Llanes, Ribadesella and Oviedo, Asturias, last month

We chugged west from Santander on the FEVE train to the seaside towns of Llanes and Ribadesella.

Paseo de San Pedro Llanes 816 122.JPG

Llanes is on a cliff. In the nineteenth century a fine cliff walk was built with contributions from emigrants who had gone from the town to Latin America (Americanos).

punto chica beach Llanes 816.JPG

Its beaches are coves and good for calm swimming. There’s a grand one at the nearby village of Poo. I imagine organising a long distance walk from Coo (in the Belgian Ardennes) to Poo. Perhaps via Looe.

barefoot runner walk Llanes-Poo 816 2.JPG  seaweed fertilising field walk Celorio-Poo 816.JPG

On the walk to Poo we met a barefoot runner, and saw (first smelt) seaweed spread on a field to fertilise it.

public writing ONLY LOCALS! Llanes 816.JPG

There is a wish to avoid visitors painting graffiti on the headland…

SD knitting shop Llanes 816 2.JPG

… and a useful wool shop, though the town is small …

building Llanes 816 2.JPG

… and some great buildings.

SD room 111 hotel don Paco Llanes 816.JPG

In room 111 (illustrated) of the hotel Don Paco in Llanes, converted from a convent and then a school, Sam Peckinpah paced while a Spanish person considered some kind of participation in Straw Dogs. (According to a booklet in the hotel.)

canoeists Ribadesella 816.JPG

Ribadesella, further west, is on the estuary of the river Sella down which, the week before, a canoeing festival was held.

river train Ribadesella-Oviedo 816.JPG

FEVE puts on extra trains so people can watch from the line, which follows the river.

garden Ribadesella 816 3.JPG

At Ribadesella, the east bank of the estuary is steep.

boy playing marbles Ribadesella 816.JPG

In the town below we came across boys playing marbles – like I used to do.

hotel Rosario Ribadesella 816 2.JPG

The west bank of the estuary has grand houses built by Americanos,

surfers Ribadesella 816 4.JPG

surfers Ribadesella 816.JPG

and surf. Everywhere on this holiday when I went for a run I would encounter, and be overtaken by, people with the physique of a stick, a stick made of burnished oak. When I ran in Ribadesella this was not so, and I even overtook someone. As I walked back to the hotel 30 sticks of burnished oak appeared round the corner carrying surfboards.

port, fish lonja Llanes 816.JPG   Lonja del Pescado Ribadesella 816.JPG

Each town has a 30s-style fish market;

Ribadesella 816 101.JPG

each has a surprising lack of solar thermal and solar PV on the roofs of buildings.

church bougainvillea Llanes 816.JPG  morning glory? Celorio 816.JPG

I learned to distinguish bougainvillea and morning glory.

woman, bar Oviedo 816.JPG

On a wet day we caught the train 2½ hours further on to the city of Oviedo, walked around looking for a restaurant that was open, had lunch, went to a couple of shops and came back.

staircase Oviedo 816.JPG

Oviedo, too, has great old buildings. Look at the shape of this staircase.

public writing LA MANERA DE HACER ES SER Oviedo 816.JPG

I liked it that someone found this graffiti (the way to do is to be) so annoying that they crossed it out.

statue Argüelles public man constitution Ribadesella 816.JPG

I also liked how the 1812 “Constitution of Cadiz” is honoured across the country.




Noel Malcolm on Elizabeth I and on the house of Orange

Noel Malcolm’s Agents of Empire, about the activities of various members of the Bruti and Bruni families from Albania as ‘Knights, Corsairs, Jesuits and Spies in the Sixteenth-Century Mediterranean World’, is the best history book I have read this year. One of the characters joins the English ambassador to Istanbul on campaign with the Sultan, which gives Malcolm the excuse to quote the Venetian bailo (representative in Istanbul) in 1590, after the defeat of the Spanish Armada:

[W]hereas previously [the Ottomans] did not have a high opinion of the Queen of England, as she was a woman and the ruler of just half an island, nevertheless they think highly of her now, as they see that she had the boldness to make offensive war on the King of Spain, and they hear from all sides about her many naval forces. 

Another character leads a company of soldiers in the Papal enclave of Avignon, which itself contains

[T]he isolated principality of Orange, based on the town of that name, which had been inherited by the counts of Nassau. 

[footnote] Hence the princes of Orange in the history of the Netherlands: the title came from the French town, whose Latin name was Arausio, and had nothing to do with the fruit or the colour. 

No doubt every true blooded Dutchman knows that, but I certainly didn’t. It reminds me of the picture of ‘King Williamandmary’ in 1066 and all that:






Patrick McGuinness on “the empowerments of disorientation” and station buffets

I’m back in Brussels. There’s more to write about our trip last month to Asturias, Cantabria and the Pais Vasco but that requires me to finish sorting out the photos. In the meantime I’ve read Other People’s Countries by Patrick McGuinness (2014). It’s about growing up in Bouillon in the Ardennes, and other things to:

I have written a lot about stations, and about trains, and spent a lot of time in and around them. They are where I do some of my best mourning, and rail travel generally is conducive to all varieties of introspection, from the kind where you feel you’re descending a mineshaft to the kind where you feel you’re being scattered thinly and lightly, like the ash you will become, over the world around you.

I like station buffets and I like station hotels and cafés, places which seem to have absorbed something of the essence of departure and arrival but not to have caved in to them: the sticky, reluctant going, the fresh confusions of arrival, and all that lies between them. The solidity of these places in the face of all that going and coming seems a comfort. There’s a muted romance to it all that you don’t get in garages or airports or bus depots, but also an ordinariness too, as if all our departures were part of a single movement, and we simply have our own piece, hewn off, to work on like a sculptor with a slab of marble.

I like those station cafés that stay open all night, playing to those goods and post trains that go on through, dragging the curves of their sirens across the night, long after the country’s passengers have gone to bed.

My parents married in 1956. They went from Liverpool to Innsbruck on their honeymoon. They were allowed to take £15 out of the country; the train ticket cost £9. They couldn’t not make a day trip to Vienna, which took another chunk of their money. So – they ate soup every evening, at the Innsbruck station buffet.

Coming back from Manchester on the last train to Wilmslow after a night out, I fell asleep and woke up in Crewe. I spent the night in the all night buffet there.

Later, coming back from London on the last train to Oxford, I woke up at Bristol Temple Meads. Luckily there is (or was) an all night buffet there too.

Some station buffets:

IMG_2843 Arlon station buffet 508.JPG Arlon, Belgium, 2008

57 Oberlenningen station cafe 1111.JPG Oberlenningen, Germany, 2011

Köln station 612 3.JPG Cologne, Germany, 2012

cafe station Kiev 612.JPG Kiev, Ukraine, 2012

Luxembourg station buffet 512.JPG Luxembourg city, 2012

station bar Ingolstadt 514.JPG Ingolstadt, Germany, 2014

cafe, Porto Garibaldi station 714.JPG Porto Garibaldi, Milan, Italy, 2014

Basel 815 station.JPG Basel, Switzerland, 2015

railway station cafe Leuven 1215.JPG Leuven, Belgium, 2015

Dunkel beer station restaurant Passau 415.JPG Passau, Germany, 2015

cafe Irun station 716 2.JPG Irun, Spain, 2016

Oxford station 616 101.JPG Oxford, England, 2016

pintxes women FEVE station cafe Santander 816 fruit machine.JPG Santander, Spain, 2016