Last weekend the Temple group had the opportunity to visit the Picos de Europa, a mountain range that stands out for its proximity to the coast. As we’re nearing the end of the semester, I’ve been thinking a lot about how there’s so much of Spain that I still haven’t seen, so I appreciated getting to explore more of Asturias and Cantabria in our last couple of weeks here. Here’s a rundown of our most recent weekend adventure:
Our first stop was in a town called Asiego, home to 85 people and the Ruta’l Quesu y la Sidra (route of cheese and cider). We spent part of the morning learning about the production of Cabrales cheese, a regional specialty that has received international distinctions and awards. We saw one of the small factories where it’s prepared, and then we took a short walk out of the town to see a cave where the cheese is housed for a few months before it’s ready to be sold. I don’t know much about cheese production, but it was pretty clear this was the real deal. Cabrales has a protected designation of origin from the European Union, so its official name and label mean it has to be made in this region by traditional means. I learned that it’s actually not too hard to find in the U.S., so if you’re curious about what cave-aged Asturian blue cheese tastes like, look for the dark green foil wrapping in specialty food stores like Philadelphia’s Di Bruno Bros.
We wrapped up our visit to Asiego with a lunch that included plenty of the cheese we had learned about, as well as multiple courses of regionally popular foods like morcilla (blood sausage) and fabes con marisco (bean stew with seafood). One of the best parts of lunch was getting to pour our own sidra, although I have to admit my form needs some work.
That night we stayed in Potes, a town in the neighboring region of Cantabria and a popular destination for visitors to the Picos de Europa. While walking around the area we came across a group of dancers giving an outdoor performance. Afterwards, several Temple students were brave enough to join in.
The next morning we visited Santo Toribio de Liébana, a monastery that served as a place for the protection of relics because of its location high up in the mountains. It’s an especially important site for many pilgrims, because, according to Roman Catholic tradition, it houses the largest remaining piece of the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
For the rest of the day we got a taste of the wide variety of outdoor scenery northern Spain has to offer. We rode a cable car up to a section of the snow-topped mountains in the Picos de Europa range, and just a few hours later we were sitting by the shore. In Llanes, a town along the coast, we enjoyed what’s probably the most Asturian lunch you can find—fabada asturiana, generous servings of steak and patatas fritas, and arroz con leche (rice pudding). The whole weekend was a reminder of the amazing sights, food, and people in this part of Spain, and now it’ll be even more difficult to leave in just a few days.