May 292017 0 Responses

Santillana del Mar

We like to mix it up a bit on these trips so our next stop was the historic village of Santillana del Mar near the coast in the Bay of Biscay.

What a treat of a place to stay and pamper yourself for a few days.  The village is walled and pedestrianised- only residents and those staying overnight are allowed to bring their cars in.

This forward-thinking village of 4000 has had town planning since the 16th century!!!!  Everything looks in place with nothing spoiling the old look.  It is perfectly placed for investigating the northern coast and the many historic sights nearby including the caves of El Castillo.

We stayed in Legado de Santillana – fabulous little apartment right in the centre. A bargain too.

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Alpine lakes of Somiedo

On the last day of our stay in Pola de Somiedo we drove the 20km up to the pass La Farrapona 1700m asl.  An easy way to get to the higher alpine pastures I must say.  After a short walk down hill we were rewarded with a view of this huge alpine lake.  Surrounding the lake were banks and banks of bright blue Gentian, Primula, Anemone and alpine Daphne to name just a few.  It was freezing… but well worth it.  I donned my Hilda Ogden scarf and set out around the lake to see what I could find and came across drifts of sweet little yellow orchids in full flower.  What a treat for our last day.

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North to Potes, Cantabria

From Montesinho, northern Portugal we moved through the rain to the mountains of Potes.  We couldn’t complain as this was the first rain we had experienced in over a month.

From the sparse mountains of Montesinho, over the border just ten minutes away, we travelled through countryside that looked very much like Waiouru!  Bare with only a few settlements and lots of gorse.  This soon gave way to rivers and green hillsides.

After a hot meal en route we came across fields and fields of wild daffodils just below Riano.   Not just little miniature alpine Daffs like we had seen on our hikes, but quite large ones similar to what we would grow in our gardens at home in New Zealand.  How amazing.  The rain didn’t keep us in the car long!  I’m sure the locals thought we were completely mad – but then that wouldn’t be the first time.

Potes turned out to be all it said in the guide books.  The perfect base for exploring the east side of the Picos.  We were here four nights and could easily have stayed seven if the weather had been better.  Luckily the next morning dawned fine, sunny and slightly warmer.  We drove to the Fuente De chair lift just before 9am – it’s only 20mins drive from Potes – and found ourselves the only ones there apart from the staff.  What a huge bonus.  We were the first on the mountain and had it all to ourselves!  Gentians greeted us the minute we left the buildings and by the time we had completed the short climb to the top the day was perfect and not a breath of wind.  So, so, so lucky.

The next five hours were spent drifting down the mountainside tripping from one patch of alpine flowers to the next, occasionally taking a breath to enjoy the splendour of the soaring peaks around us.

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May 292017 0 Responses

West to Somiedo

From one side of the Picos Mountains to the other.  The grand granite peaks of the eastern side to the lush, wood covered mountains on the west.  We moved on in search of more plants at slightly lower altitudes – or so we thought.

The road north and then east to Somiedo was absolutely gorgeous.  From the grand and rather stark mountains of the Picos area we drove through lush valleys with cows and calves out enjoying the sunshine.  Spain has a LOT of rivers.  The wildflowers were covering the roadsides and many areas reminded us of England.  Not the Spain we had experienced further south and an enormous contrast to our trip to Andalucia several years ago.  Contrast – Otago to Cambridge, NZ.  However – Cambridge with the Southen Alps thrown in.

We had chosen Pola de Somiedo as a base for the next four days.  It proved to be perfect with many, many walks starting nearby.  The whole Somiedo area is laced with walking tracks which are very well signposted.  The largest village in the area with a good range of accomodation and restaurants/bars.  Many weren’t open this early in the season – mid May – but enough to give us a bit of choice.

For us it was all about the plants we could find and this was the main reason for swapping locations.  We had no idea that this valley was going to be so lush and beautiful with all the mountains of Potes, but heavily treed.  Alpine lakes could easily be reached by car also.  Wonderful!

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