Yanitos in Asturias and Cantabria
In a pre-climate change world, I would have planned that, to travel in northern Spain in mid-March, I would have required layers of warm clothing and rain wear too and I would have been right.
Nevertheless, recent warm weather spells saw a group of sixty three travelling Yanitos of a certain age ditching anoraks, scarves and umbrellas in the blazing sun for six days out of seven. We had one blustery rainy day in Santander on our Saturday afternoon and we only had one cold morning in Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, on the last day. Climate change is real folks.
We had heard through friends that Asturias is beautiful and we went for it. They were not wrong. So on a Monday morning we were bussed to Malaga and flown to Oviedo where we arrived at our hotel an hour before dinner, after taking a detour to see the tiny fishing village of Cudillero and then skirting the capital on a panoramic ride with excellent commentary from our Asturian guide, before we all finally escaped to our rooms to shower and hook up to Wi-Fi before a convivial group dinner at the hotel. Day one in the bag and it was very promising.
An early start to Gijon, the most populated and second city in Asturias, first saw us touring a beautiful university campus (Universidad Laboral), a relic of Franco’s days and a showpiece of which there are only five such in Spain. We were dropped at the marina after a panoramic tour of the city and we had time to visit a small art museum in the old town near the marina and saunter at a leisurely pace to the fancy restaurant Tierra Astur for lunch. The décor of concept cider bottles, cider barrels and long banqueting tables, and an extensive sample menu, ensured that even hungry Yanitos found themselves full up as the last dish turned up.
Midweek and we were off early again for a walking tour of Oviedo taking in its beautiful architecture, its quirky street statues in bronze and stopping for al fresco coffee in the blazing sunshine before eventually settling down for a welcome lunch in the city. Oviedo is a proud, very clean and convivial city with excellent shopping and it is totally geared for tourism. Ornate lampposts and a myriad of bronze sculptures dotted across the centre give it an arty flavour. The city has links with the cinema world and hosts various red carpet events annually. We are told that Woody Allen was very fond of this city and he has a bronze statue there too. Highlight of the day, a lunch at another restaurant in the Tierra Astur chain and one of the top restaurants in Oviedo.
On a slightly overcast Thursday morning we were taken to Lastres, high up on the cliffs which offer spectacular views of the sea and the little fishing towns nestling below. The medieval town has a unique charm and also had a steep climb back to our coach where, on arrival, our various levels of fitness were considered tested.
Back down to sea level to Tazones, a quaint fishing village which has some houses decorated with sea shells. We had a typical hearty lunch there and then it was off on a tour of the famous El Gaitero cider winery. Finally, back to our hotel where we had the evening off to do our own thing. This had also been a good day and the extra rest allowed us to face the next day in good spirits.
We had been told that Friday would be a long day and we were moving hotels to Santillana Del Mar in Cantabria.
A crack of dawn start, an early breakfast and check-out saw us leave the charming Asturian capital, heading to Picos de Europa and then onto the famous shrine at Covadonga and its magnificent cathedral high up in the mountains, with our first views of the snow in the five Picos de Europa. We took a stroll in a mountain town called Cangas de Onis with a beautiful Roman bridge once famous for salmon fishing when they were plentiful. Nowadays, catches are rare but the appeal of the fishing legends still make it a tourist hot spot. After a sumptuous lunch in Cangas we made a brief stop in Llanes and then headed to Santillana del Mar and our boutique hotel for the rest of the trip.
On a grey Saturday morning Santander is still a beautiful city and we first were given a panoramic tour and also took in the lighthouse with its spectacular views of the cliffs below where young fishermen still risk life and limbs to pry berberechos from the rocks in the surf. There is a monument by the light house in memory of past delinquents who were pushed down after summary trials… sobering thoughts. After midday we were free to roam in the rain and relative quiet of a wintry afternoon with many shops closed and pre-season nothingness. Apart from a good lunch on the seafront and dodging showers, not a lot to report. Perhaps another time.
Sunday was our last day and we headed to Picos de Europa bright and early for more breathtaking scenery and winding mountain roads up to the monastery and church of Santo Torribio de Liebana and later to the magical town of Potes where we spent time in the narrow streets chock-a-block with tourists and mainland visitors. This was the magnet shopping and browsing highlight of the trip (for me). I was also captivated by the relic of the Holy Cross in the Santo Torribio church where a beautiful mass was celebrated, being St Joseph’s day and Father’s Day in Spain.
On Monday morning we went to Comillas to see the Capricho de Gaudi, a commissioned mansion and artistic statement by the Catalan genius, It is beautiful, and then we left for Bilbao from where we would fly back to Malaga.
En route to Bilbao, in-coach entertainment was ,as ever, given over to banter and proud Yanitos singing ‘Llevame’ and our national anthem too. We had lunch along the way in Castro Urdiales and also took in a small town where we all bought local pastries. Why not?
It was a busy week taking in some beautiful places, not least our hotel in Santillana Del Mar, with its cobbled streets and medieval architecture. Our hotel had a vintage car collection in the garage below and featured propped up vintage motorcycles on every lobby. That was hard to top for quirky boutique-ness and originality. We, all 63, survived and enjoyed the eight-day tour. It went like clockwork – thanks to Horacio and Manolo our travel organizer and guide.
Now let’s hide those bathroom scales over Easter.