Posts

Showing posts from March, 2015

Lastres, Luanco, & Llanes: Highlights of the Eastern Coast of Asturias

Image
Pastoral scenes of grazing cows, quaint fishing villages, cinematic landscapes featuring terrifying mountains, and weathered cliffs punctuated by secret beaches: the coast of Asturias in northern Spain really has it all, and walking the Camino del Norte pilgrimage would give you only an introduction to what the northern coast is all about.

After road-tripping through the highlights of Cantabria (a house by Gaudí, Spain’s “prettiest” village, and prehistoric cave art) and the wonders of Picos de Europa National Park, it was time to pivot east to Asturias and check out a handful of famous coastal villages. There’s a lot to see on the Asturian coast, but we decided to limit ourselves to the towns of Lastres, Luanco, and Llanes.

Lastres First stop: Lastres (also called Llastres in the Asturian language). Advertised as merely “one of” the prettiest villages in Spain, Lastres blew this understatement out of the water. I was first inspired to take a brief pitstop here after seeing Christine…

Confession: Why I Can’t Stay in Spain Forever

Image
This past Thursday, people on the Facebook groups for language assistants in Spain began posting elatedly that they had heard back from the Spanish government about getting placed in a region for the 2015-2016 school year. The placements started rolling in: Andalucía, Madrid, Castilla y León, and even an odd first-year getting placed alongside the priority renewals. I always enjoy the exciting atmosphere in the groups during this time of the year, as everyone is either simply euphoric at the opportunity to work in Spain or thrilled that they finally got assigned in their dream region.

This begs the question: are you renewing for another year, Trevor?I know a lot of my followers are wondering if they should expect to continue learning for another year about Spain’s under-appreciated region of Galicia, its language, food, and villages; one more year living vicariously in Santiago de Compostela; yet another year getting to know Spain’s rich history and stunning architecture.

After three …

Hiking in Spain’s Picos de Europa National Park

Image
One of my favorite things about the U.S. is our country’s rich heritage of natural monuments, from Arizona’s Grand Canyon to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I grew up taking family road trips out west to see the national parks and always hopped at the opportunity to go camping in The Natural State with my college’s Outdoor Rec program.

Apart from Galicia’s Cíes Islands and the Praia das Catedrais beach, my travels in Spain have been mostly limited to cultural treasures like cathedrals, castles, and cooking; natural wonders have been sorely lacking in my itineraries.

I made sure to fix this problem during the road trip my housemates and I took across Spain’s northern coast back in November: after getting coffee in cozy Cangas de Onís and appreciating la España profunda (“deep Spain”) at Covadonga, we drove deeper into the heart of the Picos de Europa National Park. Literally the “Peaks of Europe,” this compact collection of mountains sits at the center of the Cordillera Cantábrica, th…

A Guide to Santiago de Compostela for Pilgrims

Image
I finished the Camino de Santiago almost two years ago, arriving in Santiago de Compostela a weary, dazed pilgrim who couldn’t get his bearings straight in the monumental old town. The skies were overcast, the cold weather chilled my shorts-clad legs, and all the plazas in this very gray city seemed to blend together; safe to say, it wasn’t the best of introductions to what would become my favorite place in Spain.

The next morning, I ended up getting the hell outta Dodge by starting the Camino de Fisterra, the extension hike that takes you to Spain’s Lands End on the Atlantic Ocean. Santiago had left a bad taste in my mouth, and I even regretted my decision to transfer up to Galicia for the coming school year.

I feel if I had had a better first impression of Santiago I wouldn’t have left the endpoint of the Way of St. James’ as disappointed and confused as I was. So I’m writing this post today to give future pilgrims something to use when they finish their Camino, so they don’t end up…

Photo Post: Monte do Viso in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Image
One of the things I love most about getting to live in Santiago de Compostela is having so many great hiking opportunities available within an hour of my doorstep. I talked about the various hikes you can take from Santiago on the blog a couple months ago, but I thought one of them merited a post in its own right.

While the most popular place to get an amazing, panoramic view of Santiago is from the summit of Monte Pedroso to the northwest of the old town, there’s another mountain to the southeast that offers similar vistas but with zero crowds: Monte do Viso.

Snuggled in between the futuristic Cidade da Cultura complex and the pilgrim checkpoint of Monte do Gozo, the barren, rocky summit of Monte do Viso looms over the heavily-trafficked Autopista do Atlántico below. The “viso” part of the name is a Spanish and Galician word that means “height or elevation, high point or place, which you can see and describe a lot of terrain from” (thanks RAE dictionary!). A lonely and unforgiv…

Covadonga and the Founding of the Spanish Nation

Image
There are some places in Spain that draw tourists from all over the world—Antoni Gaudí’s still-unfinished Sagrada Família church, the Moorish wonders of the Alhambra, or the Prado Museum in Madrid—but then there are sites that draw a much more local crowd, monuments like Zaragoza’s Pilar Basilica, the royal pantheons where medieval kings and queens are buried, or a monastery where the Spanish language was first written down.

The Royal Site of Covadonga, hidden deep within the mountains of the Picos de Europa National Park, belongs to the latter group of destinations. A small, underwhelming collection of monuments, Covadonga holds a special place in the Spanish national psyche for being the place where Spain was born.

What happened here? The year was 722. Eleven years earlier, Muslim Berbers from North Africa had invaded the Iberian peninsula, quickly overrunning the feeble Kingdom of the Visigoths. A new Islamic emirate was established that encompassed almost all of modern-day Spain …