"It's not much but it's ours"

Sunday, June 27, 2010


As ever on Majumdar Bros vacations, we awoke bleary eyed and with tails that were as far from bushy as it is possibly to get. However, some restorative water with extract of purest milk thistle, a refreshing shower (a little early in the story to conjure thoughts of naked Majumdars and lather, but hey ho!) and thoughts of our journey ahead and we were ready to see Bilbao before we had to check out.

Where else to start but at The Guggenheim ? A short walk through the Abando district of the city brought us to Geary's extraordinary museum. It is truly every bit as breathtaking as one would imagine and, even though the grey skies did not allow it to be seen at its best, it was a shimmering and glistening testament to Bilbao's regeneration.

Did we go in? In fact, no. I would like to argue, in the fashion of an eccentric traveller, that I found the stride pattern of the elongated steps down to the entrance displeasing and so made a Brian Sewell statement by turning away. In fact, we just didn't have time, so we buggered off back to our hotel and checked out.

30 mins later, we were back at the airport and collecting our car. Instead of the "Ford Focus or equivalent" we had ordered we found ourselves upgraded to a Sherman tank. Well, in fact, a Renault Laguna. But, with the narrow streets of medieval towns to navigate ahead of us, it may as well have been a tank. But, Robin was undaunted by such matters and, a short while later, we found ourselves on the road to Gijon via Santander.

SIDE NOTE- Spain's main roads are truly, breathtakingly, shamingly (for the UK) excellent. Even on major drives of some 250 miles, we found few aggravations. Single lane roads had many passing
places and the twin lane roads were a breeze. On top of which, the impressive valley hurdling viaducts and mountain chiselling tunnels take the breath away. We fairly hurtled on our way.

By 1.30pm, we had arrived at the half way stage and at the city of Santander. The main city in the heart of Cantabria. A short stopover for lunch saw us taking a stroll along the Paseo Maritimo and then dipping into a beachside bar where I had a rather functional plate of Jamon, white asparagus and local melon while Robin had a much more interesting combinado of croquettas, rabas and merluza. None of it was desperately memorable, but it filled a gap. We picked up our car which we had left parked outside the stadium of Real Santander the local football team and pointed the Sherman towards Gijon.

[Ed's note: Rabas are strips of squid in batter that are only available at weekends and holy days in Northern Spain. They are very nice.]

Gijon had been described in our guidebook as "a salty and gritty port town" and we had been told that if is very much the poor cousin of it's fellow Asturian city, Oviedo whose snooty citizens refer to Gijon as "our port" Pretty much for that reason, we had chosen to visit the former rather than the latter and I have to say that I was not disappointed. This was my favourite city of the whole visit. 

After a short struggle to find our hotel, the clean comfortable and EU55 a night Hotel Mirimar and a feat of extraordinary parking by Robin, we headed out to explore. 

Far from being "salty" I found Gijon to be charming. Far from being "gritty" I found it to be welcoming and rather elegant. A fine old town, a smart marina, a slew of great bars ( all serving the Asturian obsession, Cider ) and a beguiling Paseo.

SIDE NOTE - At night, the Spanish reappear after their afternoon's hibernation to, well, to just walk and talk. In other words to paseo. It is a remarkable sight and, as Robin deftly put it " they like to yak don't they" God knows what they talk about, but the noise is often deafening and one also has to careful not to be crushed by pairs of aging Spaniards perambulating along with not a care in the world. All rather fun.

We spent the early part of the evening hopping from bar to bar trying the local cider, poured from an unfeasibly high distance by experienced barmen to give it a little frizzante (cut to inevitable image of the two brothers trying it for themselves with the equally inevitable result of embarrassing splashes on trouser fronts) We also ate a good deal of fried stuff. The highlight of this bar hop though was not Asturian, but a Galician bar where, served by a man who looked so miserable one would have thought he had had his cock stapled to his leg by mistake, we tried Lacon (big slabs of bacon) Pulpo (the fabulous Galician speciality of Octopus, boiled and doused in olive oil then sprinkled with paprika) washed down with Ribeiro, the Galician wine.

After five or six bars we were ready for supper and headed for the recommended Planeta where we were soon seated at a large table and had a bottle of Rias Baixas plonked in front of us in front of us which is rarely a bad thing. To begin with, we shared a stunning plate of achingly fresh parrochas small sardines) and then followed with Salmonete and Merluza both cooked a la plancha and served without accompaniment. No muss, no fuss. No better way to spend an evening.

I suspect, that unless I was suddenly to land the job as Keira Knightley's personal gynaecologist, life will seldom be much better.

Some holiday at the back, wake up !

Who we are

What we drink

Where we go

What we eat

How we roll (no ear jokes please)

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