Monday 17th April 2017, Candas, Asturias
Yesterday was Easter Sunday and for us it was a day of frustration. A beautiful day in spectacular scenery but impossible to park anywhere at all! I cannot drive endlessly these days and yet it was absolutely impossible to stop in the lovely little towns we have visited in the past and longed to see once more. All of Spain was out to enjoy themselves by crowding into their little honeypots to spend the day in a queue waiting to park. Such a pity for families with children.

Having found a campsite outside of Ribadesella, where we hoped to leave Modestine, we discovered our camping card was not valid on Easter Sunday and the price was doubled to 34 euros! We gave up on Cantabria and took the motorway into Asturias turning off down to the sea at the little town of Candas. We stayed at a delightful site in the depths of winter on our first year of travels. Last night we were overjoyed to discover it was still there, right beside the sea and just a short walk from the centre of the little town. It was also more attractively priced at 21 euros a night.

It was here that Modestine, in a fit of capriciousness had locked us both out on a wet and windy morning back in 2006, with me in my nightclothes!

The town is as delightful to us now as we found it all those years ago. Having settled Modestine we walked back into town to explore again the wonderful Museo Anton and the open air museum of art displayed on the walls around the town.

Bronze sculpture in the Museo Anton, Candas

Bronze sculpture in the Museo Anton, Candas

Tiled art in the town of Candas

We fell asleep to the sound of the wind blowing in from the Bay of Biscay and waves breaking on the rocks just below our camping pitch. This morning the wind had almost blown itself out and we lay in bed watching the white topped waves breaking onto the beach.

The holiday makers had returned to the cities and the town was back to its normal pace of life. We walked into town and took the little narrow gauge railway along the coast to the smart city of Gijon, which, like Santander, fronts onto the sea. It was the most damaged city in Spain during the Civil War so generally it is completely modern. We found difficulty in finding our way around as street names are not clearly marked and we had no map until we eventually chanced on the tourist information centre a good kilometre from the railway station.

Welcome to Gijon

Old town across the Marina, Gijon

We climbed up to the headland, known as the Cimevilla, where the extensive fortifications reminded us of those at Plymouth, though considerably larger. There was much similarity between the cities, both having been decimated during their relatively recent and very different wars. Both have been extensively rebuilt but their character has been destroyed. Perhaps there are more places left intact in Plymouth than at Gijon.

View from the Cimevilla, Gijon

Feeling weary from climbing and walking we stopped off for lunch at one of the city's many cafeterias. They are all similar, as are their fare and prices. Generally the Spanish seem to stop around 1.30pm for a milky coffee and a roll with ham, cheese or chicken and salad. These are incredibly good value and ideal at lunch time. The main meal is generally eaten quite late at night.

Former fish market. Gijon Spain.

There is only so much walking and attempting to communicate that these two septagenarians can cope with before exhaustion sets in. We decided to find our way back to the train station - curiously in a country formerly under a Fascist regime, along Calle Carlos Marx!

Calle Carlos Marx. Gijon Spain.

Asturias is a mining region and the miners strongly opposed the Franco regime during the civil war. Feelings still run high here and the platforms of the stations along the Feve railway line are covered in old spray paintings placed there supporting the Cuban regime. These are still preserved today.

Political grafitti in support of Asturian miners, Candas

Despite the delightful countryside there are huge factories on the outskirts of Gijon which are busy and productive but do inevitably scar the landscape.

Huge factory in the countryside returning from Gijon to Candas

Back in Candas we climbed up onto the headland to admire the view along the clifftops and out across the bay. There is a sculpture park on the cliffs. Wild flowers and colourful shrubs covered the cliff tops, feral cats slept in the shelter of bramble hedges and the strong smell of the many eucalyptus trees pervaded the sharp, clean air. Near the lighthouse we followed a little path to a dead end on the edge of the cliff where we sat in the sunshine, half asleep as we gazed dreamily out onto the wide expanse of the sea. This really is a pleasant, peaceful little town of no great architectural merit but friendly and with lots of local interest.

Lighthouse. Candas. Spain.

Little chapel on the clifftop amongst the eucalyptus trees, Candas

Harbour. Candas. Spain.

Window display to celebrate Holy week - Cerveca santa? Candas

Tuesday 18th April 2016, Candas, Asturias
Today we caught the bus into Oviedo. It was very smart and carried us swiftly along the motorway - not even built last time we were here - to deposit us at the bus station in the heart of the city.

Oviedo is very different from Gijon. It is an inland town and although badly damaged during the civil war it has been sympathetically restored. Much of the old centre has survived and this is now the attractive heart of the city with the cathedral, the food market and lots of smart coffee shops and bars with customers sitting outside enjoying the sunshine with bottles of Asturian cider. Waiters were pouring customer's cider into their glasses for them in the traditional local manner. It is poured from a height behind the waiter's back, directly into the glass to a depth of two or three inches. When the customer has drunk it he is expected to call the waiter who then pours another similar quantity. This presumably does something to the amount of air and fizz dispensed. It all looks very satisfying and the waiters are excellent showmen.

We strolled through lovely parks and up avenues lined with beautiful late 19th century houses. In the old quarter we found the museum of fine arts which we had arrived too late to see on our last visit to the city. This time we had a couple of hours but it still wasn't long enough. Works were primarily by Spanish artists and it was excellent. There was an entire gallery of El Greco, there were works by Murrilo, Valesquez, Goya and Zurbarran as well as etchings by Piranesi. I do not really enjoy Spanish religious art from the 15th to 17th centuries. There were a lot of these and they were all typically Spanish showing headless corpses and grim scenes of death and martydom. However, domestic, fishing and farming scenes from the 19th and early 20th centuries were delightful and we had to rush to see everything before we were ejected back onto the streets at 2pm when the museum closed again for a three or four hour lunch break!

Houses with glazed balconies. Oviedo. Spain.

Market. Oviedo. Spain.

Open air clothes market in Oviedo

Market square. Oviedo. Spain.

Cathedral. Oviedo. Spain.

St. Peter by El Greco, Museum of Fine Arts, Oviedo

Museum of Fine Arts. Ventura Alvarez Sala. La promesa, 1903. Oviedo. Spain

Museum of Fine Arts. Genaro PĂ©rez Villaamil. La cueva de Covadonga, 1850. Oviedo. Spain.

Lavadero en el Manzanares 1887, Museum of Fine Arts, Oviedo

By 4pm we were too weary to continue wandering the city streets so returned to the bus station for the hourly bus back to Candas. Here we replenished our larder at the town's supermarket before returning "home" where a strong breeze had whipped up the sea in the bay and it was now howling around Modestine, trying to get inside!