After taking a train from Madrid to the tip of Northern Spain, we arrive at La Coruña in Galicia. This port city in the northwestern corner of Spain is the birthplace of my paternal Grandparents.
Located on an isthmus on the northwestern corner of Spain. The Tower of Hercules, is an ancient Roman lighthouse in La Coruña, it’s the oldest known still-functioning Roman lighthouse in the world, the rectangular tower sits alone on a windy and hilly peninsula. The lighthouse was most probably built in the second half of the 1st century or the early years of the 2nd century A.D. by the Romans at what they believed to be the end of the world. The windy area offers terrific views of the coastline and the oceanfront buildings.
The city’s attractive main square is the Maria Pita Plaza, named after the heroine of a battle in 1589, against English forces. La Coruña has a long beautiful coastline, with ocean beaches on the northwest side and busy ports on the south. A terrific 13 kilometer walkway named El Paseo Máritimo, lets you enjoy the ocean views.
Catching a train in La Coruña, we took a day trip to the other outstanding city in the province, Santiago de Compostela. It is located a few miles to the south of La Coruña. A beautiful town which welcomes thousands of pilgrims every year.
The city’s cathedral is the destination of a famous medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St James (in Spanish El Camino de Santiago). Recognized through legend as the final resting-place of the Apostle James – the first of the Twelve Apostles to suffer martyrdom at the hands of Herod. When we visited, the massive Romanesque cathedral building, witch has later Gothic and Baroque additions, numerous priests were holding mass in several languages to a large congregation of worshipers. Definitely something to behold.
From La Coruña we drove east to the lovely city of Oviedo. Just south of the coast it is the capital city of the Principality of Asturias. The city has many medieval churches in the historic center part of town, Plaza Alfonso II is at its heart.
Several palaces and Oviedo’s Gothic Cathedral and La Foncalada, a 9th century fountain are part of the city’s charm. We enjoyed a colorful weekend street market in the old city center.
In Oviedo’s surrounding parts of old town there are many modern and quite colorful apartments with shops and small businesses sprinkled all around. Quite a contrast to the historic part of town.
We stayed in an incredibly modern building that houses the Ayre Hotel as well as Congress and a large shopping mall. Once the site of a soccer stadium, this huge ultra-modern alien-ship looking white structure is surrounded by greenery, parks and the a colorful mid century apartment neighborhood. The incredible hotel complex is by far the most contrast in architecture you could expect in this mostly historic city. It was one of the main reasons we decided to stay in Oviedo during our trip.
Continuing east we reach the port city of Santander, the capital of Cantabria. We stayed by the beautiful beach cove El Sardinero on the northeastern part of the city, made up of two stunning, kilometer-long beaches backed by lavish early-20th-century architecture.
Nearby there’s the peninsula de la Magdalena and it’s lovely palace with sunning views from its surroundings. The beautiful Magdalena Palace was initiated in 1908 by the local government of Santander for the purpose of providing a seasonal residence for the royal family of Spain. It is now a museum.
Santander’s city center is home to the Catedral de Santander, with its octagonal cupola and Gothic cloister. Not far, the Paseo de Pereda promenade runs along one side of the Jardines de Pereda, quite beautiful park and gardens. Downtown features a lively city life, a lovely park area, and a busy marina.
Our last stop on this part of the trip was in Bilbao, an industrial port city in northern Spain, is surrounded by green mountains. It’s the de facto capital of Basque Country, with a skyscraper-filled downtown. The jewel one must witness is the Guggenheim Museum.
This Frank Gehry 1997 designed architectural wonder of limestone, glass, and titanium was once hailed as “the greatest building of our time” and sits along the curvy Nervión River, with its sculptured Puente de la Salve and modern pedestrian bridge both nearby.
Not all of Bilbao is modern, in reality there are many typical Spanish looking structures around the city. By contrast to the new high-rises near the museum, the Iglesia de San Nicolas depicts a more serene view of Bilbao, and the entrance to the old part of town.