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.
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.
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.
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