29th July – Gijon
Our final day off on this wonder tour was spent on a very quiet Sunday in Madrid. Everything seemed to be closed, I suppose because it’s the end of July and therefore holiday season. There were a few places open near the hotel however and my lunchtime pang for Tapas was fulfilled just up the road. Richard came along for a Cerveza on tap of the local Mahou variety, and a few delicious Tapas dishes. Tortilla, Croquetas de Jamón and Pan con Tomate. The rest of the afternoon drifted by in the room and 8:30pm, our departure time for tonight’s restaurant fast approached. The last band dinner of the tour couldn’t have been nicer. The venue was a highly regarded restaurant called Rafa. As soon as we walked in, we knew this place meant business, even the table Olives and bread rolls were mouthwatering. The wine (an Albarino) was spectacular and the fish appetizers being presented on platters looked droolingly good. For most of us, it was our first foray into the world of the Percebes or Gooseneck Barnacle (Dinosaur Toes). Very popular in Galicia, these ugly little beauties are fascinating. They grow on rocks on the rugged Northern coast and are stouter and tougher the more fierce the sea environment. They are however not to everyone’s taste. The operation of twisting the head off is fraught with danger as they spurt a staining orange liquid in random directions. Glenn managed to ‘Tango’ Pete with his first attempt. I loved them as they are slightly reminiscent of Uni or Sea Urchin. Then came a few more appetizers, a fantastic fresh Lobster salad followed by the best grilled shrimp any of us have ever tasted. Then it was on to main courses which for me was deep fried Monkfish fillets with Ratatouille. Dessert was a Manchego Cheesecake. Irresistible.
OK. Enough food.
Show Day involved another late checkout of our Madrid hotel and a flight to the Northern Coast and the town of Gijon in the autonomous community of Asturias. The weather was perfect, the flight was smooth and Bernie and team collected us from the steps of the plane at Asturias airport and drove us into the town. The first sight the venue perched on a small hill overlooking Gijon to the West, looked rather prison-like but once we were inside it proved to be a delightful setting for a show. The Laboral University of Gijon is a benchmark in the national artistic and cultural scene. It apparently encloses the biggest elliptical church in the world. When we arrived it seemed the place was deserted apart from our crew and caterers and the odd security guard dotted along the myriad of echoic tiled corridors. The usual trip to catering involved a walk past the church and across the main square where the stage was set up. Dave and team had a very small but well equipped kitchen facility which included deep fryers. Fish cakes, Southern Fried Chicken, Fried Eggs, Chunky Chips and other homely items were on today’s menu.
Star drivers Bernie Michael and Fabian
Show time was 10pm once again and as has been the case throughout Spain, the reception was electric. 9,000 people all standing in this beautiful square, a smile on every face, it was quite something. The set was not without incident, some minor issues with the in-ears and the occasional near-end-of-tour brain-fade from various band members meant that the show was unique. However, it was brilliant fun and as alive as any other show on this tour, the crowd contributing as only a Spanish crowd can.
We rode in the Range Rovers for 30 minutes to the plane, flew for 35 minutes to Vitelo airport where Gunther and team collected us for the 100km drive into beautiful San Sebastian. Only two days to go now and none of us can quite believe what has just happened over the past four months.
A tour to beat all tours, surely.