Rest Days 3 and 4: Gijon

Grouping these days together as they were kind of two of the same. 

     

Since we stayed on the outskirts of Gijon last night, we arrived very early in the morning. Much like San Sebastian, Gijon has a wonderfully inclosed beach in a sort of clamshell shape. High tide covers all of the sand in the morning, while the low tide offers lots of recreational areas during th  day – at least when it’s not raining. 

      

This is St. Peter’s Church. Mikey went inside, but as it was the feast day of said saint, he couldn’t see much. (During mass, visits have to be a bit more low key.)

     

This is a park in front of the church. Very peaceful and Mikey took a nice rest there. 

    

I mean, if it’s good enough for Caesar… actually, at the turn of the last century, they broke ground in attempts to rebuild the current church. As workers dug down, they found ancient Roman ruins. Oops. 

     

While it would take about 90 years (yep, they kind of pulled a “My bad!” and recovered it) to return and properly excavate the site, what was uncovered shocked the entire Iberian peninsula. 

     

These Roman baths were used from around the first century CE and basically forgotten about some 400 years later. 

     

Although imagination really has to play a role in discerning what is what, there are parts where the very bricks look almost brand new. 

     

Still, as so often happens, the future ignoramuses a little while later decided to bury their dead around the site. It’s sad how anything we humans don’t understand has to be rebranded or shat upon. Yes, “medieval man,” you were here. But, that which preceded you was way cooler. 

     

Oh, and while we’re on that subject – this is a statue commemorating the Spanish king’s visit to the city. But it wasn’t the happy township that commissioned it. Rather, the king gave a statue/fountain of himself to the city in celebration of his visit. 

     

It’s kind of like when Christmas rolls around and you go visit grandma. Instead of the slippers she needs or maybe help with the heating bill, you eat her food, sleep in the best bed, and give her a framed picture of yourself. Yeah, she’ll put it on the mantle, but you’re still a jerk. 

     

Well, at least the lion head fountain part of it was pretty rad!

     
A tral redeeming part of the day was “chocolate con churros!” Yeah, ever since his teens, this simple snack has lifted Mikey’s spirits. 

     

As he walked about the town, Mikey was fascinated in how even a small part of a street could represent so much history. Just look at the above row of buildings and see how time passes laterally from left  to right.

     

Oh, sorry about that. Mikey was grabbing a coffee while you were zooming in on those old buildings. Yep, Cafetal in Gijon makes an amazing cortado that comes with a free 1.5oz OJ back! Too cute. 

       

OK, not cute, but remember when we saw that telephone junction box with a graffitied image from A Trip to the Moon?

     

Well they just happened to have a full exposition on Georges Méliès work right out on the beach!

    

It wasn’t that inclusive or impressive, but the temporary exhibit ran a few of his fulms and covered most of his life’s work. 

   

It even had things like a scale model of his glass studio outside of Paris. The curious thing is that Mikey caught his train to Irun from the Montparnasse train station where Méliès spent his final days as the owner of a toy shop. (See the animated movie Hugo.)

          

Following such an interesting cultural exhibition, Mikey walked smack into a most hideous and problematic example of cultural appropriation. The Indios Bar was something tragic that so affronted native American culture as to hurt the eyes. 

    

No difference was given between Sioux and Cherokee symbology nor seperation between “cowboys” and First Peoples. It was probably the worst and oblivious example of cultural misappropriation that this traveler has witnessed. 

       

Even so, they had a pretty cool life-sized wooden bear!

    

Next stop was the Railway Museum of Asturias. OK, you probably didn’t know this, but Mikey had a model train set when he was a kid. And I don’t mean that little plastic one that runs around the Christmas Tree! His parents were cool and his dad built a whole village on a plywood sheet with grass, mountain tunnels, crossing arms, and a all kinds of buildings for the town. So yeah – we went to the train museum!

      

Here’s your fun fact for the day: in response to Napoleon’s early 19th century agression in Europe and the possibility that France might choose to one day invade Spain, the government decided to build the rail system at a non-standard guage. Ergo, French railway cars could not use the Spanish system since their wheels were built for a different size track. 

     

When Franco came to power in 1939, he decreed that the Spanish rail gauge ahould be maintained as a deterrent to future Allied invasion. Even today, Spanish trains cannot travel into France or Portugal (although the EU is providing funding for a gradual switch to the European International Gauge in hopes of better linking Spanish high-speed trains with the reat of Europe.)

       

This ia an electric street that was once used in Gijon is very similar to some still in use in San Francisco!

     

Next stop was the Gijon Aquarium. It was definitely small compared to some in the US, but was definitely well curated. Oh, and Mikey used his old UCLA student ID and got 5€ off! See, higher education pays off. 

     

That’s how he knows that this is a seastar – not a starfish! Oh, and did you know that they can regenerate their arms? 

     

Really colorful dinner … er, I mean lobster. 

     

​These jellies were pretty creepy. Ever since Mikey got stung by one as a kid, he doesn’t care much for them even to the extent that he buys jam for his PB&J sandwiches. 

             
Sea Urchins are tasty. 

     

Yeah, I see you. 

     

​This octopus was pretty active the whole time we were in his area. Mikey can’t wait to arrive in Galicia where “pulpo” is plentiful. Why do aquariums always make Mikey hungry?!

          

OK, so you’re wondering what else our pilgrim has been up to, right? 

     
      Well, we tried some beers and even had a couple of California ones that Mikey puts in the restaurant. 

     

The local mead was really good, too. It was made in Gijon and Mikey tried it at a Viking-themed bar called Valhalla! Seemed appropriate. 

        

You know how much he likes libraries, so we went to the main one in the downtown area. 

       

The interior wasn’t that memorable, but Mikey wandered around for quite a while. 

         
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Gijon was pretty impressive, but wasn’t even constructed until the first quarter of the 20th century. 

     

Shortly after the construction was completed, the town sought out artists to decorate the ceiling. Well, the organist happen to know two brothers from Germany and they were hired to paint the large expanse. 

    

Directly above the altar is a most impressive fresco depicting Christ, many of the saints, and a minor judgment day scene.  Unfortunately, pictures are far from as awing as the church seen in person. 

     

Another moving sight was the “Mother of Emigrants” monument which overlooks the harbor.

    

 This larger-than-life bronze statue looks out over the harbor in search of her departed sons. 

     

As the direct product of Spanish emigration, this statue is as moving to me as Ellis Island. How many of our parents, grandparents, and other ancestors gave up the prospect of return in swearing allegiance to a new homeland so many years ago. They gave up everything in hopes of a better future. 

        

Talk about full circle! Mikey took a nap at the hotel and then went to this brand new beer store/taproom. It had a full compliment of American craft beers and lots of European ones, too. Pretty spot on for a country where microbreweries are few and far between. 

     

Well, that was about all. Lots of time was spent resting up a shoulder that’s been acting up. Oh, and Mikey met this really friendly Spanish teacher from Maryland. Apparently she has been bringing groups of American students to Gijon for around 30 years. As a former AFS exchange student, I applaud you, Juanita!

     

Next stop, Aviles. Adios.