For any coffee indulgers, the Asturian hills are a caffeine lover’s delight. Almost every pueblo has a bar or three. Paredes is no exception and has two.
On a very hot Thursday afternoon at the end of July coffee called. When doesn’t it?
The camino to Paredes is a scenic one as it meanders through hills caressed by an abundance of woodland. Flora lovers will relish in the variety of vegetation found along the way. Somewhere near Brieves a buddleia bush hangs over the road aping a willow close by. Hydrangeas are ten a penny, a rainbow of purples, mauves and pinks. Fields of maize swayed in the gentle summer breeze. Beans climb their poles grasping on to their string that keeps then upright. Paredes is busy. Half a dozen cars are parked; busy for Paredes! The bigger of the two bars serves Menu del Dia offering typical Asturian fare. Its lunch time and five of their tables are occupied. The father is tending bar; the mother apparently is the woman sweating away in the kitchen whilst their teenage son earns his keep waiting tables. Their efficiency rivals that of the Ritz.
The sun is at its highest and we seek refuge in the coolness of the bar. We order our coffee. The coffee beans intoxicate the nose, mingling in the air with the aroma of the Asturian fabada stew wafting from the kitchen. Perching on our wooden stalls we enjoy the cool breeze that strokes our arms and face; a contrast to the almost baking temperatures outside. My knees feel chilled as I press them against the icy chill of the pink & white patterned tiles that form the front of the bar. My eyes look upwards from the tiles & catch the coloured reflection of the diverse selection of exotic branded bottles. The rainbow colours bounce from the polished chestnut wood counter back into the air, mingling with the muted rays of sunshine drifting through the open doorway.
A fly tickles my arm as he rests for a millisecond as he takes a break on his way to who know where. The bar is a visual delight. Corncobs and clogs hang, often from the same rusting nail. A small imitation of a grandfather clock keeps time, ticking in unison with the popping of the wine corks as the proprietor keeps his customers satisfied. On the menu today is the Asturian faba stew. The pungent aroma wafts through the open door that leads to the kitchen. A chorus of chinking china & clinking cutlery reminds us how busy the kitchen is on this hot, sweltering day. We tell each other how grateful we are to be sitting close to the cooling breeze created by the twentieth century fan that looks so out of place in this bar that could have leapt out of a Dickens classic. Chorizo & shoulders of jamon sway on their hooks over a counter of antiquated tins of food stock reminding us that the bar doubles as the local ‘tienda de comestibles’. Interspersed with the cured meats are other hooks from which hangs a selection of wicker baskets. A plastic terracotta pot stands in front of the bar containing a selection of handcrafted wooden walking sticks reminding us that the pueblo, like so many others, is inhabited by an aging population.
The proprietor pauses to chat. He remembers us from previous visits. There are three other English couples who have bought houses in Paredes, he tells us. Does he know Graham, who we know from going to teleCentro, we ask him. Oh yes, they are good friends. Graham, it seems, eats at his bar quite often. He turns to a couple who have entered to settle their bill. He takes the proffered notes & opens the antique, rusting register that appears even older than Dickens would have been! The coins inside jingle, out of tune with the creaking rattle of the machine.
Coffee finished, we bid ‘adios’ promising to return when the caffeine urge beckons. Won’t be too long...........