This is Marta another friend from my language exchange who we got to meet in person while we were in Spain. She’s a journalist and whip-smart, not to mention hilarious. Before we left for our trip I told her I was taking a first-aid course to prepare for our crossing and we discussed all the potential health emergencies we could be facing. So when I sent her a text to tell her we’d arrived safe and sound, she wrote back asking if I’d had to take anyone’s appendix out. Thankfully, no! Anyway, she’s pretty funny.
She and her husband Isidoro split their time between Madrid and Alicante, but they also have a summer place in Ribadesella, Asturias, where she invited us to come stay with them while we were in Spain. We weren’t sure if it would work out, but we’re so glad it did because not only is Marta awesome, but Asturias, way up in the north of Spain, is really beautiful…and completely different from anyplace we’ve ever been in Spain. It reminded us more of the Pacific Northwest with its cooler, rainy climate.
When we arrived in Ribadesella, this was the sign that was hanging outside her apartment. Cute, right?
Ribadesella is a pretty little town on the Cantabrian sea. The beach, Santa Marina, is beautiful. We saw lots of surfers and people swimming, though the water was a little bit brisk, especially if you’ve just come from the Mediterranean.
Rich hiked up to the Ermita de la Guía, a tiny little church high up on the hills that has a great view overlooking the entrance to the harbor. You can go there to pray for a safe journey at sea and the walls are adorned with beautiful ships.
Marta and a few of her friends were kind enough to give us the grand tour of the surrounding area, which wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to nearby Cuevas, a tiny little town in the hills, which you get to by driving through a massive cave. The cave was amazing and I marveled that you could not only drive through it, but walk around in the middle of traffic to check it out on foot. This kind of thing would never be allowed in the States.
In Cuevas we stopped at a sidrería, or cider place, where we drank some cider and tried the local Cabrales cheese, which is aged in the caves in the area. Because it’s not carbonated, you have to aerate the cider yourself. (Another thing that would probably never happen in the States, because it’s a lot of work!) Marta showed us how it’s done and we were in awe of her technique. Basically, you have two big glasses for the cider, which Marta fills, but as soon as one is filled you have to gulp it down, leaving a tiny amount to swish out the glass with, then dumping it on the floor and handing the glass back to Marta to fill for the next person. We later learned there’s a little machine that aerates the cider for you, but Marta, a purist, wanted nothing to do with that nonsense.
After our trip to Cuevas, we went back to Marta’s apartment for an incredible meal of fabada asturiana, a kind of bean casserole with tons of meat (chorizo, ham, and morcilla). It was one of the tastiest things we had while we were in Spain. Very hearty and stick to your ribs, and for the first time I understood how delicious morcilla can be, when cooked like this, it just melted in my mouth.
Rosa, one of Marta’s friends from the magazine business, invited us over to her summer place in a neighboring town for an evening with her family and friends. (That’s Rosa sitting next to Marta, who is cracking us all up, as per usual.) We had a great time meeting all of them and eating too much delicious Spanish food.
Asturias is renowned for its amazing coastline. Rich had been reading about a few of the more spectacular beaches so Marta and Isidoro took us to see a few of them. Playa de Guadamía has amazing blowholes when the tides are just right. We didn’t get to see the water coming out, but we stood over the holes and were in awe of the intensity of the blowing from what little water there was the day. The beach lies at the end of this really long inlet and is a pretty cool spot.
Another beach, Playa de Cuevas, had a lot of cool rock formations, like this one below that looks kind of like an elephant. You can’t see them in this picture, but there were also little baby goats scampering along the hillsides.
We had an amazing time with Marta and Isidoro and their friends. Maybe one of these days we’ll get to sail into Ribadesella’s harbor on our own boat? Meanwhile, we’re back home and getting Mata Hari ready for winter, and hopefully taking her someplace warm next fall…
Thanks to Marta for some of the photos here. Yep, in addition to being an awesome friend, she’s also a great photographer.