In Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the star setting of the show isn’t Barcelona, as one would think, but Oviedo, a small city in the province of Asturias, where the two girls go with sultry Javier for love making and wine drinking galore. In the movie, you see the trio flirt their way through winding dirt roads, green hills bursting with flowers, and charming Spanish architecture. It’s a dream of old Spain, with ancient beauty, stunning landscapes, and where an artist has an ménage à trois out in the peaceful countryside with his ex-lover who shows up, chain-smoking and spitting curses in Spanish.
As I watched the movie, I thought that this place looked beautiful and that, in my time in Spain, I hadn’t been anywhere like it yet. As fate would have it, always-up-for-an-adventure Mary Rosenberry, messaged me soon after asking if I wanted to take a road trip to Oviedo. It would be with her roommate Bridget and a couple from Canada; Jay and Monica. No sign of any seductive Spanish man whispering sexy promises, but I said yes all the same.
I took the train to A Coruña to meet up with the rest of the gang who picked me up in the middle of the street; the car barely stopped to give me enough time to throw my backpack in. We were off and the country music was already blasting. Jay was driving, and so he had the rights to DJ, and Monica was our navigator. Mary and Bridget were the entertainment and I was really, just the spectator of it all. We had done a road trip to Lisbon, with this same set-up, and ended up parking at the Lisbon airport and taking the metro in because we had gotten so lost and stressed out from the crazy streets and pouring rain. This time Monica and Jay were prepared; you could tell they had been training. They even had an Ipad with a map AND written directions. Mary taught me the game Bejeweled on her phone and Bridget talked to us about all the places in the world she wanted to go. A short ride later, we were in Oviedo (we may have missed our street 3-4 times, but this was looking up from our last trip) and had made it into the province of Asturias.
After a night of Bridget teaching me the wonders of coconut oil and oregano drops and inventing the “5 finger” theory (wouldn’t you like to know), we woke up to go see Woody Allen. Or, his statue in a busy street of Oviedo, where he slouches and walks along, like aint no big thang.
We took our tourist shots and then hurried to the amazing cafe we had found, full of sandwiches, bagels, smoothies, and American products, like canned pumpkin for sale. I bought the pumpkin for 3 euros and was insanely happy with my purchase and with the idea of the forthcoming pumpkin bread. Stomachs full of imitation American food and tea, we were back in the car for our hiking destination, San Martin.
This was my heaven. Windows down, friends singing, sunglasses on, and mighty mountains, rivers, and flowers brought back to life by Spring were all around us, as we slowly drove into San Martin, a town that is so tiny, that most of my Spanish friends don’t know where it is. Men sat drinking coffee in front of bars and otherwise, there was no one in sight, as we parked our car near the albergue, a cheap place for pilgrims to stay. The place seemed empty and the door was locked. After we made a phone call, a man showed up to tell us that the water wasn’t working so we had been upgraded to a hotel down the street! Our original plan had been a dorm with bunk beds (I had brought my own sleeping bag) but now I had my own room with a bath tub and grand windows. We were stoked on this twist of luck and after a seconds rest, we had our gear on and went on off for the hike. But of course, first we had to have some chorizo and cafe con leche at a tiny bar, where the man just kept piling the tapas on us.
Now that we were adequately sickly full of chorizo, we were off into nature. It was HOT, it was glorious, and it was every reason I love Spring and it has become my favorite season.
The world was alive and the mountains were so incredible, I just kept staring up at them. Our jaunt took us on a road that passed rock climbers, horses, and went through many man-made caves that were welcoming in the heat, until they dripped cold water onto our backs.
We chatted about silly things, serious things, and about the best places to pee on the side of the road where no one could see us. After about four hours, we came back to our hotel and I immediately got into a hot bath to soak my exhausted legs. I wasn’t sure if I was out of shape or if it was the new hiking boots (that I bought at Carrefour, yep) I had been wearing for the first time, but I needed my siesta that late afternoon. The siestas turned into naps for most, so since I was up and so was Mary, we went to explore little San Martin.
Our exploration took about 10 minutes. It was a one-horse town with a main road that veered off into another road that led to some little cafes. The highlight of our wander was finding an advertisement that showed a bear riding a segway to promote segway tours of the area. They also advertised a LIFE SIZE FOOSEBALL GAME. Where were these things when we needed them? And why were none of the shops open? I was so hungry, I was ready to eat an acorn, but we found one cafe open and so I settled for a tea and croissant. At night, San Martin wasn’t much more hopping, but our hotel gave us a discount on a menu del dia at a restaurant up the road, so there we headed. Our first course was fabada and caldo soups.
The fabada was amazing and we were given huge pots of each soup. Only a few of us ordered glasses of wine and yet we were given a whole bottle and then platters of pork and seafood, family style. It was too much and we couldn’t finish everything, which our waiters were astounded/disappointed with. Our dessert was so good that Mary almost cried.
I can’t remember the name of the cake, but I had it again in Madrid and it was definitely not as good. We took the others on a tour of San Martin, which didn’t last long and then went to bed. I stayed up watching some Back to the Future in Spanish, which was great because I could understand a fair amount and that movie is just always fun.
Speaking of movies, our trip through Asturias wasn’t even close to a witty, sexy, and meaningful Woody Allen movie, but it was an amazing chance to see a part of Spain I didn’t know and it’s probably good that we didn’t find any sultry Javier’s or we never would have gotten any hiking done…