Roz and I extended our stay in Spain to visit two provinces we’ve never seen before: Asturias and Cantabria.
We checked into our first-ever parador, the Cangas de Onís. Paradors are hotels run by the government in historical buildings which is a great way to preserve their heritage. The Cangas de Onís parador is in a former 12th century Benedictine monastery and it’s like staying in the past. We had dinner in the parador restaurant the first evening and had our first taste of Cabrales, the local blue goat cheese, very strong and pungent.
We got an excellent night’s rest in what used to be a monk’s cell, but it was anything but ascetic. We can’t
wait to stay in another parador to see if the experience is similar. It will be tough to top this one and we encourage you to seek one out the next time you’re in Spain.
The next day we walked around Cangas de Onís and sat and sipped coffee as we people watched. Such a clean town and as elsewhere in Spain, cars stop as soon as your foot enters the crosswalk. We then went on an adventure of a lifetime: into the Picos de Europa and up to the lakes of Covadonga. This area is where the Crusades and subsequent reconquest of Spain from the Moors started. We learned and saw a lot of history today but the highlight was driving the road to the top and the lakes: a sinewy, steep road often without protective barriers. It
makes the Amalfi road seem like a highway and on several occasions Roz asked me to turn back. But we are both happy we persisted and were able to take some spectacular photos.
Vin’s Cave Adventures
Today we left for Santander but on my bucket list was a visit to some of the prehistoric caves in Northern Spain. I made an appointment to Cueva Buxa near our hotel for 11:15. I was advised there was a 15 minute walk to get to the cave but it was more like 25 minutes, mostly uphill on a slippery clay and stone path. I got there out of breath at 11:16 and the cave door was closed and they left without me. So I had to retrace my steps. Luckily I had made an appointment for 2 pm at the best cave, Cueva Tito Busillo, named after one of the people who discovered it in 1967. Although the visit was in
Spanish, I was able to understand most of it. And we got to see the actual cave art that goes back over 15,000 years!!! There are over 150 caves in northern Spain but not all are open to the public. Tomorrow we travel 30 minutes from our hotel in Santander to visit the replica of Altamira, one of the most famous caves in Spain which unfortunately is not open to the public.
Our next stop was Santander, the capital of Cantabria. Our hotel was right in the center across from the harbor and although not as quaint at the parador, it was very convenient. We spent the next day visiting Altamira, the most famous prehistoric cave in Northern Spain. Although visits to the cave are restricted, the museum has an authentic duplicate which has a fascinating story of cave art. It is difficult to fathom that the museum artifacts date over from 20,000 years ago!
We then went to one of the most picturesque villages in Spain, Santillana del Mar where we had lunch before our final stop in Comillas, another breathtaking seaside town also noted for its Gaudi building, only one of three designed by the world famous architect outside of Catalunia.
Our last day in Spain was spent traveling to Bilbao where we had our farewell to Spain lunch at the 1 star Michelin restaurant Andra Mari, with spectacular views high in the mountains and a meal that warrants its 1 star: taco de foie caramelizado con crema de berenjena; arroz cremoso de liebre; hongos con patata y ravioli de huevo; bacalao al pil pil y a la vizcaina; cochinillo con creama de castañas y tartar de piña; otzbero de helado de nueces con intxaursaltza.
Adios España; hasta la próxima visita.