Excursion to Gaudi’s El Capricho and to the Picos

It is Wednesday, May 8th. Our excursion takes us from Santillano del Mar to Comillas with Gaudi’s El Capricho and then to the Picos of Europe, where the blue cheese DOP Cabrales is produced.


Comillas – perched on a hill above the sea

The old city of Comillas is perched on a hill above the sea.

On the other side of this hill, inviting small cottages stretch along the sea.

In the center, we find small houses along cobbled streets.

Comillas was a posh seaside resort around 1900, when the king of Spain, Alphonse XII, used to spend his vacation here, attracting other aristocrats that built villas such as the noble and spacious neogothic Palacio de Sobrellano.

In addition art nouveau palaces have been built here, the most famous of which is Gaudi’s El Capricho.


Gaudi’s early work: El Capricho

The villa El Capricho (the Caprice) is an early work by Gaudí built in the 1880’s. It is a playful building, decorated with green tiles and yellow sun flowers, adorned with a minaret like tower – somewhat reminding of the Mudejar style. This is the view from below.

And this is the view from above. The white winter garden is attached to the house.

Several doors provide access to the villa – this is the one leading to the winter garden.

I like the somewhat intimate low rooms under the roof.

Then I feel like playing with the mirror.

When leaving Gaudí’s villa, we look at one another and agree, the villa was interesting, but to our taste, Gaudí’s style is close to what we would call kitsch.


Continuing to the mountains, the Picos de Europa

The sun has come out and we continue our way to the mountains, the Picos de Europa. They are still covered with snow.

Where we stop our car, we find orchids.

We head to Las Arenas de Cabrales and on the way, we admire this mountain farm on a steep slope. Tough work here.

In Las Arenas de Cabrales, we arrive just right in time to join the tour to the caves, where the DOP cheese Cabrales is maturing. We learn about the production of the Cabrales cheese. It is made out of 95% cow milk, 5% goat and sheep, and the mixture is flexible, according to whatever is available. The cattle spends summer in the mountains and returns to the valleys in autumn. The cheese is first dried and then transfered to the limestone caves, where the temperature is constant at 8 to 12 degrees, and where water dripples from the rocks producing a humidity of 90%. In this microclimate the Penicilium Claverum (similar to Roquefort) emerges spontaneously and is allowed to grow for three to six months. In the process the white cheese loafs become blue. I buy a piece of sealed Cabrales cheese.

When continuing our ride, I see this panorama in my back mirror. Wauu. The tower like mountain is called Picu Urriellu or Naranja de Bulnes (2519m).

We return home to our Casa de los Güelitos and eat a tasty cocido (hot pot) with white beans. Then we sleep once more in our quiet room – tomorrow we will change to Oviedo, the capital of Asturias.