In an empty bar nearby, I woke up over a warm café con leche and toasted bread served with olive oil and half a whole tomato, an awkward departure from the traditional grated pulp. A gregarious coterie of nurses came in and gave the café some atmospheric caffeine to accompany our coffees. They left for work after scarfing down a pastry here, a short shot of espresso there, but the rain continued to fall.
It was almost nine, so I scooped up the change from paying for breakfast, suited up my backpack, and decided to check out the cathedral.
|The Baroque west façade|
After slipping past heavy, ancient doors and making sure the wind didn’t slam them shut, I entered into a sanctuary in the true meaning of the word: a peaceful place that truly felt holy. As the cathedral had just opened, there were no other tourists shuffling their feet from side-chapel to side-chapel or grannies whispering prayers in the pews; I was alone with these towering Gothic arches and the soft basso continuo of the endless rain.
Walking past the mammoth columns illuminated in magenta, mint, and goldenrod hues, the caretaker took me to the front of the church and pointed out the ornate, realistic wooden altarpiece, designed by Gaspar de Becerra—who happened to be a student of Michelangelo. The caretaker eventually had to leave to continue preparing churchy things for Mass, but I was glad to humor him on this boring Saturday morning (and learn a thing or two about this interesting building).
|Column capitals and bricked arches|
Astorga’s episcopal palace is one of three works by Gaudí done outside of Catalunya—which makes this unique building even more special.
Founded as Asturica Augusta, this legion camp-turned-city was even the capital of the Conventus Asturicensis, a judicial subdivision of the northwestern Roman province of Gallaecia. Half of the modern museum took me underground to the ergástula: a barrel-vaulted foundation used to reinforce the heavy main temple in ancient Astorga’s forum. That Roman arch sure found itself into everything, didn’t it?
|The metate—mealing stone|
|Really old chocolate|
With a brown cardboard bag from the chocolate museum in tow, I left the museum—and it had finally stopped raining.
Which of these places from my daytrip to Astorga most interests you? Tell me in the comments section below!
For more information on all five of these major sights, check out the town council’s handy PDF with hours and prices. And for more pictures, check out my album on Flickr.