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Al Fondo Hay Sitio – Music Bar

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On a rainy Saturday night, I went to a bar which a couple friends had recommended. Al Fondo Hay Sitio… There’s Room at the Back. It was a fun evening out. The bar had a great atmosphere with live rock music, a good selection of beers and an abundance of tapas, which the waiter insisted I try. “Picante, ¡SÍ!” Bowls of fruit were on the tables, and a guest book was at the door; funny little touches that give the bar a unique feel.

Tapas Libre Oviedo

Al Fondo Hay Sitio is found at the bottom of Calle Oscura, Oviedo’s most lively party street. I had taken Jürgen’s younger brother with me. He’s two meters tall, about 6’7″, and his height caused a minor sensation at the bar. Within minutes we were talking and trading rounds with a big group, and the bartender even invited us to a beer before we left, at which point I hazily remember declaring “Favorite Bar EVER”.

And the music is great, too. I had been walking by one early evening, and heard Arcade Fire’s new album blasting from the speakers, the same day it had been released. If that’s your style of music, then this is a bar you’ll feel right at home in.

I don’t know if there’s a connection, but Al Fondo Hay Sitio is also the name of a massively popular Peruvian telenovela.

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Al Fondo Hay Sitio
Corn Spain
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October 18, 2010 at 2:31 pm Comments (2)

The Asturian Hymn

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The official Anthem of Asturias, popularly elected in the 1890s, is a curious song. It’s unlike any “national” anthem I’ve ever heard. There’s nothing grand about it, and it seems more suited to a traditional dance than a national statement of identity. But, here, you be the judge:

Take away the bagpipes, and the tune sounds oddly familiar. Here’s the English language translation of the lyrics, courtesy Wikipedia:

Asturias, my beloved Fatherland,
My loved one Asturias,
Ah, lucky he who could be in Asturias
For all times!
I’ve got to climb up the tree
I’ve got to pick the flower
and give it to my brunette
so she may put it in her balcony
May she put it in her balcony
May she put it not
I’ve got to climb the tree
and the flower I’ve got to pick
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October 6, 2010 at 9:32 am Comment (1)

The Gaita Asturiana

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Until moving to Asturias, I shared the popular notion that bagpipes are from Scotland, and that the instrument’s presence necessarily indicates Scottish influence. That turns out to be completely wrong. Bagpipes have a long history in all Europe, from the Balkans to Scandinavia, and definitely in Northern Spain. There’s nothing uniquely Scottish about bagpipes; they weren’t even invented there.

Bagpipes are known in Spain as gaitas, and they’re the most popular traditional Asturian instrument. The Gaita Asturiana is different than other bagpipes, with just two pipes instead of four: the chanter, which is the melody pipe played by the fingers, and the drone, which rests on the shoulder. I impress you with my bagpipe knowledge, no?

Impromptu bagpipe concerts are a common occurrence in Oviedo, and we happened upon one during the first few days of our stay. The music was actually pleasant; usually, upon hearing the wheezy moans of a bagpipe, I clamp my ears and walk swiftly in the opposite direction, but this sound was tolerable. Almost enjoyable, in fact! Check out the video:

Want more bagpipe fun facts? I’m full of them:
*In German, the bagpipe is known as a dudelsack, pronounced “doodle-sack”. For real.
*The first evidence of the bagpipe in Asturias is a 13th century carving in a church in Villaciosa.
*The Scots used bagpipes to frighten off their enemies on the battlefield.

Well… alright, that’s all I got. Bagpipe knowledge exhausted.

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September 6, 2010 at 6:02 pm Comments (8)

El Descenso del Sella

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Book a hotel for this event (in Ribadesella)

Entering 80 years of history, the International Descenso del Sella has become one of the most important events on the Asturian calendar. Over 300,000 people showed up to watch this year’s canoe and kayak race and participate in a week full of parties.

Of course, we had to go, especially since the train ride cost just €10. We stayed on the train through Arriondas, where the race starts, and followed the river twenty kilometers to its end in seaside Ribadesella. All along the route, we looked out the window at campsites and drunk, sunburnt party people. At the Arriondas stop, a group of hilariously hung-over teenagers boarded and all instantly, simultaneously fell asleep. Watching the increasingly frustrated ticket-checker try futiley to rouse them was great fun.

We managed to claim great spots along the riverbed to watch end of the race. The athletes, mostly muscle-bound Spaniards, rowed swiftly past the finish line and it was all over far too quickly. But the race is really just an excuse for the week-long party that grips the region. Music, festival rides, food stands and above all, alcohol. Cider, beer, vomit, whiskey, dancing, vodka, public urination, followed by more vodka and vomit. The Descenso del Sella simply must be the coolest canoe race in the world.

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August 9, 2010 at 11:59 am Comments (2)
Al Fondo Hay Sitio - Music Bar On a rainy Saturday night, I went to a bar which a couple friends had recommended. Al Fondo Hay Sitio... There's Room at the Back. It was a fun evening out. The bar had a great atmosphere with live rock music, a good selection of beers and an abundance of tapas, which the waiter insisted I try. "Picante, S!" Bowls of fruit were on the tables, and a guest book was at the door; funny little touches that give the bar a unique feel.
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