The Paradise is Green, did you know that? A trip from Asturias to Cantabria

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Thanks to a long bank holiday we decided to go to the North of Spain, destination: the Cantabria Coast.  We had 4 days, departing by car from Madrid.  Anyway, if you are flying to Asturias or Cantabria many low cost companies fly to the main airport of the region:  Gijón, Oviedo, Santander.

We went there during springtime: PROs: it’s quiet, peaceful, and NOT crowded; CONTRA: weather can be really rainy and foggy.

DAY 1: Madrid-Oviedo (4hrs)

The driving was shorter than we expected. But be prepared that during high season (summer) it’s really common to find traffic jams. The highway from Madrid to Oviedo costs around 20 Euros. During the drive you will pass through the Rueda Region, it’s the perfect chance to stop and get some bottles of wine from the bodegas that are just outside the exit (Rueda) of the highway. If you exit the highway here you won’t have to pay.

We stopped for a café con leche (coffee with milk) and tostadas con tomate (toasted bread with tomatoes) at Drunken Duck restaurant, exit Villamañan.

We stayed in Oviedo for a night at the hotel Ayre Hotel Alfonso II. A very good quality-price hotel. It’s in the most beautiful district of Oviedo on Naranco hill. The location is really peaceful and quiet and you can reach the city center on foot in less than 10 min. unfortunately it’s not easy to park but the hotel has a private parking that costs around 8 Euros. Rooms are really comfortable and they leave you all kind of amenities and bathrobe with flip flops too…I found an offer: 88euros room/night and breakfast included.

We spent the afternoon visiting the city center. It rained the ALL DAY without stopping for a sec. Bear in mind that: if Asturias is SO GREEN there might be A reason. We headed to the Cathedral and went to visit the Museum with the famous holy crosses of Asturias. After we discovered that there was an Art Museum just next to it and that it was free.. it was the perfect occasion to escape from the rain. The collection was interesting: contemporary artists, El Greco, Sorolla, and Goya too! Do not miss the Mercado Fontan, a marketplace where you can try the most famous Asturias Products (M-F:8am-8pm;S:8am-3.30pm).

After the walk have a glass of Sidra in Gascona Street : Tierra Astur is our advice.  If the weather is friendly with you take a walk through the public gardens of San Francisco.

We had a delicious dinner outside the city center, we reached it by car in less than 15 min. It’s a Llagar, a cider factory that was transformed into a restaurant. We suggest the bacalao or a parrillada (grilled fish or meat..they have an old firewood oven! http://www.elllagardetiti.com/

 DAY 2 Oviedo-Ribadesella-Llanes

During the morning, since our hotel just faced it, we visited the Naranco Mountain. A precious site where the most significant churches of the Asturias Preromanic style are preserved.  Stop in the parking lot of Santa María del Naranco where you will find an interesting interpretation center that will give you a general idea about the history and the origins of Asturias and the Preromanic.

An then have a nice walk up to the hill to visit Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo churches. We then took the car again and reached the top of the hill where Christ statue is. There is an impressive landscape: on one side the mountains and on the other the sea.

We left Oviedo at noon, took the Cantabrian highway and reached in an hour Ribadesella, a town on the coast famous for its River Sella and the

famous fiesta Descenso del Sella that takes  place every year in the first week of August. By the way you can canoe along the River from Arriondas to Ribadesella: 15 km long. It takes around 3-4 hours and there are plenty of agencies that organize it during the year.

After the walk around the harbor, we went on the Gran Vía and stopped at Carnicería Moderna. A gourmet shop, where we bought some cheese. After eating it at home we regretted not having bought more of that..:-( Buy  Cabrales, the most typical cheese of Asturias and then let you guide from the advices of the owner, she is fantastic and just sells good quality food.  We went near the church and had a daily menu (it’s the cheapest way to eat at restaurants) for 10 euros where we ate some typical dishes: fabada, potatoes and meat with cabrales sauce, arroz con leche, chipirones (squids). http://www.ribadesella.es/img/mapa_situacion_grande.jpg

After lunch from Ribadesella we went to our next hotel by taking the street AS-263 and stopped at the Acantilados del Infierno, a unique landscape generated by the meeting of the ocean, the rocks and the wind. The street is narrow and you will certainly meet pilgrims of St. James’ Way  since the road crosses  the path several time. Be brave and don’t be scared by getting lost the road just finished once you reached the Acantillados. Look at the map here: http://www.ribadesella.es/img/mapa_concejo.jpg

If you want to visit the famous Tito Bustillo Cave, remember you have to book it in advance at this telephone number 0034  985 861 255. More info here: http://www.centrodearterupestredetitobustillo.com/3/visitas/26/visitas/30/tipos-de-visitas.html

If have more time than our trip we recommend you stay at least 2 days here, so that you can canoe and visit the caves.

From the Acantillados we went to Cuerres and from there we reached Llanes by driving on the AS263, it goes parallel to the highway, it takes more but in this way you can stop whenever you want. If it’s sunny have a nap on the beach playa de San Antolin de Bedón.

Our Casona Rural (a typical house of Asturias farmers) was in Andrin, a little town after Llanes. A wonderful and peaceful place to rest few days. http://www.hotellaboriza.es/ It’s 5 minutes walking from Andrin Playa. Since we stayed during the low season, the room with breakfast included cost 66€ per night. Very cheap for that place.

Andrin is a really small town, it has 60 habitants during the year, but in summer it reaches up to thousands!! One evening we decided to have a light dinner in the only bar of the town, the owner was really nice to us. The other restaurant is a little bit expensive. Take in mind that it’s a very tourist place and prices are higher.

Below you’ll find a list with some restaurant that Clara Martín Duque, who knows really well this area, suggested me going to the following restaurants:

RESTAURANTS IN LLANES

  • LOS PIRATAS DE SABLONS , Calle La Moría, tel. 985 40 01 69. Good and cheap place to eat shellfish (percebes/barnacle, zamburiñas/scallop y gambas/shrimps) Try onion with filling (cebollas rellenas), they are impressive!
  • RESTAURANTE EL JORNU, Carretera de Pancar 43, You have to book 985 40 16 15. It’s really good but a little expensive. Plentiful portions and good fish.
  • RESTAURANTE MIRADOR DE TORÓ, Calle Toro,12, next to Toró Beach) Need to book +34 985402997 Very good but expensive. Try squids with ink (calamares en su tinta) and any other kind of fish. Good rice with milk (arroz con leche)

 RESTAURANTES THE N-634 ROAD.

  • RESTAURANTE EL HOYU L AGUA. Puertas de Vidiago (direction Cantabria). It’s really good. Highly recommendable the TORTUS (a sort of fried corn crepes with meato or vegetables or cabrales). Share it because they are really heavy.  Try croquetas de cabrales (cabrales croquettes), leek sautéed with eggs (revuelto de puerros) and stew (guisos de carne)
  • CASA POLI Puertas de Vidiago Both meat and fish are really good. Don’t order anything outside the menu, even if recommended, it can be really expensive.
  • SIDRERÍA CASA RUBIU http://www.sidreriacasaelrubiu.com/, on the N-634 road direction Cantabria, once you reach Vidiago, on the left next to the church take the road with trees. At the end on the right there’s the restaurant. Cheap, very good croquettes, fresh fish and good arroz con leche.
  • PENSIÓN  PARRILA “CASA DE ABAJO” Carretera del Cantábrico (N-634 – E-70) – La Franca s/n Cheap and good quality. Try Tortilla de patatas (potatoes omelet), squids, and ribs.

 In COLOMBRES

  • LA BARATA (in the main square of the town) It’s cheaper and abundant  if you eat daily menus (10-12 euros). Outside the menu we recommend fabadas (bean stew)and meat.

We went to Llanes in the late evening; we had a short walk under the umbrella through the city center and went to see the famous colored cubes of stone in the harbor (nothing special for me). We tried Los Piratas restaurant, fish was really good..even though a little bit expensive compared to other places, but Llanes is very tourist..

 DAY 3 PICOS DE EUROPA

Our hotel just faced towards the big mountains called “Picos de Europa”, since it was quite sunny in the morning we decided to drive up there. In case it’s raining do not even try, the striking thing there is the landscape, with bad weather it’s meaningless..

We stopped in Covadonga where we visited the famous sanctuary built in a cave up on a ¡cascade. Wecould reach it by car and could park there, but during the peak season you will have to leave your car down the valley and take the bus. It’s a new procedure since they want to avoid big congestion on the roads and pollution in the national park.

After Covadonga we moved forward, direction Los Lagos. A famous spot inside the Picos de Europa National Park. We parked near the first lake and had a short walk to the second lake, we saw the old mine. Since it started raining (AGAIN) we went inside the visitors’ center.

We had lunch at Sidreria El Prain in the town of Mestas de Con. A nice restaurant with a big garden, and a fabulous sight.

We took the car again and stopped at Canga de Onis  to see the famous Roman Bridge and try a good “pastel” (sweet) and hot chocolate to warm up at the tea room La Golosa on Avenida de Covadonga.

DAY 4 Llanes-San Vincente de la Barquera-Santillana del Mar-Burgos

We left our wonderful hotel with its delicious breakfast in the morning after a short walk to Andrin Beach. We took the A8 highway and had a first stop in Colombres famous for the so called Indian houses, houses that were built by those immigrant families that found fortune in South America but decided to bring some money to their native town too.

We finally crossed the borderline with Cantabria and stopped in a pearl on the ocean: Sant Vincente de la Barquera. It’s a very tourist place but we really loved it, especially the huge beach full of surfers. It’s the ideal place to practice this sport. If you have extra days I would suggest you spend an extra day here. Restaurants were cheaper here, indeed, than Llanes. We had a light lunch in the city center and then took the CA131 a road that goes along the coastline.

Passing Comillas (famous for the only building Gaudi built outside Catalunya)and ending in Santillana del Mar a medieval town that brings you back to the past, despite the souvenirs shops that are everywhere and sell all the same.

We wanted to visit the reproduction of Altamira Cave but on Sundays it closes at 3.00pm  (!!!)http://museodealtamira.mcu.es/

Since the drive back to Madrid was too long and we wanted to avoid traffic, we decided to spend a night in Burgos.  We slept at Luisa hotel, nothing special but cheap. We didn’t book anything so we just took the first available. In Burgos, apart from visiting the stunning cathedral and breathe a bourgeois atmosphere of the town, you have to eat at Cerveceria Morito (Calle Sombreria 27). A cheap place but with a really good quality and BIG BIG portions! You’ll certainly have to wait in line but it is worth!!!We ate so well that we decided to go back there for lunch.

On day 5 we visited the Museum of the Human Evolution. Our suggestion is to visit it with a guided visit. Alone it can be really tiring since the interpretation isn’t dynamic and interactive. Everything is written and it’s too much scientific.

Asturias and Cantabria are the perfect mix between sea and mountain. The adjective is one: green. Their gastronomy is incredible, with a huge variety of typical dishes. I would recommend a trip here for those that like active tourism, trekking, surfing but also for those that want to relax in a fresh place and enjoy good food. The only unpredictable element is the weather. Unfortunately you’ll always have to bring an umbrella with you. You’ll never know.

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