Determined to consign its gritty, industrial reputation to the past, the city of AVILÉS, 23km west from Gijón, has greatly cleaned up its act in recent years. Its arcaded old town, on the west bank of the namesake Ría de Avilés, is looking spruce, while immediately across the river the new Centro Oscar Niemeyer is an architectural showcase that sadly looks unlikely to match the impact of the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
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Carnaval in Asturias
Carnaval in Asturias
Carnaval, the Mardi Gras week of drinking, dancing and excess, usually takes place over late February and early March. In Spain, the celebrations are reckoned to be at their wildest in Tenerife, Cádiz and Asturias – and, in particular, Avilés. Events begin in Avilés on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, when virtually the entire city dons fancy dress and takes to the streets. Many costumes are veritable works of art, ranging from toothbrushes to mattresses and packets of sweets. By nightfall, anyone without a costume is likely to be drenched in some form of liquid, as gangs of nuns, Red Indians and pirates roam the streets. On Calle Galiana, central to the action, the local fire brigade traditionally hoses down the street, and any passing revellers, with foam, while a parade of floats threads its way amid the frenzy.
The festivities, which include live music, fireworks and fancy-dress competitions, last till dawn. It’s virtually impossible to find accommodation, but the celebrations continue throughout Asturias during the following week, so after a full night of revelling you can just head on to the next venue. Sunday is, in fact, a rest day before Carnaval continues in Gijón on the Monday night. Much the same ensues, and fancy dress is again essential; La Ruta is the place to be for the start of the night, with people and events shifting between Plaza Mayor and the harbour area till dawn. On Tuesday night, the scene shifts to Oviedo: the crowds are smaller here and events are less frantic, but a fair part of the city again dons costume. There’s a parade along Calle Uria, a midnight fireworks display in the Plaza Escandelera, and live bands in the Plaza Mayor. Finally, on the Friday after Ash Wednesday, Mieres, a mining town just southeast of Oviedo, plays host to Carnaval. Celebrations take place in an area known as Calle del Vicio, which locals claim contains the highest concentration of bars in the entire province.