09.07.18 — Journal

Ribadesella & Fiesta de San Juan

First things first with this blog post, and that’s that I have to apologise for how late I am in bringing it to you. I tried to upload the photos so that I could get it written a week ago, but I’ve been having some ongoing problems with my website and I couldn’t get anything uploaded – and a blog post without photos isn’t really worth your time – especially this one!

Anyway, let’s get on with things, for once again I write to you all whilst sat on yet another train. This time I’m headed southward with my mum and sister; the only difference being that they’re flying in at hundreds of miles per hour in a plane over my head somewhere! That’s right, the three of us are set to meet in Murcia in less than an hour, but those updates are to come later – for now I must focus on catching up on the antics from my trip to Oviedo two weeks ago.

Upon arrival in Asturias I was once again greeted by Kevin, an event so familiar that I now feel like Oviedo has become a second home – indeed, when we got to his house I didn’t even have to ask to do a single thing, it’s all become second nature! We weren’t at his flat for long though, as it was fiesta time – las fiestas de San Juan, to be exact. This involved us meeting up with a friend and heading down into Kevin’s neighbourhood to see what was going on.

Arriving at the fiestas

Well didn’t I get a shock when, pizza in hand, we rocked up to a full blown festival right in the middle of what’s usually a sleepy plaza! An array of fairground rides and stalls selling all kinds of food and drinks were gathered around the huge crowds gathered at the centre, everyone focussed on the main stage where a local band were performing a medley of all the local hits.

Pouring the three of us a cider

As you can see, it didn’t take us long to grab ourselves a couple of bottles of the local speciality, natural cider; and as you can also see, I still haven’t quite got the hang of it since I first tried it back in summer last year! We were soon quite happily and tipsily away, dancing and singing along to everything from La Bamba to the unofficial anthem of Asturias.

Me and Kevin looking shiny and tipsy
The Asturian flag lights up the stage

We were all having a ball of a time singing and dancing in the street, but suddenly the main stage was hit with a series of power cuts, and eventually the poor guys had to call it a night and cut their set short. Not to worry for the rest of us, however, as a big marquee which was earlier just a bar had been converted into a huge dance floor, playing all of the modern Spanish hits!

The party marquee gets going

After arriving in Oviedo at 9pm and complaining that I was too tired and didn’t want to go out, I wound up having an absolute blast with Kevin and Nerea, with one of my personal highlights being singing along at the top of my voice to “Fiesta Pagana”, one of my favourite party songs which I discovered last time we went out up in Oviedo. It was a phenomenal evening, and one which I very much hope to repeat next year, but as we headed home in the early hours I think we were both more concerned about how our heads would be the next day…

It was quite a shock when we woke up rather quite fresh, albeit slightly late, but that was to be expected as I was already tired before I was (rather willingly, as you probably noticed) talked into staying out until 5am. By two in the afternoon, me and Kevin had waved Nerea back off home and boarded a bus to another mystery location – Kevin always has a plan under wraps, and after the last trip to gorgeous Cudillero I was more than happy for him to continue making them!

Arriving in Ribadesella
Bright colours along the streets
Heading into the colourful light

It turned out that this time Kevin had brought me to yet another beautiful seaside town, Ribadesella. Once we’d hopped off the bus, we headed straight for the restaurant area, as we’d not really eaten much in the morning besides a few magdalenas (mini muffins). We found a lovely looking place which offered a menú del día for 14€, and then commenced to wine and dine our way through an absolute feast of a meal.

I was too preoccupied with my wine, croquettes, seafood soup, roast cabrito (goat meat), and then a huge bowl of homemade natillas (a bit like custard) to even think about taking any photos of the food, but take mine and Kevin’s word for it that it was delicious. For a few weeks now I’ve been trying to eat healthier and cut down on portion sizes, but it’s apparent that Asturias does not allow any such nonsense – even the soup came out in a huge mixing bowl and I was told to say when!

A square in the town centre
A window in Ribadesella

Stuffed full of gorgeous homemade grub, we paid the bill and headed back into Ribadesella, heading first through the beautifully quaint town centre. As usual when me and Kevin are reunited, we spent a good time snooping around, taking photos, and engaging in deep debates in which we put the world to rights.

Heading further into the town
Spot the fake window

I’m sure I don’t need to wax lyrical about how breathtakingly beautiful the little town was, as you can get a decent idea from the photos above, but I was caught off guard as we approached the estuary on which the town sits.

Nets and ephemera by the waterside
A man walks his dog by the riverside
Looking out over the water

The place was just like a picture on a postcard, and I made sure to take it all in as we strolled town the waterfront. It was proving to be a lovely relaxing day, which was just as well as I was tired from the fiestas and full from the meal, but then Kevin went and dropped the bombshell that he wanted us to scale a large jut of land which shielded the estuary from the full force of the sea beyond.

As per usual, Kevin managed to talk my grouchy self into heading upwards, and so we began the ascent up some steps which had been mounted along the side of the incline – it was like Cudillero all over again! No complaints though – that place too was gorgeous and well worth every ounce of energy spent.

Crossing the main street
Mondrain was here?
A seemingly floating hotel

After an initial struggle, things began to level out as we ascended and, most importantly, the breathtaking views began to come into focus. Naturally it a time to stop for a selfie break as we discussed the complicated caveats of the English and Spanish languages – just an everyday conversation for the two of us frikis.

Looking back down on Ribadesella
Me and Kevin taking in the views
A streetlight is consumed by the foliage

As we headed even higher up the jetty, we could really begin to properly appreciate the dramatic landscape which framed the idyllic town, with mountains in the background and the estuary stretching out in front, bordered by sandy shores. It really was like looking down on a fairytale!

A gorgeous view over Ribadesella

Once we reached the summit of the cape, we were presented with a 360° view over the town, mountains, estuary and the sea into which it fed. Up here we spent a while taking in the scene which lay before us, discussing memories of primary school whilst overlooking the sea and natural pools which had formed in the rocks below.

A natural pool at the base of the cliffs
Looking over the water from ground level

After this we descended back to ground level, walking back towards the beach as Kevin recounted the Celtic folklore which dominates Asturian tradition. I was in a what I’m sure came across as an irritating touristy mood, nagging that I wanted to go to the beach across the way to feel my toes in the sand and have a cheeky dip in the sea. Kevin wanted to take me to see one last thing though, and so we circumnavigated the meandering estuary in order to cross the bridge to the other side.

Once we’d crossed the rather expansive bridge, Kev led me down a path towards the entrance to a cave. This cave is home to what, if I remember correctly, is some of Europe’s earliest cave paintings, but as per our luck it turned out to have closed a couple hours prior to our arrival. I wasn’t too upset though, as I was fascinated by some shipwrecks which, stained green by algae, had been exposed by the low tide.

Shipwrecks line the banks of the river
The promised beach

Upon discovering that there’d be no caves for us that Saturday afternoon, we retreated back to the beach, which by this point was all but empty. Throwing my tote bag to the ground, I was soon wading out into the cool shallows, and had the ever-suffering Kevin taking photos of me – the fruits of which can be seen below:

Chilling in the water

As we had a long way to walk back to the bus station ahead, involving crossing the bridge over the wide estuary, we began to head back on to dry land with a good 45 minutes to spare. Relaxedly patting the sand off our feet, I fumbled for my bus ticket in my tote bag, and to my horror discovered that the bus was scheduled to leave 20 minutes earlier than we had thought, leaving us just 10 minutes to make what would have been a 20 minute walk.

A moment of panic ensued, after which we made an executive decision to do our absolute best to run as fast as we could to the bus station – it was the last bus out of the isolated town after all! Looking back it must have been quite the dramatic, picturesque scene, with the two of us sprinting as best we could across the bridge as the sun set beyond the mountains in the background. It certainly didn’t feel at all romantic as we sped towards the station though, with neither of us accustomed to exercise of such intensity.

As we approached the station, running over a set of railway tracks as a shortcut, we managed to catch the bus just in the nick of time. We used the last ounces of energy we had to haul ourselves into our seats, and then settled down for the 45 minute journey back to Oviedo.

We had thought about going out to the fiestas once again, but once we’d arrived back at Kevin’s flat, we slumped into the sofa and a rest from which we knew we were not to reanimate. This early night was a good idea in the end, however, as the following morning I found myself with plenty of energy and the will to spend the Sunday in Gijón.

After a relatively early start for the two of us, and a fiasco when we arrived in Gijón and the ticket machine charged us without dispensing a ticket, we found ourselves in the centre of the coastal city. Here we sat ourselves down in a lovely little pincho café, having a drink or two and discussing the future as we waited for our friend Sara to join us.

Kevin on the terrace

Once Sara showed up we had a wonderful catch up, with the conversation switching to Spanish and my more dramatic Spanish language personality coming out – it’s true what they say about your personality changing when you speak in one language versus another! We’d all brought beach gear along with us, and so we were soon headed for one of the beaches that the lucky gijóneses have at their constant disposal.

Relaxing on a beach in Gijón

After a good few hours sunbathing, swimming in the sea, and eventually grabbing ourselves an ice cream, it was finally time to round up the weekend and catch the train back to Madrid back from Gijón train station. I waved Kevin and Sara off for a few weeks, but it wasn’t so bitter as I knew I’ll be back up for a more substantial visit in just a few weeks time!

Leaving Asturias behind for now

So since this journey only two weeks have passed, but despite that so much has happened, and I am now hopelessly behind with my blog posts. I’d like to blame it wholly on the technical issues I mentioned earlier, but a lot of the reason has just been that I haven’t had time to stop and pull a single post together!

I’m now on the train back from Murcia up to Madrid, after having started this blog post on the way down and having spent 48 hours in the south. I hope that this week I have time to bring you another post, possibly two, but with so much going on I can really make no promises. Until then I shall have to bid you all farewell and eat my bocadillo de chorizo that’s waiting for me in my bag. Let’s hope it’s not gone too limp in the heat…