An Unplanned Stop in Burgos, Spain

When we were planning a road-trip in Spain in the summer as part of our three week vacation, Burgos was not in the itinerary. For scheduling conflict reasons, I was flying solo and my significant other had already flown a few days ahead. So I was on the plane, heading to Madrid for a 3 week vacation and I got seated next to a lady who was also heading home to Spain to see her family. We got to talking a little bit, and she told me that she was from Burgos. She described a whole bunch of things from Burgos, and she mentioned that Burgos was selected as the Gastronomy Capital of Spain in 2013. This immediately piqued my interest, because for me, food culture is really good way to explore a city. Burgos has a lot of good cuisine, namely morcilla and Queso de Burgos, but she mentioned that they make really good lamb (cordero) roasts. I got a few tips about names of places, and when I arrived in Spain, I checked the route, and it seemed Burgos was on the way. 

Burgos is a city in the Province of Burgos, and the historic capital city of Castille. The city has a lot more to offer than its cuisine, but for us, Burgos was basically the first stop, just to coincide with the time for lunch (yeah, it was a coincidence, for sure). The name of the restaurant in Burgos we were referred to is Casa Ojeda.


Their speciality is roasted meats, more specifically lamb, along with other regional dishes, like fabada (bean stew). What sets them apart is how they make it, which is in a brick oven, run on wood burning fire. This gives the meat a very specific flavor (very good) and puts them a different category. I have to give it up the lady in the plane - everything was delicious!


After lunch we took a walk around the city center, and the Cathedral de Burgos. The Cathedral was closed due to repairs being made, but it is majestic! It's right next to the Plaza Mayor, so the other side is great for viewing while taking a break. It was also set as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.


Walking around town we found some of the components of a historical town, that we also found on other towns on the road-trip - such as the Plaza Mayor (City Center), an area where people hang out and chill out with tapas and drinks and cobblestone streets. I can never really get tired of these things though, and every town offers a different version of this, so you really have to try them all.


A Day Trip To Potes, Liébana in Cantabria

Potes is a small town pretty close to Santander, the capital city of the region of Liébana and famous for Cocido Lebaniego, a cousin of the more traditional meat/bean stew Cocido Montañés. I'm sucker for stews, and I initially wanted to take this trip just to have the Cocido, but it turns out this little medieval town was also famous for its magnificent views of Picos De Europa. I'm also a sucker for mountain views, so we arranged a day trip. Its a small enough town, and unless you want to hike and camp, you can get by with a day. There is enough here to keep the day pretty full, including a ride up the skyride to get a spectacular view of the mountains.


Potes has hints of being a medieval town, because it used to be a strategic location for the Romans, because its the location where two rivers meet. Because of its strategic location, its economy boomed and it eventually became the capital of Liébana


One of the things I've found interesting about these medieval tourist towns is that these aren't just showroom towns - there are families who live here throughout the year, who have kids that go to school and parents who hang out at the local bars, and have weekend parties, etc. Everyday scenes, like kids playing soccer (and having to fight for the ball with the dog that also wants to play) in this scenic town is sort of contradictory to me - I half-expect some Roman centurians to jump out from some tunnel.


The next part of the trip was to go up the funicular to National Park of Picos De Europa. To do this, you have to drive a little bit from Potes to a small area called Fuente . Fuente Dé is not a town really, its just the area where you take the funicular/cable car to the top. Fuente also has a Parador at the base of the cable car, where you can have an extended stay. Paradors in Spain are old historical buildings converted to be hotels, so they offer a unique experience

Once you take the cable car all the way to the top, you get a majestic view of the mountains. At that point, you are at the peak, and somewhat in the middle of the park. From here you're able to hike to many places for much more awesome scenery, but the views from here are not too shabby.


A Walk in the Historic Town of Comillas, Cantabria

I've been to Comillas once before almost 6 years ago, when I first visited Spain. It was also my first foray into Europe, and we didn't take it easy. Straight into the heart of Cantabria, or "Cantabria Profunda" (Deep Cantabria), as they call it is where we went, away from the big cities and tourist attractions. One of these towns, Comillas, was the perfect stop. I remember we went on a weekday, and it was a quiet little town that I always wanted to come back to. Last year when we visited Spain for Christmas, we got a chance to go again with Cristina's brother, who is a childhood friend of the "Primer Teniente de Alcalde" (Deputy Mayor) of Comillas. A walk with the Deputy Mayor of the town. It's about 1.5/2 hours from Santander, so it was too good to pass up.

Commillas is a sleepy little town in Northern Spain, in the Province of Cantabria. It is designated a historic-artistic site, and It has all the charateristics of such a site - cobbled streets and squares with ancestral houses, and has pretty well preserved medieval architecture. It's also known as the "Town of the Bishops" - as five prelates were born here who later went on to be the heads of several different dioceses in the Middle Ages. It has been modernized a lot, just like Segovia and Pedrazza, and there are a lot of modern amenities. Most of these towns all have a "Plaza Mayor" (Like a city center, or city center square) where there is usually the church and lots of restaurants and bars. We met Pedro, the Deputy Mayor of Comillas and he took us for a personalized walk around tour of his town.


Comillas is home to Comillas Pontifical University, which used to be a religious university, but it has since reformed and moved to Madrid. The institution in Comillas now serves as a foundation for research. It also has a lot of different programs for exchange and international students. Its an awesome place to spend your summers, with the beach as your backyard and say to sheep as you walk to your classes.


The Comillas beach is near the Oyambre Natural Park, and is very well preserved as well. You can go fishing from the pier, or chill out on the beach. It was a little cold to be frolicking on the sand, and the summer town was a little bit empty in January.


After the walk around, we went a place recommended by Pedro for some really good tapas, Restaurante el Pirata. Lunchtime is late in Spain, so we had some caña and tapas to hold us off till lunch.


In town square is the parish church of San Cristóbal, dating from the seventeenth century. The town is a stop along the pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago, so you'll see signs all along the town. The church and town hosts all sorts of events when the participants of the pilgrimage arrive.