Once upon a time…
I designed walking and cycling holidays in Europe. #bestjobever
And so it was in this official capacity that I was invited by the Spanish Tourism Board to participate in a ‘Familiarisation’ tour of the region collectively known as España Verde (Green Spain). Broadly speaking, Green Spain comprises the fascinating regions of Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia running west from Bilbao and hewn into the north western corridor of Spain.
I came to Green Spain just ‘for a look’ – I really knew very little about the region. To be honest I accepted the invitation not with glee or pent-up excitement but more-so a nonchalant air of – ‘sure, why not’. Looking back now I believe that it was exactly this lack of expectation or any preconceived notions about the region that enabled this small pocket of Spain to capture me as it did. I was immediately beguiled by its veritable smorgasbord of attractions – it was an alluring tapas of scenery, gastronomy, culture and ancient traditions.
I began my explorations in the delightful medieval city of Avilés. Reputed to have been a settlement as far back as Roman times there is a relaxed and un-rushed ambiance to the third largest city in Asturias. Avilés is ‘laid-back’ and a pleasure to stroll as much of it’s centre has been pedestrianised. There is also a pleasing amalgam of history and culture with many enticing bars and eateries interspersed between fine historical buildings dating back centuries.
But Green Spain offers much more than just appealing ancient cities. In fact the diversity of attractions afforded to the traveller in this little known and verdant pocket of Spain is a little ridiculous.
Green Spain highlights:
- Picos de Europa National Park. Towering mountains. UNESCO listed.
- Camino de Santiago. (One of the world’s most well-known walking trails/ pilgrimages)
- Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Cutting edge, contemporary art.
- Fascinating cities such as Avilés, Oviedo and Santiago de Compostela
- Quaint fishing villages
- Lush forests and bucolic rolling pastures
- Ancient traditions continued to the present day
- Atmospheric coastline, brutal waves & brave (insane?) surfers
- Sublime seafood, crisp ciders and delicious local gastronomy.
Unlike much of Spain the distances you have to travel between attractions in this region are negligible and there is no need for a ‘bull-on-a-hill’ every few hundred kilometres or so to keep your interest.
Stretching out like a fisherman’s net along the northern coastline is a series of fishing villages so quaint and charming they feel as though they could have been built as a movie set – such as Tapia de Casariego pictured below. These hamlets are safe anchorages and restful enclaves from the sometimes bombastic seas that smash with fury against the sea walls protecting the harbours and their fleets of small fishing vessels.
There is also a palpable sense of Celtic tradition in Green Spain. Unlike the Romans before them, who sought to pillage and plunder, the Celts who came to this region in the ‘Dark Ages’ settled and integrated with the local populace. Their legacy and influence is unmissable even today and adds a truly unique flavour particularly to the province of Asturias. Craggy coastal inlets, lush green pastures, stands of majestic forests and locals playing bagpipes really make you want to pinch yourself on occasion to check you are not in Scotland.
However I would have to say that, of all the region’s charms, it is their stubborn insistence on continuing their ancient traditions that appealed most to me. The rest of the ‘first world’ is so dominated by technology. Technological advancement that so often doesn’t just supersede the present-day ways but snubs them out for ever. This doesn’t seem to be the case here. Yes you can use your mobile phone but pleasantly you can also use it to take a photo of a blacksmith at work!
Our purpose here at Thirty Summers dot com is to help you, our reader, Escape Ordinary. A visit to the little-known España Verde and exploration of its diverse delights truly delivers on this maxim.
All images © Saxon Templeton