27.10.23 — Travel

Asturias With My Parents

After enjoying many a visit and then spending some time with friends from Madrid, it was time for the arrival of some very special guests: my parents! They landed in from the UK and managed to plonk themselves on the right train at the airport in order to arrive in my neighbourhood. I collected them from there and we headed back to mine for a late and thus relaxing evening. We had big plans for the coming days!

The next day we were up and out of the door by noon as we’d arranged to go and pick up a hire car just up the road. This was because the three of us were going to head up to Asturias together, something I’d been talking to my dad about doing for a good while. In the end, my mum decided to join too, and so off we went!

Asturias, patria querida. Asturias de mis amores.

This northern region of Spain is very special to me: I first visited Kevin there in 2017 and ever since I’ve gone up time and time again to spend time with friends and discover more of the amazing landscapes, people, cider, and food that it has to offer. I was thus very excited to finally show my parents everything it had to offer as we sped up the motorway and closer to the mountain range that marks the Asturian border.

We’d be using Gijón, a city I know very well, as a base. We arrived there, I grabbed the keys to our apartment, and then the chaos began as we tried to navigate the parking that we’d been assigned. It was only after skilfully weaving the hire car down into the underground garage that my dad discovered that the Nissan in question had an absolutely terrible turning circle. A few stressful minutes ensued as we tried to search for a way to get the car out of the labyrinth of concrete pillars, but a bit of direction from my mum and me had us out in a jiffy.

It was time for my parents’ first look at Gijón.

With the car now parked on the street, we unpacked in the apartment and then headed out for my parents’ first taste of Gijón. The sun was already pretty much set by the time we made it into the centre, but we had enough time to snoop around a cute artisan market, wander around the harbour, and eventually find somewhere for something to eat.

We had our evening meal down by the waterfront, where my mum had her first taste of Asturian cider (it was a ‘no’ from her) and I introduced my parents to pastel de cabracho (a delicious fish paste) and cachopo (an Asturian classic of breaded and fried meat stuffed with cured ham and cheese). This all went down very well and had us plenty tired to get us off for the night before our first full day of explorations.

The next day I wanted to show my parents a little bit more of Gijón before we’d begin exploring the rest of Asturias. We headed down to the centre for a wander around in the rather overcast weather, stopping off for a rather delicious lunch just as it began to rain. This was a nice stroke of good luck given that the weather in Asturias is notoriously unpredictable.

We then wound up heading up to the cape of Cimadevilla, a great spot for looking out over the ocean and looking back over Gijón’s seafront. The clouds were once again rolling in as we climbed, and sure enough it began to throw it down just as we reached the summit.

This wasn’t about to ruin our afternoon though. We had a giggle with the rest of the people who were taking refuge under a big concrete sculpture and then enjoyed the views of a 180° rainbow that formed over the sea.

Despite the downpour, they weren’t really that grumpy.

To finish the day in Gijón off, we headed back down to the old town in Cimadevilla and plonked ourselves under an awning for a drink before we were set to head back to the apartment. This strategic location worked a treat, as soon enough it was raining again and we just about managed to avoid getting wet.

That night I headed out alone in order to meet up with Cami, Bogar, and Javier, my friends who all live in Gijón and who I hadn’t seen for a while. We headed out for pizza and a few drinks and had an absolute whale of a time as we giggled over stories aplenty. It was great to make a moment to see them whilst I was up there.

Day two saw the three of us having breakfast in what would soon become our go-to bar just below the apartment. From there, we grabbed the car and drove westwards and to the gorgeous coastal town of Cudillero. Kevin had taken me to this place a few years ago and I’d been blown away by how striking it was. I was therefore keen for my parents to experience it too.

Avoiding the parking struggle and long walk that me and Kevin had endured when we went unprepared (as ever), this time I did a little research and we thus headed for the free parking down at the port area. From there we began to wander into the town, upon which it – shocker – started to rain.

The whole morning we spent in Cudillero was a bit like this – on and off rain with some moments of blue sky. The quaint yet striking surroundings made up for the naff weather though, and we were able to saunter around, explore shops, and have a coffee at our own pace.

This guy didn’t seem at all fazed by the unstable weather.

Once we’d had our fill of Cudillero, we hopped back in the car and headed down the coast for a few minutes to another town I wanted to revisit: Luanco. This was yet another coastal spot that Kevin had taken me to and which I had remembered was very pretty. This memory was affirmed as we parked up and admired the views as the sun just about broke through the clouds over the seafront.

We walked along the beach and into the old centre of the town, where we found ourselves back out by the water for some lunch. This time we’d nabbed a table in a bustling little restaurant just by the small port. There we tucked into some seafood and other local dishes whilst enjoying a spell of good weather as the sun heated us up a little.

I love the wonky lines of the rather old local church.

As the afternoon wore on we headed back to the car and to one last quick stop: Candás. As you have probably guessed by now, this was yet another spot I originally visited with Kevin back in 2018, and one I thought that we might as well stop off at seeing as it’s located on the road back to Gijón.

When me and Kevin had visited we had run into a medieval market, but the odd time of year coupled with the dodgy weather meant that Candás was quite quiet as I arrived with my mum and dad. I’d been recommended an ice cream parlour and so we grabbed one each, although my mum wasn’t a fan and so my dad happily pottered off down to the beach with an ice cream in each hand!

On the way back to Gijón, my mum announced that she wanted a burger, and so we wound up stopping in the Burger King just around the corner from our apartment. We had a good laugh about trying the local food, but I’m always down for a greasy burger and so the evening’s arrangements just hit the spot!

The next day I made a last-minute change in our plans and decided that I wanted to take my parents to Oviedo, the city that first introduced me to Asturias and where Kevin was based for many years. We’d had a busy day in smaller towns, so I thought that a day wandering around the pretty, calm, and clean streets of the Asturian capital would make for a welcome break.

We first stopped for lunch at an area called La Ruta de los Vinos, meaning “The Wine Trail”. Rather than indulging in a tipple, we were served huge portions of local dishes including a delicious piece of lamb that I devoured with some chips. It was a proper Asturian lunch, and I think my mum and dad were both rather impressed by how much you can get for your money in this glorious northern region!

We spent the afternoon perusing the city in the glorious sun, which had finally shown up after a few grey days. Activities included a spot of shopping, a little tourist tour around the main sights, and even a relaxing afternoon drink in the park.

I think my parents really enjoyed Oviedo, but we’d still to go and experience the main reason why I’d brought them here: Tierra Astur. This restaurant is specialised in traditional Asturian cuisine and is a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike. This is a great sign but is also something which makes it a nightmare to get a reservation for. I’d managed to bag one though, and so off we went to try yet more local dishes.

We enjoyed yet another lovely meal inside the cozy atmosphere of Tierra Astur, with the star plate being the pork in a creamy cheese sauce: divine! This combined with the huge lunch had left us rather full and quite sleepy, so afterwards all that was left for us to do was to potter back down to where we’d left the car.

The old church in the moonlight made for a spooky scene.

On the way we ran into an old church which is the oldest building in the entire city – a fact I’d learned from Kevin the first time I went up to visit him there. In the evening light and with the moon obscured by clouds, it made for an interesting scene and a nice little farewell image as we left Oviedo.

The next day was our last day in Asturias and so I’d made sure to save the best until last. Well rested and well fed after a day in Oviedo, it was time to head up into the mountains and to one of the most stunning locations I’ve ever visited: Cangas de Onís.

This sanctuary up in the mountains is of great regional, religious, and even national importance, being the place where Alfonso III began his “reconquista” or “reconquest” of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslim kingdoms back in the eight century. Once again, Kevin introduced me to this place way back in 2017, and since then I have been looking forward to going back to check out its breathtaking scenery.

To get there, we parked up in a field where a bus would take us up the final leg of the road and to the mountainous town itself. Upon arrival in Cangas de Onís we began wandering around, with my parents as impressed as I was the first time by the awesome views of the cathedral amongst the mountains, the sheer cliffs, and the little church perched high up in a cave over a natural spring water pool.

This church tucked into the rock face is a sight to behold.

Whilst me and my dad headed down to check out the natural spring, my mum said she would head up to the church. Once we were back at the steps up to the cave, we couldn’t find her anywhere. We then discovered that she’d gone and joined the congregation for a sit down in this tiny little church itself!

From the church, we followed the cave tunnel system back out and up to the level of the cathedral, which would be impressive in any location, never mind out here in the middle of a valley between two mountains. We were soon asked to leave that one as a mass was about to begin, and so took that as a cue to head back down to the bus stop and be on our way to the next location.

Spot my mum in between the crosses of this sculpture.

Before we headed back to Gijón for our last evening, I also wanted to show my parents Ribadesella. Who might it have been that showed me this pretty town back in the day? Say it with me now: Kevin!

We parked up under still blue skies and had a good wander along the port area, which is situated along the banks of the river’s estuary just before it meets the sea. I love this place for its combination of sea, beach, mountains, and old town centre, but the first thing we needed to do was to get some more lunch: we’d had a bite to eat up in the mountains of Cangas de Onís, but I was still peckish for some croquetas.

We found a nice restaurant that was kind enough to fry us up some croquetas despite the late hour, and there we sat on their terrace as we watched the clouds roll in and start to look a little menacing.

The grey skies thankfully never turned to rain though, and so we did have chance to watch the boats come to and fro, potter around the old town, and even try a carbayón, a traditional local sweet made of pastry, almonds, and plenty of sugar.

Once tired, we headed back to Gijón to ready ourselves for our last night. We spent this down in the old town of Cimadevilla, where we snagged a table at El Llavaderu, a restaurant famed for its huge cachopo. We had a lovely meal and a great laugh with the waiter, who poured us plenty of ciders and kept us entertained with his tips and stories.

The next day we were up and packed and ready to go, but not before some breakfast at our favourite local bar. From there, we headed back to the car and made the long journey back down to Madrid, where our only task was to get something to eat before bed.

We thus spent the evening around Lavapiés, enjoying some lovely pizza at NAP before sauntering back down to my neighbourhood for some drinks at two of my local favourite terraces: one just outside the local cinema and one that I’ve been going to for years now. It was a great way to end my parents’ visit.

I had an absolutely lovely time spending a week with my parents, and it was so nice to finally get to take them around a part of Spain that I love so very much. Although we couldn’t squeeze in everything that I wanted to do, we saw a decent amount for the few days that we were actually up in Asturias. I hope that they come back soon to experience a bit more of the north – perhaps even with some better weather, too!