Part Two
      in ASTURIAS
ASTURIAS, arguably the birthplace of Spain as a nation, has much to offer the visitor: rolling green landscapes, isolated mountains, historic towns, enchanting fishing villages and wonderful food and drink. Not the least of its attractions is the Picos de Europa mountains, a walker's paradise. 

 History.ASTURIAS was the region where the Visigothic nobles and the few Ibero-Romans who supported them took refuge when the Moorish armies swept unstoppably up the Iberian Peninsula from Gibraltar. Under the leadership of Pelayo, these Christians halted the Arab expansion at the Battle of Cobadonga in 722, after which Pelayo was proclaimed king (this place in the history of Spain is reflected by the heir to the Spanish throne being given the title Prince of Asturias, like the British Prince of Wales). Around about 924, the Kingdom of Asturias mutated into the Kingdom of León, and Asturias itself relapsed into the rural backwardness which has usually characterised it. In spite of being one of the first areas in Spain to undergo an industrial revolution (powered by abundant locally mined coal), it has long been subject to a pattern of forced emigration (as in neighbouring Galicia), and traces of Asturian culture are often found in the Americas.
The journey from Madrid through Segovia, Valladolid and Leon to Asturias, was a delight to behold. The scenery was spectacular.

They stopped along the way whenever there was a special view to photograph, or explore.

In Asturias, one spectacular view was of LAGO ENOL.

Everyone alighted from the coach to stretch their legs. Poor Keeva was wearing a support bandage which RN Kelsie had put on for her when she had slipped on the step and hurt her knee. How good it was to have a Medical Officer and a Registered Nurse along with them!

The children were busy chasing wildlife, while everyone else admired the beautiful lake.
A sign further down had three of the boys somewhat confused. No doubt when they reached the Lago Enol cafe, someone would clear up the mystery for them.
There were wonderful walk-ways, and mountain paths for the adventurous to follow, and most of our friends took the rustic path to the beach.
Another group were making their way through a village when Guinny and Emma M took (what THEY said) was a short cut. Well, when they came out on the main path, they found to their horror that there was an iron gate barring their way - and it was LOCKED.

Boogie went in search of the property owner to obtain a key. All was well until he dropped it!
After searching for a good 15 minutes, it was found in some long grass, and the gates were opened for our two very remorseful truants, who swore they'd never go off on a 'romantic detour' again. Well, not in a strange place anyway! 

Other groups were making their way along the steep path to the beach.

Felix was carrying his equivalent of a 'comfort toy' and Khaki was demonstrating her agility!

While Havisham, our Gypsy Fortune Teller, was parading in his best swim suit, Kelly still had Flamenco Dancing on her mind. However, the big surprise of the afternoon was for Boomer!
The day was drawing to a close, and some were still making their way to the beach. They were met by others on their way back.  Captain Sydney and Lt Kelsie G had come to be the focus of interest and centre of attention!
That evening, the members of the Wheaten Princess Crew were returning from a night of musical entertainment, along with Eoin, Budley, Emma Y and Annie. (Annie and Emma Y were with Eoin and Boogie.)

They were walking along together, back to their hotel, when they saw a disturbance taking place in a secluded part of a building. Behind the archway, a man was being attacked by two street thugs. When the attackers saw the dogs approaching, they took off down the street, with Boogie, Bailey B and Emma Y in hot pursuit after them.

Unfortunately, the men disappeared around a corner and the dogs lost the scent. 

It was clear that the victim of the attack was seriously hurt, so Budley called for an ambulance on his cell phone, and then the police were notified.

Eoin and Tucker assisted the victim in every way they could, and the group awaited the arrival of the ambulance and the police.

Naturally our detectives, Buddy, Budley and Eoin were keen to assist in catching the criminals, and it appeared that they might receive some valuable help from a certain Gypsy Fortune Teller!
The ambulance arrived and took the injured man to hospital, telling the dogs that they could take the credit for having saved his life by their swift action.

Capt. Sydney consulted with Havisham, who drew a map of where he 'saw' the fleeing criminals. They decided not to tell the police just yet, in case Havisham was wrong. 

Buddy, Eoin and Budley were shown the map, and immediately they set out for the area, with Shadow, Bailey B, Dasher, Tucker, and Boogie, the doctor, tagging along. (THEY weren't going to miss out on a good fight!) Havisham came along as guide, to make sure they found the right place.

Our Gyspy friend led them to an area where there were ancient buildings which seemed to be up on stilts! The scent was strong, and after a re-con of the building, Buddy and Budley announced that the men whom they were hunting were inside!

They moved away, out of sight and hearing, and called the Police.
The police were pleased to have the assistance of dogs, so it was a combined operation with the dogs as back-up. They raided the building and apprehended the two thugs. One made a dash for it, but was stopped by Bailey B and Tucker.  (The one that almost got away didn't feel too powerful and deadly with two lots of sharp canines in his legs. OUCH! )

After it was all over, they checked at the hospital to see how the victim was faring. They felt pleased to learn that he was safely out of surgery and no longer critical. 

After this, no one made light of Havisham's rare talents!

What an exciting end to the day!
The next morning they were again on a jet plane, flying to BILBAO, where the WHEATEN PRINCESS  was waiting to take them home.

It was sad, but now the thoughts of 'home' were filling them with longing. 

Their arrival in Bilbao had one surprise for them. Even though they would not be spending time there before the ship sailed for New York, their coach passed the Guggenheim Museum and, to their amazement, they saw the biggest dog they'd ever met - a sculpture in flowers.
Guarding the entrance to the Guggenheim, since 1997, is this eyecatching sculpture known as 'Puppy'.  Its 12 metre high frame is covered in a bright patchwork of living plants. Composed of Stainless steel and clay/soil, it also contains an internal irrigation centre to water and feed the 70, 000 flowers. Puppy weighs 15 tons!  Apparently the plants are completely renewed twice per year.

This is the work of American Jeff Koons, and was part of a collection called 'Celebration' which also included figures of elephants, pigs and donkeys. It was intended to be a temporary exhibit at the Guggenheim (Puppy was 'on tour' first appearing in Arolsen, Germany in 1992, then Paris, San Francisco and Sydney) 

Apparently petitions by local school children resulted in The Flower Puppy taking up permanent residence in Bilbao.
The coach took them to where the Wheaten Princess  was berthed. Oh, how beautiful she looked!  Big and white and inviting.

They were quickly passed through Customs and their baggage checked in. Now it was time to board, and find their cabins, and refresh their memories on where everything was.

Some were more eager than others to get aboard, and some seemed to be heading in the wrong direction!

The children, in particular, were very excited to be going back to this wonderful big ship on which their magical journey had begun.
After settling into their cabins and unpacking, they took off with squeals of delight to explore their favourite haunts.  There were some new additions, they noted, and the Casino seemed larger - or was it their imagination. Katie S, Mackenzie, Morgan and Shana remembered that Havisham, the ship's Gypsy Fortune Teller, had told them that they were coming into money, so they decided that as nothing had happened to date, they should 'have a go' at the Casino later on. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Soon, the 'All visitors Ashore' sounded out over the loud speakers, and they watched as the crew cast off, and the tugs guided them safely away from Bilbao and to the open sea. 

It was 'Goodbye Spain!  They were on their way home.