Last summer I took a last minute trip to visit my friend in the northern province of Asturias, Spain and I decided to go back this summer. Before I went it was a place that I never heard of. I was surprised, Asturias has its own unique culture inside of it. A very proud and historical culture with strong political views on both sides that are shown with propaganda throughout the cities. Asturians enjoy blue cheese and party with cider. I have had a pretty memorable time there.
Small Valley Town
My friend who I have visited two summers in a row, lives in a small valley town in the municipality of Aller, and I mean really small. the population is less than 200 people, maybe less than a hundred and everyone knows each other. There is one football pitch surrounded by fantastic views, two shops, a couple bars and a vending machine. As I walked down the street with my friend everyone would stop him to ask him how he’s doing. It really gave me a good perspective on the size of the town. Some days we would walk down to the football pitch and play football with the local boys. They were phenomenal players for their age and could easily out dribble me. When we weren’t out of the house we were playing GTA, spanish guitar, and eating his moms fantastic cooking.
Oviedo, The Capital of Asturias
Often, we would travel to Oviedo (the capital of Asturias) by bus. The city is lined with clean, wide open streets with often not enough people to fill them. Asturian and Spanish flags wave outside apartments which are a testament to the proud culture. One of the things to do to experience the culture is to visit the San Salvador Cathedral, It’s more than one thousand years old and encases plenty of history. Besides the sightseeing, there is a restaurant that I have been to the last two summers, called Goiko Grill. It’s actually a gourmet burger restaurant with unique items. This summer I ordered a really flavorful overfilling chili burger. After partying or spending a day in Oviedo, we would stay in my friends flat for the night and make our way back to the small town the next day.
Festival de la Sardina
In the coastal town of Candas, a sardine festival is held in the summer. A swarm of people hungry for fish made it hard to walk and to really understand what was happening. I saw stands of sardines being grilled and heard typical Asturian music being played. We eventually made our way through the crowd into a seating area. My friend’s dad met up with his mates and we were offered cider which is something that asturias is known for. The method that they use to pour cider is very important. The bottle is lifted high into the air and the thin, medium sized glass is lowered and tilted. As the alcohol falls, the wind pushes it into the glass. I think this prevents layering. After I was handed the glass, I sipped it like wine, but that was wrong. When drinking Asturian cider you must finish it in one gulp. In my opinion the cider is fairly decent, but is made with sour green apples and had an iron aftertaste which is a flavor that I don’t enjoy a whole lot. After drinking the cider, we bought some sardine empanadas and Estrella Galicia beers. The empanada was crispy, soft and crumbled just like a good pastry should, but honestly the sardines ruined it a bit for me.
Hiking In Leon
We drove on a road going south from the small town with mountains at our side. They were growing in size as we delved deeper into the range. It was a new and dramatic sight for me to drive through a landscape like this. We eventually crossed the border into the province of Leon and got out. We were going to hike up a mountain which looked more like a hill from where we were standing. We climbed over a barbed wire fence and started our hike. It was pretty simple at first, just trying to avoid bushes and thorns. We hopped over streams and walked by cows. Then we took a break and the rocky claw of the summit was in view. As we got higher up we heard the yodels of goats. The were spread out on a slope and protected by dogs. Then we encountered more animals. It was a group of cattle laying down and shaking off flies. we approached cautiously and walked between them. Took a few pictures, drank a bit of water and continued on with the hike. The slope got steeper and the views got grander. I was running up to be the first one to cross the threshold and see the other side of the mountain. My view was one of the best I’ve ever seen. I remember the beauty clearly. The landscape was vast with the mountains getting smaller and smaller the further I looked and I could see our starting point. We went up to the right a bit more to take a break in La Ventana, which is a window in the mountain rock made from millions of years of wind erosion. La Ventana is probably about the size of a monster truck tire. Our next goal was to get to the top, which wasn’t far at all. The weather was clear, but as we were making our way up, mist clouds appeared and surrounded us. We couldn’t go any further, so we decided to sit down and break our fast. I ate a jamon sandwich. It was a good moment with good views and good spanish food. Then we travelled back down the mountain.
There is one main reason that made it worth going back to Asturias this summer and it was my great friend. I enjoy hearing his interesting opinions and listening to metal music with him. As he is a local of Asturias it is great to visit him. He has taught me about the unique culture, introduced me to his friends and gave two summers that I won’t forget and helped fuel my love for travel.
Have you travel with a local? Do you think that it’s best to travel with a local? Let us know in the comments. I’ll see you in the next post.