This week, we left the beach for the mountains, as we drove up beautiful and scary winding roads into the heart of the Picos de Europa for family walks and moments of personal solitude. Stunning! Plus the girls had a pool to play in!
Here’s what we got up to in Week 7…
Where We Went…
Random Coffee Break
On our way from leaving the beaches for the hills, Brigit and I were dreaming about a little café next to the beautiful river we were driving along with a kids playground and a three piece band playing Sunday chill-out tunes…then about a minute later, Brigit says look down there. Right next to the river a café with tables outside. Done, I say, so we swung in there. And then behind the tree we notice, not only a slide and a set of swings, but a trampoline as well. Heaven. The hard rock played at a hard rock volume didn’t quite meet the music requirement, but still it couldn’t have been more perfect.
A dusty looking alpine town situated perfectly on a lake surrounded by tall mountains. We stopped here on our way for a menu del dia and it was another pleasant surprise. The food was tasty and a little bit different but the best part was a massive play area for the kids and we were seated right next to it.
Boca de Huergaño
This was our town for our week in the Picos and we loved it. What a great location. The house was right on a very peaceful river, surrounded by a great veggie garden, with a pool and beautiful grass to lie on. Close to perfect. I loved being able to pick apples straight from all the trees in town. Brigit loved her daily forest walk. The kids loved the pool, which they spent three hours in practically everyday while we got to read books. It was great to see that they could both swim without rings and they had so much fun with our Spanish hosts family’s 5 or so kids. We all loved heading to the local panaderia for our €0.30 crossiants.
On one of days off from walking, we decided on going on a little drive and ended up in this little town with not a lot going for it except a place for lunch. The rudest waitress in Spain (and that is pretty hard) said “NO TABLES FOR YOU (in Spanish of course).” Luckily, the slightly more friendly bartender said we could have a table in the bar. Not a great start. However the food was again a pleasant surprise and €9 each the value was amazing, including wine, bread, water and three courses. My soup alone was a seafood broth with about a dozen prawns, and ½ dozen mussels and clams and probably enough serves for 6 people as an entrée. Seriously how does anyone make any money here? Then they decided to gift the girls icy poles. In the end, it was great service but still without a single smile.
Attempt on Torre de Friero
This was my big hike for the week. And it end up being one of the hardest things I have ever done and a real mental challenge for me. I headed out early and managed to make it up to 2000m as the sun was coming up which was spectacular. As I headed up higher, it was just me and some deer on the rocky slopes, so so peaceful. Then of course I took a wrong turn and headed up a chimney.
Full of big boulders, rocks and the cracks still filled with snow, it was boys dream. I jumped up the rocks having lots of fun and did a bit of sliding on the scree. Then it just got steeper and steeper, until was nearly vertical. But I wasn’t turning back. So I keep going up and up and it was serious fun and a little scary, so the adrenaline was pumping. So when a group of goats mistook me for their owner while I am perched on a ledge, and started walked down the “cliff”, my heart almost jumped out of my chest. They were obviously a little scared as well, as then little pebbles started raining down on me, “oh, they’re not pebbles, that are a bit brown and soft…”
Anyway, I continued on and up to some magnificent views. And if I thought going up was hard and scary, coming down was worst. Every step and hand hold was a well thought out process and there were a number of times that I thought I am going to have to go all the way back up as the slopes got close to vertical and there appeared no way down, but I managed just with only a couple of minor scratches and small slips and a few reroutes. The mind and body are powerful when you are forced to concentrate. Of course when I got to the cow paddocks, I slipped on some stones and put both hands landed on… … … pickle bushes!!
On a wet day, we headed over the hill with no plans and ended up with a little visit to beautiful Tudes and have lunch in Potes. On the way down, we were stopped by a herd cows coming up the road and the girls screamed with excitement. I think it was Zara’s favourite day ever as she had been asking for the cows to cross the road for days.
Tudes is a picture perfect village set high up on one side of the valley with stunning vistas of the Picos de Europa. The girls loved the chickens running all over town and the swings of course. Oh…and I managed to bang up the car. Three years ago, Brigit managed to crash into a flower pot that sat below her sight and this time I managed to knock a rock down the hill, which I couldn’t see…that is my excuse anyway. Luckily we have 100% insurance, although I still wasn’t a happy boy for half an hour or so.
Morning hike to Arbillos
While Brigit enjoyed her daily hike along the some forest track, I see so many opportunities for different hikes I need to look further a field. I found this hike just a 15-minute drive away up a mountain to 1900m. I started walking while it was still dark armed with a map and my mobile phone as a touch. Of course I lost the track early and luckily I did as I managed to scramble up some steep rocks and cut about 3 kms off the trail. It was a freezing cold morning with clouds on the mountain peaks, strong winds and wet grass from the rain the day before, so quickly my socks and runners were soaked and I had lost circulation in my hands and I couldn’t see anything. But I was happy with the opportunity to commune with nature and experience these extremes and with those happy thoughts, the clouds parted slightly and I got a glimpse of the sun and beautiful peak of Espiguete and wind stopped. It was a moment of complete stillness and nothingness…wonderful.
Brigit and I managed to convince the girls to three hikes with us this week and they were mostly very enjoyable. We created a strategy of walking downhill and then one of Brigit and I would return up the hill and get the car.
PR-LE 24 Puerto de San Glorio
Our first hike in the Picos started at the top of San Glorio Pass. Before we started we went to a lookout and the girls danced and ran up the hill to the massive bear statue. It was a positive start to a mostly positive walk. It started in a wonderful alpine valley full of purple flowering bushes and it made it’s way down to a little gorge. There was no prompting needed other than my stick with some cow manure on it. That keeped the girls moving. At the gorge, we did a little rock climbing with the girls showing no fear as their dad did all the panicking for them. Three metres up was enough for me. The bottom half was a bit of push, mainly because I had to sacrifice one of my socks to Chloe after she slipped in the creek. It really was a fun little walk and I really appreciated being able to do this nature stuff as a family. We are absolutely blessed. However for the girls the Cornetto XXL was their definite highlight of the day!
PR-PNPE 3 Ruta del Cares
This path is the top of one of the best day walks in the world, Garganta del Cares. It was nice wide open path, that was the top of a gorge, with the peaks all around glistening in the sun. Sounds like bliss. Well with the mercury approaching 30 and two girls a bit tired and unwilling to participate and me a little grumpy, Brigit had three kids to deal with. This was all before we had even started. Anyway, once we got going it was slow and hot, but not that bad and the blackberry eating was a welcome distraction and the views were stunning. We pushed through about 5km to a postcard bench for lunch and then an icy pole reward at the end in the little village of Cordiñanes de Valdeón.
PR-LE 24 Puerto de los Señales
This walk was the unlikely winner of the three. On an overcast day, with rain threatening, we drove up to a mountain pass and scary watched the car thermometer steadily drop from 17 to 10 degrees. With only shorts on, I was getting a little scared. Luckily, I had some tracksuit pants in the car, so like an Aussie Bogan I took to the path with my girls all rugged up. It was gentle downhill slope through cow paddocks with rocky slopes on one side and sloping farmland on the other. Of course, the best part was the willingness and almost excitement of the girls to hike and they when like two old biddys constantly chatting. When Brigit returned for the car, I continued on with the girls so not to get cold and it was a slow but very peaceful with the girls walking hand in hand. We covered almost 6km without whinging, requests for carrying or the use of chupa chups. And to top it off, the coffee in the little cow town of Maraña at the end, was one of the best in Spain.
Lessons We Learned…
We need a pool at home
I know pools require a lot of maintenance and can’t be used for a lot of the year, but every time we have one in Spain, it gives us so much peace. The girls are in their zone and generally when that happens, the family is in its zone. I can see the attraction of saying at a resort with kids now. Just sitting by the pool and reading while they play…although I would still be itching to explore the landscapes around me.
Next week, we leave the mountains and head to the city, with a stay in Bilbao. Looking forward to inventive Spanish cuisine, some gallery visits and maybe sometime in the stunning Basque countryside.