Tag Archives: Antoni Gaudi

Northern Spain – Cantabrian Coast, Comillas and Gaudi

Comillas Cantabria

Cantabria, Mountains and Coastline…

Although the forecast was poor the weather by contrast was better than expected and there was a clear blue sky with just a few wispy clouds and from the museum car park it was possible to see the sea only a few hundred metres away.  We drove out of the village on a road that climbed quickly and at the top we were overawed by a sight that we were not prepared for.  At a distance of about fifty kilometres we could see the two thousand five hundred metre high peaks of the Picos de Europa which remained snow capped and glistening white in the mid morning sun.

We headed towards the coast road and enjoyed the dramatic contrast of the Atlantic Ocean to our left and the lush green meadows of the hills to the right with the snow drizzled mountains in the near distance.   We were heading for the town of Comillas but stopped several times to admire the power of the sea as great waves rolled in and fizzed onto and through the caramel sand and caressed the random rocks littering the beaches.

I had always thought of Spain as a Mediterranean country but closer inspection of the map shows that a third of the Country’s coastline is along the much more dramatic Atlantic Ocean and the Cantabrian coast is over two hundred kilometres of panoramic beaches, hidden coves tucked into the pleats of the cliffs, green headlands and little towns where fishing boats shelter below harbour cafés.

Comillas, Cantabria…

In the high summer Comillas is a very busy seaside town but it is a lot quieter in May and there was plenty of room in the car park to park the car.  We walked across the pristine blue flag beach washed scrupulously clean by the strong tides and then towards the little harbour with a handful of colourful little fishing boats lying lop-sided as though recovering from a heavy night out on the San Miguel and sheltering behind the strong granite walls.  The tide was coming in quickly and as we watched the harbour began to fill with water and one by one the little boats sprang into life as the sea lifted them off of the mud and they began to dance on the water.

Gaudii Capricho ComillasAntoni Gaudi and me

Comillas is a declared historic/artistic site that in the nineteenth century was once popular with the Spanish nobility who built many fine buildings and mansions here and is picturesque enough to get it hovering near to any top ten list of best small towns in Spain (ok, there are a lot of these lists so it isn’t difficult to pop up now and again in one or another of them).

El Capricho, Gaudi in Cantabria…

Before we left we drove into the old town where there were some fascinating buildings but none better than a rare example of the work of  Antoni Gaudi outside of Barcelona, a mansion called El Capricho complete with a signature tile clad tower, playful ceramic sunflowers and whimsical images of animals playing instruments.

It was built in 1883 for a nobleman who wanted an exotic villa in an oriental style and the really significant fact is that this was Gaudi’s very first commission.  There was a €7 admission charge which was a bit of a shock but having walked all the way through the town to find the place we went through with the transaction and made the visit to the house and the gardens and we were glad that we did.  Kim may have got tired of towers, castles and cathedrals but she remains comfortable with palaces and Gaudi it seems.

So far today the only disappointing thing was the weather which remained rather dreary but as we left El Capricho the sky began to brighten and the temperature leapt a degree or two and we took the opportunity to walk through the historical centre and the flower filled Plaza Mayor and alongside the fish restaurants that were already preparing for lunch time business but being too early for food we moved on and continued our final journey.

San Vicente De La Barquera…

When we reached the motorway we headed promptly west again and in a very short time we were in the fishing town of San Vicente De La Barquera where there was an interesting castle and an old town that stretched from the headland to the church of Santa María de los Ángeles and which enjoyed magnificent views over a busy river estuary to the mountains beyond and a good view too of the Maza Bridge, with its twenty-eight arches, which was built on the orders of the Spanish Catholic Monarchs in the sixteenth century.

Shortly after leaving San Vicente De La Barquera we crossed the Ría de Tina Mayor estuary and crossed out of Cantabria and back into Asturias.

Cantabria 008

More posts about Antoni Gaudi:

Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni Gaudi

Twelve Treasures of Spain, La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Casa Batlló, Barcelona

Park Guell, Barcelona

Northern Spain – The City of León

Leon cathedral Spain

The high plain of Castile levelled out at about eight hundred metres above sea level and then we entered a rather tedious section of road that took us to León via a rather circuitous ring road that looped around the south of the city before taking us back towards the centre.  We found an underground car park at the Plaza Mayor and then took the steps from the subterranean basement into the penetrating sunshine.

The pastel coloured, honey colonnaded Plaza was curiously quiet with an absence of shops, bars or restaurants but too be fair, despite the sunshine, it was probably a little too cool to set out the pavement tables so with nothing to stop for we made our way towards the historical centre and the Gothic French style cathedral.

We had been travelling now for quite a while and it was way past lunch time so before we looked for the Cathedral we stopped in a busy square lined with pavement restaurants and selected one with uneven tables rocking on the cobbles in the sunshine and waited for service.

There was quite a nice menu but no tortilla even though we had seen one inside on the bar.  When the waiter came to take our order we selected some items from the menu and told him that we would also like some omelette.  He explained that tortilla was only available inside and that we should select from the menu.  Kim tried to negotiate with him and to take him inside to show him what we wanted but he was very insistent, to the point of being down-right rude actually, that we couldn’t have the tortilla.

At this point I was minded to go inside and order a beer and a slice and then bring it outside to the table but after careful consideration it didn’t seem worth making a fuss.  To be fair it wasn’t just about us and he was very even-handed about the issue when he was equally forceful about refusing it to a young local Spanish couple.

Leon Spain

After our tortilla starved lunch we paid up without leaving a tip and moved off down a grubby side street with gaily coloured buildings with glass and elaborate timbered enclosed balconies until we arrived at another wide plaza with grand buildings.  In one corner was a magnificent grey turreted building, the Casa Botines, that resembled a castle with a statue of St George slaying the dragon over the front door and this turned out to be a creation of the Catalan architectAntoni Gaudi and one of only a handful outside of his home city of Barcelona.

Actually, there were an awful lot of very grand buildings in this plaza and they all turned out to be the headquarters of the principal Spanish banks.  Typical – the banks create the economic crisis across the Eurozone whilst at the same time ensuring that they own and occupy the best buildings in the city.  I imagined that staff behind the windows were looking down and laughing themselves silly while they counted their bonuses!

And so we returned to the shabby narrow streets with run down shops and decrepit mansions as we made our way to the cathedral.  My overall impression was that if Oviedo was neat and well maintained then León was untidy and in need of some tender loving care and a manicure.  On every street corner there was disfiguring graffiti and the place felt run down, uncared for and generally less affluent and then we reached the Cathedral, a great Gothic sandstone structure in the French style and we walked to the main doors.

They were closed!  This being Monday, León Cathedral seems to have caught the first day of the week closing habit which afflicts museums across Europe and so it seemed that we wouldn’t be able to see the interior of this fine place.  I’d like to tell you about the famous stained glass windows, the cloisters and the high soaring roofs but sadly I cannot and because we didn’t really have time to hang around we left the Cathedral square and made our way back to the car.

We have made this mistake before – stopping off somewhere on route to a final destination and not having enough time in the place to do it justice so I am going to refrain from making a judgement about León except to say that even if I was to return I doubt very much that it would become one of my favourites or make it into my top ten of Spanish cities – it isn’t even a UNESCO World Heritage Site (now, there is an idea for a blog post).

We left León and continued south towards the Province and city of Zamora across the ironing-board landscape of the overwhelmingly flat high plain, through arable fields with snow capped mountains in the far distance and along roads with verges decorated with blood-red black-eyed poppies that swayed in the breeze.

I have flown many times over Castilla y León and looked down at the ribbons of roads, red roofed towns and villages, lakes and reservoirs sparkling in the sunshine but I have to say that down here at ground level it was not nearly so exciting as it appears from ten kilometres high in the sky!

Leon Statue Spain Castila y Leon