Thursday, 24 December 2009

Lessons in Cider and Shellfish

written 21st December

We had a great night out with Laura and Cedric. Thank you!

We have learnt that cider is a social drinking past time where you stand around at the bar and your group shares bottles and glasses.  The barman is in charge of filling glasses and the cider is poured down into the glass he is holding down by his thigh from above his head so by the time it is hits the glass, it is full of bubbles.  You have to down it in one, whilst it is still bubbly - otherwise apparently it tastes completely different - and you leave a little bit in the bottom of your glass which you throw on the floor towards the bar over the rim of the bit you drank from so that the glass is clean for the next person.  The barman (who is probably called Sergei and from Ukraine) decides when you need topping up and how much you drink in each go and as you neck it back, it is very very hard to keep track of what you have drunk :)  but it is lovely stuff.  We had originally been planning to drive back to the beach for the night but it quckly became apparently that that was no longer the plan... :)

It turns out that Laura is from Villaviciosa so they are back visiting family (and they now live in Barcelona) before christmas and Cedric is originally american, with a spanish mother.  Laura has spent a lot of time in England over the last few years so her English is brilliant and quite randomly we also discovered that she did a university year in Birmingham at exactly the same time we were there in our final year - although she went to the "other" university, the one not in the centre of Birmingham where we were ;)  They have both travelled a quite lot so there were lots of stories to swap about different places.

With the benefit of locals, we also got to try some delicious food we would never have managed or thought to order on our own, starting with fried calamari followed by octopus on boiled potatoes, drenched in olive oil - all purple suckers and everything! - in the first bar

and dried beef ham and sardines (Fish Jose and Fish Manuel and their friends - fortunately after several rounds of cider, naming my fish didn't seem to be at all wierd to our new friends...).  Hearing us speaking english, a short, portly spanish man with a red nose rolled up to us in the second bar and was convinced we must be irish, because he had visited Ireland and could speak enough english to tell us this and that he had a lovely wife whom he kept pointing to and saying "my wife is very pretty, very very pretty..."  [behind the back of his hand] "...40 years ago".  He also announced he would buy us all a bottle of cider as we were irish and kept rolling back over every quarter of an hour or so to say we could have another one and tell us how pretty his wife was or that he wasn't going to kiss Will - which was probaby lucky :)  Eventually his wife dragged him away, but he did buy all our cider first!

The next bar was an 80's rock bar where we had beer and the spanish version of baileys - not sure exactly what is was but it was yummy - and eventually after being chucked out of that one and on into the next, at 4:20, Will and I decided that really we had probably had enough.  Confidently assuring Laura that of course we knew where we were going, and so we wobbled off into the night.  We did of course get home but possibly more because Villaviciosa isn't that big, than through any great homing instinct of our own... :)

Bright and early the next afternoon, the sun was shining as we set off in search in shellfsh feeling only a little odd.  Laura had recommended a restaurant run by a friend of hers and suggested soup and andaricas (small crabs) as being the thing to have and said that they would know her and her sister and would give us good food.

Tazones is a small fishing village whch seems to exist solely for the catching, cooking and selling of seafood, with small buildings housing little restaurants lining the only street down to the harbour.  We didn't manage to convey the fact that we knew someone who knew someone (them not speaking englsh and us not knowing Laura's surname or sister's name didn't help - next time, we will ask people to write these things down... :) ) but not being ones to turn a good recommendation down, we sat down anyway and ordered soup and andaricas and asked for a recommendation for which we got Almejas (and which of course got us the most expensive thing on the starters menu) but hey ho.

Not knowing quite what was going to turn up, we were pleased to see soup first which was delicious, a thick, orangy stew with shells and whole baby crabs in (which we couldn't work out if we were supposed supposed to eat or not, tried and failed to get into them).

Next, two whole, slightly steaming crabs the size of my hand appeared, with two sets of nut crackers.  I have no idea what you are supposed to do with a crab and surprisingly nor has Will, so we sort of set about them.  I am sure that in practised hands, the eating of a crab is a precise and delicate operation and a joy to behold.  With me it was more like a smash and grab raid :)  we ripped legs off (Will kept tryng to tell me to break them at a certain point and then the meat would just slide out but my crab must have had defective legs as it just wouldn't work for me)  cracked into claws and finally tore the whole thing apart in some macabre anatomy lesson - the shell was oddly furry on the outside which was unexpected.  Not sure what bits of crab inner you are supposed to eat and what you leave so we ate everything which tasted nice and left the bits which didn't - I find with this sort of thing it is better not to look or think to hard and just concentrate on the taste, which was very very nice.

Crab in pieces, we waited for a our final dish wth no idea what to expect, and got a dish full of some sort of shellfish [Editors note: since discovered it was clams), swimming in an olive oil and fiercely garlicky sauce - very very nice, but not sure it was worth the amount we paid...

Happily full of shellfishy goodness, we set off into the sun once more in search of Cabo de Penas, the northernmost tip of Asturias where we found a lighthouse and a short clifftop walk in the setting sun which was all very nice, if a bit bracing (we have a new travelling slogan "if it's not Burgos, its not cold", which is keeping us amused - nothing is going to be cold ever again!) and deciding that we had had our most successful sunday to date - we have actually achieved what we set out to achieve! - we headed off to find somewhere to park and after driving through the seriously heavy industrial part of Aviles - aluminium processing - we found the Playa de Salinas where we snagged ourselves a prime parking spot overlooking the beach in a quiet carpark.

Today, contrary to all the doom and gloom weather reports we saw on saturday and sunday, the weather has been lovely.

Leaving Will to play with his new electronic bits, I have had a lovely walk on the beach in the the sunshine - gradually shedding the first fleece, the second fleece and the jumper as I went, and thus walking along in just my t-shirt - this is how it was all supposed to be!! - I am even reconsidering the fluffy boots as I am not sure they are really beachwear... :).

Near a look out platform/art installation thing at the far end, I even came across a lone bagpipe player - although from the sound of it, this may be the only plce he is allowed to practise.. ;) -

and I have spent the rest of the afternoon watching the many surfers, bobbing about like seals in the swell.  lovely

onwards tomorrow, the pilgrimage continues!


  1. My dear Becky & Will,
    I'm very sorry about the clams, it was too cold in Llanes to give you all the informations you might have needed.;)
    I'm glad your travelling is going well, and you are not finding any more Burgos along the way... it will get better down south you will see!!
    We are back home, have spent Christmas and survived the unbelievable amounts of food and wine...
    This is my email adress in case you need any more advice, I will try and be more precise ;)
    See you soon!!! Take care!!
    Laura & Cedric

  2. Finally found Jules' adventure page. Love the adventures.
    A belated Happy Christmas - and the New Year!? Who knows what that will bring :-)

    Love to all three of you.
    Chris (and Jen) Prowse