It was a cold farewell to Granada, the place that introduced us to Andalusia and had become our home for the last few months. There were many things I wanted to do in this old city as our time there was coming to a close, although they never happened.
Hiking on cobblestone streets carrying a heavy pack and my four-year-old had taken its toll, as I developed sciatica and have been in pain for the last four weeks. I have only just started walking again and I’m just beginning to sleep better.
I wanted to write about the doors of Granada before I left, as there are so many old and interesting portals about town, but the shots didn’t come. Then there’s the cats – a whole subculture of felines that roam about this ancient, dry and dusty place in a world of their own. I wanted to see the waterfalls, tunnels and bridges of Monachil too, but for the last few weeks in Granada I had trouble getting inspired even to travel to the fridge.
In the end I was getting a little bored too – the tourists, the heat, the parched streets and dust that seemed to settle permanently up my nose. Just before my injury we managed to escape for a bit and explore the province of Cadiz and enjoy what felt like our first real Spanish holiday (as Seville had been too hot). Ronda, along the way, was stunning and Jerez de la Frontera was a place we gave serious thought to living in, as it’s interesting and well-located.
However, after returning to Granada and acquiring my injury, I began furiously researching greener parts of Spain. Green is my favourite colour and I needed more of it in my life, as we’ve been spoilt at home in Byron Bay. One area in particular grabbed my interest and after some discussion we decided to head to the far north, to the verdurous hills of Asturias where lies rain, cider, fewer tourists and rugged adventure.
As we waited for our taxi out of town, a dog howled at length in the dry morning heat. I sat there listening to this bereft sound for several minutes before the animal walked off, down the street, disappearing around the corner into one of the Albaicin’s old and character-filled alleys. It was a strange and interesting sight and an oddly fitting way to leave Granada.
Soon, we too were gone, shooting along on one of Spain’s marvellous high-speed trains at roughly 290 km/ph towards Madrid, where I managed to rest my leg by the pool for a couple of days. From here it was onwards to Oviedo, in Asturias – our destination.
About an hour-and-a-half outside of Oviedo, the country began to change dramatically. The scorched hills of Andalusia give way to sweeping valleys and ashen peaks that rose violently from kelly-green hills. All that was brown turned to green and if I didn’t know better, I would have thought we were snaking our way through Switzerland.
We’ve been in Oviedo for two weeks now and I have to say I feel more at home here than ever. I’m walking again, although slowly, there are mountains and flourishing hills on every side and the sea is a mere 20 kilometres away. I’m eager to wander the hills and explore the history and culture of this mysterious and oft overlooked part of Spain.
So far the food here has been superb, the architecture very different (compared to the south) and there’s quirky sculptures scattered about town. Oviedo is clean, pretty, image conscious and feels a bit like a mishmash of France, England and Germany, but with very much its own history and culture. I think it’s the perfect size, being small enough to navigate on foot but big enough to keep one interested.
In all, it honestly feels like a different country here compared to the south. There’s Celtic flavour – as bagpipes are a common sight – and cider flows down the streets as it’s poured from outstretched arms over alfresco terraces to give it fizz. The people are also super-friendly and as there’s fewer tourists, I’m not using English unless I speak to my family (a big plus).
Nearby is the larger, seaside town of Gijón, also a wonderful place with a grittier feel which I’m looking forward to exploring more of, as I’ll be teaching English there shortly.
It’s going to be a long, rainy winter in Asturias, although right now I’ve never felt so at home in Spain.