On Saturday we look our first trip outside of Gijon. We headed inland via train about 30 kilometres south to the capital of Asturias, Oviedo. The ferrocarril (train station) is a ten minute walk from our apartment. We arrived five minutes before our 10:15am departure time. The coach was almost empty as the train begins it’s journey for the day in Gijon. The seats were comfortable and roomy. The brief trip rode us past lush, rolling green hills and we were in Oviedo in less than 20 minutes.
The train station is in central, old town Oviedo. Oviedo is a more aesthetically pleasing city than Gijon (I prefer Gijon’s character and vibe, though admittedly, I am biased) because Oviedo has an old world, European feel and beautiful architecture everywhere you look. We hopped off the train and started walking through the green, sculpture-filled park, named Campo De San Francisco. At one corner of the park was a small tourist information booth and we stopped by for a map and recommendations. The woman working was very nice and provided us with a city map and several brochures written in English (though she did ask us if we would prefer English or Spanish. Score for Team B!). We were able to communicate with her entirely in Spanish and she pointed out the top three sites to see and asked us if we had lunch reservations somewhere (we did).
As mentioned, the park has several sculptures, as does the city center at large. One of the statues is, oddly, of Woody Allen. Our profesora had mentioned this to us. Even after reading about it, I am still confused as to why he received this honor but the statue is there and I felt I had to mention it.
We headed toward the number one tourist site, The Cathedral of San Salvador and on the way, passed the University of Oviedo. We wandered into the the large, open court yard near the library and came upon an art exhibit of artist Jaime Herrero. Jaime Herrero was a multi-disciplinary artist and cultural figure in Oveido who died in 2020 at age 83. We were the only ones at the exhibit at the time so were able to take our time viewing his work before continuing on our way.
The Cathedral de San Salvador is a huge, beautiful cathedral that was built in the 14th century. It is also the starting point for the “camino primitivo” on the Camino de Santiago. As we made our way toward the entrance, we saw that the cathedral charges seven euro to enter. Perhaps it was because we had been to three lovely and old churches in Gijon already earlier in the week but mostly it was because there is something about a church charging for entry that doesn’t sit right, we decided not to tour the cathedral. We figured we have plenty of time to tour the cathedral since we only live 20 minutes away, if we change our minds.
Our lunch reservations weren’t until 2:30, so we decided to grab a quick pincho (snack/small meal) and a caña (small glass of beer) at a nearby cafe and figure out our next destination. We each had the tortilla con chorizo (Spanish tortilla is a thick, potato and egg omelet, similar to a frittata, served in slices). The pincho and beer hit the spot nicely and we decided to move on to the Palacio de Verarde-The Austrian Museum of Art.
The art museum featured primarily Austrian artists (they did have a Picasso and a Dali). Artist Jose Uria y Uria (1861-1937) was particularly notable for his paintings and use of light and shadow. Both Oviedo and Gijon have Uria streets named for the artist.
The museum closed at 2pm for lunch which was perfect timing for us to leave and walk to our 2:30 lunch reservation at La Palmera del Indiano. The restaurant is located inside of the Barcelo Hotel. The ambiance had a bit of a Southern California feel to it. The food was delicious (I got a few photos this time!). As we waited for our primera platas (first plates), the waitress poured our glasses of vino tinto and dropped off a couple of complimentary bites of delicious tomato with burrata cheese in basil infused olive oil. We started with a plate of fried Cantabrian squid and a plate of plantain tostones with conchinita pilbil (slow roasted, marinated pork) and poblano mole. You can’t go wrong with fried calamari and the squid did not disappoint. I love plantains and haven’t had any since we’ve been here. That coupled with the south of the [U.S.] boarder flavor, which I have mentioned we don’t get a lot of, would have been enough for me but that mole was something else. It had a strong anise flavor, which I normally do not love and would not expect to pair with such a dish but it worked really well brought the tostones to another level. We then shared a segundo plato of beef cheek with sweet potato puree and garnish of fried yucca. The beef tasted like delicious pot roast. What’s not to like? For desert, we shared the La Torrija (French Toast) of brioche with nougat ice cream. This was soooo good. The La Torrija tasted like a flan/bread pudding combo, not like traditional, American, French-toast (traditional, American, french-toast? You know what I mean).
After lunch we wandered into a couple of small churches and made our way to the Antiguo de San Vicente Archaeological Museum. The museum is home to ancient artifacts from the Austrian region dating back to the Roman conquest of Spain.
After the archaeological museum, I was straight up tuckered out, so we headed to the bus station for our trip home. Buses run Ovideo-Gijon every 30 minutes and we purchased our 7pm tickets back with 2 minutes to spare. The 20 minute ride back gave my feet a welcomed rest. Luckily the Gijon bus station is only about a five minute walk from our apartment where we returned for a quiet night in of pizza and beer.