Last week my study abroad and U.S. lives collided when my parents came to visit me in Spain. They started their trip with a few days in Madrid to see some of the country’s most famous sights, then they headed north to see for themselves how I’ve been spending the last few months. Before their short stay in Madrid they had heard and read plenty about the city’s famous art museums, palace, and historical sights, but they brought much less prior knowledge with them to Asturias. Instead of following guidebooks’ and other travelers’ recommendations for the region, my parents used me as their tour guide. That meant that in addition to telling them all about my semester abroad, I also had the chance to visit (or in most cases, revisit) some of the more famous sights in Oviedo. Because so few tourists from abroad venture to this part of Spain, I thought a rundown of my parents’ stay would make a good starting guide for anyone who wants to know more.
One crucial stop on any tour of Oviedo is the city’s cathedral, or La Catedral de San Salvador. Although I walk past it several times a week, before last week I had only ever admired it from the outside. My parents and I did the audio tour, which gives a lot of information about the architecture, history, and significance as the starting point for the oldest route of the Camino de Santiago. Right across the plaza from the cathedral is the Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias, which I visited earlier this semester with Jaime and the Temple group. I think the museum is one of the city’s best attractions—admission is free, and the collection includes works by renowned Spanish artists like Picasso, Dalí, and Goya. When I went back with my parents, I also saw the museum’s biggest claim to fame, one of the world’s few complete sets of the twelve apostles painted by El Greco. Once we’d been to the cathedral and museum, we decided to make our way up to the monument at the top of Monte Naranco for its incredible views of the city. We drove up the mountain in our rental car, but it’s also a popular route for visitors who enjoy hiking.
The highlight of my parents’ visit was probably when they met my host mom. Now, I can’t promise that the incredible Salomé will be available for dinner when you visit Oviedo, but I can at least share her suggestions. We went to a restaurant called La Finca, which she’s be recommending to me all semester (but which I hadn’t tried because I’d been busy eating all of the delicious food she cooks for me). It’s on Gascona, a street lined with sidrerías where the servers hold the bottle overheard when they pour servings of sidra. I warned my parents that the traditional Asturian beverage is an acquired taste, but no visitor should end their trip without trying it. We paired the drink with a typical Asturian meal of hearty foods like fabada, a bean stew with several kinds of pork, and cabrales, the strong blue cheese that’s a specialty of the region. My parents didn’t have the time to get to know Asturias as well as they would have liked, but in a few days they were able to get a taste of what Oviedo has to offer.