Part III continues with my trip about Spain and Portugal. From Sacramento to Lisbon, follow my journey through these two countries. I spend my last day in Barcelona before moving on to La Coruna.
From Barcelona to La Coruna
On our last day in Barcelona, we woke up a little late, checked out of our hotel, and left our bags. Like we did the day before, we went next door to the Café Dior for breakfast.
Afterward, we rode the Metro back to the National House (MNAC – Catalan Art Museum) and the fountains in Montjuic. From the MNAC, there were numerous paths leading to a number of places to visit. We headed up one of them and headed for the Joan Miro museum.
Joan Miró was a Catalan abstract artist who used colors, sky, stars, disfigured women, birds, lines, men, dogs, and other things to express his views of the world. It was horrible and I didn’t like it at all (Abstract “art” with funky designs and lines is not for me).
From there, we walked to the Estadi Olimpic (Olympics stadium), home of the 1992 Olympics. We walked around in the beautiful park area surrounding the stadium and even saw the basketball arena where Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird led the ’92 Dream Team to the gold medal.
Unfortunately, the stadium was closed but we did walk around, peek through a couple of gates, and took some pictures. Currently Olympic stadium is home to the La Liga soccer team Espanyol (and the local rival to FC Barcelona).
Next to the stadium was the Olympic museum. I wanted to see it but K didn’t so I visited while she waited outside.
There were so many interesting things in there – the ‘92 medals, Olympic flag for each of the Olympics, some history of the Olympics dating back to its origins, and memorabilia from the ’92 Dream Team to Lance Armstrong to Spain’s rich soccer history.
I took pictures of them all because as a sports fan, I appreciate the history of these events and all the great moments that have happened. I finished up at the museum and went outside to find K.
I waited for an hour but she was nowhere to be found. I walked around looking for her and was getting a little annoyed. Finally, I gave up and went to grab some lunch before heading back to the hotel to catch our flight.
On my way back, I stopped by the Museum Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (Catalan art museum) to take a look at the history of art in this area of the country. I saw lots of Romanesque, Baroque, and Renaissance art each with its own wing.
I also visited the beautiful large room in the shape of a Coliseum. Fortunately, I didn’t have time to visit the modern art section (I like the more classic art). However, I spent a couple of hours in there which is more than what I expected. I like art museums for some reason. And while there is nothing that really jumped out of me, I appreciated seeing art from the history of this region of Spain.
After the museum, I headed back to the hotel to grab my backpack and head to the airport. Even though I had nice afternoon, I was annoyed at the fact that K and I got separated. I was convinced she got tired of waiting and just left.
When I got back to the hotel, she was waiting by our backpacks. We both were a little annoyed at the situation as I was looking for her and she said she sat there waiting for 3 hours on me. We got over things and headed to the airport. We were heading to La Coruna to see our friend Leah who has been living in Spain for the last 3 years.
After a little bit of a delay, we arrived in La Coruna around 9:30 as we were greeted with hugs from Leah. We then headed to her Friday night group to meet her other friends and companions.
They were just finishing up with the night’s activities when we walked in. We met many Spanish friends and her boyfriend Clever (pronounced clay-BEAR). He was a Brazilian living in Spain and helping out at the church where they all went. Unfortunately for us, he spoke no English. After the group broke up, the 4 of us headed to the old town part of La Coruna for a late dinner at an Italian restaurant.
Even though Leah spent a lot of time having to translate for us, we had a great time connecting and having fun. After dinner, we headed out for some coffee around 1 am. We then headed home, dropping Clever off before heading to Leah’s.
Upon arriving, we gave Leah the scrapbook a few of us had made for her and she gave us a tour of her apartment. We stayed up really late just talking and catching up on all that was going on. We discussed what was going in our lives, her job opportunities, things going on at church, and our ups and downs. Finally, after a long exhausting day, we headed to bed around 3:30 am.
Lessons Learned – When traveling with a friend or spouse on a trip, there will be disagreements and frustrations. These differences can ruin the trip or be an opportunity to learn more about the other person and their travel style.
Maybe it is a good idea for two people to enjoy time apart and do things on their own. Just make sure you have a plan if the two of you become separated or want time on your own so you can figure out where to meet up later.
Barcelona Cost: Hotel Jardi (3 nights) – $275; Food, metro, sights, shopping, soccer – $914**; Flight to La Coruna (2 people) – $84
**Money spent in Barcelona was nearly 1/3 of the money spent for the entire trip and some of the cash was used in La Coruna
New friends in La Coruna
Despite the late evening, I was the first one awake at 10:30. I got up, got a shower, and then jumped on the internet for a bit while everyone else woke up, ate, and got ready.
Around 1:30, K, Leah, and I headed over to hang out at Clever’s. He has to have the nicest apartment in the city. It had a huge living room which overlooked the city. Clever lives with two other guys, Fernando and Shawn.
Shawn was from California and had only been in Spain less than a year. He was from the SF bay area and Orange County areas. He was a long haired surfer guy but really interesting. Talked to him throughout the day and really enjoyed hanging out with him. He is looking to finish up his two years in Spain, go back to the States and become a physical therapist, and then come back to the South of Spain. He quickly immersed himself in the culture and language by staying with a Brazilian family who would only speak to him in Spanish.
The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out at Clever’s just talking and having fun. I had a surprise for Clever when we arrived. Knowing he was from Brazil and used to live in Barcelona, I gave him my extra Barcelona Ronaldinho jersey. He loved it and I think it gave us an instant connection despite our language barrier.
Around 4, the 5 of us sat down to a great lasagna dinner sharing conversation and laughs in a couple of different languages. We hung out for a while longer, checking out Clever’s music, playing a little sax, and enjoying a relaxing day.
After everything was cleaned up, Leah took us around La Coruna to show us the sights.
A Coruña (as it is known in Galicia) is one of the largest cities in the area of Spain known as Galicia. La Coruna is a port town in the northwest of Spain located on the Atlantic Ocean. While it is important in this region, it is now the second city in the region behind Santiago de Compostela. The city’s landmark is the Tower of Hercules, a lighthouse that is still in operation and dates back nearly 2,000 years.
The day was a bit cold and overcast but it was good to see Leah’s hometown for the last 3 years. We went and visited the Tower of Hercules, the famous lighthouse here on the Northwest coast of Spain.
We also saw Deportivo La Coruna’s stadium (Spanish soccer team here) and just drove around to take in the views of the city and the ocean. La Coruna is a bit like San Francisco weather, cool, sometimes foggy, and overcast and cloudy much of the year, even during the summer. Definitely too cold for me but it was a nice city.
Around 7:30, we headed back to Clever’s to pick him up. We were all taking a trip to the airport outside of Santiago de Compostela. Clever had a family coming in from Brazil to stay with him as they were just settling into Spain. The five of us (myself, K, Leah, Clever, Fernando) loaded up in Fernando’s SUV and headed to Santiago.
We stopped into the city so we could get a look at the famous cathedral for which many pilgrims make their journey. For many Christians (Catholics), this is a huge spiritual journey for which many people come to seek healing from St James who is buried there.
I respect the faith of those who come but it seems the town has capitalized on the tourism aspect of this journey.
After a quick highlight of the town and the cathedral, we were off to pick up Clever’s friends and then headed back to La Coruna. After dropping them off, we said our goodbyes to Clever and Shawn.
On our way back to Leahs’s, we stopped to see her home church for the past 3 years. While her time was now over, she gave a lot of herself to the youth and the body of that church. After a quick visit, we headed back to Leah’s. After another long but relaxing day, I headed to bed at 1:15 am.
Lessons Learned – new and old friends are the key to your best travel experiences. Hanging out with someone you just met or a friend who lives in the city that you are visiting will allow you to see and experience a place in ways you never could on your own. As great as it is to see sites, the best thing about travel may be the memories you create with the people you meet.
Part IV – Leaving La Coruna, part I of Madrid
Read more about my adventures in Exploring Spain and Portugal