#TravelGuide: Woody Allen's Fairy Tale Oviedo
"Oviedo is Delicious, Exotic, Beautiful, Clean, Pleasant, Peaceful, and Kind to Pedestrians. It's as if it doesn't belong to this world, as if it could not possibly exist ... Oviedo is like a Fairy Tale" -Woody Allen
You may recognize this place from Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona. The city, as Allen describes above, has an otherworldly quality. When I walk the streets and look around, I feel transported somewhere else in space and time. The architecture is so historic and antique. The people are a mix of young, well-dressed trendsetters and elderly citizens donning petticoats and beautiful handkerchiefs over their freshly-done hair. There is an air of sophistication, and everyone walks around as if they’re being looked at. It’s contagious, and you begin to live life on this wavelength as soon as you arrive. I could swear my life is a Woody Allen movie when i’m in Oviedo. I feel on display, more conscious of all my movements, even walking around the park becomes something graceful done with purpose and elegance. My thoughts follow suit, constantly taking me to profound and philosophical places. It’s intoxicating.
Oviedo's focal point surrounds the Catedral de Oviedo, and just a few short steps away sits the now world famous fish market. Mercado El Fontán, pictured above, is where the locals purchase fresh fish, meats, veggies and other delectable Spanish eats. Established in 1885, locals have been coming to this market for centuries. This is one of things about Spain that really takes my breath away, how long things have been there. The people walk in and out of el mercado, properly dressed, of course, without a second’s thought as to how breathtaking their surroundings are. For them, it’s just their local market. Their version of running to Publix for a quick dinner solve.
We had the luxury of staying with my family, who lives only a short walk from the center. As I perused the market feigning choosiness on the type of fish or bread we bought, I felt the bodily awareness and grace come over me. Normally, so many of us go to the grocery and arbitrarily pick up whatever items we usually get, or require the least amount of thought. We’re stressed because let’s be honest, there’s literally never a good time to grocery shop. It’s always guerilla warfare. But here, the market is wide open, I am wearing my new strappy sandals and floral-print Zara jumper. The northern breeze hits my face slightly moving my dangly jeweled earrings making me aware of how I adorn my body. The whole experience brings me to the present. Here, I take the extra minutes to decide what delectable food I want to put in my temple, a temple that feels good to decorate. At home, I throw on whatever clothes are quickest never spending too much time on it, this lovely devine vehicle that helps me experience life. All this at a market. You see what I mean about Oviedo and the Woody Allen monologues?
There are many surrounding bars and restaurants. I highly suggest grabbing a glass of wine, some tapas (especially of the seafood variety as it's hugely popular and a specialty in Asturias) or some sidra!
Sidra is a northerner's thing. Similar to the north and south of the states, there are clearly defined preferences and differences. Sidra is everywhere in Asturias. Regardless of what city you visit, you will not walk more than a few feet without seeing people enjoy a bottle.
The experience of having a bottle of sidra is highly traditional. The waiter will constantly come around attending to you and your glass. You don't pour it, unless you can do it as pictured below. Jaime took a stab at it, and to his credit, actually made it in the glass! Locals can pour it backwards behind their shoulder, forward, without looking, some of them even maintaining eye contact with you. It's impressive and a highly personal way to experience the culture. Watching centuries of pouring this artisanal drink take refuge in this moment with your waiter is centering. You feel part of something greater than you. It’s your contribution to in this long-held tradition.
Word from the locals: do not mix. If it's a sidra day, it's a sidra day. Never, ever make it a sidra and wine or beer day. You're welcome.
A modest 45 minute drive through the stunning mountains of Asturias will take you to a quaint village called Arborio. If you have a car, I’d make the drive. The windy roads hug the disproportionate mountainside of Asturias. Arborio and its neighboring villages, like Pravia, are the true rural areas that define the north of Spain. Here, a more simple way of life has remained preserved. The stillness and comfort of the mountains welcome you like a warm embrace. If the city brought you to this moment, the countryside will gently cradle you to it.
We had a few bottles of Spanish wine and some local serrano ham and cheese. It may have been our cheapest meal...and it was our best one. In Spain, no meal ever has to be terribly expensive. Delicious food that is well made and flavorful is a basic expectation. As opposed to the states, where there is a premium associated with good food and our average standard for low-priced food is very poor quality.
In Spain, there is nothing more sacred than sharing a meal. Everything you put into your body is an experience, so much so that if you walk into any given bar for a quick drink, you are gifted a wellmade tapa for free. Just because. It makes you take your time with your food bringing awareness into every morsel. I think that’s why Europeans eat less. They eat with intention.
As we ate on our perfect mountainside picnic, and I was honestly in awe. What did man do to ever deserve such breathtaking marvels? I actually found myself thinking this and being grateful for my visit.
This is what Asturias is about, being present in the moment and letting nature humble you.