Dear friends, family and fellow drifters,
I have some personal news that I wanted to share with you, a sort of quick life update…
It’s not “big” or “important” news in the grand scheme of things, but it’s something I wanted to mention in an effort to stay closer to those of you who have followed my story since I first moved to Barcelona to pursue my dream of becoming a travel writer/photographer/blogger.
Well, the news is that I no longer live in Barcelona, and that I have moved to Gijón in Asturias (northern Spain), where my novia Rosana is from.
For many reasons.
As is true of everyone who goes to Barcelona, I was shaken by a thunderously passionate romance, with the Mediterranean way of life, with the beaches, mountains, climate, architecture, food and people.
I’ve said it many times before, but there’s something so rousing about living in a place that’s so universally adored. Barcelona is one of those places where you rarely wonder whether the grass is greener elsewhere.
It’s a haven for dreamers, a place people go to escape the “norms” of society and design their own perfect life. I was, am, one of those people and I like to think of mine as a success story.
Then and Now
When I left the security of my digital marketing agency job in London all those years ago, ravenous for a chance to work for myself and live a life of creativity, tapas and vino, Barcelona seemed like an obvious and even sensible choice.
The rent was less than half what I had grown accustomed to in London (this is definitely not the case anymore), and with the pound being so strong against the euro (also something of a distant memory), I was confident I could make some sort of living as a freelance writer, which is fundamentally what I am, with only a few UK-based clients.
My life in Barcelona gave me so much so quickly, from unforgettable friends and memories to a new perspective on life. It has also been something of a muse, spurring me on to carve a career as a travel writer/photographer. I still can’t believe I did it, that I am doing it.
The Course of Love
What’s more, Barcelona gave me Rosana, my strong, beautiful, inspiring and ridiculously intelligent Asturian girlfriend.
As with all love stories, our relationship has changed the course of our lives in the most unexpected of ways. Rosana lived in Barcelona for over 10 years and knew it infinitely better than I ever will. If anything, it was harder for her to leave than for me.
And whatever her dreams may have been when she moved to the big city all those years ago, I doubt very much that she ever imagined she’d be returning home to Asturias a decade later with a scatterbrained, vino-guzzling Welshman in tow. Poor girl.
A Natural Paradise
We visited Asturias multiple times over the years we lived together in Barcelona and with each visit I grew increasingly fond of the region (and “Green Spain” as a whole, which also includes the Basque Country, Cantabria and Galicia).
Asturias is often referred to as a ‘natural paradise’ and offers pretty much everything I could wish for: the dramatic Picos de Europa (a staggeringly dramatic mountain range), a unique cultural identity coloured by its Celtic roots and wildly pristine beaches with world-class surf conditions (this is actually one of the main reasons I’m so excited about our move here).
And of course it’s one of the best places to eat and drink on Earth. And did I mention how amazing the surf is here?
Like Barcelona, Asturias is another one of those places where the locals can’t quite believe their luck, a place no one ever wants to leave.
Oh, and the cost of living here is almost half what it is in Barcelona, which is something we value greatly as we move into the next stage of our lives.
As I write this post, my 35th birthday looms large on the horizon. We both have a thousand things we want to do, see and achieve before we start a family, but there’s no question that it makes more sense for us to be here, in a more affordable city and close to Rosana’s family, if and when we start making moves.
Going to Gijón (Pronounced ‘He-Hon’)
We weren’t sure whether we wanted to move to Oviedo (the capital of Asturias) or Gijón (the largest city in Asturias), but it hasn’t taken us long to fall completely in love with Gijón.
It’s a ridiculously handsome oceanfront city, a city packed with buzzy cider bars (the local tipple of choice), cafes and fishing-village-vibes, with surfers and cyclists and professional terrace-loiterers.
It doesn’t matter what time of day or week it is, every bar and restaurant is constantly overflowing with people. I’m sure the free tapas you get with every drink has something to do with it. And what people the Asturians are, too – so genuinely warm and welcoming.
It’s not the most beautiful city you’ll ever visit. It doesn’t quite have the crumbling old world charm of cities like Rome or Barcelona, but it is an incredibly colourful and well maintained city, a city with a deep and alluring sense of character.
There’s a certain nostalgia about it, as if it were built from scratch in the late 70s or 80s and never touched again. And it’s all so beautifully preserved. Living in Gijón is like living back in the good ol’ days.
I feel isolated, protected even, from the political and environmental troubles that face our planet (not that I don’t still worry about it all obsessively).
My Very Own ‘New World’
Most impressively of all, Gijón is almost unknown by people outside of Spain. I don’t know about you, but “Gijón” is not a place I had ever heard of before meeting Rosana.
Ever since I was young, I always dreamed of absconding to a remote village somewhere in Europe, somewhere off the map, somewhere that had yet to be discovered. My very own little hideaway.
Asturias may be a long way from being an undiscovered or unknown village, but it is a bonafide hidden gem in comparison to Barcelona.
Our new home doesn’t boast the icons of Barcelona, there are no Gaudí masterpieces or Picasso museums, but it has pretty much everything else I/we want and need at this point of our lives.
Luckily, with my “job” as a Spain-specialist travel blogger, I’ll still be in Barcelona on a fairly regular basis anyway, and also exploring the rest of this magnanimous country I am fortunate enough to call home.
So stay tuned for more of my overly-sentimental travel journals… from Gijón and beyond.
What do you think? Have ever visited Asturias or anywhere else in northern Spain? Do you have any questions for me?
Leave a comment below and let me and our community of drifters know below!
Follow me on…
… for more travel journals and advice on what to see, so and eat in Gijón, Spain and beyond!
More from Asturias