Friday 9th October.
Yesterday we stopped at Comillas and what a delight it was despite the fact that motorhomes are not really welcomed. We pulled onto a massive car park above the wide sandy beach with plenty of "No Motorhomes" signs and despite the fact that the Guardia Civil station was opposite we parked up and set off for the tourist information office. We wanted to visit the town to see a building designed and built by Antoni Gaudi, one of his earliest commissions and one of only three examples of his work outside Catalonia. The tourist info lady provided a map of the town and suggested a few other places we might like to visit so,suitably equipped, we moved the van to an empty car park 43.38866 -4.29274 with no restrictive signs and headed back to the old part of town. The menu del dia was tempting at a few of the restaurants and after a delicious meal we set off for Capricho De Gaudi. A small palace built for Maximo Diaz de Quijano, a young lawyer who dealt with the legal affairs of the Marquis of Camillas and other Spaniards who, like himself, had made their fortunes in South America and Cuba. The building has all the hallmarks we expect from the genius Gaudi but, perhaps, without the flamboyance to be seen in his later work in Barcelona. Colourful ceramics, the use of different woods, stained glass, the attention to detail and the understanding of natural light throughout the day and the seasons are all here, above all this feels like a house to be lived in. Unfortunately Maximo, considered something of a bohemian at the time, died before the building was finished.
But this example of the early work of a true genius was not the only delight in this pretty town. The Sobrellano Palace and accompanying memorial chapel were also impressive. A neo-gothic style palace commissioned by the Marquis of Comillas, Don Antonio Lopez y Lopez and designed by Joan Martotell, no expense was spared in the construction of this building designed as a summer residence for the marquis and the Royal Family. The stone carvings, stained glass and the fireplaces, designed by Cristobal Cascante were particularly impressive.
The memorial chapel was completed in just two years and conceived as a Cathedral on a smaller scale and incorporates a girola housing the family mausoleum. The pews and the confessional were designed by Gaudi.
Today the Parque National de Los Picos de Europe beckoned. Covering 647 sq km and including three massifs, the highest reaching over 2,600 metres we couldn't pass by without a peek (as opposed to a peak). There are no passes through the whole area and we were undecided which way to go so drove along the northern edge on the AS-114, which was a stunning drive in itself, to the town of Cangas de Onis. There the young lady in the tourist information office came up trumps again, advising us which road to take to the two lakes (we'd call them tarns) at Pedro Pidal. We were lucky, from tomorrow the roads will be closed for repair and maintenance. The weather today has been glorious, sunshine and blue skies and not a cloud to be seen so the views were stupendous. The road ends at 1,100 metres and on occasions it was a bit scary with a few naughty hairpins and motorists who seem unaware of the width of their vehicles but we reached the lakes without incident and sat on the lakes edge breathing the freshest, sweetest air. Of course, we've only scratched the surface of this magnificent National Park, we met a couple today by the lake who were from Harrogate and were travelling by motorcycle and had spent a week in the area. The drive back down wasn't as enjoyable as the brakes started overheating - "What's that smell" said Phil, "Smells like somethings burning". - "Just the brakes, darling - nothing to worry about." Halfway down I managed to find somewhere to pull over for a while and let them cool down before we completed the descent.
Oh no! A selfy:
Afterwards we returned to Cangas de Onis where the Mayor has kindly provided 4 parking spaces in the massive car park for motorhomes with fresh water 43.35225 -5.12554. Unfortunately he possibly underestimated the demand as there are currently 12 vans in the car park and a few more at the bottom of the road.
Tomorrow our plan was to head north again to the coast but the weather forecast is appalling for the next few days in all directions so we are unsure. I think we need somewhere with a few museums.