Not having jobs enables us to treat the whole week like our weekend. We try to use our extra time to experience what Gijón and Asturias at large have to offer. Last week in particular was filled with a variety of fun activities. It makes me laugh sometimes at how full of social activities our dance card often is given that we’re both introverts and not at all social butterflies (I am more of a solitary unicorn). So, I thought it might be fun to give you a rundown of the last week. Brevity isn’t a strong-suit of mine, so we’ll see how it goes.
Wednesday we took the FEVE train south to the town of Langreo (Phil writes in detail about it here). It was a beautiful, sunny day and the little town felt quite bustling. Langreo is on the Nalón river and we enjoyed our time walking along the river, noting lovely street art and at least two suspension bridges over the rio. We had a delicious menú del día at La Toscana, saw some very unusual birds in the Parque de Antonio García Lago, and enjoyed a tour at the Museum of Mining and Industry in the small village of L’Entregu, a short walk down the river.
Thursday we took a walk near the Universidad Laboral de Gijón (I wrote about a previous trip to Laboral here). In our trips there before, we’ve attempted to get a coffee in the café on campus and without fail, it is always either closed or just getting ready to close (and won’t serve us). But recently a friend clued us in on another spot near Laboral. She said, “I know it sounds strange to foreigners but there’s actually a café/bar at the funeral home.” The funeral home is near to both Laboral and a large local hospital. I think having a bar at a funeral home makes absolute sense. We walked over to what I kept referring to as “the funeral home bar” (which is actually more of a café) to grab a drink and check it out. We each had a beer and noted their delicious looking cakes and sandwiches. The places was actually quite full of folks. Apparently it is a popular lunch spot for hospital staff.
Thursday night, we met up with our Gijón meetup group that we affectionately call “The British meetup group” because it was started by a British woman and has several British members. It is actually quite an international group with members from Spain (of course), The Netherlands, Romania, New Zealand, and Germany. We met in a bar called The Indian Cafe that is filled with Native American and wild west items from the U.S. (saddles, animal skins, old timey photos, and lots of dark wood). It is very odd and interesting indeed and no one seems to know why on Earth there is a Native American themed bar in Gijón, Spain, though our friend Diana, a Gijonesa,told me it has been there for a long time.
On Friday, we met up with our friend Utkarsh in Oviedo. Utkarsh is the founder of the intercambio (language exchange) meetup group we attend in Oviedo. He is a very cool and interesting guy. Originally from India, he has a Master’s Degree in Spanish and teachers English in a rural Asturian school.
Like us, Utkarsh has a deep appreciation for food, all kinds of food. We met him for a late lunch on Friday at a restaurant called La Panoya that has a very inexpensive menu del dia. The menu includes many, many choices for your first and second course. Typically, when a menu del dia is very inexpensive, it is also very simple i.e. soup, potatoes, pasta, and other things you can cook in large quantities for very little money. It is also unusual to have so many choices, with restaurants typically offering two to three choices per course. La Panoya is not your typical restaurant. The had a ton of choices with huge portions of really delicious food that had a depth of flavor and variety of spice. They even gave us a seafood mousse and large bowl of shellfish soup, free of charge, on top of everything else. We all ordered different dishes and shared them all. Needless to say, we were quite full, wayyyyy too full, when we left La Panoya.
We took a long walk around Oviedo after lunch and Utkarsh showed us an old church from the 800’s that we’d never seen before. We then attended the intercambio group that night and before catching the bus home snapped a couple of photos with Mafalda. Mafalda is an Argentine comic strip beloved throughout Latin American and Europe. Mafalda is a young girl, wise beyond her years who makes humorous commentary about serious social issues. I really like Mafalda and she just so happens to have a statue in Campo San Francisco Park in Oviedo. There’s normally a bit of a line waiting to get a photo with her. Turns out 10:30pm on a Friday is a pretty good time to snap one.
And on Saturday, we rested.
Sunday was jam packed with fun. We met up with our friend Diana and new friends David and Belén. David is from New Zealand and Belén is Spanish. We took the bus out to the neighborhood of Vega and then followed the Senda Fluvial del Río Piles trail (that follows the Piles river) to Parque Fluvial, a park in the south east of the city. It’s a nice, flat trail that gives you the feeling of being out in nature without being too far from the city. Phil and I had walked the trail together a week prior and thought it would make for a nice, leisurely Sunday stroll. The trail was a bit busier than when Phil and I had taken it on a the previous Thursday, passing other walkers and being passed by bikers periodically. The weather was sunny and although cool when we started our walk, we quickly warmed up.
After the hour and a half or so walk, we stopped at a cafe in the Pumarín neighborhood for a beer. During our walk, David had mentioned a really good Mexican restaurant they had visited in the city called La Doña. Always on the search for good Mexican food, and, it being near lunch time, we all decided a trip to the restaurant was in order. I am so glad we did! La Doña is a small, almost shotgun style little place. It’s run by a Mexican family that offers authentic Mexican food (with spice!) and refreshing margaritas. The owner plays the guitar and serenaded us with his beautiful voice. All were silent as we listened intently as he hit high sustained notes filled with the pain and longing of the song. I didn’t understand all of the words but I clearly felt the emotion. He finished with the Beatles’ Norwegian Wood in English. He was even nice enough to take our photo afterward as we struggled to get everyone in a selfie.
After our fantastic lunch, we had just enough time to run home, have a coffee, and freshen up before we met up with two other friends. We met Julian, a Spaniard who was raised in the Netherlands, at the British meetup and in talking on Thursday, discovered that we were attending the same concert on Sunday night. We met up with him and his partner, Maria, for a drink before the concert and had a lovely time getting to know them before heading over to the Jovellanos theater for the show.
José González, a folk singer-songwriter we’ve been fans of for years, played at the Jovellanos Theater here in Gijón! We saw him a few years ago in Los Angeles but this felt like a much more intimate event. It was just him and his guitar plus we had great seats. We have thrice had concert tickets purchased for shows in Europe since we’ve been here and thrice they’ve been canceled due to covid related issues. We were so happy to be able to enjoy this show.
I have often seen posters advertising events at the Jovellanos Theater in cafes and other businesses around Gijón and the Jose Gonzalez concert was no exception. The morning after the concert, I was able to both practice my Spanish skills and get an awesome concert poster commemorating the show by inquiring at a local business. Score! Another week of adventure in the books.