Posted 22 April 2010 - 10:58 PM
Very good fish and seafood
This no frills or pretenses family run bar/restaurant not far from Ribadesella serves fish and seafood (much of it local) of quality not much different from the high end Galician places in Madrid, although availability is naturally more limited. A meal of merluza fritters, Xaragu (a kind of sea bream in the European sense) a la plancha, seafood soup (mostly crab and clams), Necoras, razor clams and percebes really hit the spot. The Necoras in particular were surprisingly good and large enough that it was worth the effort pulling meat out of all claws.
Prices very gentle for what they serve (e.g. percebes currently 60 Euros/kilo, Necoras 5 Euros each)
Las Villas del Cué
Cué (near Llanes)
On the high end of rural accommodations in the area (120 Euros/night right now - for comparison, you can sleep comfortably for 35 Euros in Cangas de Onis), these are very large 2BR/2 bath villas with high quality modern finishes and a fully equipped kitchen, a couple of steps away from the beach:
Posted 25 July 2019 - 07:58 AM
Looks like this summer is going to be two weeks in Northern Spain. Plan is 3-4 days in San Sebastian, then drive (one overnight maybe 2 in Asturias/Cantabria) then a week in Galicia.
For the Basque Region - thoughts on where we should base ourselves? It'll be five of us (Two little kids and a 16 year old family member there to watch the kids). Can't quite decide whether a house outside of town makes sense or a big apartment in San Sebastian?
Also do you think I can take a 3 year old to Elkano/Kaia Kaipe? Ibai? Eating things won't be a problem, its just kids in a dining room issue.
Any thoughts on Asturias/Cantabria greatly appreciated.
Disclaimer #1 – I have ZERO idea what it’s like traveling with (or eating with or dealing with) little kids. Do 3 year olds walk yet ? talk yet ? eat normal food ? start screaming uncontrollably for totally unknown reasons ? does said screaming stop immediately cuz you pop a pacifier in its mouth ? I truly don’t know about any of this stuff, except for that walkie-talkie part.
Re driving to Asturias/Cantabria then Galicia, I know all these places very well.
And you know that I spend tons of time in Galicia each summer and hence I must very much enjoy Galicia, which is indeed true. (In fact I was just in Galicia in March for a bunch of days … flew there just for kicks after finding myself back in Barca.)
With that said, I feel strongly that it is a mistake to transit from San Sebast to Galicia with one overnight. And I’d further say that 2 nights is insufficient. The key question is … why the rush to get to Galicia ? You may have a very good reason, but please do note that Asturias is a lovely part of the world in the summer and there would be a bunch of potentially fun stuff to do there and if you are passing thru it anyway, it seems a shame to blow right by it so quickly. Now if you were flying into Galicia then I wouldn’t be saying that you must leave Galicia and go spend 3 days in Asturias but that’s not your situation.
Here’s my logistical thinking …
The transit from San Sebast to Galicia is at minimum 6 hours of driving to get to any appropriate Galician destination. Personally, I find driving more than 3 hours to get somewhere to be very un-fun, hence I try to avoid it. I’m going to make lots of assumptions and assume you may feel the same. If you told me that you had your heart set on Cantabria, I’d probably be recommending a stay in Santander, which has its share of very reasonable things to do there, but I’d definitely opt for Asturian options well before Santander. Further, the pit stop at Santander only gets you 2hrs west, leaving at least 4hrs for an ensuing trek from Santander to Galicia … and as you now know, Chambo doesn’t like 4+ hr treks. Now you may be perfectly fine with that 4hr hike, but let’s now factor in my next thought … which is that according to Chambo Rule #66 you are not allowed to drive from Asturias to Galicia without stopping and stretching your legs to see the waves crashing into the very impressive As Catedrales rock formations (on Goog Maps, the location is effectively Praia de Augas Santas, shortly past Ribadeo). I do this every year and I enjoy it each time. Taking a leisurely walk to and fro along the cliffs is going to be at least an hour, plus or minus. There is that outdoor Bar/Restaurante right there (refer to Goog Maps) with food of very mediocre quality but on a nice, hot day Chambo might be seen sitting and quaffing a cold Estrella while staring out towards the sea before continuing on. I try to schedule myself to avoid being there at mealtime but with the kids and all, it could fit into your plans for a quick, cheap feeding on your way to Galicia.
So where were we … oh yeah, we were hyper-optimizing logistics and Chambo just 86-ed a stay in Santander.
Hence Asturias … because that gets us a full 3hrs west of San Sebast … AND because Asturias is great …
If you have never been, Oviedo is indeed a lovely town to visit. Gijon is a lovely seaside place to visit in the summer (and sometimes I stay in Gijon). From Gijon, scoot up the coast to the Faro de Cabo Peñas … a worthy spot with nice walking paths by the lighthouse on this dramatic coast and a small, kind of interesting visitor’s centre showing all the lighthouses in Asturias. Ribadesella is a charming, small town to stroll. Along the Asturian coast, you find lots of excellent, dramatic beaches. The Jurassic Museum of Asturias has a bunch of scary, life-size dinosaurs that might entertain the kids and it’s actually an interesting museum (that could benefit by a bunch more info in English).
Asturias has my favorite fish resto that I like much more that Elkano – Gueyu Mar and it’s right near a pretty nice beach (ie walk 3 minutes) called Playa de Vega. And I hear what your thinking, Bonner (“So Chambo went to Gueyu Mar one time, got lucky and hit the jackpot with an excellent meal and now thinks the joint is the greatest place ever and touts it as such”), but you’re wrong, Bonner, very wrong, cuz I’ll tell ya how many times I have eaten there => double digits. It’s a very enjoyable place with superb fish (and other things from the sea) cooked a la brasa by the owner Abel … perfect for that long, leisurely, late lunch with a little beaching it either before, after, before and after, or better yet DURING ie the little ones are taken to the beach by the teenager while Mom and Dad continue to eat and drink in peace. I personally wouldn’t wear a bathing suit to the resto but shorts are perfectly fine and, when reserving, request a table on the outside terrace, weather permitting.
Asturias has impressive mountains too, the Picos de Europa. Since I doubt that the family would be doing much hiking, a drive to Cangas de Onis via the Mirador del Fitu with its fab views might be an interesting excursion (but only on a clear day … forget it if it’s rainy or foggy).
I could keep on going and going and keep on selling Asturias, but that’s enough for now and gives a quick sense potential things to do.
And no, the restaurant Casa Martial is not appropriate to go to with the little ones. And anyway, I have become less and less a fan of Casa Marcial over the years. The chef Nacho Manzano is a really, really nice guy but I think he’s trying too hard and his food is becoming more and more fussy / tweezer-y and in his mind he’s probably trying to / imagining he can get a 3rd star, whereas in my mind he surely deserves a star (maybe, just maybe a 2nd star because he’s up in the mountains in the middle of absolutely nowhere and he’s sending out a double-digit number of small, fancily-formatted plates with some unusual, local ingredients cooked in a gastro way and he’s a nice guy and the somm is a nice guy and his sister is a sweet server and it’s kind of crazy that this place even exists) but the food and cooking is far, far away from any 3-star Mich zip code. All that said, for people w/o kids who have never been before, I would NOT try to dissuade you from going ... it's just that I don't need to go back for my 5th (or whatever) visit because it isn't my preferred style of cuisine.
As far as where to stay, I only know about hotels and I’ll give you two potential options to consider that are appropriately located.
Note that in Asturias (and this is true for Galicia too), hotel prices are very, very reasonable, even at the nicest places, even in high season. That said, the nicest places are not at a level of upscale-ness or excellent style or charm / refinement that you might hope for and surely find in other parts of Spain.
That said, the Hotel de La Reconquista in Oviedo is a bit of an exception because it is indeed a very nice place with some old-world charm in the impressive public areas but still feeling very comfortable and not stuffy. It is the only Oviedo hotel I would consider and I always get their Premium Room with Terrace. Room is an okay 25m2 size (but it seems smaller) but I love the wooden terrace that looks out onto the delightful courtyard and yes the room’s wifi works on the terrace. If they can give you 2 of these rooms next to each other, that might work, but I do NOT believe that these rooms with a terrace have adjoining ie inter-connecting rooms. Hotel is an excellent location for walking and exploring the town one day, an easy drive to Gijon and Faro de Cabo Peñas another day. Drive to Gueyu Mar on day 3. Blah blah blah.
The second option is the Hotel Palacio de Luces near Lastres, located in a rural setting. I find this place to be very well-located for many of the activities mentioned above … for example, if going to Gueyu Mar or Ribadesella or up into the mountains, it’s saving 30 minutes of travel in each direction as compared to being in Oviedo and naturally Chambo likes that ! Note that this “five star” place fits my description above as it is by far the nicest place in its general area and it’s perfectly fine (and do I stay here each year) but if you look at the pics of the bedroom and common area décor, you can get an idea of what it is … and it’s more a comfortable, mid-range design as opposed to anything to do with five star charm. But once again, for me it works perfectly fine because its location is excellent. They do a nice breakfast in a room with great views of the mountains. They have a resto for dinner but in all the years I have stayed there, I have never bothered to eat there … as it’s kind of a hotel resto, you know … and if you are doing the long leisurely lunches at Gueyu Mar that start at 3pm and you are still there past 6pm then you aren’t even in the market for dinner ... and you highly appreciate the shorter drive home.
In fact, each summer, I’ll usually spend 3-4 days at each of these two hotels (in addition to staying in Santander, Bilbao, Galicia etc), so I know them well. Both could be a pretty reasonable option if 2 rooms can work for sleeping the five of you … and I’m relatively confident that there are not clearly better hotels options than these two for this part of Asturias.
There is the Puebloastur Eco-Resort up in the mountains near Casa Marcial. I haven’t stayed there but I checked it out a couple of times. It does have a boutique-y, higher-end design (for this part of the world) and it is a pretty slick setup (although not totally my style) but I just don’t think I would recommend staying up in the mountains if that were not your main interest and intent.
Posted 25 July 2019 - 08:08 AM
The Transit from San Sebastian to Asturias
You would be amazed how often I receive the same request … “Hey Chambo ! I’m traveling from San Sebast in the Basque to the Palacio de Luces in Asturias, should I do a pitstop somewhere along the way or should I just do the 3.5hr drive non-stop ?”
Let me address this once and for all.
It all depends on how much time you have.
If you told me that you have LOTS of time (ie numerous days) to do the transit, I would go so far to recommend multiple days in Bilbao* AND multiples days in Santander** AND then do a pitstop in Llanes prior to arrival in Luces. That’s how Chambo rolls
But if the intent is to do the transit in one day with a pitstop for just a few or a handful of hours then I would recommend either Santander or Llanes.
So why not Bilbao, you ask ?
Personally I think Bilbao merits more time as it’s a lovely city. Importantly I don’t think it gets you far enough along on your journey because once you’ve finally got the car all loaded up and you're ready to roll, you probably want to make some good headway towards your destination and Chambo Rule #65 says that you should get yourself at least half-way to your destination prior to a pitstop***. Never forget, Chambo is a hyper-optimizer and Bilbao is barely an hour along. It simply doesn’t qualify.
So Santander …
Santander is a very nice and lively coastal city in the summer and indeed the capital of Santander. The pitstop could (should!) involve seeing and visiting the now-completed Centro Botin which is a very pleasant and inviting museum space to visit, maybe even for a family. Last year there was a truly superb expo on Joan Miro’s sculptures but just experiencing this Renzo Piano designed building that overhangs the water and has fab views out onto the bay, from both within the exhibition rooms and outside on landings on multiple levels, is delightful.
For a few hours in Santander, whether you go to the Centro Botin or not, park your car close to it. All the good strolling you’ll want to do is nearby. To get a feel for the heart of Santander, walk the lively streets within the rectangle between Paseo de Pereda on the south (plenty of ice cream shops), Calle Daoiz y Velarde on the north, from Plaza Porticada in the west to Calle Casimiro Sainz in the east. In that rectangle, you have loads of eating establishments and you’ll find the Mercado Municipal del Este which is actually pretty touristy and all that interesting, although there are a couple of places that sell good quality conversas (ie canned food). The real market (Mercado de la Esperanza) is located a bit to the east and is also worth checking out if open. It has very good local cheese and Spanish charcuterie offerings among the many, many vendors. And guys, pop into Ramiro Diaz if you want to see where the fancy Santander hombres shop for their fancy threads. And just in case you need to fit in a quick workout, Chambo likes the Myst Gym (because Chambo likes the easily accessible Bahia Hotel which doesn’t have a gym but has great view from upper floors).
For a good, casual lunch, the front bar area of Canadio has very good tapas and they also have some outdoor seating. It’s a popular place so depending on the time it could be crowded. This would be a very good choice. Canadio also has a real resto in the back that is also recommended. Asubio is a newer place that has very good pinchos downstairs (and don’t ignore their cooked pinchos!) and a serious resto upstairs. I’m not positive if Asumbio has tables downstairs or just counter seating but it’s a perfectly fine tapas lunch place. Bodega Cigalena is the place for total wine geeks. Andres the owner (along with his brother) is a total natural wine nut and will open up lots and lots of things if you sit at the main resto. The food here is sadly pretty so so and I won’t eat in seated resto anymore but I definitely enjoy having a few wines by the glass in the bar area. They almost always have a very interesting selection at crazy (low) prices ! Although this isn’t a great choice for a family with young ones, I still advise their parents to just pop in to look at the entryway and the bar area because it is effectively a very good wine museum. Pop in and take in the ambience for a minute or two … who knows maybe you’ll grab one quick glass of wine while doing so … but it’s surely not required. For more traditional tapas in a more traditional space, there is Las Hijas de Florencio, which could be a potential backup option for a family … but there’s many many others.
The most interesting wine store in Santander is La Ruta Del Vino and it has a very nice selection.
Cafeteria Luzmela does an pretty decent but totally traditional café con leche but Primos de Origen is a very good, next-gen coffee shop that opened about 2 years ago. Good flat whites. Good cold brew. They also do a nice simple bfast with toast and marmalade. They are into chocolates there but Chambo doesn’t indulge in such decadence unless it’s the top of the top of the top.
Nearby Santander, there are many truly superb beaches … for example Playa De Valdearenas to the west and Playa De Los Tranquilos to the east.
If you had more time in Santander then I would continue on about strolling along the coast near Palacio de la Magdalena ... I would suggest another lunch a bit outside the center at Casona del Judío etc etc etc
Oh zut alors !
My plane is landing … in Bilbao … gotta close the laptop … plan to head to the super tiny El Puertito for some oysters (yep, in July) and then some fun wines and good tapas at the usually relatively calm Cork ... but I enjoy chatting with the owner Jonathan there and getting a full update on what's going on in Bilbao.
Llanes tomorrow …
* Chambo will spend 4 days in Bilbao this July as he has year after year after year … very convenient flights from Paris to Bilbao fyi, think Vueling … but 4 days may be a bit much for (the impatient) many … then again there’s the heavy hitters of Azurmendi, Etxebarri and Nerua to carefully consider, not to mention a very good tapas scene, a few good wine bars, some nice casual (but good) and other quite good fine dining restos (some in the city, some a short drive outside set with fab views of the undulating countryside) etc. The coffee situation is troubling though since next-gen coffee shop Trimmer permanently closed a few years back
** Chambo usually spends a few days in Santander each summer but this year’s Spain sojourn is being sliced semi-short so Santander has been sadly sacrificed
*** There is of course the “unless there is a TREMENDOUS site to be visited prior” exception to Chambo Rule #65 and hence if one has never been to the Guggenheim Bilbao then that could conceivably change the calculus. I’m actually responding to someone who has “been there done that” with regards to the Gugg. That said, I do NOT AT ALL view the Gugg Bilbao as a “been there done that” type of museum. I have visited the museum for the last 7 summers, I believe, and there has been a consistency to their temporary exhibitions in that they have all been quite excellent****. That said, this year’s expo doesn’t have me all that psyched but we shall see. Further a quick Gugg pitstop means that you would ONLY have time for the museum and would get zero feel for the city of Bilbao which seems a shame.
**** Prior expos I’m thinking about include Hockney (better than relatively recent ones in NYC and the Pompidou), Basquiat (better than the one at Fondation LV in Paris which (a subset) traveled to NYC) and Georg Baselitz Heroes paintings. Last year’s Joana Vasconcelos “I’m your mirror” expo was tremendous in physical scale and ambition and there was a superb Chagall expo on The Breakthrough Years 1911-1919 and I don’t really love Chagall all that much to be perfectly honest
Posted 26 July 2019 - 10:19 AM
The Transit from San Sebastian to Asturias (part 2)
So Llanes …
Llanes is a lovely, modestly-sized coastal village in comparison to Santander’s much bigger city scale.
In the summer Llanes is a bit touristy but still very nice, has a compact old city area with a bunch of imposing and impressive medieval stone buildings, has a nice port area to stroll along on either side of the waterway and the Paseo de San Pedro.
Let me say straight away that, for Chambo, the main event in Llanes is doing the superb stroll all along the Paseo de San Pedro. This walk will NOT be pleasant to do if it’s raining or very foggy. The path along the coast is mainly, if not totally, beaten dirt and grass. You are coming here for the fab views of the uneven, rocky Asturian coast with its nearby tiny islands while breathing in the fresh air of the Bay of Biscay and smelling the sea from high above. If it’s a cloudy but not foggy day, Chambo says sure, why not … but bien sûr sun makes everything more fun.
Llanes could even work for a short pitstop of 90 minutes plus or minus for the just Paseo walk or for a very pleasant half or leisurely full day. Since time may be of the essence and you don’t want to waste any of it figuring out anything, including where exactly to park, let Chambo give you all the dirty details.
For perfectly located (and free, I believe, but verify) outside parking, aim for Parking del Sablón. It may be full upon arrival but no big problem if you have Chambo’s city slicker’s skill in slowly stopping and circling and then snagging the spot of the next car to call it a day … there does seem to be a reasonable coming and going of vehicles in my experience so be patient. Exit the the north end of the parking, walk east towards the local’s city beach (Playa Del Sablon), take the nice path up to the Paseo de San Pedro to arrive at the coast. Chambo says “Head East, young man” (not that it really matters, but let me optimize your life for you … for free, I believe, but verify !) so walk towards the eastern most point of Punta Del Guruñu. Take in the lovely views, do a 180 and head back from whence you came and continue west, young man, past Islote el Peñón to the vestigio muralla defensa llanisca, continue along the coast to Grits Hälfte Camino del Norte which overlooks those lovely, tiny nearby islands. This entire walk is great. Now reverse course and return and that should be an extremely nice time for any and everyone, families with young ones included.
For the short pitstop, you would now drive off on your merry way … which is acceptable … but a bit of a shame.
Why not stay and check out a good part of Llanes center and port area and get a good feel for the tiny town. It’s not like you’re in Llanes every day !
South of the parking lot, you have the old city area with some interesting stone ruins and the imposing Basílica de Santa María del Concejo. Plenty of little streets with restos and uninteresting shops but the town has a pretty nice ambience for a tourist destination . A nice idea is to walk the port area and pass plenty of boats along calle Muelle and calle Tomás Gutiérrez Herrero. Take that all the way east and you reach the upscale and recommended fish resto El Bálamu but it’s not the right choice if time is limited and with kids. The resto has high quality product and hence has a certain price and hence it’s not a place where you want to rush. It is up a flight of stairs but what is very interesting to see on the ground level of that building is the Llonja de Llanes … the llonja hours are very limited / erratic and you’re probably not technically supposed to go in if you’re not a professional but they don’t care) and if they do, no worries you exit with a smile. The llonja is where fish and all things from the sea are brought to be auctioned off to restos, distributors etc. It is NOT a retail operation for mere mortals like us to buy from but if you haven’t seen these before in Asturias or Galicia then it’s great to check out and you can an excellent sense for what’s in season and in what quantities and sizes … at least for what the sea offered in the last 24 hours.
For a quicker, simpler, more casual family meal along this route, there are some restos that seem perfectly fine on calle Tomás Gutiérrez Herrero as your head to El Balamu, such as El BALANDRO or Restaurante La Marina. I haven’t eaten at these but I’ve seen them pretty full when I’ve been there.
Note that there’s no need to exit the dead center of Llanes for food. There are tons of sidrerías and tapas-y places that are perfect for families. A plethora of choices right by Plaza Magdalena.
Other notes … check out the grocery / epicerie Ultramarinos Casa Buj for lots of Asturian / Spanish food items and a wide range of choices there. Casa Buj is the best option in Llanes for this type of stuff. Also note that the previously mentioned Asturian shops Coalla Gourmet (Gijon and Oviedo) and Aramburu (Ribadesella and Oviedo) are much better stores in my humble opinion … but they ain’t located in Llanes, are there ? Hence the Llanes option.
Although not reco’ed for families with little ones, for completeness sake, I’ll mention the following two restos …
There is the 1* Mich El Retiro which is a 5 minute drive outside the Llanes city center. I went once and it was reasonable but it’s tough to recommend Mich dining when you come to Llanes for a day … much more fun to do something casual and to do serious fishiness at El Balamu, methinks. If you were based here for a few days or very nearby and you wanted a bit of gastro, then sure, why not.
There is also the small, sweet resto Retrogusto which is a sincere, small operation and even though it has white tablecloths it is still very casual in reality. To calibrate the place in overall MF terms, let’s just say that it’s the type of place where SteveR and joetf would be happy, Orik would be justifiably aggravated with ingredient quality a la Vantre (Paris) and Adrian would expound upon a certain Asturian honesty in the humble abode with its slightly more attention to detail than the typical sideria and how we should support such authentic cultural offerings. Voila ! Pas besoin d'en dire plus! But I will say one more thing … for Chambo, unlike Vantre, there was nothing on their modest wine list that I remotely wanted to drink and hence why I personally would be challenged to return …unless I brought my own wine
Note 1. All bolded names / locations come from Google Maps, hence use Goog Maps to be sure that we are in total sync
Note 2. Goog Maps does a very good job with driving directions in Spain in the vast majority of cases. Consider using it if you don’t already. That said, it is wise to first eyeball the route in advance to make sure it makes sense. It's also wise to re-confirm that you didn't accidentally tap the wrong final destination (it's easier to do than you might think) and then hit START because you will then drive carefree through absolutely unknown parts based upon Goog Maps comforting and assured voice but in reality you're going who knows where (because when navigating, the Goog Maps screen does NOT show the final destination ... they should address that, methinks). It can happen, trust me ! But hopefully only once per lifetime ...