This past weekend’s fun was actually pre-planned, it did not come from the almighty Jar of Fun…
It was a trip to Oviedo, a city in Northwest Spain.
You might wonder, why not Madrid or Barcelona? A more stereotypical choice for the weekend escapist Brit?
Well, here’s a fun fact for you: I love obscure places.
I love that tourists are a novelty there.
I love that you’re forced to speak the local tongue.
I love that the flights & Airbnb are dirt cheap.
So, my thoughts on Oviedo?
First thing I noticed was how super-duper clean it was… almost German in it’s tidiness.
It was also the friendliest city I’ve been to, and not just in Spain… possibly anywhere ever.
Japan comes a close second, but the formality tended to put me on edge. Here, these Spaniards treated me like a curious cousin; not a local but not a scumbag tourist without a word of Spanish (which I was.)
The Airbnb was pleasant enough – and I even got the local delicacy each morning for breakfast.
Apparently cake for breakfast is a quite typical Spanish custom. Which also happens to rank VERY highly on my idea of FUN.
And when you think about it, eating sugar and refined carbs for breakfast is still what the majority of the UK does – just in the form of toast and jam or cereal, rather than delicious homemade cinnamon cake…
I was also conveniently located next to the best coffee shop in town, (Noor coffee, if you’re ever in the neighbourhood) where I found the only fluent English speaker in town too.
Oh and I love love LOVE how everyone serves a snack with your drink: from mini-croissants to churros to a tuna empanada. All that for €1.50… crazy when I come back to Brighton and pay £3.50 for a coffee that comes with no side snack.
Oh and this area of Spain is also very famous for its cider.
I’m not usually a big solo boozer, but I had to go to a local Sideria just to do as locals do.
I found a particularly bustling one where I plonked myself next to an older couple. I ordered my cider, and was fairly surprised to say the least, that it came in a bottle the size of a wine-bottle, and at 6% I knew this wasn’t your typical Magners we get over here.
Then the fun began. There is, apparently, a very particular way this cider is served. I can’t demonstrate it without gesturing, so I’ll point to a visual demonstration:
The other fun part was the custom for consuming the drink. Ideally, you down it. Yep, each time your waiter/personal barman serves you from your giant bottle, you down what he gives you – all in one.
At least that’s what I think the couple next to me were trying to tell me. Otherwise, I just looked like another Brit trying to get as pissed as possible, in the name of tradition.
Needless to say I didn’t get much done after that.
Other fun activities were sightseeing. I’ll admit there wasn’t that much in terms of breathtaking sights – Gaudi didn’t make it to Asturias I guess – but there were some great little statues dotted around, including one of Woody Allen, because Oviedo is said to be his favourite Spanish city.
I did a fair bit of walking: I hiked up a mountain, which again is very much my idea of fun.
I also went on a long bus ride to see a basilica & chapel that’s been built into a mountain. I do like a good religious monument, so that pleased me.
Weirdly, I discovered how much I like bus journeys. Like on trains, I do my best thinking on these forms of transport. It doesn’t work so well for airplanes: I just get a bit sleepy on them.
Something else that might surprise you, but is becoming a bit of a pattern for me, is: I got lonely on day 3.
One thing I’ve learned from years of solo travel adventures, is that as introvert as I am… on the third day of speaking to no one except my journal, and ordering some food and coffee, I get really quite lonely.
Plus, I went to another city a half hour away on day 3: Gijon (pronounced ‘hee-hon’… seriously).
Gijon, I’m sorry if any locals ever listen, was just a bit disappointing.
It was nice to see the sea, a particularly blue looking sea, and I did have some bloody good churros, but other than that it lacked the spirit and charm of Oviedo.
Anyway, I left the next morning and returned to my own seaside town.
A final thing I noticed was how my routine falls away on holiday – at least in terms of yoga & meditation.
But I did manage to keep up my coffee sipping along side drawing a mandala and listening to uplifting Youtube videos. It’s a very portable part of my routine, and one I find instantly gratifying.
Now I know when I consistently miss other parts of my routine, it doesn’t take long before I start feeling like crap. Really: I’ve done the off and on experimentation enough to know what I have to do to maintain happy cat.
But I know I can skip a few days here and there, without falling off the wagon entirely.
I’d be interested to know what your take is on routine: whether abroad or in day-to-day life. What habits stick like glue? Which are nice to have but could be left at home with your to-do list?
Back to Spain. Would I recommend a trip to Oviedo?
Yes. Don’t expect a lot of action, but get stuck in with the delicious – if somewhat deadly – cider & lovely locals.
Next week: barista training (I hope – if it’s not cancelled again!) if not, I’ll tell you about a recent experience with Zumba…
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