Preface: One day a bunch of my new Spanish friends and I were all sitting around and having dinner, drinking, laughing and telling stories with me rambling in Spanish and everyone humoring me, bless their hearts. After getting into one of my many stories, I realized I didn’t even know how to explain the ending in Spanish so, jokingly, I cut myself off and simply said, “and then everyone lived happily ever after.” My new friend Aaron told me that they have a saying like that in Spanish as well, but in translation, it goes something like “and then everyone lives happily ever after eating birds.” I asked him if he was serious, and he was. I thought it was hilarious, hence the title of this article. You can stop being confused now.
Although I lived in Spain for 6 months about a year and a half ago, I never made it to northern Spain and boy, was that a shame. I corrected that mistake this past summer when I returned to Spain and spent time in a city called A Coruña, which is located in Galicia, an autonomous community in the northeastern part of Spain.
A Coruña is my new favorite city. Being in this city during the summer is like Christmas. Not in the literal sense, but in the sense that it makes you want to jump up and down and run around like a little kid. There is always something awesome going on and, trust me, I took full advantage of the festivities.
First and most importantly, considering us Iowans are imprisoned in this landlocked cornfield, any place with a nice beach is automatically on my A-list. A Coruña is a coastal city with beach after beach, and beautiful ones at that. This is a place where if you close your eyes and take a deep breath, you can smell the saltwater in the air from anywhere in the city. A place where at night, you can fall asleep to a peaceful serenade of crashing waves. It is the perfect place.
Apart from spending leisurely days on the multiple beaches throughout the city, they also have awesome nighttime festivities. My personal favorite was attending a concert there. Hanging out by the ocean while rocking out to great music is not a bad way to spend the evening, especially when it ended in a foam party. It was like junior high all over again. The summer in this city is filled with concerts. My personal favorite was a concert I went to where they did a Lady Gaga imitation. Listening to the singers try to perform her music was incredibly amusing. I am assuming either they did not know English very well or they didn’t know the lyrics. It was something along the lines of: mumble mumble mumble…poker face, mumble mumble mumble…bad romance, oo gah gah, mumble, bad romance (insert thick accent). It was pure greatness, better than the nutcase herself. And just when I thought life couldn’t get any better…. two Avatars floated down from the ceiling.
Now if the mention of Avatars wasn’t enough to get you excited, you will be very pleased to know one vital piece of information: yes, they have carnies in Spain. Iowa is not the only place with a fair (I will not pick on the fair (the State Fair?) because I know it is the most exciting event in our state besides the caucuses and corn-picking season). I did, however, learn from the carnivals in Coruña are not that different from those in the U.S. No matter where in the world you go, the carnie games will be overpriced, rigged and the prizes will be pieces of junk. Carnie rip-offs know no international borders, an invaluable cultural lesson I must say.
But the carnivals do possess one very important thing that ours do not (besides 10-year-old bartenders): “Los Toritos.” Now, it was supposed to be a mechanical bull ride for little kids, so I was confused when my friend Maria insisted that I go on the ride with her.
It was just 10 little kids and us on the bulls and I was wondering where all the fun was (and how the heck these little kids were staying on) when all of a sudden Maria got this crazy look in her eyes and tried to throw me off the bull. We spent the rest of the time wrestling around on the mechanical bulls amongst all of these terrified little kids. I’m sure we were quite the spectacle: two blonde ladies in their 20s throwing each other around on a ride occupied by children. Los Toritos is by far my new favorite ride in the world. Take that, Adventureland.
A Coruña is not just the awesome beaches, concerts, nightlife and activities. I will now move on to one of my personal favorite subjects: food. I am a firm believer that with any trip, a country is only as good as its food. Considering most of you reading this article are American, I know you want to hear about the food, so listen up. First, I want to talk about a little thing I’m obsessed with called tapas. Tapas are simply yummy appetizers that come free when one orders a caña (a small glass of beer). But tapas, though awesome, are old news and can be found pretty much anywhere in Spain. In fact, A Coruña has a whole festival dedicated to the different kinds of tapas across Spain. A Coruña has something that in my mind far overshadows the tapas from anywhere in Spain.
You see, the fact that it is a peninsula does not just indicate miles of beautiful beaches, but that it is a coastal city, which in my mind only points toward one thing: seafood. Being a seafood fanatic, I can honestly say this city has the best I have ever tasted. In the mornings I could walk approximately 3 ½ blocks to a market where I could browse hundreds of kinds of seafood and fish, so fresh that much of it was still alive, and be eating it three hours later for lunch. I felt like I was living the life of a queen. Apart from the seafood, if you do ever happen to visit this city, you must try “pimientos de pardon.” If you are a fan of peppers, like me, they will be like heaven on your tongue.
Before I end my harangue about how awesome this city is, I will get to what many of you will find to be the most important aspect in defining the worthiness of any place: the athletics. Now Spaniards, like pretty much all Europeans, live and die by football (what us Americans like to refer to as soccer). Sadly, we have not jumped on that bandwagon yet, but I won’t judge us in our silly sports preferences (okay, maybe just a bit). Regardless, it is impossible to mention A Coruña without the mention of their beloved football team, Real Club Deportivo. A lot of you reading this may be big Real Madrid or, dare I say it, Barcelona fans, but if you think those teams have diehard fans, wait till you meet the Deportivo supporters. In the words of A Coruña native Chema Rios Conceiro, “The best part about A Coruña is the walk to the football stadium on game day.”
Although Deportivo may be overshadowed to foreigners by the existing popularity of Real Madrid and Barcelona, one could say that they have loyalty that would put Cubs fans to shame.
Apart from the festivities, beautiful landscape and top-notch cuisine, by far the best part about the city of A Coruña is the people. Everyone is so open, kind and just looking to have a good time. There is something special in the air of this city and it comes from those living there. Life is easy and happy here.
So if you ever make the wise decision to stop by and visit A Coruña don’t be surprised if you find me whirling around on a mechanical bull or wolfing down seafood, because I love this place, and I’m sure it’s where I’ll end up someday.
Oh and P.S. with a special cherry on top, the shopping is awesome, too.
Photos: Sarah Vanlandegen