So I am sitting here outside El Bar Cazador (The Hunter´s Bar), with a glass of wine, winding down on what has been possibly my best weekend so far.
I have to admit, I was initially hesitant to accept Gabi's invitation to come to his hometown for the weekend. With the weeks being as hectic as they are, downtime and rest on the weekends are a very important part of my life. And coming to a place 4 hours away, where I knew I would be alone the majority of the time (Gabi works at the bar, owned by his family, all weekend), arriving home in the wee hours of the morning before another long work week, was daunting. But like I said in my last post, adventures abroad are not to be turned down. And HOLY SHIT, was I ever rewarded by the limb out onto which I ventured...
We arrived Sunday nite around 10:30... I spent the 4 hour drive passed out in the back seat, soooo nice to catch some much needed Z's! Our first stop was the bar, where there were 2 pizzas waiting for us!!! We each housed an entire pie to ourselves: super thin, super crispy dough and crust, not too much cheese, bacon, mushrooms, pineapple... all in all, really good! Complemented by a glass of wine (on the house of course) while we watched the Spainsh equivalent of Sportscenter for soccer; I couldn't have been happier. Then to a friend's bar for a quick beer, then back to Gabi's apartment where I slept for 12 GLORIOUS HOURS; in a real bed, where I could starfish to my heart's desire. ¡Gracias a dios!
Woke up at noon on Monday and Gabi took me to the state's capital, Oviedo. We started with a drive up the mountain outside town to scope out the standard giant stone Jesus that seems to exist in every Spanish city on the map. Snapped photos on the way down of some 2,000 year old Roman churches, and then he left me in Oviedo while he went to work. I ate a solid meal at a reccomended Sidria: this is a cider house, one of the things Asturias is famous for. Sidra (cider) is like their official state drink and you only drink it one slug at a time, first poured by extending the bottle high over your head and holding the glass as low as possible. From what I understood, this opens up the cider in the same way a decantur opens up wine... gives it oxygen, some bubbles, etc. You spill every time you do it but I was told it is the ONLY way to drink sidra, no exceptions. I actually got the hang of it pretty quickly, and it makes drinking that much more enetertaining!
After lunch I cruised to el Parque de San Francisco (really!), where you can find more than 1,000 species of trees. I read there for a while, people-watched, then made my way into the old town. Saw incredible buildings, cathedrals, wish you were here, etc. Then bought a phone and after 3 separate returns to the store, figured out how to make international calls correctly. Spoke to my mom, and Julia, who is fresh off the plane in San Miniato, and despite a few hiccups, kicking ass like I knew she would. Cruised the town a little more as dusk turned to night, found a pinche bar (tapas etc.), enjoyed some yummy bites and a glass of wine, then hopped on the train back to Gabi's town. A beer at the bar, then to his buddy's place to play with new PUPPIES! They were, of course, friggin' adorable. Then back to the apartment for another great night of sleep: another solid 12 hours! I hesitate to say this may have been one of the highlights of the trip!
Woke around 1pm, and it was off to the mountians. We entered Los Montes Cantabricos, the major mountain range in this part of the country. We ascended to the highest peak in the state by Land Rover, foot, pickup, and foot, respectively. At the top is the local ski resort (closed until the season starts, obviously) where Gabi had friends working, so we wandered around for a bit, rendered breathless by the altitude and views alike. Fotos galore! Then on our way down, we ran into his brother-in-law (yes, it seems that everywhere we went he had familiars), who was crusing on an ATV. I hopped on the back and descended the entire route at 40 mph, hanging on for dear life and loving every second of it. I have to admit, it was, in a word, badass.
After the mountians it was north across the state. Our route was through another part of the mountians, scoping out beautiful landscapes and tiny pueblos along the way, beautiful beautiful. We eventually arrived at a few different parts of the northern coast, and to my continued disbelief, every stop yielded sights more beautiful than the ones before. We ended at some starkly impressive cliffs, enjoying sunset at a point so high that looking out to the sea felt like we could see the end of the world. My jaw dropped so many times I think I left it somewhere amidst the cliffs. Finally it was back to the bar, which brings me to the present moment. Gabi is tending bar inside, providing me with on-the-house drinks before I can ask for them. The nice buzz I have accquired will be the perfect setup for spending the drive back to Lasarte in peaceful sleep. I can't remember the last time I saw and did so much in such a short amount of time, and being able to spend a few hours here blogging, catching up on emails, and just enjoying the downtime couldn't be a better cap on the weekend.
So like I said, this trip has been just way too amazing. A beautiful, off-the-tourist-beaten-path European city, more sleep than I could justifiably ask for, free drinks all weekend, mountains, landscapes galore, beautiful coasts... could I possibly ask for anything more? And best of all, I really feel vindicated in my ability to cut it in a city, state, country with a language not my own, often rolling by myself, finding train stations and bars without problem, et al. I dare say I am nearly Spanish. Well, not really, but I am far from a clueless tourist, that's for sure.
I don't have my computer here so you'll have to wait for the link to pics (of which there are MANY), but check back in a day or 2 and they will be here. Until then, thanks for reading... if you made it this far in such a torrent of bloggage. Time for some more pizza and then, salimos. Vale.
OK kids, pics are up; sorry for the delay, facebook sucks sometimes...