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Cangas de Onís to Llanes: May 20, 2022 115.81 Miles Walked
Salvation or Sacrilege?
While a cliché, all good things must come to an end. Today we had to leave Heredad de la Cuesta, but it will always be on our “must visit” list for all future trips to Spain. This morning was completely misted in and we couldn’t see past the end of the yard, but with the flowers and landscaping, it was still beautiful.
I forgot to write about something from yesterday when we were eating breakfast. Sitting outside we saw a device drive across the yard. It had two large back wheels and a smaller front wheel. It was about 1.5 feel long and a foot wide and stood about 8 inches tall. It randomly drove across the grass and didn’t make much sound at all. It would go to the edge of the yard, turn in random directions, and sometimes disappear around the corner. After a little bit we realized it was a robot lawn mower. Pam had to know if if it had a name, to which Jaime answered “Of course, Fidel!” We found it hilarious and almost wanted to put in a yard just to have our own “Fidel Nograssgrow” mower.
This morning’s breakfast featured shaved beef. Spain is known the world over for its jamón, where entire pig legs are smoked, dried, aged, and sliced thin. Below is a picture of my wonderful brother in law José’s family’s collection of jamón, where they grew the pigs and prepared the legs themselves. You can buy pig legs in the US, but the markup on them is enormous compared to the cost in Spain. We know because every time we see legs for sale we have to run in and look at the cheap Spanish prices. Because Asturias is cow country, they prepare beef the same way. I don’t know what part of the cow the dried beef comes from, but I do know we have never seen a cow leg for sale in a Spanish store. Because the beef is naturally tougher than pork, the thin slices are served drizzled with olive oil and some spices on top. While jamón is still my favorite, I will never turn down the thin sliced beef.
We told Jaime how much we liked the other guests and that they seemed like friends of his. Turns out they have been coming to Heredad de la Cuesta for a number of years so he knows them well. They are originally from Venezuela and have been living in Valencia (on the Mediterranean coast) for the last 15 years. They keep coming back because they want to live in Asturias so have been looking at houses. On this trip they found the perfect plot of land, only a kilometer from Jaime, and will be starting construction on a house very soon. When I saw them later, I told them I was so happy for them finding the land and wished them few troubles during construction. Also, I said I was jealous of them because I, too, want to live in Asturias. Jaime said he was getting worried that all his clients were moving here and he’d go out of business. The man told Jaime, “Just convert this place into a restaurant, charge us whatever you want, and we all will still eat here four nights a week!” I readily agreed.
We extended the normal Pura Aventura trip to include a couple of days at Llanes (pronounced yanES) because we wanted to see the coast in this part of Spain. There’s plenty of hiking trails, but they are a lot flatter than the Picos de Europa. This part of Spain is famous for its rugged coastline that has pocket beaches, which during the summer, attract a huge crowd. Fortunately, there are no crowds this time of year. Because of the low clouds today, we couldn’t see the famous mountain views from the coast.
Our taxi driver, Carlos, was a very nice older gentleman from Llanes who was very happy to talk to me in Spanish. He’s rightfully proud of his hometown and told me all the things we need to see and do in town. We chit chatted all the way about life. When we got close to the city, Carlos said he was going to take a longer way to the hotel so he could show us some cool things, if we didn’t mind. Like I would mind a private tour from a local. I really enjoyed talking with him and was very happy to learn that he will be taking us to Santander on Sunday so we will have even more time to talk.
Though we should have realized it, there are a lot of pilgrims around Llanes as the Camino Norte runs through town. Supposedly, this is the route St. Francis of Assisi used to make his own pilgrimage. As Llanes is a little short of half way on the full route, we saw some foot sore pilgrims limping through town.
Since the Camino Norte ran right past our hotel, Hotel Don Paco, we headed west to see some sights. We loved seeing the Cantabrian Sea and still hearing our beloved cow bell tinkling as we’d had all through the big mountains. We have to give great credit to the Spaniards for controlling development throughout the region. Most of the land along the sea is still farmland so hikers and bikers get to reap the benefit of the views. All the pocket beaches had paths to them but I can’t imagine how crowded they must be in the height of summer. We had to chuckle when we walked past the Playa de Poo. Even Carlos the taxi driver had to laugh at that name when he told us earlier.
As we were on the outskirts of Celorui, the road was blocked by a small yellow van. It looked like the driver tried to turn around and managed to get the back of the van on a little hill with one tire off the ground. The front of the van was wedged against a stone wall, with one of the front tires barely on the ground. As we got closer, we could see they were trying to back up, but the front wheel drive little van had no traction so that one tire just made smoke. I went up to help and the two young men with the van were French and the man and women hikers trying to help were French, none of whom spoke English or Spanish. Obviously, there wasn’t going to be a lot of verbal communication on this problem. We tried lifting the back of the van over, but it was too heavy for the four guys. Our next attempt was to jam the table top from the van under the slipping front wheel as the guys pushed the front, and the ladies stood on the table top to keep it from sliding. That didn’t work because the table top just got pushed out. I realized that if we could get some weight on the slipping front wheel we might be able to get enough traction to back up. I mimed my idea to the other guys and they thought it was good, but we needed some weight. I told Pam to get into the passenger seat and the three guys would push. We rocked back and forth a bit and got just enough grip on that tire to push the van off the little hill. Success! I told Pam that her weight came in very handy, but I don’t believe she took that as a complement.
I walked sweatily and Pam heavily into the small town of Celorui. There’s an active Benedictine monastery, Monistario de San Salvador, that Pam wanted to visit. If you want to come to visit in silence for a week or more, they are happy to have you. They only allow hard core visitors.
Our timing was perfect as El Terulia, the best restaurant in town, had just opened. The staff was wonderful and we shared three great dishes, Tuna Tartar, Croquettes de Jamón, and Calamari Frito. (Yes, this entire trip is about food!) As a surprise, we got the cutest little chipitos with the bill. Unfortunately, they had coffee flavor, which I can’t stand, so Pam got to drink both of them. She loved them as the picture shows!
We walked on a little more to the Iglesia de Niembro, built on a peninsula in the Barro River. It’s a “newer” church in Spain as it was built at the very end of the 1700’s and was not on top of a prior church. At high tide, the ocean pushes up the Barro River and the church is beautifully reflected in the water. We were at low tide so didn’t get to see that. We did enjoy looking at the cemetery behind the church, though.
We made our way back to the hotel because we needed to clean up as we had to be somewhere on Friday night: mass at the Iglesia de Santa María del Conceyu, also known as the Basilica of Llanes. We went because we could. The basilica is interesting because it is one of the few gothic churches in Asturias and was built in 1240. In 1973 it was declared a basilica and size-wise, it’s not a huge church. Some of the religious artwork was good, but it felt odd to take pictures before or after the service.
As we expected, we were a bit (OK, a lot) on the younger side when it came to the 20 or so people there. It was like any other mass, except it was in Spanish. For the most part, I could understand everything but sometimes the echos overrode my comprehension. We tried to be respectful, but it was obvious that we had no idea what we were doing. I tried to get Pam to go up for communion, but without luck. It was interesting to see the pandemic changes in that no one was offered wine for the bblood of Christ. One thing that both Pam and I picked up on independently was the age of the alter boy. He was at least 75. I guess life in the Catholic Church runs full circle in that before you have a job you are an alter boy and after you retire you are an alter boy. In all, we were glad to attend the service.
After the half hour mass, it was my job to pick the dinner restaurant. Because Retrogusto didn’t open for another half hour, we poked around the streets until it did. Of course, there were two British gentlemen who were already seated, as those Brits love to eat early. Because we had such good luck splitting dishes at lunch we kept up the tradition. We have not had pulpo (octopus) this trip so we had to fix that. Their pulpo was prepared the traditional Galician way, boiled, but with a twist. Instead of being served with only boiled potatoes, they did three forms of potatoes, boiled, mashed, and potato chip. Each was topped by the luscious pulpo and it all worked perfectly. We next had a tomato salad with six different types of tomato’s. The final dish was milk fed lamb. It was a strip of sliced lamb that looked like a pork loin. It was brought out on a sun-hot plate that looked exactly like an American fajita plate. I loved being able to eat the meat exactly the way we wanted it cooked. For desert, Pam finally got a full on chocolate lava cake so she was quite happy. As usual, it was less sweet than an American version so was excellent.
The whole time we were at Retrogusto, the server had five tables and she was really good at her job. She had the whole dining room running smoothly and every table felt like they had their own server. When I complimented her on the great food and service, she blushed hard. I think the complement helped get me my traditional after dinner chupito for free. She mentioned that she was originally from Paraguay and I told her that I’d love to visit there. Here response was “It’s too hot to visit.” We guess she loves living in the cool of northern Spain.