Some guy once said “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain”.
I’ve got no earthly idea who that was and it’s not even worth looking into because, I’m here to tell you, that assertion is totally false. The rain falls mainly in the hills of northern Spain in the regions of Galicia, Asturias and Pais Vasco. Aside from that, most of inland Spain is more reminiscent of fire-scorched central California.
On the Road
We decided to rent a car to see what life is like where the grass really is greener. Most of the drive from Madrid to Asturias can be described in two words: boring and expensive. Still interested? We leisurely took to the road expecting a ride through glorious countryside. With the exception of the last hour, it’s all dead grass and dirt and any money you think you’ve saved not buying expensive train tickets has now been donated to a series of ridiculously expensive toll roads (about 20€ each way). And don’t bother trying to avoid the tolls either. This easily doubled our journey and we still ended up getting funneled back in and paying. When we entered Asturias though, the sky grew overcast and the green hills emerged. This is what I was looking for.
We stayed in Oviedo a couple of nights which was enough time to take in most of the surroundings. The city is clean, modern and quiet. Oviedo feels like it has the quiet sophistication you’d expect from a northern city, nothing like the free spirited, lively atmosphere the south of Spain is famous for. If you came for history, the old city center is well-preserved and gives a glimpse into what the city was like hundreds of years ago.
One special feature of Oviedo that I wish I’d had more time to explore is the city’s 180 public sculptures collected from all over the world. The themes range from pure anatomy to a dedication to Woody Allen. Finding them all is akin to a citywide scavenger hunt for art.
Up in the Hills
My favorite spot in Oviedo, which ranks up there in my top destinations in Spain, was the site of the San Miguel de Lillo and Santa Maria del Naranco churches. perched like tiny monopoly houses on the hillside above town. They date back to the year 848 and feature a beautiful simplicity that counters the extravagance of later churches and cathedrals. From up here, you get a great view along with some peace and quiet as there are surprisingly few visitors. I neglected to take any photos of my own… blame it on living in the moment.
One Tiny Fishing Village
About an hour away, we thought we’d check out the small fishing village of Cudillero, famous for its colorful hillside houses. It’s a pleasant enough place stop for the afternoon to take a picture and eat with other tourists but I’m not entirely sure it was worth the drive in itself.
Have you been to Asturias? Any hidden gems I missed?