Getting lost in Asturias. That's what I set out to do. I had never been ::gasp:: to this green oasis before and knew that I wanted to lose myself completely. Go without a plan and let the countryside, people, food and culture speak to me. And that it did.
Camino de Santiago (the way of St. James) paths weave through the cradle of each of Asturias' main towns; Oviedo, Gijon, and Aviles. The air is crisp, like the skins of the apples this region is famous for. Their history and pride different than that of the rest of Spain - Arab conquest in Asturias was almost completely avoided - their customs and traditions still rich and embedded in their lives.
Asturias is known for (or not so well known, since many people don't know much of Asturias) its versatility. The people of Asturias live active lifestyles; the mountains offer hiking, rock climbing and skiing, and the coastline entertains surfers year round. while the beaches fill with sunbathers in summer months. This climate and terrain also provide diversity to the food; vegetables, fruit, cheeses, seafood, animals - dairy cows, pigs, a myriad of charcuterie, and giant portions, up in the north going hungry is not an issue.
This is Part 1 in a 3 part series of traveling through Asturias with a focus on the cities, the sea and the food. Stay tuned for more.
The smallest of the three main Asturian population centers. A former industrial town, the streets of Aviles now reveal a slightly bitter reality of the Spanish crisis; people are leaving, going to other Spanish cities or outside the border to find work. The city struggles a bit when it comes to tourism infrastructure; the bus station luggage areas where broken, and the train station didn't have such a thing, in another scenario finding a hostel proved difficult on our budget. These interpretations also come from me not witnessing their night scene - which is said to fill with locals and students and an energy that intoxicates in more ways than one. Although there is much charm here, the ghost town effect is evident. You can read more about this phenomenon in this interesting article regarding Spanish urbanization.
But yet at the same time, in this absence of tourism, lies its intrigue. Strangers approaching me to ask where I was from. Curious why I had chosen their city, their Asturias. Those moments made things clearer, and I realized what I had stumbled upon really should be seen by all tourists visiting Spain.
Calle del Rivero. Aviles, Asturias. A pedestrian street with over 500 years of community history.
Plaza del mercado. Main market plaza.
Tiled house on Calle Camara, the main commerical street, Aviles, Asturias, Spain.
Abandoned video store turned into a piece of art. Aviles.
Traditional grain storage called hórreos, a technique of maintaining the years' harvests of corn, wheat and beans away from animals or mildew caused by the rain.
Colorful 17th century houses with typical closed balconies on Calle Galiana in Aviles, Spain.
Located right on the harbor of the Bay of Biscay, Gijon sits as a sort of half-shell, walking from the port-side of the old town to the more modern part of the city offers various views of el mar, crossing in pedestrian walkways at the popular meeting point, San Lorenzo beach.
Immediately I felt the energy and sensation I felt while being in San Sebastian. The coast provides so much for the city´s population; it's completely normal to take a stroll and see surfers walking the stone colored sand in their full body wet-suits, dog owners unleashing their pups for sprints on the beach, elderly couples holding hands on the boardwalk, and teenagers whizzing by on skateboards.
We escaped rain showers by buzzing in and out of local bars in el casco antiguo, the old city with a touch of modernity (look at the graffiti).
Plaza Mayor, Gijon, Asturias. Every month a local and sustainable artisan craft and organic food market takes place here. Otherwise, weekends are quite full of Asturianos chugging sidra (cider) at high-tops and mingling over family affairs.
Many houses were built with these terracotta shingles, which can be seen as a beautiful mosaic of orange, white and green from the city's highest points.
Climb up Santa Catalina for a view of the ocean and the now famous and accepted symbol of Gijon, "Praise to the Horizon" by Eduardo Chillida.
Days of heavy rain and even some of sleet finally gave way to sun as we strolled Oviedo - a city that charms from first sight. Mostly American and other movie buffs now know Oviedo as Woody Allen's love child in Vicky Cristina Barcelona - who knows if he truly loves the city, or if it was a happy convenience for his pocketbook and the city's tourism industry that he film there, but none the less there's a nearly life-size stature of him wherein you can obtain your cameo photo.
As the capital of the province of Asturias, Oviedo stands as the most populated. The mountains, green hills with white tops in the distance hug Oviedo leaving a valley full of bright colored houses, wood paneled balconies and many posh strollers, in a sort-of European Aspen feeling - at least that was my sensation.
Market before lunchtime. Oviedo, Spain.
After many days of freezing temperatures, the locals of Oviedo frolicked in the sun. Bars at the aperitif hour in Asturias, Spain.
Oviedo is riddled with statues, plazas, and makes for easy walking tours.
La iglesia de San Isidoro el Real (church in the city hall plaza) in Oviedo.
Storefront in center district of Oviedo, Spain.
Fernando Botero La Maternidad sculpture in the Plaza la Escandalera, across from the park. Oviedo
Getting There and Around:
Flights into Oviedo airport, which is 14km from Aviles, 40km from Gijon and 47km from Oviedo.
Alsa buses run multiples routes daily through Asturias, easily connecting between the 3 main cities and other towns, all in under an hour. Renfe and Feve trains also.
Asturias Tourism Board Official site.
Where is Asturias Great site with interactive updates and videos of the province.
Part 2 'The Sea' and 3 'The Food' to come.....hope you enjoyed! In the meantime, follow along with my Facebook updates.