Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The "Orchard"

I hope I didn't over-hype this story; it's really not that great. Especially compared to the photos that accompany it. But anyway, Amparo and I were sitting around eating dinner at 10:30 or so on Saturday when she mentioned to me that her brother owns some land near the coast, and had invited us to out there the next day. Apparently they go pretty frequently since it's only an hour away, and Amparo has a garden there, which all the Spaniards kept referring to as a "huerta" (orchard). I said sure, that I would love to go, but are there bathrooms there? To which she replied "There is one, but it's very ugly."
Oh well, I'm not gonna let that stop me from going to a new place. It just made me a little more nervous and a little less inclined to partake in the afternoon meal. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Sunday morning Amparo's brother Manolo, his wife, and their friend who's name I didn't catch picked us up around 11. We took the autopista (interstate) for a little while, passing through the industrial town of Avilés, then cut through an apparently abandoned stockyard to get to some very windy country roads. You see, Asturias doesn't slope gently down to the sea like Virginia, where the land is completely flat for an hour before you get to the ocean. Asturias greets the sea with massive cliffs.
During the whole car trip Manolo and everyone else in the car were talking, but with the windows down and their rapid Spanish I didn't really understand what they were talking about. It's weird, because I can get the gist of what the conversation is about, but not really the specifics, so to me all of these inter-Spaniard conversations seem really redundant because they are talking about the same thing for a really long time. Kind of hard to explain, sorry if that doesn't make sense.
When we got to Verdicio, which is the name of the town where Manolo's land is, we stopped at a restaurant for coffee and cider. Drinking nothing wasn't an option, so I went for coffee, since it was noon on Sunday. For those of you who don't know, cider doesn't come out of the bottle carbonated, so it's customary to hold the bottle way above your head and the glass as low as possible while pouring to make it fizzy, then drink it as quickly as possible. This makes for a lot of spilled cider, especially when the person doing the pouring is also drinking the cider.
After Manolo and Amparo had downed a bottle of cider about 20 minutes later we headed out again, away from the sea (which we were very close to at this point) and up into the hills. Manolo's orchard is literally at the end of a road, so it's impossible to drive past it. It's also almost impossible to drive to it, because the hill is so steep.
What can I say about this piece of property? I'll start with some photos, and then I'll do my best to describe it for all of my loyal readers.

The view from the gate

The view from the backyard

The Spanish word for crow is "cuervo", like the tequila

As you can see, there is a house here, but it's a very rundown house with no electricity. Surprisingly it does have running water, and the bathroom, although separate from the house in a sort of garden shed, was not as bad as I had expected. Pretty much, the house itself is like a big garden shed with kitchen appliances in it, as it was mostly full of firewood. There is one room on the ground floor and one room above it, but you have to go outside to go between them, as you can see from the staircase on the side of the house. There is an actual tool shed with a sort of patio on top of it where I spent most of my time, but you can also go up on the roof to take in the same view. What view is that, you ask?

After Manolo gave me a tour of the garden (which was pretty fun since I don't know the Spanish names of any vegetables = lots of smiling and nodding) I spent most of the afternoon sitting on the tool shed terrace, reading my book and looking at the view, and moving to the shade when I got too hot. Amparo and the friend gardened, Manolo's wife slept, and Manolo spent all day digging, mixing concrete, and laying a walkway of granite slabs with the shiny side facing downward (?) We had the usual huge afternoon meal, with seafood empanadas, chicken breasts, venison sausage, and tortilla (omelet, remember), along with at least two but maybe three bottle of cider. I tried some this time, it was much more bitter than I expected, but not bad. Amparo's daughter Eva had driven out to meet us and after dinner she invited me with her to go find a beach because she wanted to go swimming, but I didn't feel like it right after eating and I'm kind of intimidated by Eva because she's harder to understand than Amparo. OH as an example of one of those redundant conversations, I swear they spent 20 minutes trying to tell Eva which beach to go to, because some are too rocky and some have dangerous currents. After lunch I found a snail, and turned into something of a nature photographer until it crawled onto a bush and out of sight.

Anyway, we left Verdicio around 6 and stopped in Avilés for another bottle of cider, apparently it's impossible to drive anywhere without taking a cider break. Amparo and I rode with Eva on the way back, not only because Manolo drives really slow but also because he had polished off at least 4 bottles of cider at this point (although much of the last bottle ended up on the ground, as I mentioned earlier). We got back to Oviedo around 8 and the rest of the evening was uneventful.
Overall I had a really good time, but I was surprised to learn that Manolo has owned this place for 20 years and it still looks like this. He works in a welfare office so he doesn't really have a ton of money and apparently he only works on the house when he has the time and money to do so. I'm guessing he got it for a bargain because of it's condition. The whole time I was there though I was picturing how awesome this house would be if it was fully restored and well kept. It looked like the kind of project that I would want to tackle with my dad. I feel like I'm being really critical right now and that's not how I mean to sound, I'm really thankful that they were nice enough to invite a random foreigner out to their property. Manolo also has a house in León in the mountains that he said he wants to show me, so that should be an interesting experience as well.


  1. Nice post! Love the picture from the "roof." Looks like Manolo could use some help with his fixer-upper; maybe he could teach you his stone laying techniques next time, and we're sure he would appreciate a strong, young back. Keep those pictures coming - good stuff! -- Mom & Dad

  2. What a great story and wonderful pictures! I agree that this place is a fixer-upper and think that you and Ed would do a fine job. If you needed any more muscle, Uncle Doug could assist and then your Mom and I could come along and learn Spanish and be like Diane Lane in that movie about Tuscany. . . I need to work on this plan! I am enjoying reading about your adventures. Love and miss you. Aunt Connie

  3. Hey Patrick!! What a wonderful experience you are having abroad~I'm SO jealous. They didn't offer such fabulous educational opportunities in the dark ages:) Enjoy yourself!!
    I really enjoyed reading your blogs~thanks for the close up help with the frog! I still need several hours of CE this year for pharmacy so I could use the frog help:)
    Your adventures make me want to plan a trip to Spain~I'll have to start saving!
    Maybe I can take you with me to be the tour guide!
    Take care and have a great time!!
    Debbie Mauzy

  4. Greetings from Virginia - Thank you for sharing your wonderful experiences and beautiful pictures with us. What a tremendous opportunity you have there and the stories that you will tell your children one day. I wish I could be there to see all the sights and the history that you are taking in. Nothing in the US really compares to the age of the buildings in Europe. They are really old. Stay safe and have a great time. Keep posting so we can travel through your blogs with you. Take care. From Becky Tate at the VA UM Conference