Two weekends ago I took a spontaneous trip to northern Spain, desperate to see the ocean and surround myself with some much-needed greenery. Although I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the north, the region of Asturias completely took my breath away.
On Friday we began our road trip up north, making a pit stop in Rueda to do some wine tasting along the way. (Man, road tripping in Spain is rough.) Once we finally hit Asturias, we settled into our darling condo in Santa María del Mar and walked down to the beach. I just about cried when I first saw the ocean from our condo's balcony. This is the first time I haven't lived near water, and as much as I love Madrid, I can't stand being so far away from the ocean. After nine land-locked months of living in Madrid, my soul was beginning to feel dehydrated. Something was clearly missing. Those nagging ocean-withdrawals instantly went away as soon as I set eyes on the Bay of Biscay, beautifully surrounded by lush mountains, rocky cliffs and emerald forests.
Cabo de Peñas
After sipping several tinto de veranos by the beach while soaking up the sun, we ventured to Cabo de Peñas to explore its majestic cliffs. Located on the northernmost point of Asturias, the views of the cliffs and the Bay of Biscay were absolutely sublime. I could have admired the scenery for hours, but after braving the windy streets of Gozón we were ready for a sweet treat. We headed to Luanco, a charming fishing village with colorful buildings and gorgeous ocean vistas. The region of Asturias is well known for its dairy products, and there's a hole-in-the-wall ice cream shop in Luanco that supposedly has the best ice cream in the region. I ordered the turrón flavor paired with arroz con leche, and I just about died of happiness.
The quaint streets of Luanco
Arroz con leche and turrón ice cream - a top contender for the best ice cream I've ever had!
The next day, eager to burn off the calories we consumed after eating obscene amounts of delicious ice cream, we embarked on a grand kayaking adventure with Astur Aventura. Despite
canoeing canoozing many times throughout college, I'd never actually kayaked before. This will be a breeze, I nonchalantly thought to myself. FALSE. After our 12 kilometer trek down the Río Sella, I thought my arms were going to fall off. But the pain was undoubtedly worth it, because kayaking through the Asturian countryside was one of the most fun things I've done all year. Not only was the adventure within itself thrilling, but I felt so fulfilled being surrounded by such breathtaking nature.
I love the outdoors, but I'm severely athletically challenged. I was always the worst player on my soccer, basketball and volleyball teams, and I've always been the weakest link when it comes to any sort of recreational athletics. Hence, why I opted to be a newspaper editor instead of doing sports back in high school. God bless my poor friend who got stuck with me and had to teach me Kayaking 101. ("Courtney, you can't put your pinky out when you're rowing!" This isn't tea time!)
We conquered the Río Sella after 12 km of kayaking
All kayaking pictures thanks to Jen, who bravely brought her phone along!
Exhilarated yet exhausted from our kayaking adventure, we continued our journey though the north and headed to Covadonga - by far my favorite place in Asturias. Covadonga is a sanctuary nestled in the Picos de Europa mountains, boasting a stunning cathedral and incredible lakes, caves and chapels. Covadonga is one of the most historically significant places in Asturias, for it was here that the Christians won an important battle against the Muslims in the year 722. I was blown away by Covadonga's surreal beauty and enchanting surroundings.
La Basílica de Santa María la Real in Covadonga
I suppose what made me fall so madly in love with Asturias was its striking similarity to the Pacific Northwest. The mountains, trees, rivers and seas were all too familiar, making me feel right at home. The entire weekend I was euphoric, zealously proclaiming how beautiful our surroundings were. Next year I'd love to go back to Asturias to explore Oviedo and Gijón - but I'll save that trip for when I'm feeling particularly homesick!
The beach next to our condo in Santa María del Mar
My Asturias Picks:
Favorite Beaches: Salinas and Santa María del Mar
Best Views: Cabo de Peñas
Favorite Activity: Kayaking down the Río Sella with Astur Aventura
Best Hidden Gem: Covadonga
Favorite Restaurant: Tierra Astur
Must-Try Dishes: Fabada, cider and Cabrales cheese
Linking up for Travel Tuesday today!
Linking up for Travel Tuesday today!