Using a pandemic flight voucher that was set to expire, Rafa & I took a quick trip to Asturias in February. Not only could we both fly for free with that single voucher, but we also went direct from Sevilla. Win, win. I hadn’t been to Asturias since 1998, so those vague memories needed an update… whatever weather we encountered.
Surprisingly enough, we had several sunny days which made the city of Avilés all the more enjoyable. A former industrial center, the city still relies heavily on its port facilities located along the estuary. However what we saw was anything but a gritty, manufacturing hub. Beautiful architecture, large parks & wide promenades meant Avilés was easy to enjoy by just wandering.
We hadn’t heard about the 2011 Centro Niemeyer prior to our visit, but my reaction was somewhat meh… while it’s great for the city to have a former industrial space renovated, does the Guggenheim Effect that so many cities in Spain have copied from Bilbao actually work in Avilés? If you live there, please let me know.
One inescapable part of our visit were the various references to Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. As Captain General of the Spanish treasury fleet under Felipe II, he established St. Augustine in 1565. Later as governor of La Florida, Menéndez de Avilés explored the region & became a vital part of the Spanish presence in America. He was born in Avilés, was buried in the Franciscan church & is the city’s most famous son. An interesting local connection for us… half of his coat-of-arms shows a ship sawing chains that blocked river traffic, an homage to the commander from Avilés who sailes through the Guadalquivir River & helped Fernando III conquer Sevilla in 1248.
Before leaving for Gijón, Rafa & I spent a wonderful afternoon at the Cementerio de La Carriona outside the city center. Definitely worth the effort to get there. Opened in the 1890s, the quality of mausoleums & statuary has guaranteed its inclusion in the European Cemeteries Route. You know I love a good cemetery! One of the more interesting spots was a wall dedicated to the Republicans who died in the Spanish Civil War… opposite the tomb of a Francoist family whose son was killed by the hordas rojas or “red hordes” of Republican forces. The conflict continues.
Add in the market, a well-designed city museum, fantastic food & friendliness of everyone we met, I’m surprised more people don’t know about Avilés. Let’s just keep this secret between you & me.