In Gijón tourists are scarce. After all, the town is an industrial agglomeration in a misty coastal area of Asturias in northern Spain. This is the land of rain, apples, cows and winding roads. And all shades of green in mountains, meadows and woodlands. In the last years of Franco rule, under the slogan “Spain is different”, tourism became the first industry of the country. These shores were never part of that Spanish ‘miracle”. Too much unpredictable weather and too much distance from the sun and fiesta destinations. You could gather few snapshots to take home and holiday stories would be made of rainy days sheltered under the beach towel.
The city nevertheless exudes a charm more tangible in the streets than in the tourist guides. Are destinations worthy simply because of historic heritage and artistic offerings? Is there another captivating mood readily experienced upon setting foot in a place? The answer is no to the first and a resounding yes to the second. Coming into contact with a destination is an exchange of feelings, a dialogue from the heart between you and the place where you find yourself. Gijon in this context, is like a symphony for relaxation. Stress is a word whose blissful ignorance can be read on every facial expression. Life here is gentle and provincial, but wisely savored as if every citizen knew the true value of things. I am always surprised by the popularity of an ancient sport still practiced here with glee: “la hora del paseo”, the hour of the promenade. All generations stroll endlessly, en masse and nonchalantly. Café terraces, boardwalks and waterfronts come surprisingly alive, as if worries belong to another world.
There are gems which lie undisturbed in our world of reduced borders where charm and surprise lose their true significance. Well, Gijón, is unquestionably one of them. To sell itself as a destination, it needs our cooperation. We must learn to love the seduction that speaks when you truly open your eyes.