Sunday, September 06, 2009


Many years ago, way back in another century, the Lone Guiri stepped off the FEVE train in the small Asturian town of Navia. Making his way into town he found a room in what was then almost the only hotel there was. First stop was the local tourist office, a fairly limited affair in those far off days. The man in the office wasn't really expecting any guiris although he didn't actually say "We don't see many strangers around these parts". We chatted for a while in pidgin French, the only language in which we could understand each other. It emerged that Navia, like most of the region in mid-August, was in fiestas. Later on that day I met him again in the street and he introduced me to his friend the English teacher at the local school, which helped communication no end. The Lone Guiri then became the Adopted Guiri and spent a very enjoyable weekend in Navia with these two and their group of friends.

It's not a very pretty place to look at. I know because I've just been there again a couple of weeks ago.

Your memory plays tricks with you after so many years because the place I remembered seemed to have been much smaller. Perhaps I didn't get the real measure of the town because it was in fiestas and I had a fairly thorough introduction to the concept of the cubata and the art of staying up very late. One place I do remember well is this beach and the trees that lie just a short distance behind it. It was in this place that we ate a huge paella cooked over a wood fire (probably illegal to do this now) and washed down with several bottles of Asturian cider.

The area between the town and the sea is still very nice and unspoilt, and a walkway has been constructed beside the river for pedestrian access to the beach. There is also now a longer coastal route which can be walked, something to bear in mind for my next visit.

I hadn't even planned to come to Spain on that holiday, but the weather over the French Pyrenees convinced me to try my luck further south. I crossed the frontier with no guide book and about 5 words of the language. My first ever taste of Spain was San Sebastian, followed by Santander and Oviedo. Then I decided to try something that wasn't one of the bigger towns and the random biro point made a hole in the map just beside Navia. I enjoyed the other places I visited - particularly San Sebastian. However, as I drifted off into a paella and cider induced siesta by Navia beach I'm pretty sure that it was here where I first thought something along the lines of "You know, I think I could come back to this country".


Pueblo girl said...

My first experience of Spain was also of a small town on the northern coast(Comillas in my case). I loved it too, but got pretty much the same weather as I see from your photos you got in Navia, so my "I could come back here" was tempered with "but to the other side of the mountains, where it doesn't rain so much".

And I also reached my final destination (years later)as a result of running away from the bad weather in the Pyranees. I was walking the GR 10 at the time, but due to snow decided to turn off onto the GR 65, which I only later dicovered was the Camino de Santiago.

Valencia Property said...

I visited Navia many years ago when i lived in Asturias but cannot remember one outstanding feature, I wasn't there in fiestas I suppose. However just like everywhere in Asturias the atmosphere was nice and the place has a stunning beauty, Asturias that is. That thought came to me many times while up there and I finished up living in Gijón for six years.
Great post.

ejh said...

Looks like Inverness.

Lavengro said...

I spent half of August travelling by Feve from Santiago de Compostela to San Sebastián. You were possibly in Navia when I passed through, though we only stopped in Oviedo, Santander and Bilbao -- in the Semana grande, not a good idea.

That coast is a wonderful part of Spain, with quite amazing food.

Evaristo said...

Joaquín Sabina says (sings) that "al lugar donde has sido feliz no debieras tratar de volver", and he is right. Nevertheless, that is one of those strange things that we do as humans: even knowing that it is not going to be the same anymore, we feel the need to go back to those places where we once felt something special. I do that all the time.

The place looks really ugly ;-)

Graeme said...

Well the place didn't look too great the first time around, and probably if I hadn't met the people I did I would have been back on the FEVE the next day. That said, the surroundings are beautiful and the weather was better than the photo of the distant hills suggests. This time it was a lightning visit for old times sake tagged on to the end of a weekend a few miles further down the coast toward Galicia - in one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline I have seen in Spain. Post forthcoming. I think its interesting how chance changes your perception of places, you can have a bad time in the most beautiful city on the planet - I'll always have a good memory of Navia even if it's not an entirely accurate one.