Archive for the 'Spain' Category

Into Spain


Plaza de la Constitución

San Sebastian, Spain – I’ve been here before, for a combined city break/surf trip that became more about the pintxos and drinking after the surf ran dry.

This time around I thought I knew it all and walked into a bar on the main square to ask for the local sangria, a blend of coca cola and red wine served over ice. But I got it wrong and was served two glasses of luke warm white wine.

Determined to get the red as well, I walked out of the bar with three glasses for two people and ended up drinking most of them. The end result was that the afternoon I spent walking through the narrow streets of the Old Town was a fuzzy but very pleasant affair.

Notes from Spain (Part Five)


The author tasting Luarca’s finest plonk

Luarca, Spain – I’ve given up on the waves, now its time to focus on Asturias’ strengths: eating and drinking. tells me the swell is small, small, small and will stay that way until after I’ve returned to London. So there’s not much point wasting all my time looking for non-existent surf when I can just stay local and make a glutton of myself.

I mentioned before the native blend of cider, or sidre, they do here. It’s a low alcohol, flat brew that is poured from a great height to introduce some bubbles into the mix.

Most Asturian males, while seated, simply hold the green sidre bottles high over their heads with one hand, their tumbler glass low to the ground with the other, and pour. It generally splashes all over the floor, their hands, feet and the feet of anyone near them.

What does make it into the glass is drunk straight away in one gulp and the dregs thrown onto the ground (which by now is awash with cider).

I calculated that out of every 750mL bottle of cider, you’d be lucky to actually drink about a third. Good thing it only goes for about 3 euros a pop.

Notes from Spain (Part Four)


Surfing in Asturias: beautiful landscapes. Small waves.

Somewhere near Luarca, Spain – I finally got some waves this morning. Small, glassy and kinda fun.

Unfortunately, it was also bloody freezing. I only have a 3/2 wetsuit, good enough down to about 18C. I suspect its colder because in between sets I was laying on my board with my hands and feet up out of the water like a sky diver, trying to stop them going numb.

It worked, sort of. I could almost feel my surfboard under my feet when I stood up.

I also packed both my surfboard and Mum (she got the front seat) into the car and headed all the way west to Tapia de Casariego, Asturias’ surf city. They have a WQS surfing contest here each Autumn so I thought if anywhere was going to have waves, it would be here.

Unfortunately, it didn’t. Neither did the beach further west near Villadun. But it had potential. And they were both very pretty parts of the world.

Notes from Spain (Part Three)

Asturias-1394Waiting for the fog to clear

Luarca, Spain – After arriving in Luarca, I lapped the town’s  one way roads four times before finally finding the narrow street the fishing house is on.

It’s so narrow it requires a three point turn at each switchback. God forbid if a car comes the opposite way. I hope your reversing skills are up to scratch. Mine are (now).

I had to do it all again after dumping my stuff and heading back out onto the road to find some waves. It was 6pm, but in this part of the world it doesn’t get dark until after 10pm, so I had a few hours up my sleeve.

Either side of the motorway the landscape is flat and agricultural. The smell of cow shit drifts on the breeze. Low-roofed sidrerias serve the golden-hued local cider (more on that later). The small churches that make up this part of the Camino Santiago pilgrim trail stand tall and proud. All of it set to a backdrop of the baize-green mountains that stretch away into the clouds.

Turn down one of the many roads to the coast and things get interesting. Pine trees line the very edge of the cliffs. Almost every beach has a rivermouth of some sort, carrying the run-off from the rain-drenched mountains. The sunlight filters weakly through the thick sea fog. Deep gullies are filled with gum trees. Sometimes it feels like I’m back home in Western Australia.

It’s also this fog that is making my search for surf pretty difficult. On that first afternoon I wasn’t able to see beyond the shorebreak, let alone make out any surfable waves.

Since then, I’ve checked a couple different beaches to the west of Luarca. It might be sunny and warm on the highway, but down on the beaches among the cliffs and valleys, visibility is down to metres.

Unwilling to spend hours smoking joints and waiting for it to clear, like the band of surfers in the maroon hatchback at one beach, I usually push on and do some sightseeing inland instead, vowing to strike for the beach as soon as the fog lifts.

Notes from Spain (Part two)

Asturias-1428Heading west on the A-8

Luarca, Spain – My arrival was easy enough. Touch down at Asturias airport. Stuff my bags and surfboard into an electric blue Peugeot hire car and tentatively pull out onto the A-8 motorway.

I got lost pretty much straight away, which is a given when you’re driving on the wrong side of the road and navigating with a map on your lap at the same time. But it did mean I got to check out the sights of San Juan, a cosy little fishing village.

Its estuary seemed to be boiling and billowing in the afternoon light as a thick bank of sea fog rolled in, turning the sunny afternoon grey and moody in minutes.

Back on the A-8 and heading west I duelled with the Spanish drivers. The speed limit was a generous 120kph but even then I was being buffeted by the sonic booms of every Seat or Peaugot that roared past. And these were little hatchbacks! Imagine if the Spanish had proper cars?

The reason they can go so fast, it seems, is that the motorway is absolutely first class. Smooth, well sign posted and with enormous viaducts stretching  way out over deep valleys. It was like driving in the sky.

Millions must have been spent on the stretch of road between Aviles and Luarca – all for the handful of people (relatively speaking) that live in this region.

Notes from Spain (Part One)

Asturias-1359Parking for your boat is at a premium in Luarca.

Asturias, Spain – This place must be the forgotten region in Spain. Everyone has been to Madrid or Barcelona, the Balaeric or Canary Isles, Andulucia even. But who’s heard of Asturias? And who knew you could surf here?

I’m in Asturias for a week. The official line is that I’m here to meet my mum, who will finish a whirlwind three week bus tour through western Europe tomorrow.

We’ve rented a fisherman’s house high on the hill in Luarca, a village of a 15,000 or so. Not very rock star, I know, but it suits the Hemingway phase I am going through. (not the holidaying with my Mum part, but the heavy-drinking blogger in an isolated-house-on-the-hill part).

Unofficially, I’m using this mother-son bonding holiday to scout around for waves. There’s not a lot of information on the usual surfing websites about this region. But with miles of beaches and headlands – all facing the north Atlantic – its got to have some potential.

48 hours in Mallorca – Part 3


Palma back street

Palma, Mallorca – 9.30am: Gah! I wake with a start. My tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth. Palma, shit, I’m still only in Palma… (apologies to Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now).

9.45am: I figure I’ve only got a couple more hours in this bat shit crazy town before I fly. I might as well make the most of it. I grab my camera and lurch through the narrow cobbled lanes behind Ben’s apartment. There’s some cool stuff to see here. Apartments painted in faded yellow or pink-washed walls. Stray cats. Art galleries. Laundry hanging from lines high above me. But there’s no one about. It’s a public holiday and I’m stuffed if I know where everyone is. I need just one person walking past one of those shopfronts to frame an interesting shot. But I don’t see anyone.

10.14am: There are few finer pleasures in life than relaxing at an outside cafe table in Europe. I find one opposite the square at Paseo de Bom and sit down. Within seconds a waiter is at my table taking my order. Fast, efficient, professional. He’s done up in black and whites, hair slick backed, waistcoat – the works. I’m impressed. None of this surly shit service you get in London. A minute later a cafe con leche is delivered to my table. It quells my pounding headache a little. I wrote furiously in my journal, fuelled on by caffeine. When I slow I order another. It’s almost too much. I have to walk. I go jerking off down the road to Ben’s apartment to see what they’re up to.

11.30am: The gang is only just stirring. Ben’s flatmate James complains of coming down with tonsillitis. He takes a couple of vitamin pills to stave it off, washing it down with a can of San Miguel beer. Outrageous. And that seems to sum up my weekend in Palma. 48 hours of excess. I was unprepared for it. I spent most of the time like a younger brother to the streetwise Ben and James, trying to keep up as they downed beers at myriads bars, in between pointing out the sights of Palma while we walked to the next boozer. It was sightseeing at a fast and furious pace, slightly addled by too much beer (Ben would say not enough beer) and the strange Nerverland world the yacht crew live in. Can’t wait to go back next year.

Check out the Mallorca Flickr album here.


Backpack Storybook is the travel journal of Rhys, a writer, photographer and surfer. He is now based in Western Australia after travelling in Asia, the UK and Europe. Read more. _______________________________

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