Post by Wynette: This is the west end of the Playa de San Lorenzo in Gijón.
Post by Wynette
Post by Wynette: Gijón certainly isn’t a tourist city. We’ve seen a few pilgrims passing through but that’s about it. There are probably Spanish tourists who we don’t recognize as such and many more of those who come here in the summer to avoid the heat of places like Madrid or Seville. (Many Spaniards own a second home or condo somewhere on the north coast of Spain. Housing was way overbuilt here before the 2008 crash. We presume housing is cheap.)
As a place to live, I think Gijón would be hard to beat, at least here in the center. It has its wonderful beach with miles of walking on the beach or on wide walkways along the beach and ocean. It has beautiful parks. It is tranquil and vibrant at the same time. Wonderful restaurants and bars and pastry shops, almost on every block. Most businesses appear to be locally owned. Lots of grocery stores and fruit/vegetable stands. Incredible bus system. People here seem relaxed and happy. It’s been a great place to spend 9 days.
Post by Wynette: Yesterday, Friday, May 4, we took a bus to the Jardín Botánico Atlántico. We spent 2 or 3 hours walking through the huge garden. They had areas with native plants, invasive plants, plants brought from the Americas, plants important for cultivation (farm plants), forest plants, herbs, and much more.
We learned that the Spanish word for holly is acebo and the name for gorse is tojo. That when the century plant, one of those American imports, gets a lot of water, they get really really really big. That bulrushes, at least the ones labeled as such that grow here, have beautiful yellow flowers that look like irises. That camellias are beautiful as long as they are deadheaded. (We saw so many on the Camino with brown flowers, we got a bad impression of camellias.) We learned what a monkey puzzle tree is. We learned that rich industrialists who probably treated workers badly can leave beautiful estates. We learned that yew trees can be pruned into really cool shapes. We learned that citrus can bloom and have fruit at the same time, and the blooms smell heavenly. And we learned that lilacs smell good here, too. (Well, we already knew that.)
Post by Wynette: Today is Mother’s Day in Spain. Two different times we’ve been in Spain I’ve gotten confused on Mother’s Day in Spain and also thought it was Mother’s Day in the US and called my mom. Didn’t happen this time. But, Mom, talk to you NEXT Sunday. ❤️
We decided to have lunch today at the trattoria on our block. There are more than 20 Italian restaurants in Gijón and this one is the most highly rated. Since it was Sunday we thought we would call to see if we needed a reservation. To our surprise, they had “no mesas”. They were … the dreaded word … “completo.” So we decided to try another Italian restaurant. Also completo. On the phone, after the guy said “completo, ” he started talking fast and I couldn’t get much of what he was saying. Charlie and I both heard the word “madre” and my very smart husband figured out the restaurants are full because it is Mother’s Day. We’d completely forgotten. We tried a couple more places, also completo.
Finally, vía Google Maps, we found a well-rated Mexican taquería in the old town that doesn’t take reservations. Didn’t even have a phone listed. So we thought we might have a chance there. We headed over. No tables were available, but he (the owner, we presume, and the only waiter in the tiny restaurant) said we could sit at the bar. No problem. We were glad to get in.
We ordered our water (big drinkers that we are) and our tacos. We weren’t sure what tacos to order of the seven choices but they were only a euro each so we ordered one of each. (Big spenders, too.) He warned us one of them (the shrimp one) was very very hot. We said “no problema”.
Before our tacos were ready, he pointed us to some places that were free at one end of a table.
The tacos came. They were great. And, yes, one was quite hot but nothing our New Mexico taste buds couldn’t handle. The tacos were small and we were still hungry after we had eaten them, so we asked him what else he’d recommend and he suggested the chicken enchiladas with tomatilla sauce and mozzarella cheese. We shared an order of those. Also very good.
There were two young women sitting at the other end of the table where he seated us. One asked us, in English, where we were from. They were from Bilbao. They were here for a long weekend holiday, but they didn’t like Gijón as much as their home town. They said they had been talking about us earlier, about how nice it must be to be older and retired and to be able to travel to far away places. They said they don’t think people in Spain will be getting very good retirements. I think she used the word “crisis.” We talked about other things. Was fun to talk to them.
So we had Mexican instead of Italian today. Perfect for Cinco de Mayo.
Post by Wynette: We forgot to go to the grocery store yesterday so decided to eat breakfast out this morning. We thought we’d first try the bar around the corner, the one that has the best coffee of all our neighborhood bars. We didn’t expect they would make eggs and toast for us but they didn’t hesitate to say yes, and with a friendly smile. Out on the Camino, we got used to paying 8 euros for eggs, toast, and coffee for two. I figured we’d pay quite a bit more than that here in the city. Was surprised when bill was only 8.50.
After a delicious breakfast, we caught a bus to the end of the beach and then walked two or three miles along a walkway. Kind of a seaside park here in the city.
After that we took a bus back to our neighborhood and ate shrimp and pineapple curry at a little Asian restaurant. Then went to the Blu Café for dessert of Boston Cream Pie that Charlie had spotted there. His mom used to make that for him and Charlie said it was much the same.
Then we went to the fruit stand next door to the Blu Café. I asked the proprietor if we could buy half of one of the small watermelons and she seemed happy to do that and wrap it up for us.
Then we went home and rested and did a crossword puzzle. Then we (finally) walked to the grocery store. Came home and made a salad for dinner. So we had a lazy relaxing day and lots of good eating.
Post by Wynette: We rented an airbnb apartment in Gijón. It is on the top floor of an eight story building that has two apartments per floor. We have a sun room with large windows on two sides, which is what sold us on the apartment. It’s pretty much in the center of things, close to the beach, the old town, the marina, the main pedestrian shopping street, etc.
Our short block is closed to traffic. It seems kind of empty but still has 4 bars, a Mexican food restaurant, and an Italian restaurant. One bar has breathtakingly fast wifi. Another is really colorful and pretty. There is another bar just around the corner with coffee worth going back over and over for. I don’t know how all these places can stay in business. There must be hundreds of bars and restaurants just in this area of town. We haven’t checked out the night scene since we tend to be tired and ready for bed when the Spanish begin their evenings. But we hear there is lots happening out there. Tapas, etc.
Here on the north coast of Spain, San Sebastián and Bilbao seem to get all the attention, but we like Gijón as much. Charlie and I were thinking it’s too bad Gijón doesn’t have Gaudí like Barcelona or a Gehry Guggenheim like Bilbao, or it would be famous, too. It’s beach is bigger than San Sebastián’s. And much nicer than Barcelona’s. The city has nice architecture. The buildings, especially in the old town, are colorful. It feels like a large city but is sort of laid back, too.
Yesterday, May 1, was International Workers Day, a big holiday here and in many countries. All businesses were closed, except bars and restaurants, and everyone, including us, was out strolling in the parks and along the beach. We’ve been walking a lot here. Yesterday we walked about 8 miles. (Charlie tracked it.) Felt almost like a regular Camino day except there was no up and down. And we didn’t have a clear destination. Just exploring.
Post by Wynette on May 1: We had originally planned to continue walking past where the Ruta ends and on to the city of Ferrol, a few more days of walking along the Atlantic coast of Galicia. We decided not to do that for a couple of reasons: Since it wasn’t the official Ruta (or Camino for that matter) we didn’t have a lot of information about what the walks would be like in terms of difficulty. I was a little worried about that. Also we were starting to be satiated. As Charlie put it, it was like having 24 fabulous over-the-top meals in a row. Each day we loved the walks but we didn’t want to start taking it all for granted. We’ll probably return another year, armed with more information, and do more. I’m already looking forward to it.
Since we don’t return to the States until May 9, we considered doing a few days’ walking on one of the many Camino routes here in northern Spain. However, we eventually decided to settle in somewhere. It is nice to be in one place for a while. We decided on Gijón, the largest city in Asturias, since it’s near the airport where we fly home and we heard and read it’s a beautiful and fun city.
Spain has a marvelous train system. We’ve been told that the Spanish trains are pretty consistently on time. And that has been our experience. There’s a wonderful little train called the Feve that was never too far away from our walking route this year. It’s mostly used by commuters and stops in every town, large or tiny, that it goes through. It’s rare to see anyone get on the train with luggage.
On Monday morning, we boarded the Feve in Espasante. It is over a six hour ride on the Feve from there to Gijón. We went through about 85 stations. We probably stopped at 70% of those. (They don’t stop if no one is waiting or needs to get off.) We were expecting a long tiring train ride where we’d keep ourselves amused the way we do on airplanes: reading, listening to books or music, doing puzzles.
Turned out it seemed pretty fast and we got a kick out of going backwards through all the little towns we had walked through. We talked about what we remembered about each place. A few times we were able to spot the place where we had stayed or where something else memorable happened.
So now we are in Gijón and quite liking it. More details to come.
Post by Wynette: The Ruta del Cantábrico has 7 stages. Stage 1 starts in Ribedeo. Stage 7 ends in the tiny village of Ladrido. There isn’t even a bar or restaurant or place to stay in Ladrido. But we wanted to go to the end so we stayed in Porto do Espasante for two nights. On the 28th we walked to Ladrido and back. Only a 5.8 mile round trip, including an extra circle loop detour. Lovely walk, as usual. Later, in the afternoon we walked around the town of Porto do Espasante and along its long beach. We had a great meal at the “social center” bar just behind our hotel. It seemed everyone in town was there.