Sunday, March 9, 2014

Road Trip in the Rain

Last weekend, I had Friday-Monday off thanks to Carnaval. A couple of friends and I rented a car and decided to head north to Asturias. The north of Spain is awesome. It's super green, has amazing, rocky beaches, mountains, and what I think is the best food in the country. So, on top of all of that, Asturias also has sidra, seafood out the wazoo, and cabrales, or, what I now call, zombie cheese. Oh, and other things besides food, like the Picos de Europa.

We planned our road trip around three categories: urban, mountains, beach. Awesome, right? Well, yes. It was awesome. But it unfortunately rained 90% of the trip. So, hiking in the Picos was replaced with Lauren driving as far up wet, foggy mountain roads as possible before turning back out of fear of death...but we'll get to that.

Let's start with the first day: our urban day. In Oviedo, we went to a sidrería on Gascona street, which is a street lined with big taverns specializing in, well, sidra: bitter Spanish cider carbonated by pouring it from great heights into your glass. Yes, it gets everywhere. Dinner that night was three bottles of cider (they insisted we drink the third!) and a plate of cheese. This is when I first tried the zombie cheese or cabrales, which I'll describe as a hardcore blue cheese: so hardcore it's grey. I had the most insane dreams that night...

Anyway, the next night we stayed near the Picos de Europa in a small town called Congas de Onís. We got there at night, so it didn't look like much, but in the morning just down the street I saw this:



Congas ended up being one of my favorite stops due to that amazing old Roman bridge above and a bustling street market where loads of vendors let you try all their different varieties of stinky cheeses: my favorite being some amazing brie-blue cheese hybrid. I ended up buying local honey. Typical.

We then drove to Covadonga, where I had to pull the car over at least three times on our way into the village because the views were so breathtaking. Overreaction? Hardly. This place has a church high up on a hill in the middle of a forest next to a holy sanctuary built into the part of the mountain that overlooks a waterfall. WHAT? Just look.



I don't know what it is with me and waterfalls, but for this one, in the middle of the rain and cold, I decided to walk out onto a partially flooded walkway to approach the waterfall in hopes of drinking out of a legendary fountain. For single ladies who drink from all of the fountain's seven spouts, it's supposed to grant marriage within a year, but who wants that? I drank from just one and then made my way back to land, somehow avoiding falling into the water. Covadonga combines some of my favorite things: waterfalls, caves, and legends. Go see it.

We then decided to drive into the Picos to check out some mountain lakes near Covadonga. Great idea, right? Wrong. It got incredibly foggy, I'm talking not even 20 feet visibility, and Spain loves to screw drivers over by not building barriers to, you know, stop cars from driving over a cliff. Thanks Spain. We somehow made it to the first lake alive, but at our wits end, so we decided to drive back, which was thankfully easier. I can now say I'm an awesome driver. I mean, you didn't think I was driving an automatic, did you?

Enjoy the view! Oh wait...

This was when we all came to our senses and decided to head to the beach. We drove to the coast and saw a lot of little villages like Ribadesella, Llanes, and San Vicente de Barquera, where we stayed the night and ate a big, delicious seafood dinner for 35 euro. And then, the next morning we woke up to sun! The first sun we had seen since leaving Madrid on Friday. But, it was really gusty, and the waves were absolutely enormous, like crashing up over seawalls and onto roads and houses. Fun!

We kept driving through beach towns and eventually arrived in Comillas. We only stayed there for a few hours, but it was definitely one of my favorite stops on the trip. We got to see Gaudi's Capricho, a little house he designed before he was famous, and one of the most amazing cemeteries I've ever seen... all in the sun (and hurricane winds, but let's focus on the positives). 

Guardian Angel with Sword. CHECK!

Singin' in the rain indeed...