An open, hospitable, dynamic, innovative, fun city, Gijón (or Xixón as it is known in the vernacular) always surprises visitors. Asturias’ major city preserves many secrets in its ever-lively streets where the town’s maritime, commercial and industrial past can still be lived and breathed. Maybe it’s that very history that marked its idiosyncrasies. Subsequently, Gijón has positioned itself as a city associated with culture and contemporary creativity.
You always have to return to Gijón. Whether in search of those endless strolls along San Lorenzo Beach, the warm sunsets over the marina, the sound of the sea and seagulls below the Praise to the Horizon or that pure, moist air in spots like the Atlantic Botanic Gardens, Deva and La Providencia.
One of the best excuses to drop by the home town of Jovellanos is its cuisine. Thanks to its location on the Bay of Biscay, just a short distance from the Picos de Europa, in Gijón you can enjoy the best of the sea and the mountains, with all the best produce of Asturian gourmet cuisine.
But if the gastronomic excuse is not enough to decide to visit Gijón in the autumn, then you need to take note of its up-and-coming cultural events. Four of the major festivals hosted by the city are held in autumn, all of which stand out in Spain’s cultural panorama: its dance, jazz, film and Gospel festivals. Festivals for all comers.
Dance Xixón, from 12th October to 1st November, seeks to promote the creation, production and dissemination of contemporary dance and gestural performance. With performances in several parts of the city, the festival presents dance as a contemporary language. There are dance performances for children, an open programme for adults, as well as workshops and seminars. The highlights this year include the Momix Dance Company’s show W Momix Forever, Victor Ullate Ballet’s version of El Amor Brujo (12th October) and EnÁmbar Dance’s Babaol (1st November).
The Jovellanos Theatre hosts the Xixón Jazz Festival between 11th and 13th November, promising great performances. This year, the headliners are drummer Manu Katché, who has played with bands and stars like Sting, Dire Straits, Tears for Fears, The Christians, Paul Young, Tracy Chapman, Youssou N’Dour, Simple Minds and Joe Satriani; and The Stanley Clarke Band, who have played with musicians of the standing of Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Pharaoh Saunders and Gil Evans. Concerts and shows have also been programmed in other areas of the city such as the “Antiguo Instituto” Cultural Centre.
But what you’re really into is celluloid, then you should head for Gijón between 19th and 26th October, when the city hosts the 54th Xixón International Film Festival. This is a must event for lovers of quality films and an opportunity to see many independent films, so far unreleased in Spain… two weeks during which the city lives and breathes cinema and surprises are to be found on every corner. Besides the programming in the festival’s different sections, there will also be courses on various topics related to the 7th Art, round tables, meetings with directors and so on. You can also enjoy daily concerts and parties with live music, where film buffs and festival stars gather and mix.
And to close the autumn, the Jovellanos Theatre is once again to host the Gospel Music Festival. A long-standing tradition in the city, this festival brings together the leading figures of this musical genre, from countries where it has its deepest roots, mainly the United States. This year Gijón will play host from 16th to 18th December to: Barbara Hendricks, distinguished in 2000 with the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, who will presents a programme of Blues, Gospel and Black Spirituals, illustrating through this emotional music the struggle of the slaves for freedom, the end of racial segregation and the Civil Rights Movement; South Carolina Gospel Chorale, with a vibrant show of moving traditional soul and modern gospel; and the Black Heritage Choir, from Mississippi, who will offer a tribute to Aretha Franklin.
The capital of the Costa Verde or “Green Coast” really has something to offer and has earned its place as the most dynamic city in northern Spain, a city that welcomes its visitors with open arms. Surely there is no better way to charge up your batteries than to head for the Bay of Biscay to breathe the breeze… to live and breathe Gijón.
+ More info www.gijon.info