Sssooooo, I really do love this city – does that make me the same as Woody Allen???
For those of you unaware, the quirky US film director has a strange infatuation with Oviedo. An infatuation which became more public when he used the city for a large portion of his 2008 film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Honestly, when you immerse yourself in this place, its easy to see where he is coming from.
From first glance, Oviedo is nothing special. Typical Spanish town in another proud province, the Principiality of Asturias, of northern Spain. No note-worthy buildings, museums or landmarks. However there is a magical kind of quality here, a kind of ‘home-town feel’ mixed with never-ending possibilities.
Setting the scene: its a Tuesday night. Immediately after we arrive, we are hungry, as usual. I use Google Maps to find the nearest seafood restaurant because even though we have left behind Galicia (the apparent home of Spanish seafood), seafood is still very much a thing here too. For better or worse, I found La Chalana which actually turns out to be a chain of seafood restaurants across Spain.
It was amazing! Sorry, I should clarify…2 things were amazing here. Number 1: the fixed cider tap on the wall which, with each press of a button pours a pathetically small dose of delicious cider into your glass (more on the cider thing later). Number 2: the octopus dish was to die for. I can’t vouch for octopus dishes in all Oviedan establishments, but the pulpo a la gallega in La Chalana is superb. The dish literally translates to ‘Galician-style octopus’ and its essentially the boiled tentacles drizzled in olive oil, salt and paprika. DO NOT MISS THIS.
Of course, we probably could have tried this Galician dish in the province of Galicia, but you know, it was a good first impression of Oviedo!
Next day was exploring the city’s offerings, which like I said earlier, if you list them all down there’s nothing really famous but the city itself is really worth getting lost in. Like most Spanish cities, there is a zona antigua (literally old area in English) and then a kind of more commercial centre. Walk around everything and the parks inbetween.
Any fans of cider? Any fans of having your cider poured into your glass in the weirdest way possible? I’m not going to try and describe this process but if you watch this video, this is honestly how all the cider is poured by waiters in Oviedo. The good waiters don’t spill the cider, the great ones pour everything perfectly all the while staring unblinkingly at the diners sitting at the restaurant across the street, telling them with his eyes, “You could have been dining here instead, you poor schmucks.”
We wound up the second night at Tierra Astur, one of the many options for a sidrería (cider house) on Calle Gascona. If you ask for cider, no further questions from your waiter, they just bring you a bottle of cider and two glasses and start pouring. Only that small amount each time and its important to drink it all quickly, even in one go. The bottle only costs €3 so don’t worry about your wallet…worry about your legs – the cider is surprisingly strong stuff!
Also in this place we tried rapas, which despite the ominous-sounding name, are actually Spanish flatbreads or even mini-pizzas with different meat or seafood toppings. Definitely worth a try as well.
Oviedo, without singling out all the great experiences above, is generally very very charming. The people are lovely, in a gritty and very real kind of way and the architechture surprises at every turn.
Woody Allen – I certainly commend your somewhat obscure choice of favourite Spanish city. There is a lot to compete with here; Sevilla, Madrid, Barcelona, the list goes on. I guess thats why he’s a genius…because he can spot the extraordinary in the seemingly-ordinary. And Oviedo is certainly an extraordinary city.
Tip #1: Google Maps is basically a lazy person’s Zomato. If you want a decent or even great restaurant in any place, usually the reviews on Google Maps will guide you just as well, if not better than TripAdvisor or Zomato.
Tip #2: From Oviedo, you can daytrip to Gijón and Avilés. We did but can’t say we were mindblown by either place – in short, its worth to spend more time in Oviedo.
Tip #3: We found a lot of cafes and bars are populated with older, more reserved types. El Columpio is a great, little place in the commercial area to get some free WiFi, have a cheap beer or coffee and sit with some younger folk!
Tip #4: For pure cider-tasting, I wouldn’t worry about which establishment you settle in. Anywhere on Calle Gascona is fine.
Tip #5: There is a free public toilet right near the Woody Allen statue. Or in El Corte Ingles.