Day 3 |
May 05, 2011

La Coruna

By Imogen Corrigan, Medieval Historian

Co-ordinates: 43, 22, 01 N, 88, 23, 52 W
Weather: grey and overcast, breezy
Air Temperature: 17.2C, 63F
Pressure: 101.4

We had a good run from Oporto to La Coruna, arriving exactly on time even though it had been a little choppy in the night. From the enthusiastic throng at breakfast, it mainly looked as though people had both slept well and remembered to put their clocks forward. I was feeling especially keen because it was my first chance to give a lecture on board and, as we were heading for an excursion to Santiago de Compostela (one of Europe’s great pilgrimage destinations) I presented ‘The Hazards of the Journey: Pilgrimage and Travel in the Middle Ages’.

I was slightly pressed for time as we had the First Timers’ Cocktail Party straight afterwards, which was fun – somehow it’s surprising to see who are the newcomers on board since guests settle in so quickly, it’s as though they had been on the Silver Explorer all their lives.

After lunch we had an excursion to Santiago de Compostela, which is only about an hour’s drive from La Coruna through rather pleasant undulating hills. It struck me that quite a few of the guests were rather surprised to see real-live pilgrims walking into Santiago today, and were even more surprised when I mentioned that the ones who intend to walk from Saint-Jean-Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees and get here in time for the feast of St James on 25 July are probably about to set off at this very time.

You can’t go wrong with a visit to Santiago; it ticks almost every box in that it is one of the most remarkable Romanesque churches hidden behind a baroque façade and set in an elegant square. We know a lot about the building of this church by the Master Mateo in the twelfth century and even more about pilgrims going to it because of an account that has survived from that time, written by someone who made the journey from the north of France. It is redolent of tired feet and uplifted hearts, to which we added ours, with most of the guests first going up to pat the figure of St James and then climbing down below the high altar to see the reliquary, in which his bones are supposed to be kept.

It was a great shame that they were restoring and cleaning much of the building, so we couldn’t see the world-famous Portico of Glory just inside the façade or, indeed, any of the remaining twelfth-century decoration on the outside, but I think everyone enjoyed the experience and the chance to see the magnificent building.

With all this culture, it must be said that many of us fell on the tapas and wine provided at the Parador hotel next door with some gusto. We had an hour of relaxation there, which included a spirited performance by half a dozen local singers. It was a slightly subdued (sleeping) group that travelled back to the ship, from where quite a few left immediately to take a stroll around La Coruna and sample the delights of the many seafood restaurants, as we were not due to sail again until almost midnight.