The Wonderful experiences of a not adventurous traveler: North Spain & Portugal

Hello Sustainable Tourism World community! I am back sharing a bit about my not adventurous travel experiences.

This time, I am talking about North Spain & Portugal, that I visited this September. I have to say from the sustainability point of view we (human beings with a normal lifestyle)  are still far away to be able to do a sustainable holiday, but what I can tell you is we need to keep trying and do our best to get closer to the goal of sustainable tourism.

I want to be positive, so I will try to focus on the many positive aspects of the holiday adding only a few comments regarding what we still need to improve. Let’s start from the beginning end of August with Ale, my favorite travel partner :), I flew to Spain.

We started visiting Madrid, the beautiful and hot capital. Here I think we made it good, we decided to refresh our art knowledge and visited the Reina Sofia museum(Guernica beautiful as ever), the Prado Museum (I discovered the young operas of Goya The Threshing Ground or Summer is an example of  the cartoons for the tapestries intended to decorate the Prince of Asturias´ dining room, produced in 1786), and a new entry the Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo where we immersed ourselves in an early 20th century Madrid. We enjoyed very much having lunch with tapas after the cultural visits and getting used to the Spanish language again 🙂 and to be honest we enjoyed also the international chain hotel with swimming pool we booked from Italy because it was most of the time 34 degrees. It was very hot from 4 pm to 7 pm.

Of course, flying anywhere nowadays means using a regular airplane and producing a huge amount of CO2 and pollution. In my opinion, sustainable aviation should be a priority for anyone talking about and working in the sustainability sector.

Also renting a car was difficult, I was looking for a hybrid car, but the only models available were very expensive, Ale and I had to choose a regular car! This is not a way to build a sustainable tourism destination and incentive a sustainable behavior to travelers.

Second Stop was San Sebastian, or Donostia (in Basque) a coastal city and municipality located in the Basque Autonomous Community, Spain. Crossing the Basque country was a surprise very different from the region around Madrid and our accommodation Arima Hotel was the most beautiful of the entire holidays, the only 4-star hotel we booked and the more eco-friendly.

From the Arima Hotel website: the whole building is based on an innovative and ambitious concept of respect for the environment: cutting-edge technology that uses clean energy such as geothermal and aerothermal energy, cleaning water collection systems, water flow reduction filters and selective waste management, among other things. A project that is joined by suppliers and employees who share our green philosophy.

During my stay there, I discovered more, Arima means soul in Basque. Arima Hotel is surrounded by a natural space that invites its guests to relax, enjoy, shelter and experience the unequaled sensation of wellbeing, demonstrating that luxury and comfort go, at least, hand in hand with a natural and sustainable soul.

Having the certification “Passivhaus” ensures that the hotel consumes 70% less energy than another one built under conventional construction criteria. Passivhaus is a German construction quality standard focused exclusively on the high energy efficiency of buildings, reducing power requirements to a minimum.

For the first time, I found a proper recycling bin making it comfortable and easy to recycle.

Activities such as yoga, ebike tours, and the rooftop pool made the stay just perfect and having walked in the forest after the hot days in Madrid was just amazing.

Donostia is a beautiful town, a nice holiday place, there was also the Concha Flag, an annual coastal rowing competition held in the Bay of La Concha in Donostia in the two first week-ends of September. The event was held for the first time in 1879 as a new activity included in the San Sebastián fiestas programme.

Basque country surprised me with more:

Gaztelugatxe, an attractive path winds steeply down from Urizarreta to the base of the promontory, where a striking 3-arched bridge takes walkers across to the 241 steps that lead up to the chapel of San Juan of Gaztelugatxe. Known as a location for series Game of Thrones.

Bilbao, we decided to focus our visit at The Guggenheim Museum where I discovered and appreciated very much Joana Vasconcelos art.  I am quoting The Guggenheim here: “Vasconcelos’s production contains references both to the popular culture of her country (appropriating the rooster of Barcelos, the heart of Viana do Castelo, and the ceramics of Bordalo Pinheiro) and to the most recent theoretical debates in contemporary art, especially those concerned with fostering viewer participation in the interpretation of artworks.
With an attractive sense of humor that shuns dogmatism, her work also explores issues of identity ranging from very intimate questions to universal sociopolitical themes linked to globalized postcolonial societies, such as migration or the exploitation of women.” I think this is the main reason why the artist and her work attracted me so much. There are other beautiful and important pieces at the Museum, but I liked to discover Vasconcelos works and her ideas behind them.

After an intense and full day, we arrived at Hotel El Jardin de Correjo, found in sawdays website. Sawday website looks for authenticity, warmth and character, places that embody the slow life and where hours of love have been poured into the tiniest detail to create those simple, personal joys that make something truly special. Hotel El Jardin de Correjo is one example of the beautiful places you can find into the platform, the description that attracted me is “The huge 1901 stable and hayloft have been stylishly re-crafted into a comfortable haven between the Cabuérniga Valley and the golden beaches of Comillas.” The website of the hotel is eljardindecarrejo.es I wanted to stay in a beautiful place far from the cities and Hotel El Jardin de Correjo was perfect it is a rural home full of art pieces and creativity surrounded by a heavenly garden and finally, I had vegetables for dinner! Thanks to this stay we also discovered an unexpected area in Cantabria that included a visit to the Bosque de Sequoyas at Cabezon de la Sal (same town of El Jardin de Correjo) and El Capricho de Gaudi in Comillas.

The history behind the forest is curious and very contemporary: the redwoods were planted in the 1940s on an experimental basis for the opening of the factory of Sniace, a pulp mill that decided to plant redwoods because these trees grew very quickly. In the end, after the years, when the trees grew and could be cut they were not interested in the felling and decided to leave them. It turned out that in the end Cabezon de la Sal, can enjoy a magnificent landscape. A large forest that delights visitors getting lost among about 850 redwood trees of almost 40 meters.

El Capricho de Gaudi in Comillas is another unexpected surprise from this region, El Capricho is a villa designed by Antoni Gaudí. It was built in 1883-1885 for the summer use of a wealthy client, Máximo Díaz de Quijano.

I quote here elcaprichodegaudi.com “The importance of the Capricho (and of the Casa Vicens) is that they are Gaudí’s first buildings and, consequently, very important works for the future of the architect’s career and essential for the study of the trajectory of the whole of his work and defining the style of its first epoch, which is distinguished, as LE Cirlot points out, by the Mudejar influence, by the alternation between this orientalist suggestion and medievalism, and by the progressive and growing appearance of the elements that correspond to the period of Gaudí’s maturity .” El Capricho is a wonderful building, a place full of creativity and beauty. I loved, in particular, the details of the balconies where is possible to seat directly on the iron and the fact that you can hear the music even outside, the villa lack a bit of privacy for my standards, but after all, it was built for the public exposure of his owner the lawyer Máximo Díaz de Quijano.

El Capricho along with the Palacio Episcopal in Astorga and  Casa Botines in Leon this is one of his only three constructions outside Catalonia.

Casa Botines in León is another building I  have seen during my holidays, I heard Leon is a monumental city, with a stunning historical center and it is true, the city of León is in the northwest of Spain. It is on the Camino de Sant Iago and has a vast cultural, historical and architectural heritage. We arrived in Leon through the Autovia La Ruta de La Plata, that is an ancient commercial and pilgrimage path that crosses the west of Spain from north to south, connecting Mérida to Astorga.  The path is used by the modern A-66 and AP-66 freeways, as well as by the older N-630 national road. Above all the landscape we passed through was stunning, nothing to do with motorways in Italy! http://www.wikiwand.com/es/Autopista_Ruta_de_la_Plata
Unfortunately, Leon was the worst accommodation ever, the only hotel where I couldn’t find any attention to environment or guests and it was AC by Marriot.

Leon casa botines Sustainable Tourism World not adventurous traveler

I briefly visited Santiago which was less traditional (+!) than expected, but to many kilometers and places already visited made me decide to escape quickly and reached our refuge in Galizia, where the Quinta de San Amaro welcomed us in a warm and relaxing atmosphere. We had also an aperitif by the pool and dinner, everything was just perfect!
Quinta de San Amaro in Pontevedra is a charming small Hotel, a magical place situated in the Salnes Valley, just a few kilometers from the best beaches in the Rias Baixas. I appreciated all the small corners the owners built, they show how passionate they are about the place: the dining room, the living room, the vineyards, the porch, the pergola, the prairie, the library, especially the traditional Galician granary.  Everything was so perfect and relaxing that I did a bit of meditation before leaving towards Porto.

We reached Portugal in a couple of hours, Ale swam in the ocean, we had lunch by the beach and later we arrived in Porto, which was a great surprise! For Ale the best was learning more, visiting Porto Wine cellars of Taylor’s and testing Porto wine. In my opinion, walking around the historical center designed World Heritage by UNESCO since 1996 was just beautiful. I felt a bit overwhelmed reading about the number of churches, monuments, and places. I took it slow, I discovered the tourism in Porto is well organized there is also a newspaper for tourists written in English, Spanish and French where everyone can read the news, local people interviews and interesting information for visitors.

I have to admit I didn’t have time to get ready for everything to see and where to go before starting my summer holidays, but thanks to Ale, some basic information and a bit of luck we had an incredible time.

The final stops were Avila and Segovia. Avila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, we found a rural accommodation 10 minutes from the town center. We were supposed to stop in Salamanca, but due to celebrations there the accommodation was either fully booked or too expensive (more than 400€ per night!), so we tried with Avila, while the place we found was not special, it was clean and very quiet San Miguel. In Avila town a big event was going on, we visited it during the Medieval Festival.

During the first days of September, the city regains its medieval image with stalls, haimas (berbere hostels), the fragrances of incense, rosemary, and cheese; canned goods, slave auctions, puppeteers, jugglers, knights, kings, monks, and friars occupy the streets and plazas of the historic center.

The latest stop of The Aqueduct of Segovia (or more accurately, the aqueduct bridge) is a Roman aqueduct in Segovia, a couple of hours from Madrid. The aqueduct bridge is one of the best-preserved elevated Roman aqueducts. Also, the cathedral of Segovia is beautiful and it is worth it a visit. We also had the best tapas ever for lunch in what seemed to be a local place, in fact, we were the only international tourists. This was a very nice way to finish the trip!

 

Are you interested to know more?
Ask #STouW by Sara Vitali about: 

#sustainabletourism consultancy, 
#socialmedia strategies for tourism sector & linked sustainable, responsible, green or eco businesses; 
#sustainabledevelopment through tourism. 
http://sustainabletourismworld.com/sara-vitali-stw-founder/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main downside is to reach Madrid we had to fly there,

we rented a car and we started going north and est towards San Sebastian

Are you interested to know more?
Ask  #STouW by Sara Vitali about: 

#sustainabletourism consultancy,
#socialmedia strategies for tourism sector & linked sustainable, responsible, green or eco businesses;
#sustainabledevelopment through tourism.
http://sustainabletourismworld.com/sara-vitali-stw-founder/

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