14.01.24 — Travel

Epiphany in Gijón

As I teased at the end of my last post, my return home didn’t take me straight back to Madrid, but rather up to the north of Spain. My flight landed into Santander, a picturesque city I first visited just over a year ago. Cami had come over to spend the afternoon there with her partner, Hessel, and graciously picked me up to take me back over to Gijón.

Here in Spain, presents aren’t presented on the 25th of December and nor are they brought by Father Christmas: rather they are brought on the 6th of January (the Epiphany) by the Three Kings. I’d thus arranged to celebrate “Los Reyes Magos” in Gijón with Cami, Hessel, Bogar, Javier, and – as a special Christmas treat – Kevin!

Kevin had made the trip from the US in order to spend time with his family. I’d seen him just a few months before when he made the trip over to Vermont to meet up with me and Megan, but I was pumped to be able to spend some time with him on his home turf of Asturias, the northern region of Spain that I’m so very fond of.

Anyway, back to Santander. After picking me up from the airport, Cami, Hessel, and I had some pizza together in a restaurant in Santander before hitting the road and making the two hour trip west to Gijón. The next day we got up, dressed, and made our way to one of our favourite restaurants in the city where we’d arranged to meet Kevin for some lunch.

As usual, we all had a lot of laughs and ate some fabulous food. We then spent the rest of the day showing Hessel the city, from the windy heights of Cimadevilla to the bars and streets of the old centre. I felt like I was back up with my parents again after I’d shown them the city and Asturias in general when they visited last summer.

Who’d have thought, a photo of the three of us together!

After relaxing for a bit back at Cami’s flat, her and Hessel left for a spot of ice skating, something Kevin and I opted out of in favour of spending the evening at home eating roscón (a sweet bread typical of the Epiphany in Spain) dunked in thick hot chocolate. It was bliss!

The next day I’d to work from home, but it was all made much better by the presence of Luke, Cami’s dog who sat around watching me work all day. Another highlight was also lunch, for which Cami whipped up a Chilean dish called pastel de papas. This reminded me of a more exciting cottage pie, filled with mince, egg, and chicken and topped with a deliciously sticky potato creme.

Once I’d signed off work, I packed my bags and hopped in a taxi down to my next temporary home, Bogar and Javier’s apartment. There, I dropped my stuff and then headed back out into the evening, as Kevin had come back over to Gijón for the evening and so we’d arranged to meet up once more.

My walk into the centre of Gijón took me down the seafront. Well, that’s a lie: I thought it could as I wanted to see the sea, but it turns out that this was in fact a huge detour which left me up in Cimadevilla rather than in the centre where I wanted to be. Oops!

The extra walking was worth it though, as Kevin arrived a tad late and the winter evening light was creating some interesting shades of pink and purple in the sky. We eventually met up in a pretty like area outside the Jovellanos Theatre, where we stumbled across a Christmas market. Hungry, I grabbed us some freshly baked biscuits and then some freshly fried churros: nothing goes better with carbs than more carbs!

Once we’d finished off our churros, Kevin and I headed off for a drink on a lovely little street full of bars and restaurants. Whilst scouting out a spot, we noticed that one place specialised in vermouth and was serving bollos preñaos (bread stuffed with chorizo) as tapas with each drink. Say no more, we said, and headed in.

There we wound up trying some of the house speciality drinks and ordering some tortilla de patatas. It was a lovely moment as we enjoyed some local food and drinks whilst chatting about all sorts as only Kevin and I know how.

We then moved closer to the seafront and found a cozy little bar with a sofa to sit on. We plonked ourselves down in there and proceeded to carry on our evening of drinking and chatting, eventually being joined by Cami and Hessel later in the night. I was wrapped up in my coat by this point, as despite my trip back to England, I was still avoiding the cold!

I look like a bit of a grandma but that’s okay because I felt like a bit of a grandma.

Alas, I still had one day of work to do and was feeling pretty tired after a busy few days, so I bade everyone farewell and headed back to Bogar and Javi’s place to turn in for the night.

The next day I worked from their lovely new place, but as the afternoon came around I was starting to feel a bit iffy. A quick nap to sleep it off turned into a full sleep after which I awoke with a fever: I had managed to get the flu.

This meant that I had to sit out the evening’s activities of going to the cabalgata, a parade in which the Three Kings (or Three Wise Men) grace the streets and throw sweets out to an expectant crowd. I’d never been to a cabalgata and I still haven’t: one for next year!

I did feel a bit better in the evening, though, so Bogar, Javi, and I got comfy on their sofa and watched a film to mark my last evening in Gijón. The next day I’d to pump myself full of energy drinks, paracetamol, and cough medicine as I’d a train to catch to take me down to Madrid and thus back home. I masked up for the journey, but soon discovered that everyone from the taxi driver to the ticket inspector was also coughing and spluttering. There’s a lot of flu going round this year here!

It was lovely to end my rather drawn-out festive activities with a few days in Gijón, even if the last two of them were spent mooching around feeling somewhat sorry for myself. It was great to catch up with everyone who’s based there, but it was a special treat to catch Kevin on one of his few visits back to the motherland from stateside.

I’d like to end by saying many thanks to Cami for picking me up from Santander and having me over, and of course many thanks to Bogar and Javi for not only putting me up for a couple of nights but also for putting up with me as I moped around their flat moaning woe is me…