One day in Oviedo: What to do?

Parque de San Francisco, Oviedo

My first stop out of the three cities I had planned to visit in one weekend (the other two being Santander and Bilbao) was Oviedo. Originally, I had planned to fly to Oviedo, Asturias, from Madrid airport. Two of the major economy airlines in Europe, Ryanair and EasyJet , occasionally promote prices as low as 9.99€. If flying to Oviedo, you can cut so much time; getting there in 45 minutes, rather than five hours on the bus.

Before I continue, do you want to hear something silly? I became interested in Oviedo only after watching a scene in the movie Vicky Christina Barcelona. It also implied that there’s an airport somewhere in Asturias, so I was like, “Hmm, I could fly there.” I know, silly! That’s how much movies can inform or misinform the viewer.

Cover of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

Cover of Vicky Cristina Barcelona

They showed Oviedo as a beautiful place—with the sound of the Spanish guitar playing on the background, wine drinking in the nice candle-lit green open space… Who doesn’t want to go to Oviedo after watching that scene? 😛

Well, I did. Oviedo made it to my travel wish list. I finally went (on the bus) and to my surprise it is very modern, and pretty! And just like the movie suggested, it is very green and clean.  Oviedo is the capital of the Autonomous Community of Asturias.  It is a modern, cosmopolitan city.

I stayed at a small, conveniently located, affordable and clean hotel called Hotel Carreño. (I’ll further review it later.)

The first thing my boyfriend and I did was sightseeing. Of course, monuments like cathedrals, museums and structures at the parks were prevalent. They all looked so good and so well-preserved, too. In early In June, the temperatures in Oviedo seem nice. I believe it was 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and afternoon when I was there. Very pleasant.

Downtown Oviedo is very much alive. There are a lot of people shopping and going out for pinchos. We searched for what to visit, and Calle Gascona—“The Boulevard of Ciders”—came up as one of the hot spots. We just had to go there!

They say Calle Gascona is one of the most traditional streets of the city of Oviedo, where a group of settlers from France arrived and chose these streets to live and trade products. Makes sense.

Today it still is a market street. There are lots of great Sidra-drinking (crowded) restaurants on Calle Gascona. Eating Fabada and drinking Sidra (cider) was one of my favorite experiences there. I knew they were into cider; I just didn’t know how much they drank it. There can be up to 10 bottles on a single table. People order it back to back (they do cost only 2€ after all).

It must be a culture thing though because there’s really not a lot of flavor to it. I had expected this sidra to be a little tastier. Or maybe I’d just have to get used to it? Either way, it’s great fun watching the servers pour the sidra in your glass from above, without looking, with so much precision! I’d get a bunch of bottles just to watch them do it.

Oviedo is a young city and the night life reflects it. I was only there for one day and one night, but I enjoyed it. I’m sure there’s so much more to see—parks, bodegas, museums, smaller towns, etc.—and I hope I can see them next time.

Some more pictures of Oviedo below.

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One day in Santander: What to do?

Well this is what I did!

I got on an Alsa bus on June 16,2012, with my boyfriend Chris, en route to Asturias and País Vasco. Santander was our second stop out of three cities we planned to visit in one weekend (the other two being Oviedo and Bilbao). I had imagined Santander to be bigger and more touristy; instead, it was quiet, cold and looked like it was under development the day I visited (I must’ve mistaken it for Bilbao the whole time).

We stayed at a small, simple and centric hostel called Hospedaje Magallanes—comfortable, quiet, close to all shopping stores, and most importantly clean. Despite it being the month of June, Santander was a bit cold. Not surprising as it is in the tippy top of Spain, up north. But this didn’t stop us from exploring the small beach city.

Having arrived somewhat late, it was almost too late for lunch by the time we got all set and ready to head out. But I asked the lady at the front desk about places to go for late-eats. She pointed out a few restaurants on the map that were still open and served comidas caseras (traditional home cooking). It sounded perfect as we always looked forward to trying the town’s typical dishes.

We walked through a few small streets with bars and taverns and finally picked a restaurant. Wish I remembered the name, but that’ll require a little more research. The food was really good. From the menú del día, I ordered a Fabada-type dish: red beans with chorizo and morcilla. I thought it’d be a normal size, but it turned out to be a massive pot of stew that we could have not finished, not even if three more people helped us. It was really good though.

Unfortunately at that restaurant, the service was one of the unfriendliest we ever had in Spain. The server forgot about our table—and my glass of wine! He never came back with it and wasn’t even trying. The table next to us, however, with the big group of entitled older Spaniards got their every order right away. So after we finished our meal, Chris decided to write the mesero a note on the receipt: “Tu servicio fue horrible. ¡Gracias por nada!” (Your service was horrible, thanks for nothing.) haha. And we took off.

Most servers already don’t get tipped in Spain, so how else were we supposed to let them know their service sucked? We take our food seriously! Oh well. I thought it was funny.

Later we did a little sightseeing, walking the little streets and along the beach. It was quiet for a Friday. It was mid-afternoon. In other words, siesta time. We walked to the port and hopped on a ferry for a ride. The name of the ferry service is Los Reginas. It transports people on the Santander Bay to and from the small islands of Pedreña and Somo. The roundtrip ride was about 4,50€ per person.

The sea was beautiful and the sun was radiant. I was enjoying the ride, although I felt a little seasick by the end. We got off at a beach which name I don’t remember—at Pedreña or Somo, not sure.  But it was a very rocky beach with brown sand. Not pretty. Sea shells, lots of them, everywhere in the sand and in the water. It was hard to walk. I thought for a second it was the Playa de La Concha, but its geographic location wouldn’t make sense. I don’t know where on Earth I was. 😀

We walked by the shore and dipped our feet in the water. There was not much going on in that part of the town. 45 minutes later we were on our way back to the port to enjoy a light dinner by the beach.

Santander is a cool spot, perhaps better during the summer since it’s a beach city (with really pretty buildings!). The ocean is super blue and beautiful. Next time I’d like to explore the nightlife and check out their wine routes—I hear it’s terrific.