At seven in the morning the sea looks cold (it is – it’s the Atlantic) but already the pavements below our hotel room bustle with purposeful walkers, exercising before work.
Along the marble-lined corridor a ‘do not disturb’ sign swings from a door handle. ‘El mundo puede esperar’ it reads.
The world can wait?
The ‘alternative’ signs and announcements that began on yesterday’s trains continue.
After our wonderful breakfast (we give the cava on offer a miss) it’s time to head uphill.
I‘ve no idea how far it is to the Tower of Hercules – the Roman lighthouse – but we set out at an optimistic pace, having looked at a map, confident it’s within my scope.
The sun seems benign and the early morning tide is swooshing ashore with a welcoming freshness. All bodes well for a walk.
By the time we reach the top of the hill – that leads to another hill – that leads to the lighthouse – the god of sun has settled into his day’s work. It’s warm. Correction – hot.
A sandy cove below us looks enticing. But the Herculean lighthouse towers over us like a disciplinarian teacher.
You will walk all the way.
You will not divert to the beach.
You have come to see me, Farum Brigantium, not to paddle.
We sit on a bench for a while, casting lascivious glances at the clear water and pale sand. Then shuffle off to our second hill.
It’s pretty steep for one used to a flat beach. We take it slowly, stopping for frequent scenically inspired oohs and ahhs.
The footpath winds around the hill, taking us with it. Signage is minimal – and confusing. Do we go around? Do we go up? Do we go back to the bottom and start again?
Of course we don’t go back. Of course we go around. Of course the path doesn’t actually lead to the Tower. But we reach a viewpoint and make our eyes ache trying to see the end of the earth.
Is that Finisterre – Finis Terrae – out there in the ocean’s haze?
Probably not – but it’s exciting, knowing that one day, long, long ago, the place where we’re standing was not far from the limit of the known terrestrial world.
The unofficial path up to the tower is steep and slippery, but at last we stand beneath an edifice of stone, 55 metres high, that is the only functioning Roman lighthouse in the world. At least in part.
Built in the first century AD, restoration in the eighteenth century added 21 metres to its height.
We can’t confirm it works. It’s frowningly sunny. And there’s no way I’m repeating this journey after dark.
It’s an impressive sight. But I’m pretty wiped out by the brisk walk up the first hill and our spiral round the second – so we reject the chance to (pay to) climb the stairs.
But as we set off down, I spot a small building, ignored by visitors. A kind of solid, lighthouse-keeper’s garden shed.
Nosy, we peer through a window round the back – and lo! Within lies a real Roman stone with an inscription.
The archaeologist is happy. I am happy. I was always (shhh don’t tell) rather a fan of Roman. In fact I even unearthed a bit of mosaic while volunteer-digging one weekend in the city of London, many moons ago.
On the trip back down I do just that – the ground is ball-bearing-slippery with sand and a jolt has me anxious I’ve done some damage. But we sit a while and ogle the sandy cove once more. And all is well.
We’ve earned our reward.
Lunch is the big meal of the day here and the town is famous for its dish of pulpo – octopus – and potato. We head for the top recommended place and it’s heaving with locals.
The famous windowed balconies are everywhere – as are the convents and churches and civic buildings.
But A Coruña’s marina gets only a cursory glance of admiration as we turn around and, footsore, retrace our steps.
A short wait secures us a table inside the restaurant.
There’s very welcome chilled Albariño wine, by the copa – and then the famous pulpo.
It’s delicious. Sadly the picture leaves a lot to be desired so instead you can see the pretty scallops – and that vieira.
Now, ‘Vieira’ has a special resonance for the man I’m with as it’s his mother’s maiden name. Part of her ancestry being Portuguese – a land we’re heading for in a few days’ time.
But nothing has prepared us for the reality of this vieira.
We knew it was a scallop – but what arrives is just one, lonely, chilly creature, sitting on ice in a large scallop shell.
Would he have it again? No.
Did he enjoy it? Moot point. And irrelevant.
Back in our hotel, a siesta under our tighter belts and evening drawing on, we’re happily exhausted (and a little sun burnt in my case despite the factor 50).
Time for another copa – Mencia this time, a Galician red – and a pudding. No need for dinner after that seafood feast.
It’s an odd combination. Ice cream. Cake fragments. Dried red berries. Plain yogurt. Yes, all together.
We retire to bed healthily tired – but also a tad too excited to sleep. Well, I am. After all, tomorrow’s the day I’ve been anticipating for years.
Tomorrow I can be a pilgrim – and a tourist.
We’re taking the train to Santiago de Compostela.
St James and his field of stars awaits.