Asturias, patria querida

An accidental bucket list item of mine is to visit all the Comunidades Autónomas of Spain. Comunidades Autónomas are the 17 different provinces of Spain. So far, I have visited 10.  I didn’t make it a goal for my time in Spain because if I planned it, I had the feeling I would let myself down if it didn’t come through. I still would like to visit them all, but we will just see where the year takes me.

This weekend’s adventure took me and a friend of mine to Asturias in the north of Spain. I spent one day in Oviedo and two days in Gijón. We planned it on a whim and prayed for good weather. The North is notorious for rain, and lots of rain. So we crossed our fingers and packed our rain gear. I took a 5.5 hour bus from Madrid to Oviedo on Friday. I guess the good thing about rain is the green landscapes. We drove through some mountains and it instantly reminded me of the mountains in Costa Rica. I arrived to the city and just started walking to take advantage of the beautiful, sunny day. It’s a bigger city and had incredibly beautiful and charming architecture.  It was all very colorful and ornate. When I arrived, it was lunch time so I walked into the main plaza and found a nice little restaurant. I had multiple suggestions from teachers at school to drink sidra (cider) and eat “cachopo”. See pictures below for references. Cachopo is not for those with a small stomach. It’s two thin veal cutlets and in between is ham and melted cheese. Then it’s fried. WOAH. Good thing I did lots of waking to burn off those calories. I saw the cathedral, walked through the park, and did some shopping. Then I hopped on a local bus to Gijón. A short 30minute bus ride to the coast.


I met up with April in Gijón and we got dinner at a Sidraría. We had lots to catch up about as we haven’t seen each other since May. We decided around 3am that we have another full day to chat. Saturday was another beautiful day with no rain. We joked that we had to go back to the room so we could put our summer shirts on instead of our winter sweaters. We headed straight to the water and were very surprised when there we saw a ton of people swimming and tanning. It was in the high 60’s but they were taking advantage of the nice day. We stayed dry and kept walking. We walked to this funky sculpture thing on top of a hill. It’s called Cerro de Santa Catalina. It was a nice little hike and pretty views of the beach and the ports. We headed to a little bar restaurant for lunch, per recommendation of April’s teacher friend. We got there at a perfect time right before the rush. We ordered some sidra but were very confused when they didn’t pour it for us. Sidra has to be poured a special way for optimal taste and experience. We played the tourist card and asked for help and they poured it for us at the table. We split the cachopo and it was much more doable between two people.

Some more walking around the town, some shopping and a walk to another beach to watch the sunset.  A perfect weekend escape for a nice dose of vitamin “sea”.

Málaga

Once upon a time four years ago in my Spanish class I did a project on the Spanish autonomous community of Andalucia.  I vividly remember talking about Malaga and the Costa del Sol where it’s sunny approximately 364 days a year.  So when Mia and I had a free weekend, we headed to see if it’s what I remember from my presentation.  This weekend was also a super budget friendly beach trip, under 100€ for transportation, accommodation, and food.

So we took the budget friendly bus option for a leisurely 6 hour bus ride through Spain.  It went by pretty quickly and we woke up from our naps with a view of the sea.  Malaga is on the Mediterranean Sea for those of you who are geographically challenged (cough cough mom).  We checked in to our air b&b and our host gave us some recommendations about things to see in town.  Our only question was “where is the beach? and how do we get there?” Malaga has great things to see in the historic center of the city because it’s the home of Pablo Picasso but our main priority was the beach.  We headed to a little restaurant where they sell homemade food but packaged perfectly for taking it to the beach.  Our host kinda laughed when we asked about the beach because he said it was a little cloudy and chilly.  I think we saw 4 clouds in the sky and it was roughly 75-80 degrees.  Clearly his view of perfect beach weather is a bit biased from living in paradise.

Friday night we headed into town to get some dinner and drinks.  Lots of fried fish and very very cheap!

I wish I could say we did something special on Saturday but we spent the entire day laying on the beach.  We tried going in the water a few times but that was literally freezing.  It was a perfect beach day.  Saturday night we headed back into town for dinner.  We called it an early night because our bus left early the next morning.

There’s really nothing more annoying than waiting to get home after a trip.  It’s always a long day of buses or trains and then more buses and trains to get back home.  But this bus ride was an all time new low for Spain.  Here are the highlights:  a man sleeping and snoring loudly for the entire six hour trip.  NOT JOKING.  Like the kind of snoring where it sounds like he forgets to breathe and then snores super loudly.  The movie they played froze halfway through.  So if anyone knows what happens in the second part of the movie Hercules with Dwayne the Rock Johnson, let me know.  And the most baffling thing was when I heard a “clip…clip” sound.  I look to Mia and I’m glad she hears the same thing.  We turn towards the back of the bus and kiddy corner to us is a man clipping his fingernails.  !!!!! Spain you never fail to surprise me.

Thanks Malaga for a great beach weekend and a start for my summer tan.

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Cadiz

School has ended and that calls for vacation.  Naturally I picked one of the most beautiful beaches in Spain to visit.  White sand beaches, turquoise water, and cloudless skies–Cadiz, Spain is perfect.  A little bit about Cadiz.  It’s in the community of Andalucia in the south of Spain on the Atlantic ocean.  It is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has been through it’s fair share of attacks and changes that date back to Roman times.  Cadiz is an important port city in Spain and it’s where Christopher Columbus started his journey to the Americas.

I took the 4 hour train Friday morning with my friend Mia to the beach.  Train is one of my favorite forms of transportation, it’s relatively fast, more spacious than a bus, and cheaper than a plane.  We arrived in flip flops, shorts, t-shirts and backpacks ready to be dropped off at the hostel.  Within 10 minutes we had our swim suits on and were ready for lunch and then some beach time.

We went to a small beach near the old historic city center of Cadiz.  Here’s an observation from a foreigner: any beach in Spain is a topless beach if you want it to be.  Mia and I were a bit shocked the first time we went to Malaga and saw so many boobs.  (I’m trying to keep it PG-13).  We met some Spaniards and they actually told us that this was the smallest and ugliest beach in Cadiz.  HAH, I don’t think I’ve ever been to an ugly beach.  So after a full day of sun, we headed back to shower, apply aloe vera and get ready for dinner.  We picked a restaurant with some fresh fried fish and a television to watch Spain win their game in the Eurocopa soccer tournament.  We finished the night with some dancing and a few beers.

Saturday morning we grabbed some to-go food for lunch at the beach.  It was about a 45 minute walk from the hostel but worth the blisters on my feet.  It was something that they put on a travel brochure–beautiful.  Mia and I were too excited to jump into the water to cool off, but we were shocked when the water was ice cold.  Not just a refreshing cool water, but like I couldn’t stand in the water for more than 5 minutes because my toes were turning blue.  I guess I’ll have to come back in September when it’s had more time to warm up.  We had another full beach day, went back to the hostel, applied more aloe vera and headed out for dinner.  We found a great place right next to the cathedral for dinner and ice cream.  Mia and I finished the night with more dancing and drinks.  We called it an early night because we were back at the hostel by 6:00.

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Sunday’s train ride was quiet and sleepy.  We arrived in Madrid for lunch at our favorite sandwich shop and parted our separate ways home.  It was a perfect beach weekend that I didn’t want to end.

Sunny Santander

I’d be lying if I said I made this visit for any other reason than to visit a castle where my favorite Spanish telenovela was filmed.

This adorable beach town/port city would be ideal to visit in the summer months or even late spring, but I found a cheap ticket and hotel in January so I couldn’t pass it up.

If I had a million dollars, I’d buy a cute apartment looking out onto the Cantabric Sea. There’s one main road that lines the coast and has impeccable views of the water, also the apartment buildings are something take straight from an architect’s daydream.

I took a train from Madrid, and after a beautiful scenic 4 hour ride, I arrived in Santander. I quickly dropped my bag off at the hotel and started walking. This was a record-breaking fitbit weekend. I think I hit over 30,000 steps over the course of the day, that’s like over 10 miles.

Location. It’s in the north of Spain on the coast of the Cantabria Sea.

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History and Architecture:

The great fire of 1941 destroyed most of the city and this dramatically changed the architecture. Instead of old small stone and wood buildings, large concrete and stone buildings were built for apartments and businesses alike.

Palacio de la Magdalena. (More than just the recording site of the Spanish tv show, Gran Hotel.)

This palace was constructed from 1908-1912 to be a seasonal residence for the royal family. King Alfonso XIII and his family vacationed there for about 15 years. Now it’s being used as a university and you can take classes and live there during the summer. Umm, where do I sign up?

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You can rent out this room for weddings.  FYI this is where I’ll get married 🙂

Food: The north is very famous for pinxos (small plates of food), basically the same as tapas. I found a really great restaurant with a mini cheeseburger and a variation of the Spanish tortilla. YUM

 

Santander is a perfect day trip or a nice weekend getaway. It’s very easy accessible as I took a train from Madrid. And then I took a bus to Bilbao–my next feature on Spanish day trips.