The Wonders of Travel from an Aspiring Journalist
I can’t quite believe how long I have stayed away from my blog. I have been writing down ideas and recording adventures, but have not had the time (nor photos) to share them on here. So, some stressful exams and an exchange in Spain later, I am going to share with you some of the highlights of my week in Santander.
As a lover of old towns and cobblestones, I found the quaint Potes heavenly. Nestled amongst the mountains of the Picos de Europa Natural Park, Potes seems distanced from the rest of civilisation. The streets are full of small shops selling many typical products, including my new favourite – Quesada Pasiega – a mix of yoghurt, lemon, sugar and eggs. The historic building, Torre del Infantado, is a central part of Potes and was interesting in its architecture.
Admiring the handcrafted goods.
Near Potes, one can experience a ride in the Fuente Dé cable car in the heart of the Picos de Europa. In just 10 minutes you will be roughly 1,800 metres above the ground, with some of the most incredible views. Along with the thin wisps of fog and vast stretches of hills, the sights were truly breathtaking. There are many walks available around the Picos de Europa, but we went for a shorter stroll of about an hour, until we reached the Áliva hotel restaurant for a late lunch.
I don’t think I have ever been so high up on a hike before, and the air was unbelievably fresh. However, despite the warm sun, there was a harshness to the wind which stung my skin and made my hairs stand on end. During the walk towards the restaurant, we were lucky enough to experience a truly magical moment. On a rocky path in the middle of a green hill, we came across a small herd of sleeping horses. They were beautifully calm; their manes flowing gently against the wind. On walks like this, it is so important to stop and notice what is around you.
Lunch at the restaurant was wonderful and I have never seen such huge portions! We all felt absolutely stuffed but luckily, there was a Land Rover service to take walkers back to the cable car. This is not for the fainthearted – imagine an old, rickety Land Rover travelling relatively fast down thin, steep roads dotted with walkers and animals with the possibility of a fall down the face of the mountain a mere metre away from you. Nevertheless, it was an experience.
Mountain horses in the background – note our attempts to brave the wind!
Finally, Cabarceno Natural Park. As a rule, I hate zoos and haven’t returned to one for several years. Before the trip, I was apprehensive as to whether the park would resemble a typical zoo; animals in cages with little space. However, upon arrival, the mere size of the park is apparent as you have to drive to different enclosures. After seeing the bears in their vast parkland and the giraffes roaming around, I felt reassured. The park houses many ‘typical’ animals you would expect such as elephants and rhinos, but also some rarer breeds such as the new white tiger or the cute wallabies.
At Cabarceno, the shows are a must-see. The first show that we saw, a display with sea lions, was even more clever and funny than I expected, especially as one of the animals did not behave quite as he was supposed to. The second show, ‘birds of prey’, held great photo opportunities but the real highlight for me was when we were given the opportunity to hold some of the birds. I chose an owl which closely remembered the Weasley’s owl from Harry Potter…
My experience in Spain allowed me to begin to get a real feel for the language and culture. Along with more popular tourist areas such as Santander, I was pleased that I visited some of the smaller towns so that I could get a real feel of life for Spanish citizens and would strongly encourage those visiting Spain to do the same. Next year, I plan to go for a longer period and spend some time in Andalusia and Madrid – areas which seem bustling with culture and diversity.