20.11.17 — Travel

An Asturian Reunion

After a weekend out of the city, a full day of work and then having to cook two meals once I rocked up at home, I have only just now managed to sit down at my laptop for the evening. Adult life is indeed hard, and the whole “you can eat sweets for dinner whenever you want” expression fails to mention that you have to actually buy the sweets yourself…

Anyway, I’m not here to rant, rather to share that this weekend I spent a lovely couple of days traversing Asturias with my friend Kevin, who I saw last time I was up in Oviedo (and other places for that matter) back in July. This involved heading straight from work at 3pm to the northern train station of Madrid, Chamartín – but not before a quick stop to pick up a thank-you gift in the form of a napolitana de chocolate (a chocolate filled pastry) from the famous Madrid bakery La Mallorquina.

Arriving pretty early to the train station (British style), I proceeded to immediately manage to get lost, getting my bearings just in the nick of time to board my train. It was pretty quiet, so before we’d even cleared the city centre I’d found myself a comfy double seat to kick back and enjoy the views. I’ve noticed that sunsets here in Spain seem to always feature a short-lived shock of pink and purple, which is a feast for the eyes as well as the camera – photo to come later in the post!

Four hours of sketching new website ideas later, I arrived in Oviedo train station and set about finding Kevin. A surprise hug nearly had his phone crashing to the ground (note to self: do not surprise people whilst they are texting), but we were soon wandering the streets of the gorgeous city, gossiping and laughing as if we’d last seen each other yesterday.

That Friday evening we ate pizza near Kevin’s house and decided to have an early night to make the most of Saturday, but the habit we acquired in Leeds of chatting away into the early hours is a habit that will indeed die hard, and so we wound up waking up more around midday on Saturday than in the actual morning. Oops!

Once we’d eventually showered and left the house, Kevin revealed that we were to catch a train to visit the coast. I was super excited as it’s been so long since I visited the beach, and we were soon whirring even further north. It was on this train that I actually got round to taking one of the first half-decent photos of the trip…

On the train to the mystery beach
Abandoned cargo
The greenery of Asturias

We soon arrived at our stop, and getting off I still had no real idea where we were – and I couldn’t see any coast. A quick consultation on Google Maps directed us northwards, and I soon began to see what kind of place we’d rocked up at. It was a small town near the city of Avilés, a kind of coastal suburb with a mix of huge industry and pretty little seaside houses. We passed these, wandered across a car park full of surfers (getting changed no less, avert thine eyes!) and then headed over the sand dunes and on to the beach.

An abandoned building
More rusting trains
The dunes
Spot the ship

We’d arrived at a stop called San Juan de Nieva, a kind of ugly industrial spot, and so I had not imagined that a walk down the beach would ever be this beautiful. In fact, I have never been on a beach with such a beautiful sunset and with so few people around. The lack of noise and movement meant that we could enjoy a super chill stroll along the sand, watching the sun set and the waves crash. I’m trying my best not to get way too poetic, but it really was the stuff of fairytales.

The sun sets over the beach
Some seaside typography
The troublesome twosome on the beach

As usual we were running late against the setting sun, but we agreed that time is never wasted when you spend it discussing nonsense for hours on end. We eventually reached a lovely little town called Salinas, where we went exploring further. The setting sun had me worried for the quality of the photos, buy the camera on my new phone has done a surprisingly good job of taking in all the light possible.

The aforementioned pink and purple sky

After following the road around, we found a little cove which looked cute but also a little bit like a death trap with the rising tide, and so we opted to walk through a tunnel cut through the cliff and see where it led to exactly. It eventually opened out to reveal an eerie sight; a factory, complete with dual chimneys, silhouetted against the darkening sky. I saw some ramshackle brick steps which had been placed on part of the sheer rock face, and being curious and careless as I am, I climbed up them in the darkness to see where they led.

Two minutes later I found myself perched atop a perilously thin ledge of jagged rock, with a sheer drop to the ground on one side and an ever steeper drop straight down into the rocky sea on the other. If I had any sense I’d have sped straight back to solid ground, but instead I stopped to take a few photos, returning when Kevin made like my mother and told me to come down at once.

The factory from the cliff

Once we’d walked back toward civilisation, and after some drama trying to figure out a confusing bus schedule, we boarded on a bus and headed not back to Oviedo but rather to Gijón, where we’d arranged to meet up with our friend Sara and some others for a few drinks – almost everyone who I’d met in Leeds!

Arriving in Gijón was lovely, with the familiar streets from last time I visited looking equally as lovely in the dark. Me and Kevin went for another one of our aimless wanders, only stopping our chatting to snap the odd photo and take in the odd view. We had time to kill before Sara was free to meet up, and so grabbed some of the cheapest tapas and drinks ever (did somebody say 1€ for a cup of vermouth?).

The docks of Gijón by night
An archway

As we were binging on calamari, chips with alioli and huge croquettes, Sara arrived, and we had a round of reunion hugs and kisses (Spanish style) before grabbing a drink and heading to another bar. On the way out we ran into some more of Kevin’s friends from the Erasmus programme, and we all went to a local rock bar to have a few more drinks and attempt to take a half-decent selfie…

The three reunited!

At about 1am, and with me and Kevin being the old men that we really are, we had to bow out and rush to the bus station to catch one of the night buses back to Oviedo, but not before running into loads of other people and many rounds of goodbyes. I promised I’d be back again soon for a proper night out with everyone, and so I’m now looking into returning as soon as possible!

A foggy morning from the flat

A grey, foggy morning, I’m told, is more typical of Asturias than a clear sky.

Looking up in Oviedo

Anyway, the next day was Sunday and that sadly heralded my last short day in the north, as at 4pm I had to jump on a train back down to Madrid. We made the most of our time however, heading out for a lovely breakfast and then meeting up with Kevin’s friend who I had also met in Leeds. The three of us began a rather taxing stroll up a hill beside the city, but it was all worth it when the views over the city came into focus.

Looking over Oviedo

Time was soon pushing on however, so we had to descend from the dizzying heights of said hill and head back towards the city for my train. Kevin had one last treat in store for me though, as we were heading to get a huge cachopo and wash it down with the local cider. A cachopo is a local dish which is every meat-eaters fantasy: two layers of beef stuffed with Spanish ham and cheese sauce, before being breaded and deep fried and served over an equally huge portion of chips.

The menu description of “cachopo gigante” was no lie: the thing was huge, and there were only three of us! No fear, we decided, for we would struggle on until we had eaten every crumb. As I said this was enjoyed with the local cider, a very dry and non-carbonated natural variant which has to be poured from a height to aerate the drink and make it easier on the stomach. Not having the space or the quantity of cleaning staff needed to allow such messy cider-pouring, the restaurant provided us with this nifty little machine which aerates the cider for you. Talk about only in Asturias!

The cider machine
The cachopo was indeed huge

To all our surprise, between us we actually finished the whole cachopo (not the chips though, we’re only human after all), and we even opted to have some dessert and a shot of the local cream liquor to wash it all down. Soon I was getting pushed for time though, and so we had to pay up and leave for the train station, where I managed to find my train after a bit of confused wandering.

Walking above the train station

Saying goodbye is always horrible, but it felt somewhat easier this time now that I live in the same country as Kevin and the rest of the guys I met in Leeds. As I promised everyone in Gijón, and as I foresaw the first time I visited Oviedo back in July, I will definitely be back very very soon!

As I say, I am now back in Madrid, and work is continuing with the usual laughs and interesting projects to get my teeth stuck into. I am beginning to practice my Spanish vocabulary at home when I can, and I have become a walking English Dictionary in the office – it’s proving to be a good challenge!

Stay tuned for my next update, where I’ve to collate some other bits of news which I’ve been too busy to post about, including a new phone and even more design studio shenanigans…