“That’s the first time we’ve been invited into a Spaniard’s home,” Michael said as we left the apartment of a local couple.
He was right. It never happened when we lived in Valencia.
Probably because we knew so few Spaniards there.
Which was probably because we could hardly speak their language.
When we first moved to Spain I realized that as much as I wanted to integrate into Spanish society, what I really needed were other ex-pats–people who understood the highs and lows of moving to a country whose language, customs, and culture you hardly know.
And so it was that, in Valencia, our social circle was mostly people who spoke English.
Michael, who wanted to live in a bigger city so he could have access to opera and classical music performances, realized that for the number of times he attended such things, he could easily live 20-30 minutes away from a town that offered them.
We first came to the Asturias region back in October for reconnaissance.
We spent our first evening in Polo de Siero. It was a lively Friday night: kids playing soccer in the town square while their parents and grandparents sat at nearby outdoor plazas conversing with each other over drinks. But it didn’t “feel right” to me. Nor to Michael. So we kept looking.
When our AirBnB in Polo de Siero didn’t meet our standards, Michael quickly secured us a place in Villaviciosa.
We can’t recall who told us about this town. But we had posted our ideal town’s characteristics in a regional Facebook group, so I imagine it was one of the responses we received.
After waking up in Villaviciosa that Saturday morning, we took a look around and I pulled out my phone to start a list of all the things I liked about it.
- River walk (I wanted quick access to nature.)
- San roque; Tazones seaside towns near Villaviciosa (Seaside wasn’t a requirement, but close to it was certainly a perk).
- Top of the town has a church with peaceful park in front. Cloistered Clarissa nuns sell cookies. (This was the third monastery at which I’d experienced this. And there’s something about it that I just love.)
- Fresco in church instead of gold. (On the Camino, behind most altars, there’s gold to the point of tackiness. And I just couldn’t get over that a religion that encourages feeding the poor would have such an ostentatious display of wealth–the sale of which could feed a small village for months.)
- Camino Town (A definite perk for me. The people living in Camino towns usually have a welcoming spirit.)
- Views of mountains from the town (I was always a little sad that though I lived in Western North Carolina, I couldn’t see the surrounding mountains from most places.)
- Red Cross up by church and museum of Semana Santa (These two things are unrelated. But I put them in the same bullet for some reason. I’ve wanted to start volunteering. And the Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions are a bit of a fascination to me).
- Los Caserinos guided cheese tasting tours (Cheese! Yes, please!)
- Indoor market – sparse -bigger on Weds (Local food. Yes, please!)
- Turismovillavicosa.es (Plenty of things to do in the area.)
- Some Sat night activity, but not much. (We’re not the going-out types, but good to know the town has a life to it).
- Bus to Gijon— 30-45 min (Easy access to the big town nearby)
- No train (12 positives and only this as a negative.)
Michael noted a few other perks: Little to no graffiti. No dog poop on the sidewalks. Not loud. No traffic lights.
It also had the “look” we wanted: an older section of pedestrianized streets, historical buildings, a sweet little library with a talkative librarian. “I can talk to him to practice my Spanish!” I told Michael.
We imagined that in a small town we’d be forced to use Spanish a whole lot more.
Turns out we were right.
We were delighted that, while dropping off a loaf of Michael’s homemade pumpkin bread to the home of newfound friends, they invited us in. Coffee was offered. The bread was opened. And conversation ensued. An entire 45 minutes worth. All in Spanish.
After we left, Michael recounted our day:
- Morning coffee and tostada at Mario’s place. (An outdoor terraza under a tent. This bar/coffee shop has a name, I’m sure. But we refer to it by the name of the waiter we know there.)
- A walk in the pedestrian area where Michael recognized and said hello to a local shop owner. She updated us on the status of her cat as that is why Michael goes into the shop.
- A trip to the local carniceria (butcher shop) where the woman behind the counter, upon hearing we were from the US, said, “I have a cousin that lives in the US. She’s moving back here next summer.” “Is your cousin’s name Laura?” I asked. “Yes!” she said. Laura and I met on Facebook a month ago and met in person the week before.
“Are you getting this?” Michael asked, a huge smile on his face.
“Yeah–I get it,” I said. “This is exactly what we wanted. “