Friday, 23 May 2014

Oviedo, a Fairy tale city in the North of Spain

It wasn´t me who said Oviedo is a fairy tale city, but I totally agree with it and I will show you why. When somebody like Woody Allen says that about the city where you´ve lived for a while, and that you love, it makes you really proud. You know you are a lucky person for being able to see all this beauty often.

"Oviedo is a delicious city, exotic, beautiful: it´s as if it didn´t belong to this world, as if it didn´t exist at all... Oviedo is a fairy tale!"
Woody Allen 

Although these days I don´t go home as often as I would like to, when I go I always stop in Oviedo. Some of my friends live there, my hairdresser is there (I know, I may consider finding one in Scotland at some point...), and I know at least three places where you could spend a day just eating different pastries! 

What I love the most about Oviedo? The architecture, the Parque de San Francisco, the Cathedral with just one tower, the food, the cider... To sum up, I love everything! 

I think I already mention this in this post but, just to make it clear, in Asturias it rains a lot. That why it is so green and beautiful. The good thing is that when the sun is out, we are the happiest region in (probably and without any exaggeration) the world. 

The square where the City Hall is located is a perfect place to enjoy a refreshment, or you can also pop in the nearby market and buy any of the fresh products they sell. Just opposite the market, there is a little square where you can enjoy some cold cider (sidra) too. 

I just to lived just by the orange - red building that you see on the second photo, and it was great. It is perfectly located, close to everything, and surrounded by great bars and restaurants. Even a singer from Asturias mentions that street on one of his songs!

Oviedo is full of little treasures. In every street you can discover something hidden, something humble that with give you a nice surprise. That is the case with this small church, on the City Hall square.

This is the Iglesia de San Isidoro el Real. It was built in 1576 and it used to be attached to a school, but this was destroyed in order to build the market I mentioned before. It is a rated building, part of the collection of Spanish monuments

Another of my favourite places in Oviedo is the Parque de San Francisco. It is perfect to just go, relax and enjoy the day. There are some small kiosks where you can buy ice cream, or biscuits. When I was a kid I used to feed those to the ducks, swans and peacocks that live in the park. Be careful with the peacocks, they sometimes attack people! (Yes, really).

In this park one can find a bit of everything: areas for the kids to play, benches where to sit, sculptures by various artists, nearly 1,000 trees (some of them over 300 years old), and even a music kiosk from the end of 1800. 

As I said the food is great, very different from the one you get in the South, basically because the two climates are opposites. And the portions are great, well, they are huge! After the plate you see on the photo there was a second course and a dessert, all for around 10 Euros

This restaurant is located in Gascona, a street that has sidrerías (cider bars) on both sides. There is nothing better than when summer arrives going with some friends to enjoy a couple of sidras outside. The traditional way to pour the sidra is how you see on the photo, a straight arm up holding the bottle, and the other straight down holding the glass. 

Professionals like the guy in the photo don´t even need to look at the bottle or the glass, they know the liquid will end up inside the glass. Also a glass is usually share by a couple of three people, you have to leave a bit of liquid when you finish drinking. This way you can through it to the floor "cleaning" the glass before it goes to the next person.

Santa María del Naranco was going to be a royal palace, part of a bigger complex. It was built in 848 and it´s a clear example of pre Romanesque architecture. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the good news is that even for such an special monument, you don´t get many tourist around, so you can have the place to yourself most of the times. 

San Miguel de Lillo was a church and also part of the complex mentioned above. It is from the same date as Santa María del Naranco and it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pre Romanesque architecture is something pretty rare, and in Spain the only examples can be found in Asturias. The reason behind this is that the Arabs conquered all of Spain except for Asturias, therefore in Asturias we have no real Arab influence in the likes of art, culture or architecture.

These two churches are near the top of a mountain, which has some of the best views of the city. No need to say that these special architecture makes us really proud too. Well, anything about Asturias makes us proud...

What do you think of the views? Quite amazing, aren´t they? And the mountains behind?

As you can tell, I am really proud of my region and I love sharing more about it on the blog. I really hope you enjoy these posts, and if thanks to me you decide to go and discover the North of Spain, please let me know!

Thank you for being there!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Kelvingrove Cafe - Glasgow -

The Kelvingrove Cafe is a totally unexpected venue in Glasgow. It is in the upcoming area of Finnieston, which has been reinventing itself in the last few years. With many new and different businesses opening, Finnieston is the place to go for dinner, a few drinks, or shopping in one of their concept stores.

I have to say I had been planning to go for a long time, as I heard only good reviews about the place. So yesterday was the perfect time to do it.

From the outside it looks a bit like an old pub, I guess they have kept somethings from the old Kelvingrove Cafe. Inside it is cosy and welcoming, and the staff are really nice and helpful. 

We both ordered the sliders, three for £12. I had the lobster, the garlic mushroom and the haddock, which where delicious. Maybe the lobster one was a bit overpowered by the sauce, and I would have liked to taste the lobster a bit more, but that is the only fault I can find. The other two were great and the garlic mushroom one surprised me for the best, it was very good!

The other three were the haddock (again), the lamb and goats cheese and the cheeseburger. It seems that the three of them were great, the cheeseburger one was juicy and soft and I think if it had been a big one, it would have gone pretty fast too! We also ordered some chips, and these were soft and warm and not too greasy, which is always a plus!

The place is supposed to be great for cocktails as well, I haven´t tried them yet but I certainly will be back to the Kelvingrove Cafe as I liked everything about it. 

Have you been to the Kelvingrove Cafe? Did you like it?

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Sundays in Glasgow´s West End

In Scotland you have to take advantage of those rare days when the rain doesn´t make an appearance, and that is exactly what we did last Sunday. We spent the day in the West End, shopping and looking at things in Byres Road and enjoying some relaxing time in the Botanic Gardens.

The West End is definitely my favourite area in Glasgow. It is quite cool and trendy, with modern cafes full of university students, vintage boutiques, independent designers and restaurants for all tastes.

Ashton Lane is a small lane near a metro station. You can walk down Byres Road and not see it, but it would be a shame to miss it. Here you can find The Grosvenor, which is a different type of cinema. The room is not too big, and instead of the uncomfortable cinema seats, this one has comfy sofas! The tickets always sell fast, as it is one of the favourite places for the locals to go to.

In Ashton Lane you can also find the Ubiquitous Chip, one of Glasgow´s most famous restaurants. Their menu consists on traditional Scottish food, but of course very refined and full of flavour. The restaurant is beautiful in the inside, and it is a great place to go for dinner. 


The Lane has a good amount of pubs, where you can find all types of beers and cocktails in those a bit fancier. If the weather is nice you can sit outside in one of the pubs and spend a nice time there, as cars are not allowed and live seems a bit less busy. On the Sunday they have a small market, with crafts, homemade products, books... 

Another famous lane, not far from Ashton Lane is Ruthven Lane. Here you can find to of the best known restaurants in the city, The Hanoi Bike Shop (which is still on my list of restaurants I need to try) and the Bothy. The Hanoi Bike Shop serves Vietnamese food, and not too long ago Beyonce shared a photo of her eating there.

The Bothy is a Scottish restaurant serving classic food in modern ways. The waiters tend to be wearing kilts, and the atmosphere is very cosy, with candlelights and a typical Scottish decoration. The food is very good, and the menu has plenty of options to chose from.

And the last lane I want to mention today is Dowanside Lane, where you can find one of the best vintage shops in Glasgow, Starry Starry Night. With its bright green colour on the outside walls, it is quite difficult to miss when walking along.

At the top of Byres Road you find the Botanic Gardens and the Kibble Palace. The Kibble Palace is a beautiful glass building, inside you can see hundreds of different plats, from all around the world. No matter in which city you are, the Botanic Gardens are always an oasis of peace and quiet, where you can sit for a while and let yourself go.

When the weather is nice the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow get full of people enjoying the sunshine, and they become a happy and vibrant place. But all the time they are a great place to just walk around, sit on a bench or be amazed by the amount of flowers, plants and trees

Do you have a favourite place in Glasgow? Have you been to Glasgow´s West End? Have you tried any of these restaurants?

Thank you!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Glasgow, City of Contradictions

Glasgow is one of this odd cities, where opposites meet time and time again. It has some of the best architecture in Scotland, and some of the ugliest buildings you´ve ever seen. People are nice, helpful, funny, friendly, but then again it has the highest crime rate in Scotland.

There is no doubt though that Glasgow is moving forward, and embracing changes in all levels. However every now and then it is good to look back and see some of those places that make the city great. One of them is the Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Located in the city centre, the Glasgow School of Art has seen some of the top artists in the world study inside its walls. Turner Prize nominees, fashion designers, singers... Although today I don´t want to talk about its alumni as much as I want to talk about the building.

The half further away was the one built first, and from the outside it resembles a Scottish castle.

The Glasgow School of Art design was Charles Rennie Mackintosh first commission, and probably, his most important one. The School was built in two stages, first one from 1897 to 1899; and the second one from 1907 - 1909. This was due to the fact that they run out of money after the first part and had to raise more to continue with the construction of the building.

This also means that there are two easily differentiated spaces, which shows how Mackintosh tastes and designs evolved from one stage to the next. At times the building can be compared to a castle, with big fireplaces, high ceilings and wooden walls.

One of the rooms, the one used by the Board for meetings, was (according to them) too feminine. White is the main colour in this room, and as you can image, it wasn´t the most used colour back then.

But most of Mackintosh inspiration came from nature. Seeds growing to plants and these giving flowers. His famous Mackintosh rose can be seeing in different places at the School too. One of the stories that gets my attention the most is that on the corridors of the first floor there are spaces on the walls where to put vases. His idea was that every morning somebody would go walking around the building, putting flowers in all those vases.

Obviously this never happened as the cost, time and effort of that task was to high to handle.

The images below belong to the Library, built in the second part of the project. All the furniture was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh himself. Always bare in mind this was designed and built at the beginning of 1900, but how modern does it look? Isn´t it amazing to think that somebody back then had such a vision?

Mackintosh was a master of light, he knew how to use it and it is one of the main elements in all his buildings. The School of Art is incredibly bright at times, and incredibly dark at others. For example the stairs going to the third floor are really dark, but when you are at the top you find the "hen run", a corridor with all windows on one side, connecting different artist studios.

Another curious thing is that there is a master clock, that it is the one that controls all the other clocks in the building. When they have to change the time, instead of having to do it one by one, they just go to the master one and voila! all clocks are on time!

If you are interested in learning more about Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow School of Art, you can take one of their public tours, where students explain the history of the building, and talk you through the intricate designs and features of the building.

I have to admit I had never heard of Mackintosh before I moved to Glasgow, but now I never get tired of discovering more of his work and learn more about his designs.

Had you ever heard of Charles Rennie Mackintosh before? Had you been to any of his buildings in Glasgow? If so, which one is your favourite?

Thank you for reading!
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