Day 15: Gijon to Aviles — To welcome him back to the Camino I suggested to Martin that we have dinner at Peggy Sue’s American Diner, just a couple of blocks from our hotel. Martin agreed and our American meal there was a true treat. From the burgers, fries, shakes, ketchup, music, lemonade to the Coke in glass bottles — everything was flawlessly reproduced from 1950’s vintage America. I was thrilled, and I think Martin was at least a little entertained by my joy at this little reminder of home.
Though Martin worried that his snoring might keep me up, in reality he was quiet as a clam last night and I think we both slept quite well. We were up and out by 8:00 under high clouds with a light but chilly wind. After a kilometer or two we stopped at a modern cafe and took an as yet unearned rest over cafe con leche and croissants.
The French guidebook warned that today’s stage is the worst of all stages on the Camino del Norte because of the industrial areas at the exit to Gijon and at the entrance to Aviles. As we left Gijon it became clear why. Martin, the optimist, looked ahead at the vast factory sprawled before us and the power lines above and pointed to the green hillside visible in the thumb’s width distance between the two. “Just ignore the top and the bottom and focus on the thin strip in the middle,” he wisely proposed.
And he was right. It’s very possible one could focus on the enormous smokestacks or the mounds of raw materials or the busy freeway full of roaring cars or the shoulderless highway that makes pilgrims compete with vehicles for space or the unspeakable odors emanating from the factories or the dust blown into one’s eyes by giant trucks kicking up clouds of dust.
Instead, why not focus on the thumb’s width of green? Indeed, in the middle of the day we spent at least two hours walking through quiet farmland. We came to a lovely church at Santa Eulalia and met a nice German pilgrim there. We dined at a truck stop with an American pilgrim named Julian and enjoyed a great lunch. We had a fine conversation about theology that I’m certain will be continued over wine during the next days. And we came to a town that is described as one of Northern Spain’s best examples of a medieval city. Tonight we’ll head out for dinner and try to discover why that is true.
So, as the Camino del Norte’s worst day, it didn’t seem half bad!