A recent post was entitled, "Serendipity". That could as easily have applied to our discovery of this newly opened centre.
Landing in Gijón on our return journey from Brittany, we had decided to spend two nights in the city of Avilés and treat ourselves to a day lying on the beach. It was not to be. Firstly, I had to descend to the second basement level of the hotel car park in order to find a place. There were so many tight corners to be negotiated that I decided the car would only come out to set off for Toledo two days later. Then, to top it all, the following morning saw Avilés under a blanket of heavy cloud with rain streaming out of the sky; not a beach day.
On our way into the city, however, we had seen an interesting complex of striking buildings which we knew were not far from our hotel, so descending to the car only to grab a couple of umbrellas from the boot we set off - in Spain the rain usually comes straight down rather than attacking you at an angle, so we were able to keep quite dry.
The Centro Niemeyer was opened in March of this year, and is a complex of four minimalist buildings set in a huge plaza all laid out on a former industrial site down by the river and port. We assumed that there must be some reason why it should have been dedicated to Oscar Niemeyer, the architect who designed the new Brazilian capital city of Brasilia, but what that reason was we knew not.There were four temporary exhibitions on offer, sculpture displayed out in the plaza, an exhibition of African tribal art,a collection of Polaroid photos by Julian Schnabel, and a multimedia presentation on the subject of light and vision assembled by Spanish film maker, Carlos Saura. Each of these last three was housed in its own building. Pausing only for a snack lunch in the restaurant, we took in all three exhibitions, most time being spent in Carlos Saura's. In total we spent around four hours in this amazing centre, worth a special visit to Avilés.
And what have I discovered today? That the centre also has the distinction of being the first project by Oscar Niemeyer in Spain. I had assumed that he must be long departed. But no, at the age of a mere 103 years, he is still creating.
Back home from a fantastic holiday in France, with just over 3,300km under the bonnet. In addition to the enjoyment of the holiday itself, the trip has raised a question in my mind: What is the collective noun for a string of serendipities? I have always had a soft spot for the word ‘serendipity’ since the first time I encountered it; apart from its pleasing sound it describes an experience which is always to be welcomed. This trip has abounded with examples.
Discovering a fantastic little restaurant, Chez Boubou, in otherwise uninspiring Saint-Nazaire;
Finding that the apartment I had booked was in the heart of the medieval city of Dinan, and not in the port as I had thought. Although the port sounds more romantic, there is very little there except a string of creperies. All the life and activity is at an altitude a couple of hundred feet higher, and we were in the centre of it;
In Dol de Bretagne ( a serendipitous choice of day out in itself) the cathedral still uses real wax votive candles that you light and they have a proper flame, so that I was able to light one and think of those I have lost recently or who are suffering. How I detest the present custom of offering a little box of light bulbs with a slot for the coin needed to operate it. Really, does the assurance, “I’ll switch a light on for you.” carry anything of the comfort that can come from the promise, “I’ll light a candle for you.”?
Entering the village name on my cider bottle into the TomTom and being led to the cidery ( I choose the word on the basis that beer is made in a brewery and wine in a winery) and buying a case of 24 x 33cl bottles of “Val de Rance, cidre bouchée brut, cru Breton” to bring home to Frigiliana.
In the gift shop of the Sephardí Museum in Toledo, finding a CD of music from the Arab, Sephardic and medieval Christian traditions, produced back in 1992 to celebrate five hundred years from the Reconquest
And across the road a really superb restaurant for our last dinner of the holiday!