During our recent day trip to Somiedo, we found ourselves with time for a long walk. After parking our car in Valle del Lago, we hiked to Lago del Valle. Now that's some clever toponymy.
While we were in Oviedo, I found myself thinking a lot about mining for the first time in my life. The trapped Chilean miners were making headlines worldwide, a miner's strike was big news in Spain. But once I started considering the profession, I couldn't turn my mind off it. The vulgar exploitation of both workers and the earth for the further enrichment of corporations makes the mining industry the zenith of human greed and misery. There's something grotesquely romantic about it.
Oviedo and the rest of Asturias enjoy a reputation as one of the safest, most crime-free sections of Spain, a country that is itself quite free of violence. In fact, Gijón and Oviedo recently ranked #2 and #3 respectively in a list of safest Spanish cities (#1 was Pamplona).
After sitting down at the popular Mesón Casa Pedro on Calle Asturias, we did like everyone else and ordered the cachopo. A delicious breaded, fried "sandwich" of ham and cheese, cachopo is similar to Cordon Bleu. Just a lot bigger.
We chose an excellent day to visit the Somiedo National Park, found a couple hours south of Oviedo. The sun was bright and the weather warm. With a refreshing breeze coming from the north, it was a perfect early-autumn day, putting us in great spirits and bringing out the most beautiful aspects of the park.
Las Fiestas de San Mateo are the biggest event of the year in Oviedo, taking place over the course of nearly two weeks. Oviedo has celebrated the saint's feast day for over a millenium, since the days of Alfonso II in the 9th century.
Welcome to Villaviciosa, the Vicious Village, where nightmares are reality and your screaming only makes the villagers thirstier for blood!
We always have a hard time remembering the holidays of new countries and on September 8th, another one sneaked up and took us off guard. The Day of Asturias, which celebrates the Principality's patron saint, The Virgin of Covadonga.
The Plaza de Daoíz y Velarde is a quiet, tree-lined plaza which offers a respite from the noisy marketplace and cafés of the adjacent Plaza Fontán. Especially when bathed in the late afternoon sunlight, it's a beautiful place and home to the city library, a palace, a legendary fountain and, of course, a statue.
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.
The three main cities of Asturias form an almost equidistant triangle, all within a half hour another. Oviedo, the capital, is in the center of Asturias. A short drive northeast brings you to Gijón, the biggest city. Go the same distance northwest, and you'll end in Avilés.
On a recommendation, we decided to try out the menú del día at El Yantar de Campomanes, a rustic restaurant serving up traditional Asturian fare on the southern side of the city center.