Thursday-Saturday, July 25-27, 2019
On the 25th I took the bus to the train station to meet a childhood friend whose family has been intertwined with mine since my mom and his had met in college many moons ago. Someone recently told me of seeing both of our pregnant mothers slowly walking down the street in our neighborhood. That image has stayed with me, collected along with many others from over 60 years.
So, watching him push through the turnstile brought back our shared history as well as anticipation of more adventures, starting with a great way to memorialize his arrival…
yet, my pleas for a snapshot keepsake were laughingly refused in spite of my stating “Max would do it”.
Once aboard Robbie assured us his overnight in Madrid had helped diminish some of his jet lag caused by flying from San Diego to Spain. Which was great, since we whisked him off to experience a taste of the Medieval Festival beginning with a sampling of those mojitos Max and I imbibed the night before.
This being one of the most celebrated holidays in Galicia, we quietly entered one of A Coruña’s medieval churches. Here in the Church of Santiago is a revered wooden statue of that apostle that thousands of pilgrims have touched since the 13th century. Unfortunately I only captured it from a distance.
Throughout the evening Max and Robbie graciously sat
and stood for photos
until we eventually landed back on JUANONA.
The next day entailed a long walk to El Torre de Hercules, a.k.a., the Tower of Hercules built by the Romans in the 1st century A.C.E. Max and I had visited this site before but wanted to show Robbie this remarkable piece of working architecture. Interestingly, the Statue of Liberty and Cuba’s Lighthouse of Morro became ‘twinned’ with this lighthouse in 2008. Wouldn’t happen today, I bet.
Designed by a Lusitanian architect named Caius Sevius Lupus*, this lighthouse is the oldest Roman one still working. Throughout the ages documents have cited this structure, testifying to its early fame, as noted by: Roman historian Ptolemy (4th ce.); the Burgo de Osma Beatus (10th ce.); General Alfonso X (13th ce.); navigation charts (16th ce); and ‘Atlas del Rey Planeta: A description of Spin and the coasts and ports of its kingdoms’ (17th ce.).
*A stone tablet dedicated to the god Mars and placed at the base carries his name, the only ancient Roman lighthouse whose builder is known.
We purchased tickets allowing 30 minutes to see the original construction
now encased and reinforced in a shell after renovations took place in the 18th century.
On each floor signage provides factoids, such as:
Romans used concrete, a low cost material and one not requiring really skilled labor (you can see the hole in the ceiling which enabled the overseers to drop a plumb line);
This port, originally called Brigantium, served as an important commercial port (part of the tin route) and strategic location (it supplied provisions for troops attacking and conquering Britannia in 43 A.C.E.);
And, this lighthouse made a great watchtower as well as stronghold: six soldiers in May 1589 defended it, holding off Sir Francis Drake’s attack for nine days. (This is also the battle where A Coruña’s famous heroine, Maria Mayor Fernāndezde Cámara y Pita– of whom you’ll see statues– and other women, fought the English.)
We climbed the 254 steps to the top, where a full-sky view of the city and Gulf of Atabro lay before us.
It’s also where Max saved a family from trying to fit in a selfie,
and where I captured one of Robbie :)
The lighthouse’s name comes from a legend created by King Alfonso X the Wise around 1270: Hercules ordered a tower built over the buried head of a giant named Gerión, whom Hercules had defeated.
But, two earlier stories exist… Irish monks in the 1100s wrote the ‘Invasions Book‘ (now viewed as a compilation of myths about Ireland’s history). Their tale attributes the tower to Breogan, the Celtic chieftan of Ireland and founder of the city of Brigantia…. And a myth a century earlier involves a monk named Trezensonio who visited the city and climbed ‘the tower’.
Whatever the legend, it’s called the Tower of Hercules, which is good enough for moi.
The lighthouse is part of an outdoor museum created in the mid-1990s and includes 20 sculptures. Several caught my eye:
the Compass Rose (see from the top of the lighthouse) with its eight directional points and references to the seven Celtic nations and the Tartessians who lived in SW Spain 900-600 B.C.E.
Charon, the ferryman of Hades who helped Hercules capture the hound Cerberus
and, Breoghan (mentioned above), the founder of A Coruña.
As most of you know by now I really search out this type of art. Not sure if due to its tactileness or just the three-dimensional aspect. Whatever. I love it.
Saturday-Tuesday, July 27-30, 2019
Saturday we headed off into rolly seas, covering 48 miles with a mix of sail and motor. Not the smoothest of rides for Robbie’s first on JUANONA. But, we made it to our next anchorage without the crew getting too nauseous. Luckily the captain generally has an iron stomach. Me, not so much.
We turned into the Ria de Camariñas and headed a little past the main town, anchoring off the beach enjoying calmer waters yet still with a bit of rocking.
The next morning, with a forecast of strong winds and rain we decided to head to the marina. Being at a dock makes it easier to explore ashore, which is what we did for two days. The first day we hiked towards the coastline where Max took the opportunity to do a head soak. We found these water fountains throughout our walks, probably servicing many pilgrims on the caminos to Santiago. They certainly came in handy as demonstrated below.
The next day we strolled in the opposite direction, and after verifying our heading like all good navigators,
we landed on the beach we had seen from JUANONA when anchoring the previous night. Unable to resist the water, we headed down to toe-test the temp. And, found it still a bit chilly.
Outdoor cafes offered plenty of opportunities for local feasting, which we enjoyed as did some local wildlife.
But, no one really seems to mind as we later saw in another town a similar clientele.
When in a foreign country we attempt to learn, at the very least, some basics such as ‘hello’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’; and, of course, an initial inquiry: ‘do you speak English?’
So, when someone approaches and catches our eye we typically say, ‘hola’. Which we planned to do as an older lady headed towards us. Well, either we didn’t get our ‘bueñas días’ out soon enough or she was already tired of touristas because this fireplug of a woman spat out two ‘¡bueñas días!’ seemingly with a scowl as she passed us.
Thankfully we didn’t take it personally. Although, maybe we should have? What it did do is provide a mantra among the three of us. And, a strong encouragement to practice our Español greetings.
One of the biggest pleasures of cruising comes from meeting other folk, and in Carmariñas we had the good fortune of meeting Anna and Arthur from Sweden and Leoni and Steve from England. And, what else do you do but invite them aboard for evening conversation and libations? :) Always a pleasure and a highlight of our travels.
Fisterra and environs
Tuesday-Sunday, July 30-August 4, 2019
With calmer seas (thankfully) we exited the Ria on Tuesday, heading another 23 miles south.
(FYI: the dangling rubber snake upper left is to keep seagulls off of JUANONA.)
Our destination serves as one of the most prominent points of land in Spain: Finisterra or, as the Romans termed it, the “End of the Earth.”
This point’s fame also comes from pilgrims continuing beyond Santiago de Compostella to end here. And, indeed, we did see a lot of these pilgrims. Some looking fresher than others, but all happy to have no more camino (road) in front of them.
Often we’d spot a scallop shell, indigenous to Galicia, dangling from their backpacks. I looked into why this was so emblematic of St. James and the pilgrimages to Santiago. It comes from the story associated with his return to Galicia where he had spread the work of Jesus.
This time he wasn’t here to proselytize. He couldn’t, because he didn’t have a head. James made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (not too smart) and King Herod Agrippa I (nephew of Herod Antipas, the guy who dealt with Jesus) had him executed in 44 C.E. His followers decided to take his headless body back to the Iberian peninsula (allegedly on a rudderless, no-sail, stone ‘sailboat’). When the boat landed it frightened a knight’s horse who then bolted and plummeted into the sea along with said knight. St. James saved him (sure thing) and the knight and horse emerged un-drowned, covered in scallops.
But, I prefer the earlier association: pagans used to travel the Janus Path (named after the Roman god) to Finisterre as part of a re-birth. And, they began at the Temple of Venus in the Pyrenees. Venus, we all know, rose from a scallop shell, a perfect reason for a pilgrimage badge. A lot more pleasant of a tale, I think.
We anchored off another white sand beach of which these rias abound and dinghied to shore. We rinsed off our feet at a convenient water spray* before starting down a lovely stone walkway towards the town of Fisterra.
*Galicia takes care of their beachgoers because almost all of the public beaches also feature fresh water sprays for feet and body. And, no, we did not take soap in order to use them as our shower source. As tempting as it may be.
Along this trail exercise stations appeared, which, of course, meant the three of us had to check them out…
I seriously doubt anyone would have taken us for pilgrims. Or, at least, not the kind of pilgrims who were on a spiritual quest.
After a night off the beach we upped anchor and moved just a mile over to Playa de Estorde, around the corner from the town of Cee.
Not only was our new anchorage more remote, but also meant we could see Anna and Arthur again :)
That’s definitely one of the best features of cruising: not only do you meet some great people but also arrange to rendezvous in later ports.
Hearing a town three miles away was scenic, we motored onto the beach
and proceeded to walk to Corcubión. By the second mile mincing our way along the narrow shoulder we thought hitchhiking might not be a bad idea.
But, then realized who the hell would pick us up for we most likely would look like cheating pilgrims. Or, maybe smelly, cheating pilgrims.
So, we continued grunting our way and, upon reaching our destination, rewarded ourselves with some excellent refreshments at a friendly sidewalk cafe.
And, if you’re wondering, we took a bus back…
The next day Robbie and I tried our luck with the bus going back to Fisterra to pick up some groceries. Hah. Not only was it difficult to locate the schedule online; once we did, we ended up waiting one hour and 45 minutes from the time indicated. And, we proved that hitchhiking was futile because we tried with no luck.
But, we did make it into Fisterra, picked up some provisions, walked down to the harbor,
and shared a lunch amidst yet more pilgrims.
Friday-Sunday, August 2-4, 2019
The next morning we motor-sailed under a gentle breeze
accompanied by more playful dolphins
the short distance to one of the prettiest beaches yet: Playa de San Francisco.
Having read about some petroglyphs, the three of us dinghied to shore to search them out. After wandering around we located the chiseled rock designs at the top of a hill. Several days later I found better photos to use here.
Supposition is that they represent the sun’s movement through the sky. But, like most prehistoric art, it’s an educated guess at best.
The next day Max served as our taxi and Robbie and I took a long walk from town, heading off the main road through a pine forest
to the lighthouse on Monte Louro where, turning the corner, an amazing stretch of sand and tourquoise sea came into view. A Wow-ie view.
We had passed this on our way into the Ria and it looked as enticing now as it did then.
Another long walk back found us searching for an outdoor lunch spot. We managed to find one but, after a disinterested waitress took our drink order and delivered the large bottle of agua frio and a waiter dumped a basket of bread on our table, we sat for 15 to 20 minutes as others arriving after us had their orders taken and whileother patrons were served.
We tried to catch her eye but she wasn’t having any of that. So, we waited a bit more then decided to pay for our what was on our table and leave. As Robbie said we should have taken the last piece of bread… Definitely a rare experience in this country.
Our taxi awaited us
only to return with the three of us decked out in our swimsuits for a dip. Because there was no way I was going to let Robbie leave this beautiful water without getting in it.
We weren’t the only ones out enjoying the sun and sea. The beach was packed. And, when back aboard, some boisterous teens paddled toward us and posed for a group photo.
Sunday-Tuesday, August 4-6, 2019
After two nights on anchor we headed further up the ria to the marina in Muros, where we filled up with water, did laundry,
took showers (FYI: we ensured Robbie experienced the joys of a cockpit shower :), provisioned and explored the town.
One of the sites turned out to be an old tidal milll.
Hardly any signage alerted us to this former industry, but once we located the entrance a smiling and knowledgeable guy at the front desk explained how it worked. Between 1820 and 1967 this mill ground corn and other grains.
The receptionist also provided an intriguing bit of information: with a lot of time to kill during the milling process the Galicians created their traditional dance and music called ‘muiñera’.
The exhibit featured diagrams associated with the mill
as well as the early history of the region. (This exhibit area is also where I found those better photos of the petroglyphs we had seen on our hike in San Francisco.)
On our way back to JUANONA we looked for a larger grocery store indicated on Google Maps. After several mis-steps, we ended up at what appeared to be a dead end. However, we heard a voice overhead, which turned out to be an older señor who had seen us looking around for a road to the store.
Apparently he’s seen confused walkers before, and he pointed to a path through the field.
Feeling a bit like we were trespassing, we tentatively started out and with more encouragement from our window guide we became more confident as we strode across the land.
With fishing boats delivering seafood on a regular basis, it seemed a crime not to buy some. Not knowing the Spanish names of the fish we generally eat, Max managed to identify something similar. Fortunately the woman filleted it for him. Max also assisted a Danish cruiser (the guy standing next to him with his daughter) who was buying a lobster –his first ever!– to try.
After dinner Robbie performed his usual boat chore,
followed by a game of Oh Hell (yes, Robbie is now a member of that ‘club’ with Max showing him how to score).
Santiago de Compostello
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Muros would be our last port of call with Robbie, but we decided to accompany him to Santiago de Compostello where he’d board the train to Madrid for his flight home. And, where we’d take advantage of forecast inclement weather to check out potential marinas for our wintering.
We took the bus after a feast of custard doughnuts (the last one I gave to my seatmate, a young pilgrim from Barcelona who was ravenous),
and in less than two hours found ourselves in THE pilgrim site.
Max and I checked into our hotel located right around the corner from the main plaza, and soon the three of us found ourselves heading to the cathedral.
On the way some displays immediately caught my eye, and I thought, this is PERFECT for commemorating our visit here.
But, then we found they were 3.50 euros each total a photo (!). We kept going but to this day I regret not convincing my fellow travelers to stick their heads through those holes.
A few steps further we arrived to where so many others had walked: the Cathedral of Saint James, and his bones. The latter had been discovered in 814 in the forests of Libredón by a hermit named Paio. King Alfonso II built a church and, voila!, let the pilgrimages begin… along with a bigger and more glorious church.
As we walked around the large open plaze filled with pilgrims and tourists alike, it felt in many ways like a carnival.
No doubt echoing centuries’ worth of such fare.
We snapped photos of one another in the plaza,
and, on the other side of the cathedral.
I felt dwarfed by the immensity standing in such close quarters to this building. Obviously those who ruled wanted to provide followers with a feeling that they were being looked after by their religion. Either that or showing who’s boss.
Throughout Max and my travels this summer we’ve come across numerous references to St. James (‘Santiago’ in Galician). And, You didn’t have to be a believer to feel awestruck when standing in front of a cathedral which has drawn so many pilgrims over the centuries. I mean, even my sister is going to be doing a camino with a friend this September.
We joined the line (miraculously short) and climbed the steps to enter.
Noticing four pilgrim-like young men directly behind us I asked them when they had arrived. They hailed from Canada and had just finished their pilgrimage exactly 30 days from when they started.
Unfortunately, they were turned away at the entrance because of their backpacks. But, the guard told them they could store them for 2 euros each just down the steps and to the left. Robbie had read that prior to our entering, and we all had stashed our bags before touring.
Although under major renovations,
visitors could see the famous botafumeira (incense ball), which is swung by eight men on special occasions. Imagine getting konked on the head with THAT thing. Talk about an MDT!
Supposedly the reason for the incense was to counteract the stinkiness of unwashed pilgrims flooding into the building. No kidding.
Around the corner we opted to join others who slowly made their way through a roped path to the High Altar in the Apostle’s chapel to touch the silver back of St. James.
No photos were allowed of the silver bust, but here’s a peek of it through the gates. He sure looks like a happy guy. Who wouldn’t with all those people coming to see you?
We visited the crypt underneath, about which Max wanted to know if anyone had opened it to ensure it was headless…
and then rejoined the human snake as we all existed through the gift shop back to a plaza.
While Robbie and Max looked over some brochures I went next door to our hotel to use our head. Which turned into quite an experience when I couldn’t unlatch the door from the bathroom. Realizing I truly was stuck, I began kicking and screaming. Just our luck, the room was soundproof, as advertised.
Finally, after 15 minutes a maid working in another room, heard my even louder shouts (interrupted by my laughing at my predicament). After she, then the manager, then Max who arrived with Robbie, tried and failed to open the door, the manager’s mom (family-run business) succeeded in freeing me from the bathroom.
With only some bruised thumbs to show for my exertions,
the three of us found a place for lunch indoors (it was starting to sprinkle). FYI: In Spain it’s less expensive to eat indoors than out, but that’s not why we ate indoors. Honest!
Not able to put off our good-byes any longer we walked Robbie out of the old town towards his train.
All I can say is thank god, St. James, and all the pagan deities, memories remain of wonderful times. For that they were :)