The Road to Santiago.

October 18, 2004

Photo of harbor walkway in Gijón.
Harbor walkway


I was to call Manolo at three o’clock, and I was nervous. Talking in Spanish on the telephone is difficult for me. Without seeing one’s facial expressions and gestures, it can be very difficult to understand what is being said. And, I haven’t spoken to him for over two years.

His wife told me to call at three. At least, I think it was his wife. When I called the house last night, a woman answered and, when I asked for Manolo, she said that he wasn’t in. I wanted to be sure I had the right man and I asked if he was a doctor who was on the camino and she said yes. At least I think that’s what I said. Perhaps she thought that I said that I was a doctor who was on the camino. Well, I would soon find out.

It’s not easy finding a phone number in a Spanish culture unless you know the person well. Let me give you an example. Back in 1982, or around then, I was president of the Boston Jaycees. The national Jaycees were having a convention in San Antonio, Texas. My chapter was sending me to Texas, but I thought that I might take some extra time to take a train and go on to Mexico City, the capital of our neighboring country to the south. Kathy, our vice president, suggested that, while I was down there, I should look up the president of the Mexico City Jaycees and exchange gifts. She gave me a name — So and So García.

So, at some point during my stay, I asked the hotel concierge if he would help me locate the phone number of So and So García. The man said sure and then asked, What’s his mother’s name? It seems that you have to know a person’s mother’s family name to locate it in the phone book because they are listed in alphabetical order according to the mother’s name. So, follow me now, all of the people named García Fernadez would be before García García which would be before García Gonzalez which would be before García Hernandez, García Martinez, García Parra, all the way to García Zapatadero. See the problem? You would have to check each subsection to see if there was a So and So García in each one. And since García is one of the more common names in Mexico, the number of possible permutations was quite large. Needless to say, I never did get a chance to meet So and So García!

Fortunately for me, Manolo’s last name isn’t very common. There were a total of three in the Gijón phone book. Unfortunately, there were two entries with the initial M. (The phone book only lists initials for the fist names.) So, as long as Manolo didn’t live in some suburb not listed, I had pretty good odds of reaching his home. And I did.

So, until three o’clock when I could call him, I had to stay otherwise occupied. The first thing I did in the morning was to wash out my shirt, socks, and underwear in the sink in my room. I then put them on plastic hangers and hung them out the window, which faced the patio de luces (the patio of lights or atrium). Most windows that face the patio de luces open inward and are barred to prevent unwanted entry. I think these bars make a perfect clothes line. And since the patio de luces is open above to the sky, things usually dry pretty well (unless there is a heavy rain).

Photo of modern Gijón.
Modern Gijón
Having done my domestic chores for the day, I decided to do a little sightseeing and tour the city. Gijón has a very modern look compared to most cities in Spain, and that is due to the fact that it is mostly new construction that was completed after the severe destruction of the Civil War in the 30s.
Photo of Gijón marina.
"". I especially enjoyed the walkway along the marina because my home is next to the ocean and I like all things nautical. It is somewhat grander and more luxurious here than the boardwalk back home in Newburyport. (Although I’m partial to Newburyport!)

Everywhere I go, I take pictures of public art for my stepdaughter, Laura, who is an artist. She works in both oils and watercolors and her landscapes are really evocative. I’m trying to convince her to come to Spain where she would have an infinite number of subjects and motifs to work with. I figure that if I show her enough examples of contemporary public art, she will realize that there’s more to Spain than just castles, cathedrals, and religious icons.
Photo of Est-Oeste (East-West) sculpture.
Est-Oeste (East-West)
In order for her to come, I have to also convince her husband, Carl, who is of the Hibernian persuasion. So I’m always looking for an Irish motif, which usually ends up being a picture of an Irish pub. I want to convince him that Spain is an Irish-friendly country and he can always find his Guiness Stout.
Photo of Pub St. Patrick in Gijón.
Carl could be right-at-home in Gijón
"". Actually, the Irish connection isn’t all that far fetched. In fact, the pre-Roman population is referred to as Celti-Iberian and there are many similarities between Galician/Asturian designs and those of the pre-Christian Irish art. Also, in the Asturias, they play an instrument known as the gaita. The gaita is a bagpipe. But it is unlike the Scottish version with which we are all familiar. Whereas the Scottish version has three drones (sound-emitting pipes), the gaita has only one—just like the Irish bagpipe.

Of course, there is a Spanish connection in Ireland, too. Many of those dark-haired Irish folk are descendents of the survivors of the Spanish Armada. The sailors ended up on the coast of Ireland in 1588 after being sunk by Drake and the rest of the English commanders.
Photo of old fort on a hill.
Old fort
"". I finally found what I was looking for on the crest of a hill overlooking the harbor. It’s a sculpture known as el Horizonte (the Horizon). Perhaps Laura can explain it to me!

Photo of el Horizonte sculpture.
El Horizonte
When I got back to my room, the laundry was gone from the window. The shirt was hanging in el armario (the armoire). But the underwear and socks were missing. I tried to look down to see if they had fallen, but it was too dark to see.