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Asturias

Are you guys aware of the Little Switzerland of Spain?? My last year's vacation was spent exploring the North of Spain on a 12 day road trip which I still believe was one of the best vacations I have had in Spain. Our final destination was Asturias and I regretted the moment we entered that why did we plan 3 days in this magical land. We entered this small town of Cangas de Onis, and I was in love with it the moment I saw it. Asturias is unlike any image you have of Spain, its the hidden wonder of Spain. We stayed for just 3 days but we made the best of it!!!

If you din't know, your trip to Spain includes a visit to Switzerland!!!! Visit heaven on Earth, Picos de Europa, also called the Mini Switzerland of Spain. Touch, see and experience nature in its purest form.

Picos de Europa, still unexplored by the tourists, are the most majestic peaks of Spain with with main point of attraction being the 2 Lagos, that are the 2 glistening lakes amidst the lush green nature.

You need to trek a bit to see these beauties, but trust me its worth it!

There is a small restaurant called Bar Restaurante Mª Rosa next to the bus stop, where the bus drops you (How to Reach details are at the bottom of the blog post). You can stop for a quick coffee or snack here.

The peak time to visit Picos de Europa is July-August. The weather is cold all year round excepting these months. Its pleasant during July-August.

TRAVEL TIPS

A. Carry jackets (Don't get inspired by what am wearing in my pics, I was freezing with that light jacket and muffler on)

B. Wear comfortable shoes for trekking (Again, learn from my photos what not to wear :p)

C. Please do check when the last bus leaves (around 18:30-19:30), or else you will be stranded

This small little town of Asturias is full of surprises! Want to enjoy the town with the backdrop of Picos de Europs while canoeing in the River Sella?? This town offers one of the best experiences I have had so far - Descenso del Sella. 

While there are many companies offering great packages for the activity, we did ours through Astur Aventura. I think I was scared than excited for it as this was my first time ever at canoeing, but it was an experience of a lifetime. Me and my husband shared the canoe. They slip the canoe from the ground into the water through a slide which was a fun start. As we both were first timers to canoeing, we managed to spin the canoe in the opposite direction every few minutes. I think it was hilarious and a little embarrassing as everyone was heading further while we were still struggling to face the right direction. It took a while and a lot of skill and muscle power to finally make it work. The best part of this activity were the pit stops every few kilometers for a picnic or beer break which made the experience even more glorious. We managed to do 7 kms in 4 hours while the usual time was 13 kms in 4 hrs. But we had a time of our life!!! Do not leave this town without experiencing this wonder!!!!!

TIPS FOR DESCENSO DEL SELLA

A. Wear swimsuits for the activity, or you can choose to pay for the bodysuits the companies offer (I wore my swimsuit with a beach dress over it, my husband wore his trunks with a polo). Was comfortable to row as heavy clothes weigh down further when wet.

 

B. Buy these kind of shoes for the activity as they have a great grip and are waterproof. Available all around the town of Cangas de Onis at affordable prices.

Another small beauty in this town of Cangas de Onis was a picturesque small bridge called Puente de Romano. You can see kids jumping from the small rocks on the side of the river and enjoy the view of the bridge with a coffee or beer from the cafes placed well around the bridge.

Image may contain: foodAm almost embarrassed to confess, while running a Spanish travel blog that I have not yet fallen for the Spanish gatsronomy, and hence I keep exploring places which have fusion cuisine or something not authentically Spanish. This led me to this small restaurant called Cuarenta Grados, which was our to-go place for the first two nights in Cangas de Onis. For Spanish food lovers, there are plenty of local Spanish bars and restaurants to try out!!

It is a small village that falls in your route from Cangas de Onis to Picos de Europa. The only point of attraction in this village is the Sanctuario de Covadonga & Santa Cueve de CovadongaThe Sanctuario is a beautiful castle like structure which is picturesque and worth visiting for some great pictures and the Santa Cueve are the caves within which is a small chapel with a waterfall on its base.

Enjoy an evening walk along the river sella uniting with the Bay of Biscay with a beautiful sunset in the background and a rocky beach below! This picturesque town of Ribadesella, could also be labelled as the town of the rich is worth a visit. Enjoy the sunset with a coffee in the cute terrace cafes facing the sea along the wide promenade. This small town catches your attention with its contemporary modern glass beach houses covered in greens and magenta bougainvilleas facing the sea.

PICOS DE EUROPA

Private vehicles not allowed

Bus : From Cangas de Onis (Estacion de Autobuses de Cangas de Onis) to Lagos de Covadonga : 1.5 Hours | 8euro per person

COVADONGA

Car : 15 mins (Recommened to take a bus to Picos de Europa and stop on the way at covadonga, roam around and then take the bus from there further up to Picos de Europa)

Bus : From Cangas de Onis (Estacion de Autobuses de Cangas de Onis) to Covadonga (Estación de autobuses Basílica de Covadonga) : 20 mins

RIBADESELLA

Car : 30 mins drive

NOTE : BUY TICKETS FOR PICOS DE EUROPA IN ADVANCE FROM CANGAS DE ONIS

By far the cutest AirBNB i have stayed in, located in a tiny village which has nothing except this BNB I believe! A 2.5 floor house with the cutest corners, niches, balconies, kitchnette, tv lounge and a bedroom. We cooked our own breakfast and went out on our day trips around Asturias. The streets are extremely narrow of this town and no street lights so we made sure we returned back on time.

Click Here to check it out on Airbnb

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GOT Locations

GOT Locations

Welcome to the fantasy world of Games of Thrones!!! Are you also a die-hard fan of GOT and want to visit all the locations shown in the series?? To start with, I have listed a few places I have visited in recent times in Spain and they are breathtakingly beautiful. Its amazing how similar they look in reality as compared to in the series. You just need to stand at these locations to feel and imagine as the scenes of GOT unfolds in your mind. The feeling, the grandeur, the picturesque beauty of these locations is mesmerizing. I hope to keep traveling and unraveling more of such locations and share it with all you GOT fans!!!

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Alcázar of Seville

The Royal Palace of Seville, called the Alcazar of Seville and popularly known to GOT fans as the Dorne Kingdom is one of the most interesting and picturesque sites to visit when in Seville.

The Royal Palace of Seville, called the Alcazar of Seville and popularly known to GOT fans as the Dorne Kingdom is one of the most interesting and picturesque sites to visit when in Seville. This imposing palace has a cultural history ranging from Moorish, Renaissance, Mudejar and Gothic Architecture which is intriguing. Initially a Roman settlement, the Alcazar was conquered by the Arabs and converted into a fortress which later under the Spanish reign was turned into a Gothic palace. The Mudejar palace was added to the building in 1364, hence making this palace an architectural marvel. The same can be seen through the stunning gold ceilings, hand painted tiles, water fountains and manicured gardens.

The symmetrical courtyard with a central water body and blooming seasonal flowers gets closest to what you can imagine of a Dorne Kingdom

Getting into the palace can be a task because of the long queues and the scorching heat of Seville.

 Book your tickets here to avoid standing in long queues. (9.5€/adult)

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Trujillo Castle

Trujillo is a small town in the Caceres Province of South Spain, mid-way between Madrid and Seville. (2.5 hr drive from either city). The Trujillo Castle, better known to GOT fans as Casterly Rock, sits on a hilltop, the highest point of the town which makes the town look like a fortress from the highway.

Whenever I traveled between Madrid and Sevilla (pretty often, like once a month mostly), I used to be drawn to the town of Trujillo, specially after dusk when it is all lit and looks majestic.

The castle is worth visiting in the day-time though, to get a spectacular 360 degree view of the town of Trujillo and beyond.

PLEASE NOTE : THE CASTLE IS CLOSED BETWEEN 2:00-5:00 p.m. (siesta hours), and costs 1.5€/person

The town of Trujillo, doesn't have much to offer except the main square called Plaza Mayor with an imposing statue of Francisco Pizzaro. We made a short coffee stop in the town to visit the castle and take a stroll in the centre.

HOW TO REACH

CAR (most convenient) : 2.5 hrs from Madrid / 2.5 hrs from Seville

AUTOBUS (less convenient) : 3.5 hrs from Madrid (17-35€) / 4.5 hrs from Seville with a stop at Merida (17-50€)

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Mallorca

When we think of Spain, the first image that comes to our mind is the clear blue Mediterranean water and soft white sand on a bright sunny day. Yes, that image is of a place that actually exists, Mallorca. An island with hidden beaches with crystal clear water, lush green mountains, majestic Gothic cathedral with a old city charm on one side and raving boat parties on the other, is the top rated destination for summers for any tourist or even Spaniards in that case. The changing topography and culture of Mallorca is what keeps you engaged!!

Palma, the capital of Mallorca is located in the south of the Island and is the most happening part of the island. One must live in the center to see the main attractions of the city and experience the best beaches and local gastronomy

Es Trenc Beach

The most popular yet pristine beach of Mallorca, Es Trenc is located in the South of the Island. The soft golden sand which feels like butter under your feet and the turquoise blue water  which remains 1 feet deep for miles makes it such a popular and the most relaxed beach beach destination in town. Since this beach is located in a secluded destination, there aren't much restaurants around.
TIP : Carry your own food and drinks along with beach towels and big beach umbrellas to protect yourself from the sharp sun. Locals sell fresh pineapples  and beers in summers!!!

La Seu

The landmark of Mallorca, La Seu, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria, is a majestic Gothic style Cathedral. Considered as one of the tallest Gothic structures in Europe, this building also has the largest stained glass windows in the world. The beauty of this cathedral can't be missed from the inside and outside. Antonio Gaudi, the world renowned Catalan Architect worked on the renovation of this cathedral from 1901-1914 and his influence is clearly visible which is a treat for the eyes. Click here to check out the entrance hours

50 minutes drive towards the East of the Island lies a small pretty town of Santanyi and the hidden gem of the Island, Cala del Moro

Cala Del Moro

The hidden cove with a small beach with white sand and turquoise colored clear water seems like a beach from the dreams!! As the saying goes "Good things don't come easy", so does this beach. The approach to this beach is complicated since its a hidden spot with no proper signage leading to it. Try to park your vehicle on the Street Camí de Cala Llombards or around it (P.S. dont get panicked by signs saying private road). After you manage to park safely, you need to trek on an off-beaten path towards the beach terminating in a steep rocky hill with sandy steps, be careful!
TIP : Carry your snorkeling kits to enjoy the clear waters (you will get the snorkeling kit in Decathalon or any local shop around town)

Santanyi

On our drive back from Cala Del Moro, we encountered the small little cultural town of Santanyi. This small wonder comes to life on Saturdays Mornings with its local market and weekend evenings with its pretty little cafes and restaurants in the plaza. We were attracted towards this small little gem called SA Botiga Santanyi (details further below in the blog) which had a GOT theme music playing in the background. We had a coffee at this place and then moved to the restaurant in the plaza to enjoy some Tapas.

The least touristy and the most scenic part of the Island is in the North. A day trip to the North (1 hour drive from Palma) includes visits to the Cliff Es Colomer, followed by the beautiful beach of Formentor and Port de Pollenca

Es Colomer

To experience one of the most scenic beauty and view of Mallorca, one needs to visit El Colomer. The view of the bright blue untouched water hitting the edges of the cliff is breathtaking. It can get really windy up there, so be well covered!

Formentor Beach

5 minutes downhill drive from Es Colomer is the stunning beach of Formentor covered with pine trees providing relief from the glaring sun with a splendid view of the surrounding mountains. This beach has a few cafes and restaurants to relax and enjoy the nature!

Port de Pollenca

Another 20 mins drive down South is Port de Pollenca, full of resorts and restaurants and is worth stopping over for the best Paella in town at Brisa Marina Restaurant (details mentioned further below in the blog) followed by some cocktails at La Roca Beach Club (details mentioned further below)

Soller

The prefect end to the trip to Mallorca is by visiting this quaint little town of Soller with rustic charm through a wooden Tram. The charm of this city lies in the journey. Catch the tram from Palma at Estacion Intermodal which reaches Soller in 50 minutes through orange groves, mountains and tunnels which is worth every penny (30€ return fare). Check the train timetable here. Known for its fresh oranges do have the fresh orange juice and try the local dessert of mallorca called Ensaimada in local cafes facing the Església de Sant Bartomeu. Another 15 minutes train to Port de Soller will take you to the small port with sandy beaches & picturesque views. Make sure to check the train schedule before planning a visit to the port.

Hogan's

Hogan's Live Music, Sports Bar & Restaurant

Do check out this live music bar and grill place with an open terrace and mouth watering burgers and sandwiches

Brisa Marina

Restaurante BrisaMarina

Try the best Paella of Mallorca at this restaurant by the beach.  Make sure you book your table in advance 

Sa Botiga Santanyi

Restaurant SA Botiga Santanyi

This quaint little restaurant with Spanish tapas is very inviting specially with a GOT music playing in the background

La Roca Beach Club

La Roca Beach Club

Relax on the beach in the evening and have a cocktail or shake with bathing in the sun

  • The best way to explore the varied terrains of the city is to hire/rent a car. We rented a car at the airport thus saving time and energy and returned the same at the airport itself.
  • Do  not miss out on a chance to do snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Mallorca. You can buy/rent cheap snorkeling kits around the city in local shops or Decathlon store. (decathlon only sells the kits)

MY EXPERIENCE

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RVF Spain Consultants

Spain, a dream destination for all!! Who doesn’t want to visit this enchanting country in Europe and be lost in paradise. The sun, the sand, the beaches, the food and the culture of Spain entices you to stay longer and experience more. You can live that dream of yours to travel, live and/or work in Spain by consulting the services of RVF Spain Consultants – The experts in helping you live, work and teach in Spain

Getting residency in Spain or a NIE card or, even for that matter, marrying a Spanish national, can be a debilitating task making you lose all hopes and future dreams. Harrison Fowler, the founder of RVF Spain Consultants, has gone through the same experience himself. But he didn’t give up and continued to struggle, and today is well settled with a Spanish national (his wife), a job and residency. This has motivated him to make all the lives of those wishing to travel, visit, live or work in Spain easier by helping you live out your dream in Spain.

I, an Indian national, married to a Spanish national and holding a job in Spain, know how difficult and exhausting the path can be, and hence, would recommend you to consult RVF Spain Consultants to be where we are.

RVF Spain Consultants  offers various services including assistance with the North American Language and Cultural Assistants program, a Spanish government program that brings in native English speakers from around the world to teach in Spain for one year as they get paid. RVF Spain Consultants will assist you with the entire process from start to finish and will make sure you are comfortanbly and succesffully settled in Spain by assuring you have all the basics such as a working phone and bank account. They also offer Autonomo assistance, NIE extranjero assistance, Spanish residency and Empadronamiento and 1-on-1 and/or group Spanish classes via Skype. You can also book a free 20 minutes of consultancy with them to see what they offer and how they can assist you before you ever make the decision of moving forward with their services.  

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Las Fallas

Las Fallas which literally means 'the fires' is one of the most unusual festivals of Spain celebrated every year between 15th-19th March in Valencia, when the city is set on fire! Originally celebrated to mark Saint Joseph's (the guardian saint of carpenters) Day, has now become a large scale festivity where the city swells up to thrice its population. In the ancient times, the carpenters used to burn their wooden planks on which they hung their lanterns in order to mark the onset of spring. Today Las Fallas has evolved into burning Ninots (life-like effigies made of paper mache and plaster) of corrupt political figures and other satirical scenes.

From 14th March people start putting up the structures (ninots) which takes almost a year's labor to construct

19th March is the day called La Crema when these effigies are burnt at 12 midnight and is worth witnessing along with the fireworks that follow.

We got down to Valencia on 19th Afternoon and hit the busy center  by 9 pm where the ninots where placed! The center if full with people having beers on the streets chatting and enjoying the vibes of the city. Enjoy some local delicacies offered on stalls and reserve your spot in front of the biggest Ninot by 11 pm.

Additional Tips

  • The city is overcrowded, so be careful with your belongings

• Get out on the streets to enjoy the festive vibes and admire the ninots before they are set aflame.

 

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Semana Santa

Semana Santa meaning the"Holy Week" is celebrated for a whole week before Easter every year to pay tribute to the Passion (period of suffering before and during crucifixion) of Jesus Christ.

It is a procession of 'pasos' (floats/tabloids weighing almost a metric ton which is 1000 kgs) which are carried on the necks of 'costaleros' (people under the pasos) non stop for as long as 14 hours. The pasos seem to float in air cause of the way it is done. The most elaborate and significant pasos to see are of The Virgin Mary and the one with the Christ. Some people due to their extreme devotion do these procession barefoot. 

It takes place in almost every city in Spain but the prettiest and most significant processions of Semana Santa can be seen in Andalusia specially the city of Sevilla. Other cities in Andalusia which have elaborate processions are Malaga, Cordoba and Almeria. The processions in the North of Spain in the region of Castille and Leon are also extremely pretty. 

The schedule for Semana Santa for 2018 is from Sunday, 25th March'18 - Sunday, 1st April'18

People wearing Nazarenos (penitential robes) which demonstrates penitents (people who repent their sins and seek forgiveness) of the Medieval time.

 

I woke up at 6 in the morning to witness the procession at 8. We reached the streets at 7 so we could reserve our spot behind the bars from where we could see the procession closely. Am not a Catholic, but the spirits of the city and its people gets you goosebumps. The amount of pain people endure in these processions and their devotion is unbelievable.  

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Mérida

Day Trip to Mérida

Mérida, the capital of Extremadura is a World Heritage Site and another Roman City in Spain. 3 hours from Madrid and 2 hrs from Sevilla, Mérida also popularly know as 'Mini-Rome' was founded in 25 BC (much later than Italica). This city holds and preserves more ancient Roman structures than anoy other city in Spain.

The 15,000 seater majestic Amphitheater is an example of how the Roman ruins have been conserved in this city. A part of the 3 tiered Amphitheater has been incredibly preserved to give you a glimpse of how it really was where people used to enjoy the Gladiatorial fights.

Love exploring with my partner in crime, my husband who also has a great passion and love for travel and exploration!

Just next to the Amphitheater is a 6000 seater Roman Theater which still holds some events during the Summer months of July and August Click here to know more!

The various Roman ruins are scattered around the city which makes it even more adventurous  exploring the city on foot.

Corinthian Columns just standing around a corner as you walk around the city

This hexastyle Classical Temple known as the Roman Temple of Diana is a beautiful site.

Just 20 minutes walking North of the Amphitheater stands the Roman Aqueducts known as the "Acueducto de los Milagros". Only a part of the structure exists today and is worth the walk!  

 How to reach from Sevilla

Car : 2 hrs drive 
Bus : 2 hrs (15€) | 3 hrs (9€)
Train : 3.5 hrs (20€)

Click here for timings and ticket details

My Experience