Friday, February 10, 2012


Asturias is a small but beautiful region in northern Spain that borders the Bay of Biscay.  It is known for its green countryside, hardy folk, strong cider, hot bean soup and impressive mountains. (My kind of place!)  In the Iron Age, the region was under the influence of the Celtic people.  When the Moors came to the rest of Spain, they found Asturias hard to conquer because of the mountains and, to this day, Asturias has a distinct Celtic feel rather than the Islamic feel of other Spanish regions. Okay, history lesson complete!

Rob came to visit me for Christmas break and we ventured to the towns of Oviedo, Cangas de Onis and Covadonga in Asturias the first weekend he was here.  Since Rob is quite the bearded mountain man, I figured this region would be a nice introduction to Spain for him.  Using public transportation to get to mountainous regions is rather difficult and taught me ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN B! I realized a Plan B might have been advantageous as I was sprinting after a bus that didn't stop for us, flailing my arms and yelling "ESPERAAAA!!!"  The story has a happy (albeit, more expensive) ending because we ended up taking a train through the beautiful Picos de Europa to get there.  The Hogwarts Express ain't got nothin' on the magical train ride between Valladolid and Oviedo! 

Our first stop, Oviedo, is the capital of the region and has recently been put on the pop culture radar due to the movie "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" directed by Woody Allen.  The town even has a statue of Woody Allen walking down the sidewalk:

The night we got there, we ate a delicious traditional dinner of fabada and sidra.  Fabada is a delicious fava bean stew.  Here is a recipe in case you happen to have some salted pork belly just sitting around..

I have mentioned sidra in a previous post, but Oviedo really knows how to do sidra right.  They have an entire street dedicated to Sidrerias and general merriment.  The cider is made from fermented apples and since it is bottled without any gas, all of the restaurants have servers who know the correct way to pour it so it is correctly aerated.

it takes skill to pour accurately from this height!

 The next day we went to see some beautiful old churches and monuments on a lush green hillside.  Unfortunately, the reason the hillsides are so green is because it rains ALL the time in Asturias and our time there was no different.  We got a respite from the rain long enough to furiously snap some pretty pictures.

View of Oviedo

Santa Maria del Naranco...completed in the year 848!!  So beautiful!

Another view of the city from the hillside

Carrying all I need on my back!


San Miguel de Lillo, also finished in 848.  Apparently it was a good year for churches! 

And here comes the rain...see ya!
The next day we took a bus to the quaint little town of Cangas de Onis right on the edge of the Picos de Europa National Park.  Hikers going into the national park often use Cangas as a base.  Unfortunately, we couldn't go on any hikes as it was December and frigid, but we got to explore the town and experience all of its charms!  The town of Cangas has origins dating back to Roman times.  A reminder of this is the pretty incredible Puente Romano (Roman Bridge).  It has been frequently rebuilt, but it is currently a medieval arch on Roman footings.

The Puente Romano..that is me with my umbrella at the top!

Really hard to walk on this bridge in the rain!


Many of the Spaniards who made money in the new world brought their money back to Spain and used it to build vacation homes in Cangas de Onis.  The mixture of Mexican and Spanish culture is apparent in some of the buildings in the town.

Doesn't this look like it is from a movie set?

At night

Beautiful home!

Typical Spanish scenery on the way to Covadonga.
Finally, after leaving Cangas de Onis, we took a bus to the gem of our trip...Covadonga!  In the year 722, a Christian general named Pelayo successfully routed a group of Muslim soldiers here and ended their reign in Asturias in the Battle of Covadonga.  This battle is considered the beginning of the almost 800 year effort to expel the Moors from Spain...aka the Spanish Reconquista.  When you approach Covadonga, you can clearly see why the Muslims lost this is practically a sheer rock face!  Due to this site's significance for Christianity, there is a beautiful basilica on top of the mountain.  Seriously, one of the most beautiful places I've ever been:

Monument to General Pelayo

Also in Covadonga is the Sanctuario de Santa Cueva.  It is a small little chapel carved into the side of the cliff.  You have to enter through a cave lit with candles and then you open up into the chapel.  There is a beautiful waterfall that runs below the chapel and we happened to be there on Sunday morning and got to witness a service!  This is also where Pelayo's sarcophagus is located.  So amazing! :

The Sanctuario de Santa Cueva

Still rainy!

You can see the service happening    
After Covadonga we took the train back to Valladolid through the snowy mountains.  Most guide books you find will not mention Asturias, but it is a wonderfully picturesque and charming place.  The food is hardy to keep you warm during the cold, rainy winters and the people are friendly, as mountain folk often are.  Rick Steves might not mention that you visit Asturias, but this place is DEFINITELY worth visiting.  My name is Sarah Humphries and I approve this message.

Adios, y'all!

1 comment:

  1. Love the history lessons! I feel like I am on a funny travelogue! Best combo! Can't wait to travel with you soon!!!