Saturday 11th January 2014 – Gijon to Cangas de Onis (53 miles)
It had been a quiet night, a bit of road noise but we were in a city ! Gijon is a beautiful city and deserving of a much longer visit, however, we had ‘Full & nearly empty’ on-board tanks, not in the right order of preference though !! So we needed to find ourselves an ‘Aire’ that would provide the said facilities. The Northern Spanish Coast is beautiful but in ‘Winter’ most Campsites are ‘closed’, whilst there are lots of Wildcamping opportunities and ‘Tolerated Parking’ areas these do not provide the facilities required to ‘Service’ a Motorhome, unless you are happy to drain your ‘Grey’ waste onto grass or scrubland, lift ‘sewage’ man hole covers in the street and empty your cassette into it and walk to taps to get water ! But a lot of the more ‘experienced’ Fulltimers do just that, we are ‘newbies’ and play by the unwritten code of ‘use the facilities provided’, even if that does mean having to go and find them ! So it is farewell to Gijon, for now at least, and in the words of that Austrian born Film star, and American Mayor, ‘Arnie’ “I’ll be back”. The trusty guide book indicated an ‘Aire’ at a place called ‘Cangas de Onis’, up in the ‘Picos Europas’, the mountain range that we had purposely avoided on our route up from Portugal !! But the weather has been kind, so no Snow or Ice here, yet !
It was completely ‘stress less’ getting out of Gijon, it was Saturday morning, the Spanish don’t do mornings, and we did not have to drive back through the city centre to get out ! So a quick skirt around the outskirts and then we joined the A8 Motorway again. This area is also known for its ‘Jurassic’ heritage with, I have been told, ‘fossilised’ footprints of Dinosaurs !! Certainly it had a familiar feel to it, the landscape reminded me of the ‘Jurassic Park’ films, very tall trees, lush green grass and meadows, I half expected to see one of the beasts trundling through the forest below us or grazing on the leaves high in the trees. The mist shrouded forest, low grey cloud and the light drizzle just heightened this ‘eery’ visual experience.
We had been ‘off-line’ without any Electric Hook-Up (EHU) for six days, no problems as we had the Solar Panels that, even on grey days, put some ‘Amps’ into the leisure batteries and with a few long drives over recent days there was sufficient to meet our needs. However, we had iPads and iPhones that needed charging and although we could re-charge some of these through the vehicle battery when on the move, we were unable to keep them all ‘fully’ charged and with constant use, especially my iPad, these were beginning to fall pretty low on power, a nice period of prolonged sunshine would be nice but I didn’t hold out much hope for that.
We were both in a bit of a solemn mood, we were now down to our last five days before heading back to the UK. It wasn’t that the adventure, like an extended holiday, was coming to an end and we were returning to work, to a house and mortgage and all the other associated bills, no, we were retired now and we are fulltiming in ‘Big Momma’. But it was the fact that we were returning to the UK that did not provide us with the same sort of lifestyle that Europe offers. It isn’t just the weather, even Northern Europe is cold this time of year, but the rest of Europe really does cater for Motorhomers. They provide these things called ‘Aires’ where we can get the essentials and many of them are ‘Free’, or where they do charge the cost is minimal. Fuel is cheaper, LPG is cheaper and from our ‘limited’ travel experience to date, general groceries are cheaper. There is also a much better tolerance of Wildcamping. Apart from catching up with friends and relatives there is nothing that makes us want to be back in the UK. Hindsight is brilliant, if we had known how economical it was to live this ‘lifestyle’ we would not have applied for the jobs with the Caravan Club so soon, which is the only reason we are returning so early.
Although ‘Cangas de Onis was inland in the ‘Picos Europa‘, and we knew that it would be colder, it was still not far from the Northern Coast so if the place wasn’t up to much, or the parking area was a bit grim, we both agreed that we would do the necessary with the on-board facilities then head back to the warmer Coast. Once off the Motorway we took a very good ‘N’ road, much like the better ‘A’ type roads in the UK. The scenery as you may imagine was breathtaking and before long we were pulling in to a very large car park. We could see that there were already four or five other Motorhomes parked up but although there was the usual ‘Blue and White’ Motorhome Services sign we could not see where the aforementioned facilities were located. Shazza got out and after a quick ‘reconnaissance’ located the ‘Services Area’ so we pulled up and did the necessary. It seemed a quiet sort of place but there was ample room, we were in the shadow of part of the ‘Picos’ and so decided that after a quick coffee we would take a stroll around to see if it was worth staying.
We were parked right behind the main town, there was a shallow stony river that separated the parking area from the town and their were two different crossing points into the main area. We got quite a surprise, this was no ‘backwater’ sort of place, in fact it was quite a bustling little town. There were the obvious signs that it was a ‘summer’ tourist hotspot with offices, closed now, but offering Canoe trips, Quad Biking, Hiking, Climbing, Paint Balling and then of course there were the usual ‘tourist tat’ shops. However, the majority of retail outlets were normal everyday shops, Supermarkets, Clothes, Shoes, Electrical goods etc. just the normal shops you would expect to find in any High Street as well as the vast number of Cafe/Bars and Restaurants. I am not sure if I have mentioned it before in previous ‘posts’, but throughout Portugal, and now in Spain it would appear, are ‘ Chinese Shops‘, yes these are exactly what they are called. They are owned and run by Chinese people, the shops are bit like the ‘Pound’ shops, not that everything is a ‘Pound’ but they sell almost everything and anything ! We had not succumbed before but today, well let’s just say that ‘we‘ needed a ‘few‘ things !! One of our best purchases was a folding stool with a hardwood circular top. We needed a makeshift small ‘occasional’ table for somewhere to just put our mugs of coffee or our glasses of ‘Vino Tinto’, rather than having to bring out the large central dining table or, as I keep getting told off by Shazza for doing, resting my hot coffee mug on top of the cream leather settee backrest !! We took ‘our‘ purchases back to the van as it was nearly time for the Spanish ‘Siesta’ but decided we liked the place and so would stay overnight.
I needed to phone the UK, I had found details of a Caravan Club ‘Certified Site’ just outside of ‘Oxford’ at a hotel, it had all the essential Motorhome Services with the added bonus of EHU, WC’s, Showers and ‘Free WiFi’. I managed to get through and the very nice chap confirmed that there would be no problems with regard to accommodating the size of ‘Big Momma’, he stated that the WiFi was accessible from within our van and that we were welcome to take a meal in the hotel restaurant if we so wished, we booked, so that was our first night back in the UK catered for. We did have a very generous offer from one of our Motorhoming friends, Brian & Jan, to park up on their drive for the night, however, they were over on the West side of the country and so, on this occasion, not on our route North but it’s nice to know that there are people willing to extend such hospitality.
Now just because most of the shops shut for ‘Siesta’ doesn’t mean that they all do. Usually the Cafe/Bars remain open, which was a good thing because within a couple of minutes walk from where ‘Big Momma’ was parked was such an establishment that also just happened to provide ‘free’ WiFi !! I left Shazza reading a book whilst I spent a good couple of hours getting my photographs downloaded to my blog and then publishing the ‘pre-drafted’ posts, checking my Emails, BBC News and of course the football results !! And you cannot avail yourself of such kind hospitality without purchasing the odd ‘Cervesa‘ (Beer) or two can you ? All these bars have one thing in common, they have TV screens perched in a wall and they all seem to be showing just one thing, football !! In one corner of the bar there were six ‘senior’ gentlemen playing cards and I don’t know what game they were playing, I don’t think it was ‘Snap’, but they were pretty vocal !! There were two chaps sat together in a deep and meaningful conversation, probably putting the world to rights, occasionally they would look up at the football match on the TV, raise their hands in the air and shout when someone missed a goal, then they would settle back down to their conversation. There was one other quite elderly chap, sat at the bar but alone, he just stared into his cognac although he did raise his head briefly when I ordered a ‘cervesa’ and asked for the WiFi pass code. It was quite a young woman who was serving behind the bar and in between serving customers she was doing some sewing. All in all, it was quite a nice ambience, the WiFi signal was strong and very fast and I was able to get everything done that I had intended.
After completing my mission I returned to ‘Big Momma’ and we decided that tonight we would sample the gastronomic delights of downtown ‘Cangas de Onis‘, so, after a coffee, shower and changed, we hit the streets !
First a short stop at a shoe shop as ‘M’lady’ had worn out her walking boots, serves her right for going on so many ‘Shazza Expeditions’ !! After finding suitable replacements we wandered around trying to decide which hostelry to honour with our presence and finally settled on one which looked an authentic ‘non-fussy’ Spanish eatery. There were plenty of people sat outside drinking beer or coffee or wine, huddled around tables that had gas burners ablaze for there was a definite drop in the temperature, why they didn’t sit inside in the warm I do not know other than perhaps these were Spanish who didn’t enjoy the football !! There were a couple of people sat at the bar but at none of the ‘dining tables’, perhaps this should have told us something !! I won’t go into the ‘gory’ details but suffice to say that a restaurant that keeps its ‘Vino Tinto’ in a chiller cabinet……………!!! We left wishing we had eaten at ‘home’, not only would we have been Thirty Three Euro better off but more importantly we would have enjoyed what we had eaten !! The town was quite busy, many shops were still open and it was nearly 9pm ! there was a nice ‘lived in’ feel about the place but we could feel the drop in the temperature and so headed back to the warmth and comfort of ‘Big Momma’ in the hope of a decent night’s sleep.