The Road to Santiago.

October 22, 2004

Casco Viejo-Aviles

Gijón to Avilés

I got up early to gather my things and repack my mochila (backpack). Later I went to the baño (bathroom) to take a shower. When I got back to my room I found my missing shirt, all cleaned and pressed. When I went to pay my bill, Señora Gonzalez had only counted four nights. Actually I’d been there five nights. In my younger days I might have paid her what she asked and kept quiet. But she had been nice to me and I’m getting older and less avaricious — I couldn’t cheat her. I paid for the five nights and said adios. I’m going to miss that pension even though it was always dark. And I’m going to miss Gijón.

Since the guidebook was difficult to interpret and since the first 10 K of the camino out of Gijón went through a highly industrialized section, I decided to take a short hop by bus to Tabazá and walk the remaining 18K to Avilés.

At the bus station, I was told that the next bus to Tabazá was at 11:00 and would leave from Andén #2 (Platform #2). So, I patiently cued up and waited about 20 minutes. When the bus came, I opened up the luggage compartment and threw in my mochila y palo (backpack and walking stick). I boarded and asked for a ticket for Tabazá. The driver glared at me and said no hay paradas (there are no stops).

After I stepped back down from the bus and retrieved my stuff, I went to a different information office and asked: ¿Cuando sale el proximo bus a Tabazá? (When does the next bus for Tabazá leave?) Doce y media, Andén #2 (12:30, Platform #2). She wrote it down for me on the ticket.

Fortunately, next door to the station was a bar with Internet service. I was able to have a cup of café con leche and check out my email.

The bus let me off at a roadside stand within the village limits of Tabazá, and the walk to Avilés was pleasant put uneventful. The sun was hot — almost too hot. But after the rains of the week before, I was not going to complain. Just outside of Avilés, I passed a dour looking factory which was about a mile long. Later that day, I learned that it was one of the Ensidea factories where they produce iron and steel, and was one of the important economic engines in the region.

What a contrast! On the east side of the river was a busy modern port with cranes and piers. On the other was downtown Avilés with its casco viejo (old section) from the 16th Century.

Soon after I entered the city, I had my only dilemma of the day. On the sidewalk were two yellow arrows. One pointed ahead across the street, the other to my left. As I stood there trying to decide which way to go, I heard someone call out “¡peregrino!” (pilgrim!) I looked up to see a man motioning and pointing off to the left. A few more yards in that direction and I came to a door with a sign for the albergue.

Inside, I met Mario, from Italy. We were able to communicate quite well because our Spanish was on the same level. He told me that he was 67 years old — but he looked ten years younger — my age — and this is his third camino. He’s walked el camino frances and el camino de plata (from Sevilla, north through Extramadura and La Mancha). He used to be a competitive speed/distance walker and has competed all over the world.

He’s not taking the old paths but is staying with the paved roads. He broke a couple of meta­tarsals in his foot and consequently the rocky paths cause pain in his feet. But, he says, he is okay on the road.

After I washed and hung some laundry, I decided to do some sightseeing. The hospitalero showed me un plano (a map) of the city and pointed out some of the more interesting spots. And then he pointed to a park were there is a statue of Pedro Menéndez, “the man who discovered America.” He discovered America? I asked. He answered: Si, claro (yes, of course). Well, this I had to see.

My search went along la calle Rivero (Rivero street) which led into a lot of houses that dated from the mediaeval period. Typical of the time, the houses have upper stories and balconies that hang over the sidewalks. Also, there was a lot of wood used in their construction — since they were built at a time when there were a lot of trees in Spain.

Fuente de los Siete Caños
One interesting spot that is famous is la Fuente de los Siete Caños (the Fountain of the Seven Spouts). It features seven faces with water spouting out of their mouths. All lined up with their cheeks puffed up, they look like some local school committee.
As I passed through el casco viejo, I saw an interesting contrast. Against the wall of a five-hundred-year-old house, I saw a five-foot high modern sculpture consisting of two giant, stainless steel chain links connected by a third that parted in the middle and was slightly askew. Wondering what this sculpture meant, I went closer to read the inscription. It just said Eslabon, which is Spanish for chain link. Well, duh! I guess I’ll have to have Laura, my stepdaughter, explain it to me.
Pedro Menendez
[Editor’s note: Ponce de León, born near Vallodid, led a privately outfitted expedition in 1513 from Puerto Rico to Florida in search of the legendary “fountain of youth.” He named it la Florida because it abounded in flowers. Later in 1565 Menéndez was commissioned by Philip II to equip an expedition to set up a colony. He then founded St. Augustine, which was the first white settlement in Florida.]
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