LA COSTA VERDE CONTINUES TO CAPTIVATE

I left Cantabria and travelled further along the north coast of Spain into the Province of Asturias.  The surroundings were so lush I could understand more vividly why this is called the Costa Verde.   When I was not crossing precipitous high ground I drove low between green-brown mountains on my left and a turquoise sea close-by on my right, just scrubland between the waves and my car.   Somewhere inland was the Picos de Europa mountain range, where if I had diverted inland I could have caught a cable car up to a spectacular view from the peaks.    Another time.

I made a short stop at the traditional fishing port of LLanes which is a hugely popular tourist site for Spanish people in summer with its beaches and clifftop walks. It was still busy in winter with local people and had a real buzz about it.

LLanes port

LLanes port

LLanes main streets

LLanes main streets

LLanes beach

LLanes beach

This lively port once equipped ships that joined the Spanish Armada to fight the English and it has an historic feel with many old town walls still standing.   The main streets are peppered with traditional and highly original shops, behind them in the backstreets I let my feet follow charming signs in the paving stones urging “love” “forever” which led me to a small romanic-gothic basilica framed by violet bougainvillea.

Amor 1

Siempre

LLanes church

I continued West.   This coastline is famed for its stunning scenery, clifftops and dozens of magnificent beaches where the estuaries – las rias – funnel into the Atlantic, blue merging into blue.

Costa verde beach

The blues of the Green Coast.

I passed many beaches in the glorious sunshine. – stopping at Ribadesella for an ice cream and a paddle when the temperature gauge reached an incredible 30 degrees.

A pit stop at Ribadesella

A pit stop at Ribadesella

All along this coast road were signs telling pilgrims that they are on the Camino de Santiago.

Camino 1

I reflected on the fact that I had yet again unwittingly chosen an itinerary which was on one of the main pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela. I really had thought that the “Way” went further inland through Pamplona, Burgos and Léon.   But here I was on the other, ancient coastal path to Santiago.   It felt as if I was meant to be so and, in keeping with the stories one hears about this pathway, the experiences I had had so far had been enriching. I was learning the calmness of silence; the heightened awareness that comes from solitude; the confidence that is gained from greater independence from others and knowing that even alone we can find many moments of joy; the sense of achievement when overcoming personal challenges.   Would I have been learning these life lessons on any solitary journey? Or is there something rather magical about this path trodden by thousands of pilgrims?

When I reached my charming accommodation on the outskirts of Villaviciosa I was amused to find that I had booked somewhere right on the Camino which I had not known runs straight through the town.   My apartment windows overlooked a bubbling river and the pilgrims’ path which hugged it. Despite it being out of season pilgrims passed my window most mornings with their backpacks, walking sticks and scallop shells. It was heart-warming to see them on the road.   Though they were enduring hardship and endurance walking to Santiago and I was driving in comfort, I still felt a sense of comradery and wanted to cheer them on.

My yellow Villaviciosa accommodation

My yellow Villaviciosa accommodation

My charming flat overlooking the river and 'Camino'

My charming flat overlooking the river and ‘Camino’ – complete with a gift of local cider

Flat 2

This is cider growing country and Villaviciosa is called the Apple Capital of Spain. The people of this region have been making cider since the middle ages when their lemon and orange crops could not compete with other areas of Spain.   There are many “Siderias” around the region where you can eat and sample the distinctive, strong “Sidra”, as I did, and one can visit the Bodegas to see the cider production in large chestnut casks, much like wine barrels. Though traditional cider is the most popular you can also try sparkling, champagne-like, Sidra.

I did not find Villaviciosa’s town centre attractive but there was a lot to explore outside the town, including a day spent at Rodiles beach, which is said to be one of the loveliest on the Costa Verde.

Rodiles Beach - where it was warm enough to swim

Rodiles Beach – where it was warm enough to swim

By my flat I had my atmospheric river path to walk and nearby a distinctive old “lavadero publico” wash house behind which was a hill that I climbed to the unusual 13th century church of San Juan de Amandi. This was circular with an external gallery where one could gaze through stone columns to a commanding view over the countryside.

The old public lavadero by my flat

The old public lavadero by my flat

San Juan de Amandi

San Juan de Amandi

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Behind the church was a Spanish cemetery with its whiter than white walls in which the dead are buried in niches (“nichos”).  I looked into empty ones and could see they were deep cavities. The walls made a curious but attractive sight with their flower decorations.   I later learned that if the money on the plot runs out and the family of the deceased do not take up the payments on the niches the coffins are removed and buried underground.  A fascinating cultural difference to my own.

The cemetery and wall 'nichos'

The cemetery and ‘nichos’

Later on my Journey I was witness to how death is treated differently in this religious society to my British upbringing. We British appear to be quite divorced from death, until struck by its blows at a time of loss.   In Spain death seems to be more embraced as an integral part of life. This was particularly evident over the Toussaint festival weekend when it seemed that every family visited their relatives’ graves and bedecked them with bouquets, as they do in France. Here they don’t take much notice of Halloween, concentrating instead on the religious days which follow of All Saints Day on the 1st November and All Souls on the 2nd when the dead are honoured and remembered.

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The many rias across northern Spain are rich natural areas, often reserves accommodating numerous bird species. The river Villaviciosa’s estuary is no exception and I took a beautiful drive alongside its calm waters, sometimes rising to cross a headland which gave spectacular views.

Driving beside the Villaviciosa 'ria' or estuary

Driving beside the Villaviciosa ‘ria’ or estuary

Estuary 3

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My destination that day was the traditional fishing village of Tazones with its quaintly painted cottages.

The colours of Tazones

The colours of Tazones

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Tazones house

Tazones window

Out of season the port was quiet apart from a few visitors drinking cider and eating in the quayside’s seafood restaurants.

Tazones quayside 1

The colourful rocks in Tazones harbour

The colourful rocks in Tazones harbour

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Yet again I spent a lot of time in extremely contented silence, sitting beside the multi-coloured boulders by the sea, and on a bench in the little stone harbour watching the fishermen and the gulls.

Tazones port 1

My contentment slid slowly into bliss and I learned once more the beauty of carefree solitude.

What exactly IS solitude? A radio discussion on “The Philosophy of Solitude” hosted by Melvyn Bragg spoke about solitude being a special kind of aloneness – an active, often chosen, experience where the voices of society are silenced and one can have instead the company of yourself, Nature, or even God if you are a believer.

Psychologytoday.com  tells us that “Solitude … is a state of being alone without being lonely and can lead to self-awareness.”   Both sources make a clear distinction between the state of being alone and loneliness, pointing out that one that can feel lonely in a crowd of people, and in good company even when alone.  More from psychologytoday : “Solitude … is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself …. that can be used for reflection, inner searching or growth or enjoyment of some kind.”   It “suggests peacefulness stemming from a state of inner richness. It is a means of enjoying the quiet and whatever it brings that is satisfying and from which we draw sustenance. Solitude gives us a chance to regain perspective” and “renews us for the challenges of life.” It “restores body and mind”.

Yes, that is what I was doing in Tazones.

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Comments
4 Responses to “LA COSTA VERDE CONTINUES TO CAPTIVATE”
  1. vacicfam says:

    I’m interested in your investigations into solitude. I think possibly being alone, or more often alone, is something that faces all mothers at a certain stage in the growth of their children. Takes them by surprise really, because of course before one had children being without them was not at all the same issue. The children have not necessarily disappeared, but you know it is time for them to live their lives more seperately, and so the question of what you are to do with yourself arises. Consciously embraced solitude is an enriching idea.

    • I am pleased that you enjoyed my musings. I agree that significant life changes are times when one can be faced with more solitude, it is good to have accustomed oneself to it beforehand and know it is not something to fear. On the contrary it is probably something all humans need to a greater or lesser extent to create balance. Thanks for commenting. MK

  2. Joan says:

    Oh how glorious, it makes one eager to travel that way.
    Beautifully described, cannot wait for the next trip.

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