better than the ride out because the sun came out and the day turned beautiful. The light blue of the sandy bottomed bay was exquisite. The waves crashing on the rocky part of the coast was exciting. And the bike riding was easy. This is a ride not to be missed. I recommend it to everyone. We talked about adding La Coruna to the list of places where we might spend two or three months. La Coruna is a wonderful vacation city. I am sure we could do this ride every day, stopping each time at a different restaurant, spending hours each day watching the ocean and the birds, and spending more time at the sites like the Picasso displays, the monuments, and working on our Spanish.