Gijón: Seafood and Birds of a Feather….

Gijón’s Coast 

Gijón’s Port
A short bus ride from Oviedo lies Gijón, Asturia’s largest city. Although its old town is less fa­mous than that of Oviedo and hasn’t been praised recently by any American celebrities, it has the added advantage of being cozied up to the water. 

While walking along the port, the wind off the Cantabrian Sea shrieked in my ears and tugged at my hair, but it can’t compare to the strength of the wind climbing the hill to one of Gijón’s modern monuments, a huge concrete sculpture by a Basque sculptor, Chillida. Titled Elogio del Horizonte, roughly translated as Tribute to the Ho­rizon, the sculpture seems to embrace the horizon
with open arms and provides an interesting frame to the wide panorama of ocean views.

Rough Seas at Gijón
Seagulls squawk and manage to stay airborne despite the in­tense winds, and the water froths and bubbles to and fro. Since I’m beginning to fear losing my hair to the grasping fingers of the wind, I decide to seek out Casa Victor, an award winning As­turian seafood restaurant.


Despite the hefty price tag, I opt for the tasting menu and tell myself tomorrow I will be more prudent and buy fruit, bread and lunchmeat to eat the rest of trip. In the end, it was worth every bit of the small fortune I left as pay­ment.

The appetizer course includes tiny portions of three typical appetizers, a crab croquette, a mussel in green sauce and a tiny shot glass of Asturian potaje or broth. Next is a salad, easily best salad I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten a lot of salads. The multicolored greens were tender and lightly dressed with a bright­ly flavored extra virgin olive oil and a touch of white wine vin­egar. Topping off the delectable greens were foie gras shavings and morsels of marinated crabmeat tossed in … too decadent for words. 

A steaming portion of octopus in a tomato-seafood sauce is carefully set down before me. While I’m not always a big fan of oc­topus, it was perfectly crispy around the edges and melt-in-your-mouth tender inside. It seems more fish is in order, and a hake filet, beautifully yellow from saffron and garnished with an oyster appears soon after the octopus. 

Since I’m something of a carnivore, I’m not disappointed by the next course, tender chunks of beef, medium rare, with salt and pepper.  In Catalonia, where I live, beef is most often veal, and since I like to eat full-grown cows, the red meat in Asturias is ideal. 


Gijón

As my waiter clears away my well-cleaned plate (I swear I didn’t lick it, although I might have been tempted), I sip a very lovely, semi-dry, slightly floral white wine. I may not have room for it, but the last course is dessert. Fortunately, it’s served in elegantly portioned mouthfuls. In one corner of the plate there’s a spoon of ar­roz con leche (rice pudding), in another the world’s smallest brownie, in yet another a scoop of apple ice-cream, and in the other a miniature tiramisu style coffee cake made up of alter­nating layers of coffee flavored whipped cream and thin slices of fluffy yellow cake. In a possible attempt at a “healthy” option, in the center sits a fat strawberry stacked with a dried apricot and a dollop of whipped cream.

I turn down the waiter’s offer of coffee, and after a brief interlude with Victor himself, “Yes, I loved the food, and the service was great as well,” I leave the restaurant with nearly empty pockets and a distended stomach.

To bajar la comida (settle and digest my meal), I think a walk is in order. I head to Isabel La Católica Park where I hear they have quite the menagerie. Among joggers, trees, and soccer fans heading to the nearby local stadium for the big game, pea­cocks, pigeons and geese roam freely. Small ponds house ducks and black and white swans, and a row of cages are home to parrots, lovebirds, an emu and, wonder of wonders, a very unpleasant albino peacock.

The Albino Wouldn’t Cooperate…


I spend an enjoyable half an hour or so chasing around pea­cocks, geese and birds of a feather who don’t un­derstand the words “photo op,” and start the walk back to the bus stop.

On the way, I see a steal of a deal on winter boots and stop into a store to try them on. Al­ready seated and waiting for the shop assistant to bring me my size, I realize what I thought was mud splattered all over my shoes and jeans is actually a sloppy cocktail of bird droppings. The smell leaves me without a doubt. Rosy-cheeked, I apologize and explain to the shop assistant who merely giggles and looks at the ceiling.

Painfully embarrassed, I try on the boots, get muck on them, and feel obligated to buy them and duck out the door as quickly as possible to avoid further hu­miliation. If Oviedo were closer, I’d be tempted to walk back to my hotel to save my self-respect, but since it’s not an option, I de­cide to grin and let the other bus patrons bear it on the 30 minute ride back. 

As the little old lady across the aisle wrinkles her nose and raises her eyebrows, I raise my metaphorical glass to Gijón, Casa Victor, public trans­portation and birds!
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