1.) Where is Picos de Europa? That is the question we sought to answer. You will find it, as we did, in the north of Spain, straddling two beautiful provinces: Cantabria and Asturias.
2.) How does one get there? We chose the following way: We first moved to the Albayzin in Granada, Spain. We then walked down to Plaza Nueva and took a taxi to the bus station. We rode on the bus for two hours to the southern beach city of Málaga where we could catch a direct flight to the northern beach city of Santander. A rental car awaited us. We drove through the quaint stone village of Santillana del Mar, where we sampled some local delights: fresh, raw milk from grass-fed cows, the baked treats sobao, bizcocho, and quesada, and the attention of very cute dogs. Our next stop was the idyllic town of San Vicente de la Barquera.
3.) Why does the town of San Vicente de la Barquera remind visitors of the gorgeous northern California coast? This is because the town spreads from the beach to the hills; the estuary of Rio Escudo ebbs and flows with the tides. True, the large stone Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles and the Castillo del Rey, both from the 13th century, dominate the skyline (in place of familiar San Francisco sites such as the Transamerica Pyramid and Coit Tower, both from the 20th), and granted the real estate is cheaper than anyplace on the California coast, and it is well acknowledged that the population density is a mere 280 people/sq. mile, as opposed to San Francisco’s 18,187 people/sq. mile, but both municipalities feature saints in their names and a decent cup of coffee can be procured as easily in one as in the other.
4.) Did you visit the cave of El Soplao and did you order the chicken nuggets in the cafe in the hopes of J. finally agreeing to eat something? Yes.
5.) What does one do in the Picos de Europa? Most people work, raise families, rest and relax. We decided to complete a ropes course in Arriondas, visit a church in Covadonga, take a hike along Ruta de los Lagos, explore the Asturian town of Cangas de Onís, and stay in the tiny farming settlement of Cabielles.
6.) On a scale of one to ten (ten being the highest score) how would you rate this trip and why? We would rate this trip a solid ten. Reasons why: Only one person out of four threw up on the windy roads of the Picos. We had an opportunity to walk across a Roman bridge, built in the 13th century, which was chronologically impossible, but still a treat (see Gibbon, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.) We were also able to get good reception at our rural lodging and watch Spain defeat Luxembourg (4-0), thereby qualifying for the 2016 Euro tournament to be held in France starting in June (2016).
“Gracias por pedir el pescado.”