This was an adventure day, but did not start out that way. Jesse and I have been wanting to rent a car and travel around Asturias, and there are multiple short term car rentals here in Gijón. A few days ago we had planned to rent a car and drive to the Villa Romana de Veranes, which is short drive from Gijón, but too long to walk. We thought it would be a good trip to see how the car rental goes and driving in Gijón and Asturias, as we have not driven in four months, and not in Gijón at all.
So I downloaded the app, entered all my information and received a response that additional processing time was needed. There is another walk-in car rental office near the harbor, which is close to our apartment, so we walked there to inquire. Well, while that office was open, we waited twenty minutes and no one showed up at the desk, and I checked my phone and the original app rental sent a message that said they could not verify my US driver’s license and would not rent the car to us.
At that point we decided to go to the train station, pick a place and take the next train there. With the trains here in Spain, there are local trains and national trains, and it is somewhat confusing on the difference, but we looked at one of the train maps, picked a town called San Juan de Nivea, which was at the end of the navy blue train line, bought tickets (for three euro each), and boarded the train.
The train was sparsely populated, a couple families and some teenagers were the passengers on our car. We had to switch trains at a stop called Villabona de Asturias, We de-boarded and waited for the train to take us to San Juan de Nivea; at Villabona there was a worker spraying dirt off the opposite brick platform from where we stood and a blond woman on the other side of our platform waiting for the next train. Across the road from the station was a long unused coal processing plant, and the actual station itself was also long closed, now enclosed by bright grey steel walls adorned with graffiti. We had a thirty minute wait for our train, and we walked around the station, before eating our snacks of apples and mixed nuts.
Our train arrived and we took note of the many teenagers looking ready for a beach day, and lamented not wearing our bathing suits under or clothes, or at least bringing them with us to change into later. At the subsequent stops more young people boarded until we were near full for our final destination of San Juan de Nivea. Once we arrived and exited the train, we saw an industrial area surrounding the train stop, and even the map app did not show any restaurants, shops, or the like in the nearby vicinity. Two groups exited the train, the teenagers, who had done this before, and crossed the tracks, headed toward the beach. We followed the middle-aged crowd who walked along the sidewalk. While it appeared that the teenagers had taken a shortcut, we met up with them as we all approached the beach.
We first encountered a cafe and purchased two beers, used the restroom, and then proceeded toward the beach. The sand was hot after we removed our shoes and socks, and we found a high enough spot to take some pictures. We also took note of the relatively few people on the San Juan de Nivea beach. Off in the distance we could see the beach was quite long, and while we were hot, headed toward the water, so we could walk along the seashore with our feet splashing in the cool water. So far, so good, as we enjoyed the day, not looking at our phones, our watches, and being happy to be alive. That is truly one of the hardest feelings to find in life, long looks as I like to refer to it, and we stood staring off into the vast blue ocean, the curvature of the earth, and the lack of clouds in the sky.
As we walked on the cool sand, we approached the paseo maritimo (or boardwalk), and while I looked on the map app for some places to eat some lunch assumed we were still in San Juan de Nivea. As we walked up the stone ramp onto the paseo martimo we saw signs for Salinas, now realizing we were in a different town. The paseo martimo was very similar to the one in Gijón on San Lorenzo Beach and while we walked I looked for places to eat. August in Spain is the most popular time for vacations, as kids do not start school until September and the weather in North Spain is pretty excellent, with cool breezes and temperatures in the high 70s/low 80s Fahrenheit (or mid-20s Celsius).
Opposite the beach were four or five 10-story apartment buildings (they can be seen in the picture at the top of the post), each with the their own cafes, but those were packed, so we walked on, looking for a place to eat. When the beachfront restaurants and cafes are busy in Spain, and one is in search of drink or food, one heads inward into the town. So we found a local restaurant a bit into the town of Salinas, a meson and sideria named El Carmin, that served Asturian food, and were able to procure a table.
The waitress was very kind (wait staff still has to wear masks in Spain, so it is harder to tell how people are feeling, but her tone and eyes were kind), and the waiter brought us cider (sidra), and poured it from up high into each of our glasses, though one at a time. They pour a few ounces per drink, and the reason they pour it from a height is to aerate it, and then you have to drink it all in one (or two) gulps. It is an acquired taste, and as we have drank it a few times, have become more accustomed to the unique taste (not as sweet as Irish Cider,a bit more sour). Sidra is unique to Asutrias, and Gijon has an annual festival (going on right now!) as well as a large monument dedicated to the distinct green bottles.
We ordered croquetas, asparagus with potatoes in mayonnaise (like a potato salad but prettier) and sliced sausages with french fries. Jesse’s instagram has some good pictures of the food. We ate until full (which means we ate it all), enjoyed our two bottles of cider, and with full stomachs proceeded to the end of the paseo martimo, which held a small, rock covered beach as well as an outdoor monument museum and an excellent overlook point. The pictures below do not do it justice, to be honest, but hopefully convey some of the peacefulness and awe-inspiring experience we had.
After this we treated ourselves to single scoop ice cream in a cone and enjoyed it as we meandered back down the paseo maritimo. The train back from San Juan de Nivea was about an hour walk, and our feet were tired, so we checked the map app and found there was a different train line, one we were not aware of, from Salinas itself. We had an hour to kill, so quickly pounced on an outdoor table at one of the cafes we had passed before, and enjoyed some drinks as we watched the sun move behind light clouds, as it began its slow decent toward the end of the day.
When it was time, we walked to the train station, which was obscure and hidden up the path you can see below, following more teenagers, finding even more waiting at the Salinas stop to return to Gijón. The train stop was between two tunnels and we waited for the train, although, as they do here in Spain, the train ran late. Eventually we caught it and took the ride back to Gijón, passing the rolling green hills that were peppered with sleepy,far off homes, some abandoned, others seemingly brand new with bright paint and brick red roof tiles.
Finally returning to the Gijón station, where although we had a bit of confusion about the procurement of return tickets (there was no ticket machine in Salinas) a helpful train worker directed us on the correct procedures, and with that, we took the short walk home, another Austurian adventure in the books.