Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia
These are the three provinces on the north coast of Spain and we headed west from one to the next. The Cantabrian coastline is dotted with small villages, beautiful beaches and rocky headlands.The vegetation surprisingly consists of eucalypt trees.Vast mountainsides are covered with them; the roadsides are lined with them.In many places it looks just Australia - except for the towering mountains of the Picos de Europa to one side and the outcrops and sea-cliffs of limestone to the other.
Driving is mostly a matter of watching for the speed limit signs - apart from ensuring you are on the right side of the road.Signs are abundant and the speed limits change up and down within metres of each other. Within 100 metres the speed limit can change from 120 to 100 to 90 to 100 and then to 90 again!
Each day we have so far managed to buy fresh local bread and find a nice beach to have lunch.One loaf was bought from a small bakery in a village with about 6 houses.The only clue that there was bread for sale was a faded sign and some bread stacked up in a window.We found the door and walked into an old fashioned bakery.A wood fire was still burning hotly in an oven set low in a sunken floor while a young boy was sweeping up the flour from the floor.The bread was stacked up on a table. We pointed at one, the baker's wife pointed at a price on the wall.Many smiles and 'gracias' all round.The bread was delicious.
One camp site of note was called 'La Paz'.It was situated at the top of a long, steep drive of several hairpin bends.A sign at the bottom asked caravan owners to unhook their vans so they could be towed up by Land Rover.We could fortunately make it up to the top easily.From the top, the site was laid out all the way down to the small cove with its sandy beach at the bottom. Again narrow roads wound everywhere and much manoeuvring was needed to get caravans and motorhomes and cars into place.Places for tents were flat areas carved out of the hillside with tortuous paths leading to them.We found a place for ourselves near the top of the hill and enjoyed the breathtaking views of the beach and the surf with a glass or two of Spanish wine. Like all the beaches we have seen here, there is a tremendous tidal range and what is a lovely wide sandy beach at low tide disappears completely at high tide.
Asturias (which I only knew as a favourite piece of guitar music till now!) is a small province along from Cantabrica.Its most distinctive architectural feature is the presence of many 'sheds' next to old farmhouses or in villages.These are square timber buildings set high on four triangular pillars or stilts with a slab of rock or concrete atop the pillar. Steps don't go all the way up to a door - there is a large gap from top step to the building.Some are being restored; some are still in obvious use, while many are in complete ruin.Without having read anything about them, we can only assume that they were used for hay or other food storage, and that the slabs on the pillars and the big gap on the stairs was to keep out vermin.
Asturias, like Cantabria, is green fields and small villages.Cudillero was a picture-postcard town at the end of a long windy road down a steep mountain.No visitor cars are allowed in the village so we parked next to the fishing harbour and wandered the narrow streets.A tiny shop yielded our fresh bread for the day as well as some local varieties of pastries.The shop-keeper chatted on showing us old postcards of her shop in 1940s, not at all deterred by the fact that we looked bewildered and understood not one word she was saying.
We had wanted to drive right up around the coast in the north-west, in Galicia.But it seems our maps were a bit out of date, and even the GPS had not caught up with the explosion of motorway construction that has taken place (in the boom times no doubt - not much work being done on the unfinished sections at all).So we found ourselves heading west on a motorway with no way to get off for many, many kilometres. So, change of plans: we headed south-west instead of north. No big deal.