“Where are all the people?” we wondered as we started walking through Oviedo at 10:00 am this morning. Wouldn’t it be a busy day in the capital city of the region of Asturias on a Saturday morning? The third photo shows the square where the Cathedral of San Salvador is situated…almost empty. We found out the answer to our question when we hit the Mercado El Fontan, the weekend farmer’s market, with some of the outside booths shown below. It was jammed with locals buying seafood, meat, cheese, and produce. One hour later, after everyone was done at the market, the plazas were all full of people drinking coffee, beer, and wine. It looked like a city again!
The building in the first three photos, however, is located in the mountains just north of the city. It is the beautiful Palacio de Santa Maria del Naranco, built in 848 by King Ramiro I as a palace but later converted to a church. It has lasted almost 1200 years!! It sits by itself surrounded by a sloping lawn, and really is very pretty. It seems small for a palace, but that likely is due to its age and location. After that are two photos of the cathedral, in the heart of the medieval city. Following the cathedral photos are several of a storefront we liked, interesting equine sculptures, folk dancers taking a break, the market, a plaza, and a hilltop glimpse of Oviedo below.
Next up are some of the buildings and architecture that make up the city’s character and mood. Notice how many have domes, towers, and spires. We wonder who they were built for originally, and who got to sleep in the interestingly shaped rooms at the top! The last three are food photos. The first of them is Fabada Asturiana o Pote, an Asturias bean stew made with huge white beans. We saw the dry beans at the market and didn’t know what they were, as they were so long. The stew was delicious. From top to bottom, the meats in the stew are chorizo, bacon, and blood pudding sausage. The next dish is Merluza a la Sidra…fish fillet and potatoes in local cider. It was also very good. This region of Spain is famous for its homemade cider, cider bars (yes, alcoholic), and cider restaurants. We have read that some restaurants are very smelly with cider because it tends to spill all over when being poured, eaten, and drunk all day long. This was the first time on this trip that we had the Menu in a restaurant. A menu is a set meal for a fixed price, generally consisting of an appetizer, main dish, and dessert. This one was very good, and was a really great value: the stew was the appetizer (even though it was a full dish on its own), the fish was the main, and dessert was flan, rice pudding, or ice cream. All of this, served with a baguette and a soft drink, cost 10 euros (about $11 US).
Figuring out meals and meal times in Spain is difficult. It all starts with dinner being so late. Spaniards typically eat dinner between 9:00 and 11:00 pm. This means every morning starts late, and breakfast is usually coffee and pastry or croissants. Lunch is fairly popular, and is served between 1:00 and 3:00 pm or so. Many restaurants open at noon or 1:00 pm and are only open until 3:00-4:00 pm (or 2:00 pm). Then, they close, reopening at 8:00 or 9:00 pm. Even restaurants that advertise that they are “open all day,” or “never close,” are closed when we show up at the door. Since we usually have breakfast provided by our hotel, we skip lunch, and are hungry between 5:00-6:00 pm. But there is nowhere to eat! So we find we have to plan ahead. We wind up at the grocery store more often than not in Spain, looking for a salad, sandwich, or rotisserie chicken for dinner. But we even found one grocery store that practiced the afternoon “siesta” tradition and closed from 2:00 to 5:00 pm. So when we think we have it all figured out, Spain can still surprise us with its scheduling. Fast food restaurants are always open, but we are too old for a steady diet of burgers and pizza.
We saved the best for last!…the best photo and a video surprise! The video is of a local Celtic marching band that played and marched for an hour or more…we kept seeing and hearing them wherever we wandered. The two women drummers at the rear of the band are awesome as they twirl their green sticks! Watch for them. The final photo was taken at the Saturday morning market. In looking at the photo, you MUST remember that “manos” means “hands.” And then you will laugh.