May 21, 2018
3 Reasons to Visit Cantabria

3 Reasons to Visit Cantabria

May 21, 2018
capricho gaudi comillas cantabria spain travel outfit
I probably should have titled this post 5 reasons to visit Cantabria, because we've already seen two important ones: the mountains of Cantabria and its capital city Santander. If you haven't read those posts, you absolutely should. Today, on the final post about this beautiful Spanish region, I'm going to give you three more reasons to visit Cantabria.
capricho gaudi comillas cantabria spain
1. COMILLAS
Foul weather accompanied us on our visit to the magnificent town of Comillas. As much as we prayed "rain, rain, go away", we couldn't close our umbrellas for the whole day. That's what happens in the north: you can get lovely sunny days, but it rains a lot. capricho gaudi comillas cantabria spain
In Comillas you will find some of the most original and beautiful buildings in Cantabria. The first Marqués de Comillas is responsible for this. He made a fortune in Cuba and then returned to commission the most important Catalan Modernist architects to liven up his hometown in the late 19th century. Other highlights of the town include quirky mansions, the cobbled old town and a lovely beach.

There are few buildings by genius architect Antoni Gaudi outside of Catalonia and one of them is this: El Capricho (the caprice). This flamboyant masterpiece striped all over the outside with ceramic bands of sunflowers is actually his first work ever.
capricho gaudi comillas cantabria spain
capricho gaudi comillas cantabria spain
Despite the bad weather, we spent a long time at El Capricho. I had been looking forward to going back to this place for a long time. One of my first memories from childhood is when my parents brought me here, it seems that this place made a big impression on me that I could never forget. To this day, it still is my favorite building by Gaudi (who also happens to be my favorite architect). The place is worth every second you spend here, everywhere you look there’s something to attract your attention.casa del duque comillas cantabria spain
Wandering the streets of Comillas, we found Casa del Duque (the Duke's House), a beautiful mansion that could be a great location for a horror movie. It makes you think of a haunted house, doesn't it? The house cannot be visited but you can take a look from outside.sobrellano palace palacio comillas cantabria spain
The Marquis of Comillas commissioned Catalan architect Joan Martorell the Sobrellano Palace, the architecture of this fabulous neo-Gothic palace is breath-taking. The Palace is closed on Mondays, which was the day we visited Comillas, so we couldn't take the guided tour. 
old town plaza casco antiguo comillas cantabria spain
Last but not least, there's the charming old town with steep stone streets, picturesque squares, big mansions and typical houses with wooden balconies portraying the most traditional Cantabria architecture.

2. SANTILLANA DEL MAR
santillana del mar cantabria spain pueblos bonitos españa
There's a sign when you arrive at Santillana del Mar saying "Los Pueblos Más Bonitos de España", a  sign given to the most beautiful villages in Spain. We say that Santillana is the town of the three lies: not holy (santi), flat (llana) or by the sea (del mar). The truth is that Santillana is a very well preserved Medieval jewel with its cobbled streets and flower-filled balconies.
santillana del mar cantabria spain pueblos bonitos españa
santillana del mar cantabria spain pueblos bonitos españa
Colegiata de Santa Juliana is the most important monument in the town, a collegiate church with a beautiful cloister dedicated to the relics of Saint Juliana. 
colegiata santa juliana santillana del mar cantabria spain pueblos bonitos españa
I'll be honest, this town is charming but in my opinion it is not as beautiful as Comillas. Nothing can compare the architectural heritage of the later. Maybe the fact that's considered one of the prettiest towns in Spain made my expectations too high and it disappointed me. Nevertherless, I think it's worth visiting.

We did have a spectacular lunch at El Parador de Gil Blas. A hotel and restaurant of our favorite chain Paradores. The hotel occupies a lovely mansion located on a square in Santillana del Mar. The place is a monument itself, so it deserves a visit even if you are not eating or staying there. 

This brings us to the last -but very important- reason to visit Cantabria: the food. 
parador hotel gil blas restaurante santillana del mar cantabria spain pueblos bonitos españa
parador hotel gil blas restaurante santillana del mar cantabria spain pueblos bonitos españaTIP: since this little town receives many visitors, the prices tend to be high, so I advice you to eat at a place like El Parador. Being a national hotel chain, prices are very similar all around the country.
parador hotel gil blas restaurante santillana del mar cantabria spain pueblos bonitos españa
3. THE FOOD
Trying Cantabria's traditional dishes is a must. Tasting the local cuisine is a very important part of our travel experiences and we always book restaurants that offer it.
parador hotel gil blas restaurante menu santillana del mar cantabria spain pueblos bonitos españa
At El Parador de Gil Blas I ate the biggest tomato I had ever seen. It was filled with prawns and salsa rosa. DELICIOUS!
parador hotel gil blas restaurante menu santillana del mar cantabria spain pueblos bonitos españa
Rabas (fried calamari) are widely popular in Cantabria, they will be on every menu so if you go, you MUST order them.

Even though this region is washed by the sea, they have amazing meat. This pork with BBQ sauce, veggies and figs was divine.
parador hotel gil blas restaurante menu santillana del mar cantabria spain pueblos bonitos españa
Spanish cocido (stew) is popular all around the country, but each region has its own recipe. The varieties served in Cantabria start with the traditional stew soup and come with many ingredients including meat, chickpeas, cabbage and chorizo.
parador fuente dé restaurante menu cocido cantabria spain picos de europa
Decadent desserts are our favorite part of any meal, our favorites in Cantabria were tarta Santa Juliana (cheesecake with a cookie base topped with peach preserves) and grandmother’s special dessert (custard with ice cream, meringue and a touch of liqueur).
parador hotel gil blas restaurante menu santillana del mar cantabria spain pueblos bonitos españa
This trip around Cantabria made me fall in love with the north of Spain. The bad weather is already forgotten and beautiful memories are all that remains.
xo Cristina

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things to do cantabria spain comillas santillana del mar food
MUST-HAVES FOR RAINY DESTINATIONS

May 14, 2018
One Day in Santander

One Day in Santander

May 14, 2018
palacio de la magdalena santander cantabria
Santander is consiered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. It has been a popular summer holiday resort for Spaniards since the 19th century when king Alfonso XIII spent the sunniest season at the impressive Palacio de la Magdalena.

We spent a wonderful day in the capital of Cantabria and today I'm going to show you around. Here's how to spend 24 hours in Santander, including what to see, do and eat,
palacio de la magdalena santander cantabria
The first thing we visited was Palacio de la Magdalena, Alfonso XIII's former summer residence. We arrived early enough to play hide-and-seek around this magnificent building before swarming tourists arrived. Ever since I had seen a photo of this place, I had been obsessed with it. It did not disappoint. We explored every single corner and spent a lovely time here.
palacio de la magdalena santander cantabria
Even though Santander is a hilly city, we explored it on foot. The best workout! It reminded me of my beloved San Francisco.

After the Palace, we went down to the beach, El Sardinero and visited the beautiful gardens overlooking the sea, Jardines de Piquiojardines piquio playa sardinero santander cantabria
The other main promenade of the city is Paseo de Pereda where we found four sculptures which pay their respects to the city’s children that worked for a living at the docks: Los Raqueros.raqueros paseo pereda santander cantabria
Our next stop was Mercado del Este where they serve delicious pintxos like those in San Sebastian.mercado del este pintxos tapas santander cantabria
mercado del este pintxos tapas santander cantabria
We had made reservations to have lunch at Zacarias, a traditional restaurant with a modern twist. The decor is so original, the hanging umbrellas are so much fun!
restaurante zacarias santander cantabria
We ordered a tasting menu which includes several starters, a main dish and dessert. The first thing we tried was an appetizer consisting of fish spread, salsa rosa (ketchup + mayonaise = pink sauce) and chopped tomato with olive oil. The first starter were anchovies (typical from Cantabria) and roasted peppers.
restaurante zacarias menu degustacion santander cantabria
Next was the octopus, not our favorite one, it was a bit hard to eat.
restaurante zacarias menu degustacion santander cantabria
The last appetizer was a slice of delicious tomato with tuna and onion, dressed with high quality virgin extra olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The main dish was fish for my husband and meat for me.
restaurante zacarias menu degustacion santander cantabria
Desserts were delicious too: a very peculiar cheesecake -pictured below- and a tiramisu over a sobao, the signature delicacy of Cantabria.restaurante zacarias menu degustacion santander cantabria
restaurante zacarias menu degustacion santander cantabria
After this scrumptious lunch, we were stuffed but we had to keep exploring the capital of Cantabria. We continued walking around Paseo the Pereda and the nearby streets. We saw traditional architecture that contrasts with the striking modernist Centro Botín, on the waterfront, from the top of which you can get spectacular views of the city.house casa santander cantabria street architecture arquitectura
plaza porticada santander cantabria
banco santander vistas views centro botin cantabria
santander vistas views panorama centro botin cantabria
vistas views paseo pereda santander centro botin cantabria
There's a building on the previous pic that the locals know as the dog upside down. Can you spot it?

The end of our visit was approaching just like the storm. Next, we walked along Reina Victoria Avenue, where grand elegant houses from the belle-époque line up.
casa familia botin santander cantabria avenida reina victoria arquitectura
Our last stop was the monument to Cristopher Colombus, caravel ships just like those involved in the discovery of America. ship mermaid carabela sirena santander sardinero cantabria
By the time we reached the car we were exhausted but happy. For travelers like us, there's nothing like the overwhelming sudden emotion you feel after a day well spent exploring a new place.
xo Cristina

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santander travel guide cantabria
NAUTICAL OUTFITS FOR NAUTICAL CITIES
May 7, 2018
Getting Lost in the Spanish Mountains

Getting Lost in the Spanish Mountains

May 7, 2018
hotel del oso cosgaya cantabria spain flores flowers restaurante
I've always chosen beach over mountain and big city over small town, so I never thought I would feel so blissful in the mountain. The three days we spent in the northern Spanish region of Cantabria feel like a dream. The landscapes and stone houses seemed taken from the unforgettable cartoon we watched as kids, Heidi.

Just before arriving at our hotel we saw the magnificent Hotel del Oso from our car and we had to stop. We felt we had been bewitched by the sight of an impressive stone building with the most colorful flower pots and pretty garden. I had not seen a place this idyllic since we visited Switzerland. We would stop at this place again on our last day to have lunch before setting off to Madrid. My husband had to drag me away from this place. I didn't want to leave!
hotel del oso cosgaya cantabria spain flores flowers restaurante
hotel del oso cosgaya cantabria spain flores flowers restaurante
There's much more to see in Cantabria. This part of the region is in the National Park of Picos de Europa. It was the first National Park of Spain, and it was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 2003 by the UNESCO. 

We arrived on a rainy afternoon at Parador de Fuente Dé, our hotel. The place is famous for its magnificent views and for being right next to the aerial cable car that takes you to the top of the mountain. The bad weather didn't keep us from exploring the area. After a traditional (and hearty) Cantabrian lunch, we started by visiting the closest villages.

MOGROVEJO
A charming little village full of stone houses with wooden balconies most of which were built in the 16-18th centuries. The breathtaking backdrop of the Picos de Europa mountain range is the icing on the cake.
A real life movie version of Heidi starring Bill Nighy and Arthur Weasley was actually shot in this village a year ago. mogrovejo cantabria spain mountain house
mogrovejo cantabria spain mountain house
mogrovejo cantabria spain mountain housePOTES
Right next to the charming town of Potes you'll find the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana and a vantage point with breathtaking views. The monastery was founded prior to the 6th century and it venerates that largest piece of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified discovered in Jerusalem by Saint Helena of Constantinople.
mirador santo toribio liebana potes cantabria vistas
Potes is another small town in the heart of the Picos de Europa. A river runs through the town with a lovely small stone bridge crossing it. Potes is a good town stocking up on provisions since it's the biggest place around. potes cantabria spain mountain
potes cantabria spain mountain
potes cantabria spain mountain flores tienda flowerFUENTE DÉ
Our favorite part of the hotel room was the window terrace. Every morning the cowbells woke us up and we opened the curtains to see cows and sheep grazing on the hillside, a bucolic landscape that we'll never forget.
hotel parador fuente dé habitacion vistas room view
We just had one thing left to do on our last day: take the aerial cable car to the top of the mountain. Fortunately, this was the day with the best weather. When we woke up there wasn't a single cloud in the sky. Even though it was the 1st of May it had snowed the night before, the snow made the landscape even more beautiful.fuente dé cantabria picos europa españa montaña teleferico aerial cable car spain mountain hotel parador
fuente dé cantabria picos europa españa montaña teleferico aerial cable car spain mountain
After that we took our last walk around the meadow and spent some time with the horses and sheep that were peacefully grazing surveilled by the shepherd dog.fuente dé cantabria picos europa españa montaña percheron
fuente dé cantabria picos europa españa montaña mastin perro pastor
In the next few weeks I'm going take you to the capital city of Cantabria, Santander and more fairy tale places like Comillas and Santillana del Mar. Stay tuned.
xo Cristina

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potes cantabria mountains spain picos europa flores tienda flower hotel del oso cosgayaDON'T GO TO THE MOUNTAINS WITHOUT...