Thursday, 30 April 2009

Dear Diary - Day minus one on the Camino Inglés

This Camino began with kitchen scales. I've noticed that on my last couple of pilgrimages the weight in my rucksack has crept up. I wonder if this may be a feature of the shorter routes? The seductive thought of taking a couple of extra pairs of everything to save washing...and maybe a light paperback to read.

This time I was determined to pack less and only to pack light things. So I did what I haven't done for a while and weighed everything, discarding all that wasn't absolutely essential. My walking companion arrived packed and ready to go. He looked at the kitchen scales, examined my toilet bag with a tooth brush sawn in half and shook his head silently.

I felt mounting excitement when we arrived at London Heathrow to catch the Click Air flight direct to A Coruña.

This wasn't only excitment about the journey. There was the anticipation of placing my rucksack on the scales at check-in to see the display in front of witnesses. Please don't worry about me. I recover quickly.

And there it was. 5.5 kgs. YES! I started to explain the whole Camino, lightweight walking thing to the woman at check in and saw her eyes glaze over in that same way friends react when you talk about your pilgrimage for the 758th time.

But to A Coruña, second largest city in Galicia and formerly the capital of the region until that honour moved to Santiago in 1982.
Historically it was a very important port in Spain and this remains the case today. But nowadays few pilgrims arrive by boat.
There is a route to Santiago from A Coruña which takes 3 or 4 days and one from Ferrol which takes 5 days.

Although the route from A Coruña is undoubtedly historically the more authentic of the two it is less that the 100 kms required to obtain a Compostela and so most modern pilgrims take the Ferrol route.

We stayed at the very reasonably priced Hostal Mara right in the centre. This was very handy for walks along the promenade, said to be the longest in Europe. It is also near the many sea food restaurants in A Coruña. Some are posh and expensive but most of them are like rough and ready fast seafood joints. It is possible to eat the day's catch for not a lot of money and down by the harbour you can see the fishing boats departing to fill the next day's menu.

Walking around the town it is easy to see how it got its other name: La Ciudad de Cristal or the City of Glass:

The glass fronted rooms are a feature of buildings and many homes in Galicia. There the weather is very like Scotland - only warmer. I often wonder if in houses these rooms evolved so that people could dry their wet clothes with all the rainy weather they get?

Before dinner we went off to the 17th Century Church of Santiago. The lady putting out the candles at the end of Mass explained proudly that it is the oldest church in A Coruña. On the way out we stop to admire the many images of St James.

Just outside is the first arrow of the route from A Coruña.

Then off to dinner. The Menu of the Day still remains incredible value at 8 - 12 Euros for three courses including bread and wine especially here where fresh fish dominates a lots of menus. But already the weakness in the pound against the Euro is obvious.

Normally A Coruña isn't a place you hear a lot of other English voices. This is the place where Spanish people go on holiday. But this evening is an exception. Two Englishment arrived in the restaurant. When the waiter approached they addressed him in uncompromising English. When he looked blankly at them they did that very English thing of speaking more slowly but much more loudly. I wanted to shout over, "He's Spanish, not deaf" when the waiter demonstrated that although he can't speak English he knows enough to be entreprenurial and handed them both a menu pointing with his pen as if to young children..."Feesh". He left the foreigners to cope as best they could. They rose to the occassion when he came back. "Beer" they said, holding up two fingers. Communication had been established.

After a final walk along the harbour we went back to the hostal for an early night. The alarm is set so that we can get out early in the morning for the bus to Ferrol.

To begin.

1 comment:

  1. I am loving your blog.... you make me feel like I am there walking with you!