¡Buen Puente!

Last week we had a long weekend in Spain (or maybe just Madrid?) known as the puente – which literally means ‘bridge’. It poetically bridges the gap from one week to the next.

True to form, my overly organised engineer husband ensured that we had great plans.

Great romantic plans.

This was destined to be “Amanda’s Romantic Weekend”.

All set out romantically in a very romantic excel spreadsheet.

So, in evenly spaced columns, neatly typed in Times New Roman 12, were the details of our accommodation, car hire, walking trails and restaurant options for 3 nights and 4 days in the Spanish mountains and northern Spanish beaches.

The romance only got better when four of our friends decided to join us.

And so, 3 Aussies, 1 American, 2 cars and 4 rooms later …. I can hear Elton belting out “Can you feel the love tonight….?”

Romance shmomance…

It turned out to be a bloody great weekend!

On a map, the weekend looked like this:

Puente Map

In reality, it looked like this:

Picos de Europa

Picos de Europa

Picos de Europa

Picos de Europa

Playa de Tormibia

Playa de Tormibia

The landscapes in the northern parts of Spain are unbelievable!! (Thanks Canon DSLR). These regions Asturias y Cantabria, truly have the best scenery I’ve experienced in Spain so far.

And the food….. ahhhh the food!

Bacaloa, such a pretty word in Spanish translates to the blunt three lettered cod. The English word just does not do it justice. Served with fresh tomato purée, this fish is just the right amount of salty juicy goodness that falls apart at the touch of your fork. And the carne (yes, meat)… was the best I’ve had in Spain yet. I had entrecot served at almost the size of a dinner plate… again more salty goodness with vegetables, salads and desserts (verduras, ensaladas, postres) all worth mentioning! Cheesecakes and other caramel deserts (that no amount of practice will ever sound correct with my abrasive Aussie accent) – were all divine.

The hiking was breathtaking.

Taking the telefónico (gondola) from Fuente de up to 1900 metres gave us spectacular views of the mountainous landscape and kicked off our hike in crispy white snow. As we descended, everything became greener, huge Imperial Spanish Eagles, much like our beloved Wedgetails, soared above us looking for food. The well worn trail led us to a welcoming pub in the middle of nowhere that must get snowed in during the winter months.

My favourite spot (which I wouldn’t shut up about, just ask one of my fellow hikers, from here on named Captain Cranky Pants) was rounding a corner on a gradual slope about 8 kilometres into our walk. On our right, was a huge mountain – Lord of the Rings style – arching over us and small Spanish villages in the valley below with bright orange tiled roofs. Framing this fairy tale picture were the mighty Picos (peaks) dusted with blankets of snow.

I could not believe I was in Spain!

It is all of the beauty of New Zealand, Nepal, Ireland and Scotland combined…. and that is not even mentioning the stunning beaches – which really reminded me of home.

This was like a movie… Or a David Attenborough special…

Why was this place, this hike, barely mentioned in The Lonely Planet – my trusty travel bible?!?!

The trek took us through Spanish farmlands and the quaint village of Pembes which appears to be barely touched by modern society. What Pembes lacked in street signs it certainly made up for in character. Filled with rickety old houses, with wildly slanted (and probably dangerous) balconies sheltering basic tractors, hay bales and farm equipment, Pembes was like a movie set! It even had the token old angry Spanish farmer who didn’t appreciate tourists disturbing his peace and quiet. Luckily his son thought we were a funny bunch and was willing to give directions to the Spanish speaking American in our group.

Pembes

Pembes

 18 kilometres, 6 hours, and a minor detour which meant a steep incline on muddy farming terrain (thanks Captain Cranky pants) later, we returned to this beautiful hotel:

Which had two of these girls wandering around:

St Bernard

For some much needed vino tinto y cerveza.

We did have a few interesting adventures along the way…. Finding a faint trail leading down to Playa Tormibia (that stunning beach in the photo above), one of my Aussie friends and I bumped into a pair of overly friendly and overly hairy shirtless European blokes. I think they were Italian, they didn’t clarify, but we fumbled through Spanish together for a while as they wanted to confirm that this trail did in fact lead to the beach. To be fair, it did look like a cattle trail – where cows follow each other in a line leaving dirt in place of grass, so I initially didn’t blame them for asking.

¿Hablas inglés? – We asked if they spoke English.

Of course! Where are you from? – They responded.

Australia

Australia! – They exclaimed. It seemed really exotic to them, irrespective of the similarities between the coastline we were standing on and the beach I grew up with on the East Coast of Australia.

Our respective hubbies and friends were waiting for us above watching us as this conversation took place. It turned out to be exactly what it looked like….

We are going skinny dipping if you would like to join us – they grinned unashamedly at us.

Ummmmmm, no. And it’s far too cold to go skinny dipping, you won’t last long! – We laughed at their enthusiasm and pointed to the surfers dressed in full wet suits and booties below. The water was definitely cold enough to hurt your feet as you strolled through the gentle waves.

Ah – they responded – this is EXACTLY what we need then – and they ran down the hill.

The boys were laughing at us as we rejoined them and we all laughed together as we watched the flash of white Italian bums running into the ocean below.

This has by far been the best weekend I’ve spent in Spain… even if it wasn’t the most romantic…

PS: Hi Dad, sorry this one took a while…. that ‘life’ thing got in the way.

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