We drove north from Oporto, Portugal, into Spain—first stop, Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrimage site for more than a thousand years.
|Gothicked-up Medieval Cathedral - Santiago de Compostela|
Because several of us were interested in La Coruña (Corunna), our guide arranged a side trip there. Of course houses had filled in the space where the battle occurred, both flat ground and the hillside behind, but at least I could now picture it properly and discovered I hadn't mangled the facts too badly when writing Tarleton's Wife. The harbor, I assume, remains the same, except it's now filled with pleasure boats, as well as fishing boats. The town square was also intact and easy to visualize as it was back in January 1809. A bit of the ramparts also remain, now a park in tribute to General Sir John Moore, who died at Corunna.
For those who don't know the story, in 1808 an army of 35,000 British and Spanish troops set out to defeat the French on the Iberian Peninsula. It ended with the British army making a nightmarish retreat through the mountains to the Spanish coast, with the French army on their heels. When they got to "Corunna," less than half the necessary ships (245 sent from England) had arrived, and they were forced to fight a battle just outside the town. The British won, holding the French off long enough for those still alive to escape in a mass military evacuation that wouldn't be seen again until Dunkirk in World War II. It was one of the British army's most dramatic moments, though far from its finest hour. [The number of troops involved varies with the telling. Some say 5000 died on the trek through the mountains; some say 10,000 were evacuated, some say more, nearly all of them listed as sick or wounded.]
|Harbor at La Coruña|
|Remaining ramparts at La Coruña|
|Crèche in Léon cathedral, carved from a single tree trunk|
|Roman Wall still in use in Lugo|
|The walled city of Avila|
If there are Peninsular War buffs who haven't seen The Pride and the Passion with Gary Cooper and Frank Sinatra - it's worth joining Netflix to see it. Although pure fiction, adapted from The Gun by C. S. Forester, I doubt there's a Regency fan whose heart won't thrill to this one. (Picture Gary Cooper in full Brit naval uniform and a gun as big as most people's houses.) [You don't even want to know how many photos I took of Avila! - while standing at a rest stop on a hill above the city]
|Mile after mile of the "plains in Spain" - with what looks like a very modern irrigation sprayer (horizon left)|
|Part of the main square in Salamanca|
|Lunch in Salamanca|
While we enjoyed lunch in the main square in Salamanca, I marveled that I was actually there - at the site of another famous name from the Peninsular War. Like La Coruña, Salamanca's central core seems little changed from the past - if you discount people in modern dress and a "cleaning zamboni" that rolled by while we ate!
Two weeks ago, I intended to end the photo essay on Portugal with a postcard I bought from a street vendor along the banks of the Douro River. But somehow after scanning it was downloaded into the wrong folder and forgotten. So I add it here - a little special color to end today's blog, even if it is a product of Portugal (or should I say, "they"?). [Clearly, Europeans don't have to answer to Puritan ancestors.] Note the artist signed each painting.
Thanks for stopping by,
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