Spain Travels: Cantabria

This trip started as something to do on a day we did not have Spanish class, and the original plan was a short trip to Llanes, the third largest city in Asturias, and not too far from Gijón. In the interim days between the original idea and the time we left, we changed our plans and decided to visit Comillas. Comillas, located in Cantabria, is home to a residence designed by the Spanish Artist Antoni Gaudi. The autonomous community of Cantabria is located between Asturias and Vasco, with its north border on the Cantabrian Sea. We had visited the capital, Santander, back when we made our first trip outside of Asturias, to Bilbao (which is the Vasco autonomous community).

We had recently seen two Gaudí designed buildings in León, and knew this residence was nearby, but not sure exactly how close. Well, it was an hour and a half away by car, though not easily reachable by bus. So we decided to make our second attempt to rent a car (the first time did not work, though this unplanned train trip led us to the seaside town of Salinas), this time making a reservation with the local car rental agency only a five minute walk from our place.

On the Road

We awoke early and shortly arrived at the rental car office. After signing our lives away with the rental agreement (actually Jesse signed it all, since the rental is in her name due to the fact she can drive a manual car, and I cannot, and almost all the rental cars in Europe have a manual transmission), we proceeded to the cavernous underground parking lot. There we were met by a mechanic, who led us to the car, and walked off, back to working on other cars we assumed, and left in front of a small, grey, Peugot, with so much hail damage on the hood and roof, we could have thrown rocks at it and one wouldn’t notice. As there was no easy way to understand how to engage reverse, and wanting to get on the road, ahead of the late afternoon rain, I had Jesse put the car in neutral, I pushed it out of the parking spot, and she navigated the wheel to avoid the huge pylons painted in faded, now cracked, blue paint. We hit the road with the sun shining, and the beautiful drive through Asturias into Cantabria ahead of us.

We made a stop along the way at a pull-off to take in the scenery, where we figured out how to get the car to go into reverse, which was very simple using online videos, but for the life of us we could not figure out on our own. Still, the opportunity presented to take some scenic pictures made for a good pit stop.

This is Spain (though could be Austria or Switzerland or France, no?)

We arrived in the small town of Comillas, driving past the main square with small tables of locals enjoying the day, sipping coffee while their kids and grandchildren played in the nearby square, as it was a school holiday, following November first, All Saints’ Day. We parked the car and headed toward the Gaudí house, known as Gaudí’s Caprice.

The house was constructed between 1883-1885 for a wealthy bachelor, Maximo Diaz de Quijano who made his fortune as a lawyer in Cuba. He returned to Comillas and commissioned Gaudí to build him his home. Gaudí designed every aspect of the residence, the doorways, furniture, ceilings, floors, even including the gardens that surrounded it. It is truly a fairytale home, and the idea of a connection with nature is evident throughout. The tower is truly impressive, and the whole home was designed to let in as much sunlight as the day allowed, and, as such, is covered in sunflower tiles.

After our visit we decided to join the others and have coffees outside, enjoying the sunshine, at a cafe on the main street, and followed this by a leisurely stroll through the town. The cobblestone streets and large peak of the cathedral gave Comillas a very old world feel for us Americans. We climbed up one street, which provided a nice view of the town.

The Town of Comillas

We turned down a grassy path with a vine overhang; it was deserted, but we thought, lets go that way, and once we did we saw a large structure in front of the ocean, with an grand statue on top. A quick check on the map app told us it was the local cemetery.

The Cemetery

We saw the road we had to walk to reach it, though on the right-hand side there was small break in the tall bushes, and we again said, lets go that way, and this led us to a large park with soft, bright, green grass, an even larger statue, and a stunning view of the Cantabarian Sea.

We sat for a longtime, with the breeze very faint, keeping it cool enough with the sun brightly shining above, providing warmth, taking in long looks of this beautiful place. As the clouds overhead became darker, we felt it was time to go to eat. On our way back through town, we stopped in the cathedral on the main square, the Iglesia de San Cristóbal, which dates back to the 16oos. An impressive gothic church from the inside, with vaulted ceilings and an enormous pipe organ.

Iglesia de San Cristóbal and the Ayuntamiento de Comillas

We drove along the coast until we reached Playa de Vincente de la Barquera. As this is not tourist season any longer, we found the beach side restaurant closed, but also the beach lacking of other visitors, and we had it to ourselves. We took off our shoes, rolled up our pants legs, and walked until the waves got our knees wet. The misting ocean breeze and light turquoise, dark blues, and viridian of the water, combined with the breaking, white waves, lent a peaceful feeling as we stared out into the vast ocean.

This road from the beach led us to the town of Vincente de la Barquera. The rain was chasing us, and we were able to walk along the waterfront for a short time, until we found a restaurant open for lunch, where we ate and watched the rain pour down. The town itself was quite picturesque as you can see below, even with the rain clouds above. We also saw a very off-putting sight in the water, an abandoned small boat, populated by vultures of some kind, as you can see in the far right of the bottom picture. Very creepy.

Not ready to return home just yet, we decided on one more stop, even as the rain continued, the town of Ribadesella, which is actually in Asturias, but still located on the Cantabarian Sea. The town reminded us of another Asturian town that we had previously visited, Cudillero, with a nicer beach, full of the smoothest stones of any beach I have visited (you bet we picked a few to take back us). After we fought with the rain and wind to not destroy our umbrella, we trudged back to the car, and took the drive back to Gijon under rainy skies, got stuck in after work traffic (which both made us flashback to times being in Los Angeles traffic and shuddered), dropped the car off, and returned home, another Spanish adventure completed.

Published by Phil Barrington

Currently living in Spain, Accountant by Day, Writer by Night. Lover of baseball, travel ,and spreadsheets. Check out my blog:

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