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Report 1969: Five Wonderful Weeks in Northern Spain

By caplanco from Colorado, Fall 2011

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Page 5 of 10: Oviedo

photo by MEC

Oviedo architecture

Rachel at Hotel Libretto had given us very specific directions for driving to the hotel. The only problem was that is was National Asturias Day, so the very street we were told to turn onto was blocked off for a parade. After asking several policemen how to get to where we needed to go, we finally got to the garage near the hotel where we’d been told to park.

Hotel Libretto (€97) is quite interesting and across the street from a lovely park. The hotel is very modern and based on opera themes. We had a nice size room with a king bed, Lucite desk and chair, an open plan claw tub with rain shower and an interesting mural on the wall, and a separate tiny toilet area with a glass door. It was very quiet.

I went out for a walk and discovered a kind of they-serve-you-self-serve place with nice little sandwiches and beautiful pastries. Just what we needed! M had two little sandwiches and I had a jamon tortilla sandwich all of which were very good (€8.30).

Exploring Oviedo was a pleasure. There are many sculptures all around the town and it was fun to come across them. The architecture is lovely also. That evening we went to a sidreria area for tapas at Casa Ramon (€14.50). The area is a plaza filled with several sidrerias in a row, most with the same menu.

The next day we realized that we’d left the Cadegon Northern Spain book at home! That had been the only guidebook we wanted to take. We went in search of a bookstore called Librero Maribel which we thought might have a connection to the Maribel Guides. The woman there, who spoke some English, explained that each province only had information about its own province and did not have info on others, a similar situation that we’d encountered in Italy. So while they had a few books about Asturias in English, there was no book with more expansive reach. She also explained that while the children learn some English in school, their parents don’t speak it so there is little opportunity to practice and the children forget what they learned. It was suggested that we go to the book department at El Corte Ingles, the large department store. We found the British edition of Lonely Planet Spain, which we broke down and spent about $40 to buy. The Internet and Maribel are great, but we still find it helpful to have a guidebook with city maps and information about small towns.

Oviedo impressed us as being quite fashionable with some very nice shops. It was easy to find lunch on one of the wide pedestrian streets, so we stopped at 4 Calles. Here we learned to wait to order until we saw whether or not complementary tapas were served with the ordered drinks; they are in most places (€7).

That evening we went to the small art museum and then to Tierra Astur on the famous street of sidrerias which was quite an experience. The street was mobbed with families, ladies-night-out groups, etc. We put our name on the list at 9:45, waited outside people-watching, and were seated at 10:30. People kept coming in, the noise level was high, lots of young couples standing at the bar. Once seated we had scorpion fish pate (canned and very good) and Asturian tortillas with jamon iberico. I expected the latter to be puffy corm flour fritters, but they were kind of hard crunchy discs with fried ham on top. At one point all the lights went out and as we wondered what was going on, everyone in the place started singing “feliz navidad” and a cake with candles was brought to a table near us. Tierra Astur is quite an experience and we were glad we had it. We had seen many interesting dishes go by as we were waiting, and the menu, even the English one, is daunting. But it was the right amount of food with a couple of glasses of wine for me and soda for M (€29.39).

After a good night’s sleep and some caffe and pastry, we spent the day just walking in the city. We saw one of the costumed Asturian bands on parade and followed them for awhile. We found the Woody Allen statue with its missing glasses. It’s just a lovely town to wander about. We had lunch at the famous El Raitan, which is on a very nice small plaza. It was perfect with a menu of small plates, so we sampled cabrales cheese, onion stuffed with braised boar, and fabada pote (€24.41). Everything was tasty and we were glad to have had the chance to try some Asturian specialties.

M figured out yesterday that waiting until 9 to go to dinner is not where the action is as people get tapas/snacks and then go to dinner much later. It seems that eating/drinking is an all-day affair. We have seldom passed a bar/café that did not have someone sitting there, at any time of day. So we headed out around 8:30 to the streets where we knew there were many bars. They were jam packed with the roar of the crowd. We grabbed the first table we could find and had drinks and potato chips. Then roamed until we found another table in a better location and had some lomo Iberico and the two meat stuffed dough balls that came gratis with our drinks. Then, because we were still hungry, on to the Pizzeria la Competencia which was also packed. M spotted a table and we could see the TV with the soccer game behind us, and the TV with the US open tennis match in front of us. It was a very fun scene. Two slices gratis with our drinks, then shared an enslada mixta. The medio pizza we had ordered never arrived, which was just as well. It was on the bill and we paid for it anyhow (€13.45). We know it was not done deliberately; in that crowded boisterous atmosphere, with only two or three servers, I’m sure they didn’t remember who got what when.

Our decision to forego the coast for Oviedo was a good one. It’s a delightful city and we enjoyed our time there.

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