I intended to post this on 9/22/21 but did not finish it in time before Phil and I left for a week’s trip to Italy, so the timeline mentioned is a week off. Posts coming soon about the Italy trip!
Recently, Phil and I attended a meetup group in the nearby town and capital of Asturias, Oviedo. The group was an intercambio (language exchange) group. When we arrived in Oviedo that evening, we were very surprised to find a LOT of people and happenings. It was, unbeknownst to us, the first day of Las Fiestas de San Mateo (The festival of Saint Matthew), a ten day festival. It was intense.
We met the group at a local bakery; Oscar, the facilitator, Teresa, Oscar’s friend who was visiting from Sevilla, Carlos, an abogado (attorney) from Oviedo, and Cris, Oscar’s co-worker with whom he teaches English at a local public school. As the exchange began, we spoke mostly in English but after about thirty minutes, transitioned into Spanish. We spoke a bit and listened a lot. It’s exciting to me that I am beginning to understand Spanish much more. We walked to another establishment and sat outside and shared a few bottles of sidra. After sharing the sidra, some stories, and a few laughs, the liveliness in the streets felt less intense and much more jubilant.
After Phil and I boarded our 12:30 a.m. bus back to Gijon, we decided we wanted to return the following Saturday to experience a bit more of the San Mateo festivities, specifically earlier in the day before everything evolved into a drunken street party (not that there’s anything wrong with that. Three cheers for drunken street parties!). So, this past Saturday, we did just that, arriving in Oviedo around 4:30 p.m. I had been jokingly been referring to the festivities as “San Mateo Days” to Phil as a nod to the small, Midwestern summer and fall festivals I grew up with. In fact, it felt very similar to a festival in the states; vendors selling handmade, artisanal wears,carnival rides, and food and drink vendors
One of the most popular days of the festival is the Day of the Americas. During the Day of the Americas, Asturians celebrate Indianos. Indiano is the name given to Spanish emigrants who left Asturias to seek their fortune in Latin America and who returned, years later, fortunes amassed and built large homes, often established charities and cultural institutions, subsidized the building of new schools, churches, town halls, etc.
As we sat out and enjoyed a mojito (a nod to Cuba) on one of the many bustling restaurant patios, we watched several bands and dancers parade through the street, decked out in Ecuadorian, Colombian, and Mexican colors and flags, respectively. It was muy divertido e interesante. After patio hopping a bit, we decided we needed some food and ducked into a cute little bar/restaurant that had a very hip vibe and low lighting. We ordered the nachos, in keeping with the Day of the Americas theme. They were interesting. Two separate, small dishes, one with ground chorizo covered in a white sauce (not cheese, not sour cream, not sure) and in the other refried beans with a greenish, sweet sauce drizzled over them. The beans were, well, sweet. I don’t know if it was just she sauce or both beans and sauce but they were sweet. I’ve had Korean sweet treats made with bean, so I know beans and sweet can go together but it was a bit strange in my nachos. We were hungry and I like chorizo, beans (sweetness be dammed), and tortilla chips, so we ate them all. In the future, however, I believe I will reserve my nacho consumption for Mexican restaurants (there are a couple in Gijon) and my home (because I make bomb-ass nachos).
When we woke up late the following morning, we decided to take the bus to Área recreativa de Monte Deva. Deva is a parish within the municipality of Gijon, a bit outside of the city. The area has several points of interest, including the recreation area and observatory. We decided to head toward the observatory. Now, admittedly, the fact that we were walking to an observatory should have clued us into the fact that we would be climbing up and it did, kind of. As I’ve mentioned before anytime we go anywhere in Asturias we wind up climbing (escalar, escalar), so it wasn’t surprising that the route to the observatory was at an incline. It was very surprising, however, when the incline continued to get steeper and seemed to never end. Up we went as we zigged and zagged ever more, ascending, hoping in vain that after each turn the road would level off. It had to level off at some point, right?
Sweating, panting, and several rest breaks (there were no benches on this route, so rests were taken leaning against a guard rail, fence or tree. At one point I just yogi squatted because I just couldn’t stand anymore) later, we finally reached the area de recreativa. Phil and I are both a little foggy as to exactly how long the climb up took but it was at least an hour and a half. Once at the top, we sat and caught our breath for a while. Phil refilled our water bottle at the natural water fountain, where there happened to be three horses, just chilling. There were several families in the area grilling at the large, charcoal grills provided and a few tents from folks who had camped there overnight.
We found a spot at an empty picnic table with a lovely view of the city and ate the bocadillos (sandwiches on baguettes) and apples we had packed for lunch. Phil suggested I check my phone to see how many [equivalent to] flights of steps we’d climbed reaching the top. I was shocked to see that my phone read seven flights. “Seven?!” I couldn’t believe it and then thought, “Wow, I must be really out of shape.”
We did not walk up to the actual observatory as we had a spectacular view of the city from the area de recreativa and (after a quick google review read by Phil), we decided it was really best suited for a night time star gaze as opposed to a daylight visit. Before we began our decent, I checked my phone again as service was spotty and could not believe we’d only climbed seven flights. Upon opening my phone, I saw this:
Seventy-two floors! Holy moly! It wasn’t until we started walking back down that we realized just how steep of an incline we’d climbed. Had I known when we started, I don’t think I would have walked up (especially after a night of mojitos) but it sure felt like an accomplishment after the fact. After heading back down the mountain, we decided to stop and grab a tinto de verano and croquetas at the restaurant near the bottom. It was a super cute spot where you ordered inside at the small bar and then waited in the large grassy area, covered in picnic tables for them to bring out your order. Before catching the bus back to Gijon we sat in the sunshine, contented smiles on our faces, respirando el aire fresco.