Sundays in this part of Spain are pretty quiet. Most shops and restaurants are closed and some of the locals are out taking their Sunday strolls and drives. But for the most part, Oviedo was very calm and sleepy today. Even the weather seemed to match the mood. It started out dawning bright and sunny after a night of lite rain showers and eventually the few white clouds grew into dark grey thunder-heads heavy with impending rain. By the time I was walking home at six in the evening, the air was frigid and the wind was howling. One of my favorite things about Spain at this time of year is that the sun doesn’t set until about 10PM and the last fading hues of light don’t give way to the dark until about 10:30pm.
And what is there better to do on a summer Sunday? Stroll through a gorgeous enchanting park of course. I have determined that one of my favorite places in all of Europe is the San Francisco Park in the center of Oviedo, Spain. “In all of Europe,” you may ask? This is not an exaggeration and I’ve truly given this some thought throughout my three visits here to Oviedo and the San Francisco Park. It really is that special, wonderful, and downright magical. Try to think of it like this…it’s like Narnia and Lord of the Rings combined and brought to life. If one color were to describe it, that color would be green…and now that I think about it, that would include every shade of green possibly imaginable. Yet it’s most intoxicating aspect is not just the colors…it is how ancient-ness comes to life there.
I’m not sure of the exact size of the park, because regardless of the size, as soon as you enter you desire to wander and meander along every sidewalk that exist. This means going in circles at times, which has never been more pleasant of a past-time than it is here. Each path seems to be made of a different material and width, some narrow sidewalks and some wide, graceful boulevards. I am constantly aware of the risk of tripping over myself or on some uneven point in the sidewalk as I constantly look up and all around, which I wonderfully cannot help because I am so captivated by the presence of nature here. All around me, I walk under varying sizes of towering majestic trees. They stretch out from the lush green lawn like giants, grand and noble with their old trunks that spread out into branches teeming with leaves larger than my hands. Some have trunks of smooth cream-colored bark with knobby knolls gracing their skin. Others are dark and rough, with lines that could resemble wrinkles for all the years they have existed. From there, one cannot help but follow your sight from trunk to tree-top where a canopy of leaves forms that surreal roof over the park.
Here and there the sunlight shines through causing the shades of green to shift and change. If you take the time, you can stop and see the small veins in the leaves that extend closer to the ground and our level. Lite, bright, dark forest green…innumerable shades take place on the leaves as time goes by and weather and sunlight perform a magic show of green color through them. The diverse assortment of trees are a pageant show presenting leaves of multiple shapes and design. Each trunk extends up into its own formation of splits and branches that reach further up like tentacles sprouting full heavy clouds of leaves. They overlap each other, looking like friends and neighbors in this natural community.
The trees are not all though. What park would be like Narnia and as enchanting and magical without the classic lamp-post? All throughout the park and right at home with the endearing trees are the ornate black lamp posts, standing tall and gracing each walkway. They fit in so well with the park that at first you may miss them…but take care, because they are an intricate and special part to the beauty and personality of the park. To put it more simply, they look just like the lamp-post out of the Chronicles of Narnia stories. Add to them the backdrop of the trees and green lawn and you feel like you’re transported to another world all together.
Trees and lamp posts alone are captivating in this park, yet that is not all that it entails. At home in Park San Francisco, like in any good park, are clusters and gatherings of colorful flowers, larger than life with their long stems and vibrancy. They seem so large and full that you wonder if they’re freaks of nature. From small petals of lilac and white to roses of red and yellow, the flower beds are dispersed throughout the park. Perfectly situated next to the traditional wood and wrought iron park bench, of which many exist throughout the park, the two create perfect points of rest and beauty.
A pond shaped like a lily pad and with a fountain in the middle is home to the white swans, turtles, and even exotic peacocks that occasionally you encounter elsewhere in the park. Two small playgrounds are the epicenter for humans of all ages and at one end of the park is even a skateboard half-pipe. It’s bright graffiti colors and designs give a time-surpassing contrast to the ancient stone planters and carvings that inhabit the same space. Nearby are two large fountains located at opposite ends of a large tree-lined boulevard in the park. Standing in the middle and looking to either end, you feel you’re seeing mirrored images reflecting the two fountains to your right and your left.
The park is the community epicenter of Oviedo. I have noticed that family is very important in this town by seeing numerous families of several generations taking walks together. Many times, I will see grandparents walking their grandchildren, having picked them up from school or enjoying a Saturday morning with them. Other times, I can tell that it is the parents, their children, and the grandparents enjoying their town’s park together. My favorite is seeing the elders sitting in the park benches, which they steadily made their way over to with their cane and slowing steps. They dress so well, with their vest, newsies hat, and dress shirt. They sit on the benches under those gorgeous trees and they talk and discuss and watch. The boulevard, fountain, and playgrounds are strategic locations for stands selling ice-cream and other treats.
Nestled deep in one corner of the park is a small cafe-stand with outdoor seating and umbrellas. It’s comfortably at home in between the wildlife pond and my favorite part of the park…an enchanting mystical stone arch that is what remains of the ruins of the ancient San Isidoro Church. Perhaps it looks so mystical because it appears alone and out of nowhere. Under the arch is an ideal photo-opp and is even more perfect for imagining a magical portal into which you step through into the ancient times of this northern part of Spain when it was even more rugged and wild. Yes…it is that captivating. Maybe you just have to see it to believe it. Numerous other monuments are located throughout the park, such as the Neoclassical stone bench, the Silla del Rey (the King’s Chair), which dates back to the 18th century.
Everything in this park culminates and lives together to weave a world of its own. This world is characterized by ancient-ness, from the grand large trees to the monuments and ruins that all tell stories…histories of long ago, for this park and everything in it has seen more than any of us have yet lived…or for that matter, will ever live. It’s not just old…no, it’s much more than that…the San Francisco Park is beautifully ancient as a living organism of history that embodies this town of Oviedo, the region of Asturias, and it’s people and culture. They are all intrinsically rooted in this deep, romantic history that transcends time and pours out through everything…even the trees!