Asturias, Spain
     I find that the best way to add a sense of adventure to a trip is to head for a destination which does not seem to appear on a map!  That was the case when travelling to the small Spanish village of Santa Eulalia de Carranzo.
     Off the plane and into the rental car we made our way to a place that surely existed, but whose exact location was uncertain.  We traversed the coast taking in as much of the scenery as we could; it was easy to see why the region was dubbed the Costa Verde.  With the ocean on one side and the Picos de Europa mountains rising to the other, the region was bursting with lush and green life.                                                     
                The coastline of Asturias, Spain
                Above right: Village sign for Santa Eulalia de Carranzo
                                         Right: Detail of a house in Santa Eulalia   
Once discovering our exit I stalled only once as I crept the tiny rental car up through the hills; no doubt to the amusing delight of an onlooking farmer.  After the winding journey through the foothills, the tiny village nestled amongst the mountains revealed itself to us. 
      Upon arrival we were met with long stares as we slowly drove through.  An old man with his oxen and wagon was our first encounter, someone we would see every day for a week and whose looks and glances gradually became more welcoming. 

                 An oxen cart travelling to the next town                                             A view of Santa Eulalia de Carranzo

    The quaintness of the village was incredible, something I had never experienced before:  apple orchards abounding, the distant clank of cowbells as the beasts sauntered throughout the valley and a calming sensation as the mist rolled in over the mountains; yielding a tranquil and serene atmosphere.  It was always a delight to return to our small apartment here after a day's exploring.

      The immediately surrounding area of the Picos de Europa National Park offers an abundance of excursions to embark on.  Heading out on a beautiful sunny morning we ventured to the small town of Cangas de Onis. 
Realizing that the region was "cider country" we happened upon a local sidreria to give it a try.  The cider is skillfully poured from shoulder level down to the glass, most of it successfully, and is a cool and tasty beverage on a hot day.  We also unwillingly tried queso cabrales, a staple cheese of the region, that was mistaken for calamares; very good nonetheless.  After two small setbacks, a forgotten camera and a herd of cattle sharing the road, we were then on our way to the magnificent town of Covodonga.  Here rose the great cathedral, transfixing our eyes as it shone red in the mid-afternoon sun.  
                                        Covadonga Cathedral
Above left: Cangas de Onis
Left: Santa Cueva, Covadonga
    Equally amazing was the tiny chapel, Santa Cueva, carved into the stone face of the mountain.  Happening upon a service given through a microphone, the spoken words echoed throughout the town, permeating for all to hear, from the man praying in the cathedral, to the heavily bearded suntanner who made a pilgrimage to the site.
      The sun beginning to set, we headed out of the mountains and back to the coast, visiting the town of Llanes to procure supplies for the evening. 
     The fishing boats and nets and traps offered a hint that seafood is the way to go, natural as it is situated on the coast. 
 With groceries in hand we strolled along the water witnessing a very unique piece of artwork, the Cubes of Memory.  Created by artist Augustín Ibarrola in the 1930's they serve a        
practial purpose acting as a breakwater,  yet mesmerize with their vibrant colour variations and sheer size of the artistic endeavour.                                   An alley in Llanes, Asturias    
      My Spanish rusty, I still managed enough to engage in small talk, get a beer in
the bar and  procure more cider from the landlord as was necessary.   What began as an unknown destination turned into a magnificent trip that  will not
        Fishing traps in Llanes               soon be forgotten.