Wednesday, March 25, 2009

No Spice, No Dice

Saturday, 03/21/09
A couple more notes from this week:
Thursday was Father's Day here in Spain (el dia de padre). However unlike the US the day passed pretty normally. My family didn't go out to any restaurants or prepare anything special for dinner. I talked with Fran and he said that's pretty normal. However there were sales at all the shopping centers leading up to the day so my guess is that they give gifts at the very least.
Tuesday was St. Paddy's Day. Not celebrated but I was able to drag one friend out to an irish pub with me to celebrate. Not a terrible amount of people out and about to celebrate here. But that's to be expected I guess when they don't celebrate St. Paddy's Day (and it was a Tuesday). The section of town with the majority of bars (for students at least), known as old town here (centro antiguo in Spanish) had some celebrations going on. For example, The Asturiano, a popular bar in old town was offering green beer but compared to a normal Friday/Saturday night, not a big turnout.

On Thursday I also visited el Naranco, a small subsystem of mountains just north of Oviedo with Fran. You can hike to the top, but to get there and back it takes a full afternoon. So we drove there. At the top they have a statue of el Cristo (Christ) that was a public initiative involving a public collection of funds. It's pretty tall, but not nearly as tall or massive as el Cristo in Rio de Janeiro. From the top there is a great view of all of Oviedo, and of course the surrounding area. I didn't take any pictures because it was rather cloudy and our view was limited. However on a nice day there is a great view of the sea, and most of the port town Gijon from the top. I'll have to go back on a nicer day in order to take some pictures.
On the way up you can also visit an old royal summer house and a church built in the 9th century for the royalty Spain. I believe it was constructed for Ramiro I if you care to wikipedia... No pictures of these either, maybe next time!
Also I learned that here in northern Spain they have a problem with car accidents involving wild pigs. Fran told me that if you hit a pig by accident, it is best to kill it with the first impact. Sounds strange but he said if you have proof that the pig caused damage to your car, you can get all the damages reimbursed by the government. So, if you hit a pig and it gets away, you have to pay for all the damages yourself. Fran says they are built like tanks and therefore are rather hard to kill on the first impact especially if your natural reaction is to slam on the brakes.

For Marcy, I asked my host mom about spices she uses but she didn't name anything special (she said salt and pepper, haha). I haven't had any spicy food since I got here (with the exception of one dish called Picadillo which I don't think is native to this Asturias), so I think they prefer to eat without spice more or less. I'll try asking Fran my conversation buddy and maybe a couple of other Spanish friends but my guess is, like me, they don't know much about spices and cooking.
There's saffron, but I think that's more southern Spain because I haven't had anything with saffron (although I think the Picadillo may have had some, not sure).
I also got to try Torta de Queso recently, which translates almost literally to cheesecake but the composition and taste of torta de queso is much much different. It's very sweet, with a taste of caramel and I guess, cheese?. It's not as firm as cheesecake either. I'm a big fan.

Also since arriving here I have dropped soda from my diet, which I thought to be impossible but it seems I have been proven otherwise. I also switched from green tea to coffee. I know it seems strange especially for me but I really have no problem living without soda. Woohoo maybe now I'll be spared of late onset diabetes! :) Now we'll have to see if I can return to the US without regressing.

Next weekend I'm going to Galicia, the "state" just West of Asturias. I think here they call their states principalities (principados) but I don't know. I forget the exact word. We're going primarily to visit the port city of A Coruña and, of course, the famous Santiago de Compostela. It´s a popular pilgrimage destination, but we´re not walking the entire pilgrimage, just the last couple kilometers I hope.

My intensive Spanish class just finished up and I got a 9,5 out of 10,0. Like I said, easy class, but very helpful with learning useful phrases, practicing, in the first month.


  1. I think they call their states autonomias? I can't remember for sure, I'll have to ask Jose. The pig thing is hilarious. The soda thing is incredulous. You're going to visit all the places Dad and I want to go when we are there. So take note of what is good/not good or that you didn't get to see. A Coruna (technically La changed to A in Galicia), is on our list, as well as Santiago d.c. The cathedral on the Spanish Euro coins is the cathedral there, as I recall. Mom


    Enjoy your trip!! The pig thing reminds me of how you're suppose to accelerate and hit deer rather than brake.

  3. Matt,
    We are so enjoying hearing about life in Oviedo. Sounds like you are having a great experience. Glad classes are going well too. Seems like you have SO many holidays!!!Don't get too used to that kind of schedule. Know you'll have a good time with Mom and Dad there. Mom won't have to do all the talking to locals this time, will she? Know your Spanish must be improving by the day.

    Can't imagine you've given up Mountain Dew! That's almost unbelievable!! You'll be coming home a changed man!

    Keep the info and pictures coming...we look forward to them.