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Day 21, Gijon, OHotel Brisas Del Sella in Ribadesella.

It's a conundrum. It's had the most spectacular location of anywhere I've stayed this trip. But it had no wifi internet and no breakfast.


The lady on reception announced it, when I asked, like it didn't matter. Quite apart from both were stated on the booking, it's like, if she said there's no bed, does that matter? Or there's no bedding, the washing machine has broken down, does that matter? To provide some balance, they did let my bike sleep in the hotel reception area and it was only 40 euros for the night.


I'm awake first light, which is 8.30am Spanish time, I look out of my massive window at the amazing view and something's changed from yesterday. It's raining. Well it's drizzling anyway and it's all grey with low cloud. I've been a bit lax with checking the weather forecast lately because it just seems to be nice everyday, so this has come as a bit of a shock. Coupled with no breakfast available, this morning feels very strange. I need to get dressed up in wet weather gear - where did I put it.


I cycle around the harbour front to see what's available open for breakfast. Given the gloom I'm not feeling desperately motivated to set off. I spy a suitable cafe. One, it's open, two, it has tables outside but under shelter, three, there's somewhere to rest the bike.

I order a cafe im basso and point to scrambled egg and ham roll and sit down at a table. There's two guys on the next table who look like motorbikers and I don't think they're Spanish. One of the things I've noticed is that wherever you are, the locals are really loud, whereas foreigners, generally are a bit more subdued. I'm concentrating hard, trying to hear what they are saying to find out what nationality they are. It's really odd, I'm sure I'm hearing the occasional word of english, but the rest sounds like another language.


This goes on for ages and then one of the pair goes in to the bar to order more stuff. This is my chance, engage eye contact with his mate and be brave and say something.

So, it turns out they are two Irish mororbikers and they're staying in the same hotel as me, in fact they were sleeping in the next bedroom. That almost makes us related. This is my first opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone human for 21 days. Add the fact it's raining and none of us is keen to move from under the awning this conversation could have gone on for a very long time.


When I finally felt the need to set off, especially as I had a hotel issue to sort out when I got to Gijon, I find it's stopped raining. I'm told mist and on and off drizzle is what it does here a lot of the time. The irish guys were from Cork and said they were feeling right at home.


It's the hilliest (is that a word?) day so far, relentless. There's just never a flat bit, you're either going uphill, or about to go uphill.


It's a main road, the N632, for virtually all the way, but there's hardly a vehicle on it. If I had unlimited battery power, or better still, was on a motorbike or in the SLK, it would be a great journey.


30km in to the day I arrive at a pretty place called Colunga. It's fairly happening with cafes and tables and people and I'm in two minds. Truth is I really fancied stopping but I'm not quite half way and there's something defeatist about stopping when you've got further to go than you've been. I'm cycling through and there's this argument going on in my brain, stop, too soon, stop, just a few more km then you can. As I left the last house behind I knew I should have stopped.


It seemed a long way further and a lot of uphill before I arrive at the next place, Villaviciosa. Right, we're stopping whether you like it or not. Found myself the central little square with it's cafe with tables and had another coffee and roll. I'm not lying, the moment my backside hit the chair, the whole world seemed to brighten up. Giles, that was when I text'ed you.


It was just as well I had a re-fuel, as out of the place was the longest drag uphill of the day. Around 10km uphill, just kept going on and on. I'm getting higher and higher and looking down on the motorway which seems to be horizontal in the valley floor. I've since checked and the motorway was going to Oviedo, whereas I had chosen to go to Gijon which involved going over this bloody steep mountain. Mistake.


I'm about 5km out when I see Gijon for the first time. It's a big place. There's a massive religious looking building with a seriously high tower and spire. When I eventually pass it I find it's now a university or some other thing. Gijon is a big, busy, industrial, unattractive place. The traffic, traffic lights, there was one point where I'm looking down the road and I can see six sets of lights in front. It's all totally uninspiring, even worse than Bilbao. I finally get to the harbour, where I'm planning to have lunch, before sorting the hotel issues. When we sailed down we stayed in Gijon harbour overnight. It's the first place that's suitable for yachts since Bilbao. For some reason I remembered it with rose tinted glasses. Maybe because there was a lot of yachty stuff going on, A beneteau Figaro event was about to arrive, so it was flags etc everwhere around the harbour. Maybe just the relief of getting in somewhere along this difficult coast in a boat. Today it's just a miserable place. Even the gloom has returned to emphasise the point. I'm finding all the nice bits along this coast are the small fishing villages and the crap bits are the cities, except for San Sebastian.


Sort lunch with the now usual 3 course menu ritual. There were two choices for the main course and fortunately the only other eaters are on the next table each having either of the two dishes. It's meat or fish. Now normally that's simple, don't have fish, all too complicated, but I am feeling the need to push my boundaries on the trip and from what I can see, the lady having the fish, which is covered in sauce, doesn't seem to be spitting out everything on each mouthful. So when it comes time to order, I just point at her. The waiter gets it. Sort of worked out OK. Beer went down well anyway.


Next the hotel. I found the hotel which was giving me such grief. It seemed from booking.com they weren't responding to the request to cancel without charge. There's a very nice young lady on reception - it's a big reception. I ask if I can just leave the bike in the reception area. There really is loads of space. You can tell from her face she thinks it's fine, but says she must check with the manager. There's a conversation on the telephone.


Coward, he wouldn't even come and face me. No I can't, tough, just bugger off. Just unbelievable, This is day 21, the 21st hotel and the first to be just appalling. She says I can go and find somewhere else and there won't be any cancellation charges. I'd like to say to her she should get a job somewhere else. So for the first time I'm just wandering around trying to use the smartphone to locate hotels, which is really awkward because the bike really needs both hands, but the phone screen keeps going blank. I see a sign for a hotel. It's a pretty crappy sign, suggesting it's a pretty crappy hotel. I may be desperate though. Blow me, my lucks it. This is a much nicer place, the reception lady speaks good English, she'd love to have my bike come and stay at her hotel. It's only 50 euro including breakfast and the interweb works. And my room's amazing.


Suddenly the world has come good again. Until I checked the forecast now I'm online and see that the weather this weekend is looking grim.


On a positive note I'm definitely over half way. Gijon is a big disappointment, so it doesn't feel like a special milestone anymore. I might have the next two days of semi OK weather, but then the synoptic charts are looking really bad going in to the weekend. Hmmm.


Total today 75km

Total distance so far 1733kmver half way

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