Ahoy! You follow us on social media, right? Of course you do. Then you already know we’re in the city of Oviedo, in northern Spain, for the summer.
Oh, you don’t follow us on social media? Let’s not be ridiculous; of course you do. But if not, then we’re here to tell you that we’re in Oviedo, in northern Spain, for the summer. And you can get us here so you don’t miss out on regular, daily updates in the future: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter.
So yes, we’re in Oviedo, Spain. For the summer. As previously noted. Why are we in Oviedo for the summer? Well, it gets to be about 2,000 degrees in Seville during the summer months. And, as much as we’re Professional Winter Avoiders™, we also don’t want to melt.
Since we were keenly aware of the oncoming fire and brimstone in Seville, we consulted our pals early on this year, and settled on Oviedo for the summer months.
We wanted to stay in Spain in order to keep hacking at our Spanish language-learning, and several good folks we know thought this region would be prime for us to settle for 90 days or so. (These people, among others, who you should also read: Sunshine & Siestas, Trevor Huxham, For 91 Days.)
We booked a nice apartment with some nice landlords, packed up our gear, and drove north for eight hours.
We actually stopped halfway, in the town of Salamanca, for two days, but that’s for another post.
Arriving in Oviedo, we were immediately struck by not how much milder the weather is, but by how much freaking colder the weather is. Or was, when we first got here. Overcast, a bit rainy, and cold. Alas, the aforementioned Trevor has written on his blog about how something has to keep it so lush and green up here.
Yeah, we knew it would be milder. We just didn’t expect to have to bundle up in June. After all, it was June. In Spain. Go figure. We initially wondered if these signs in the Hipercor supermarket would be the only sun we’d see all summer.
Even the dog was freezing.
“Sometimes, madness is the only form of survival.”
While you’re getting over how pathetic and unpleasant we look up there, why don’t I take a moment to explain Oviedo to you. As best I can, with my limited knowledge. First off, here’s where Oviedo is.
It’s in the province of Asturias, which has a very unique history as it was its own kingdom for quite some time, and was never conquered by the Moors, as most of the rest of Spain was.
Therefore, it retained its own cultural development for centuries, including a lot of what’s called “pre-Romanesque” architecture.
That means you can find all sorts of churches and other works in this region that date to the 8th and 9th centuries. Now that? Well, that’s just really old. Pretty cool, though!
This being Asturias, it’s full of a people who are quite proud of their history and heritage. You might stumble across signs like this, in the Asturian language.
While it’s not an official language in Spain, it’s a real one with its own, unique history. And, while folks are proud of it and we do hear it all the time, they don’t hate on people who aren’t Asturian or don’t speak it.
Which is nice, considering some other places we’ve visited where folks aren’t always so kind to those who don’t speak ‘the other’ language.
Oviedo is quite hilly, surrounded by mountains in almost every direction. Most people outside of Spain don’t know much about this region, and are struck at how different it is, even from the rest of Spain.
More on that in another post, but it’s an interesting feature of the area, as you can see in the earlier photos from our drive up to Oviedo.
My parents also visited for a week early on in our visit, so we got to do a lot of walking and see a lot of sights. Besides heading out on day trips, there are a lot of features to the city that are unique and interesting.
This includes the huge central park in Oviedo, the Campo de San Francisco…
…the main Cathedral of San Salvador in the center of town, which dates to the 9th century…
…and the famed market, El Fontán.
Asturias is very proud of its own, local products, as is the standard here in Spain and most of Europe. And, no one here is afraid to shamelessly promote local products. Which is a damn fine thing.
There is an abundance of artisanal product shops of local origin here, where tourists and locals alike can find all sorts of tasty treats.
The guy in the below picture, and his colleagues, were more than happy to spend time explaining goods to us and answering the bevy of questions supplied by my dad.
There are also statues and sculptures everywhere in the city, which appears to be quite a point of pride. And with good reason, because they make the city that much more interesting to look at.
And they do make up – just a touch – for the lack of contemporary and street art in the region.
We were also lucky enough to experience the San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist) celebrations here in the city, which kick off the actual calendar beginning of summer.
We saw a confusing play, followed by a big bonfire and fireworks in the central plaza next to the cathedral. Boom!
To us, much of the architecture in Oviedo is unlike that of other cities in Spain we’ve visited. A lot of the buildings almost feel like something you’d see in Austria or another, more northern European city.
Of course, we’re totally ignorant on the subject and the underlying cultural history of Spain, but that doesn’t make it any less intriguing.
And what about food? Oh yes, the food. First and foremost, and totally not Asturian, is our delight at being able to get pretty damn good Indian food here. It’s well below par in Seville, and we’ve already partaken here on many occasions.
Mexican food, too! Just down the street from our house is one of the most authentic – if not the most authentic – Mexican restaurants we’ve ever visited in Europe. There’s no doubt we’ll be taking advantage of this on more than one occasion.
Chinese food is lacking here; the places we’ve ordered from are on the low end of what you typically find in Europe, which isn’t awesome to begin with. Ah well, can’t have it all.
Good thing there’s plenty of traditional Asturian cuisine here! It’s no joke. It’s probably the number-one thing our friends in Seville noted to us when we told them we were headed to Oviedo.
One of the most famous dishes is cachopo, which is more or less like cordon bleu. Chicken, pork, or veal, stuffed with cheese and ham, breaded and deep-fried. It also, always seems to be as big as a small car.
Most of those friends also joked about how fat we’d get up here. Fortunately, it’s quite hilly here and we get plenty of exercise, and sharing is expected at restaurants around us.
This is also one of the few regions in Spain that doesn’t focus on wine. It’s all about cider here, and it’s everywhere.
The famous Bulevar de la Sidra on Calle Gascona is just a couple minutes from our house, and there are countless sidrerías there and all over town. The first thing you’ll notice is how unique the whole serving and pouring operation is.
It’s kind of hilarious, since, no matter how good the server is, at least 30-50% of the cider ends up splashed all over the ground (and sometimes you) when it’s poured. The idea is to aerate the cider and make it a bit more bubbly, and you’re supposed to drink the small gulp they give you at once.
This means that the server is always coming around to give you another gulp in your glass. Odd, but I think it’s that way to keep each drink sufficiently fresh and bubbly.
I’m admittedly not a huge fan of the traditional cider here. It’s a very big deal, but it’s not necessarily my kind of thing. I was trying to figure out what it was that didn’t jive too well with me, and my dad was the one who pointed it out: It basically tastes like a dry white wine.
Given that I’m not a big white wine fan, this hit the nail on the head and made the connection for me. It’s good, just not my bag. However, we found out that they make sangria here with cider. My mom was instantly intrigued, as she loves a good sangria.
We ended up ordering a pitcher of it at one restaurant, and it was…so…good. My mom approves.
We also took a stab at some modern cuisine here, at a place down the street from us called Restaurante 180ºC. It serves a fusion take on traditional fare, and they nail most of it on the head. We’ve already been back, as we can’t get enough of their tuna, local wine, and great staff.
While we’re still cold and not too happy with our inability to wear shorts every day here, Oviedo is still a great place to be. No point in getting too down and whiny about the temperamental weather, amiright?
We’ve found the people to be extremely nice, and we enjoy having conversations (and practicing our Spanish) with our neighbors and the proprietors of all the businesses we frequent.
The history and culture here are entirely different than those of southern Spain, and it really feels like we’re in a different country that happens to speak the same language. (The dialect here is also about a thousand times easier to understand than that of Seville, which is helpful.)
We look forward to learning and living more of the local flair, and sharing our experiences here throughout the summer. Keep an eye out on the blog and all of our social media accounts for more on a regular basis. Saludos de Oviedo!
Want more? Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and Flickr.
Have you ever been to Oviedo or Asturias? If so, what’d you think? If not, what say ye? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!