It all started one sweaty afternoon in June. We were facing the increasing heat and crowds of a Provençal canicule and the relentless production of postcard sized paintings. Julian had a frozen shoulder and his face was already engraved with exhaustion lines. It was time to plan a cool escape. As always Monsieur wanted mountains and I wanted sea. We both wanted folk music and good peasant food, fish, and a Michelin starred restaurant. Skye, we agreed with misty eyes, had been perfect. We were looking in to Ireland when up on the Guardian popped this article . It was settled. Asturias it would be, and the holiday would peak (I suspected secretly as I researched and Julian rushed to the finishing line) at Casa Marcial. At the end of August we would pack walking boots, our cute blue tent and the red bible, we would drive nine hours and we would be there. On holiday at last.
Two months later, we crossed the border in to Spain. We pitched our tent above the sea, walked the rugged walk into the scrappy port and found the perfect tapas, sweet salt cod on roasted green peppers, and a tumbler of rioja. We breathed deeply. We were in for a treat.
Once in Asturias, after a cider in Llanes' Bar Colon, and a hearty lunch of fabada and other traditional fare, we found a home for our tent looking over the Playa de Troenzo. The sound of cowbells mingled with the crash of the waves and the wake up smell of eucalyptus as we explored the nearby coves and beaches of Borizo and Torimbia. We ventured in to the cool water. The dark creases under Julian’s eyes began to melt into the spume. I hadn’t seen my love smile that child-like smile in months.
The next day we planned a short walk around the mountain lakes. We were both tired from the journey and since the Spanish don’t start eating till two or three we had time to take it easy and still be down in time for lunch. However the Sunday bussing service to Lake Enol put in place to cope with the weight of tourists seemed suddenly daunting, especially for a hermit just emerging from his cave, so we turned back. Instead we headed towards a remote place called Gamoneu.
Within the hour, true to form, Julian had us off the trail, onto a cow trail, then an ant trail and then, as far as I could see, a no ****ing trail at all. We had eaten a croissant and in our bag we had 25cl of water. Up up up we clambered. I was almost in tears. Up more hundreds of feet. We really didn’t have enough supplies. I insisted. Through mud and over scree, through bracken and gorse, our calves and arms were being scratched and our feet pummelled. Only another six hours, he said.....This was not what I came prepared for I whined inwardly. Just around this col and we're on the pass, he said. Then it's all downhill on a good path. The good path had been ravaged by cows and no longer existed. We stumbled and fell. Ouch. This was not within the goalposts we had set out at the start, I thought. But this was, I realised gradually as I began to win the struggle with myself, GLORIOUS! Wild, lonesome, rugged and above all lush. We found more water from a spring and at the end there were blackberries, and there again was that smile which was the best landscape of all. After seven and a half hours we made the last ascent. Something blue glimmered in the hamlet where we had parked the car. We watched it come closer. Was it a bar? Yes!!!! That evening we sat huddled in our fleeces and released from our boots on the bar’s terrace, looking at the full moon rise over the mountain we had just climbed, eating anything and everything that came to us – chorizo in cider, creamy blue cheese, some filet of something with chips, and lots of beer. It was one of the best meals we have ever had! All for the price of two coffees in Paris.
More to come!