Green Spain In My Mouth

This is a very food-filled time of year and it's been a while since I wrote a food post, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. And this is going to be a good one! As we've mentioned, our trip to the north of Spain was along a bit of a foodie route, which I was very excited to discover! Anyway, I've kept you waiting long enough so let's chow down!


Also spelled pinchos, these tasty morsels are the traditional bar snack of northern Spain. What makes them different to tapas is the fact that they are usually skewered to a piece of bread with a toothpick.

They tend to cost somewhere between €1.50 and €3, depending on the ingredients and location. I imagine if you're used to it, this is a great way to have a little snack with a drink, but it was a real challenge for me, as some of the bars had so many on display and choosing was a nightmare because I wanted to try them all! Here's an example of the large selection at one of ten or so bars in Bilbao's food market...torture!

Below, left to right we have: 
  • Batter-coated meatball topped with a padron pepper and cherry tomato. Not as fresh as I would have liked, but not something I had tried before so it gets points for originality! 
  • Cod in pil-pil sauce which I can only describe as disgusting. Apparently this is a sauce made of garlic and olive oil, but what we had tasted like alcohol and was inedible. We were concerned it was off, but didn't get ill so I have no explanation for its awful flavour. 
  • Chorizo and padron peppers on a skewer, which was exactly as you'd expect really - quite greasy but the sausages had flavour and I am a big fan of padron peppers (to be described in details in a later post but essentially they taste like green bell pepper).
  • Carolina and Goxua, which are both traditional Basque desserts. The carolina was a pastry case filled with custard, topped with marshmallowey meringue and then dipped in chocolate. YUM! And the Goxua was good too - a layer of cream, then custard, sponge and caramel. Neither dessert had particularly new or exciting flavours but both hit the spot!

After pintxos for lunch in the market, we then had pintxos for dinner in a bar! Don't judge - we were only in Bilbao for one day and had other things to try during the rest of the trip! The bar (pictured above) was tiny but there was a good selection of nibbles on display and more you could order to be cooked fresh. We started with some mini burgers, which did a good job of taking the edge off our hunger while we decided what to have next. 

Below, left to right we have:
  • Grilled beef and grilled seafood on skewers. The beef was so tender and well seasoned, that we each had two! And Dave thoroughly enjoyed his prawn and octopus combo.
  • Morcilla and roasted red pepper with a quail's egg, which had a perfectly oozy yolk and was topped with little crunchy potato sticks. Quails' eggs crop up a lot here and definitely aren't seen as such a delicacy as in the UK. But that's great for us because we love them! I don't really eat black pudding, but there's something about morcilla that I find more appealing. Perhaps it's the spicing, or maybe the name helps distance it in my mind from the reality of the ingredients! 
  • Jamon croquette which was good but not the best...the best are in Valencia! But more on that in a later post.
  • Pickles on a stick: chilli, anchovy, quail egg, olive. This was definitely not my cup of tea but Dave loved it, and these kinds of things on a toothpick are very traditional for pintxos.


Not a type of crisp or wrap - in Spain the word tortilla is used for what we, in Britain, call a Spanish omelette. The north of Spain is known for having some of the best tortillas, and I think we sampled some pretty good ones on our trip. This first photo was definitely the most interesting example. It was one omelette, but encased in the egg was a layer of ham and cheese, and another layer of (rather oddly) tuna mayonnaise! Well, that explains the delight on Dave's face - egg, meat and tuna all in one bite! It may sound somewhat unappealing, but I have to tell you that it was really good. And a great breakfast. One morning we stopped for a cheeky slice of tortilla, which always comes with some crusty bread and there must have been a breakfast combo deal because we got coffee and a shot of orange juice with it, all for just €1.50 each!

This second omelette was my favourite though. We again had it for breakfast, in a very unassuming bar on a side street in Bilbao. The lady working there was making them fresh in a tiny kitchen and what made this one stand out was the deliciously caramelised onions. It was also less cooked than the one pictured above, which is normal - Spanish omelettes should be a little runny in the middle. I haven't mastered this process yet, but I'm determined to get it right because it's such a tasty dish!

Other tasty delights

This enormous plate of squid was actually a starter! The baby squids had been tossed in flour and seasoning and then fried, making the tentacles really crunchy, while the body remained tender. Or so I'm told. I ate some of the crunchy bits but that was about it - seafood still isn't my cup of tea.

At the same restaurant in Gij贸n, we share this plate of steak, potatoes and roasted red peppers. I tried to salt it like Salt Bae but didn't quite get his signature move right! Regardless, it was really well cooked and tasty, and having a pot of sea salt to season it ourselves was an interesting touch.

It seems wherever you go in Spain, the same things crop up as the local delicacies: wine, meat, cheese. Well, Asturias certainly had the cheese sorted! We went to a restaurant in Gij贸n called Sidrer铆a Tierra Astur, which I'd read was a good place to try all of the traditional dishes from the region. We started we a cheese board and there were certainly some unique flavours! 

Dave's favourites were the Gamonedo (aka Gamon茅u), which I thought tasted old (whatever that means!) and the Cabrales, which was blue, salty and very strong. My favourite was the Afuega'l Pitu, which was soft, spicy and quite tangy.

We did not like the Casin at all, and the Beyos tasted of literally nothing. But with the help of Spain's favourite quince paste, we were able to eat pretty much all of it!

We followed the cheese with something called Tortos de Picadillo de Jabal铆. The torto is a flatbread made from corn flour, which is deep fried, making it puff up. Picadillo is minced meat, in this case Jabal铆 - wild boar. And this came with chips and a couple of fried eggs. Not a vegetable in sight! The dish was huge, very rich and the salt and grease got the better of my quite quickly. The meat tasted similar to chorizo but nothing about the dish was particularly new or noteworthy, apart from perhaps the tortas. 

The thing we were really excited about at this restaurant wasn't the food at all, but the drinks. It was here we got to experience and marvel at the Asturian cider tradition! I'm a big cider fan anyway, but add a bit of pomp and circumstance to the proceedings and I'm in heaven. 

To briefly explain, there is a huge tradition of cider, or sidra in Spanish, in Asturias and the Basque Country, but it isn't quite the same as the cider we drink in Britain. It isn't carbonated at all, and it has a much tarter flavour than our traditional scrumpies. It's definitely less challenging than a really hardcore scrumpy, with none of the farmyard notes. It is a very pleasant and refreshing drink, but the true magic is in its presentation. You see, the cider must be aerated as it's poured, as demonstrated in the photo below. And only a small amount is poured each time, meaning this waiter was on hand to top up our glasses regularly throughout the meal. It's a curious site to behold, and we captured it on film, which you can see here.

I really enjoyed our culinary experiences in Green Spain and am already looking forward to our trip to San Sebastian in January, so I can eat more pintxos and drink lots more tiny but elegantly poured glasses of cider! 

Gij贸n but not Forgotten

The final day of our trip to northern Spain, or Green Spain as it is sometimes called, involved stopping in a city called Gij贸n, seeing some awesome ancient caves, and driving along the stunning coast again.

The day started with a drive up the coast to some more serene and empty beaches. It was a lovely way to start the day - a real sense of Morning Calm descended upon us. I really enjoy the ocean and despite living in Valencia, a coastal city, I don't see enough of it. There's something unbelievably calming about it. I think it's all about the power, rhythm, and never-ending crashing that puts you in your place.

We went to a lighthouse at the top of a cliff, which had some great views of the sea. It was super relaxing to just chill and take in the sounds of crashing waves.

With our moods suitably adjusted, we drove to Gij贸n for the more touristic part of the day.

Gij贸n is a lovely city with a fantastic harbour and lots of green spaces and cool buildings to gawk out. We spent a few hours wandering around, enjoying the sights the city had to offer. We were also in full 360 filming mode so don’t forget to check out our virtual reality tour of the city.

Gij贸n has a lot of history, having been inhabited since pre-Roman times. There are a lot of buildings from the 17th and 18th century from the enlightenment and general expansion of the west in this period.

One of the more unique structures in the city is a sculpture called Eulogy to the Horizon, located on the top of a grassy hill overlooking the ocean. After a day of listening to the waves, we got to experience them in an entirely new way. You see, if you stand in the middle of the sculpture, the sounds of the sea and wind are amplified and they feel like they are coming from all around you. It was very cool and added to the wavy feel of the day.

The next stop was a small village along the coast called Puerto de Tazones. It seemed very popular with the lunch crowd and the roads and vistas around the area were delightful. But we didn't stay long as we were heading to another cave, since we had enjoyed our time at Altamira so much! 

We arrived at the Tito Bustillo caves for our guided tour and were blown away. We were unable to take photos inside, due to the delicate nature of the atmosphere surrounding the ancient paintings, so you'll have to take us at our word. They are spectacular and consist of animals, including horses and even a whale, as well as human representations. Some of these paintings were made over 33,000 years ago and the preservation is unbelievable. No-one knows why these ancient humans made the paintings but there are several ideas. Some believe it was like a school where young children or adults could be taught about wildlife. Others believe it was where folk stories and the first works of fiction were told. Perhaps it was simply an artist expressing themselves in the only way they knew how. No-one really knows…

It makes me realise the just how old the human species is, and how life has changed so fundamentally, despite our biology being identical to these painters. It really makes me grateful to have been born in the greatest time ever to be alive, rather than having to spend my days in a dark and dank cave.

Our final stop was Los Cubos de la Memoria, in a town called Llanes. It’s is an interesting area where they have decorated large concrete cubes with artwork. It was a cool place to finish the day and also finish our trip around this part of northern Spain.

It was a super holiday and it was very interesting to see an entirely different part of Spain, both in culture and climate. It's made me appreciate how big Spain is and how much it has to offer tourists and travellers like us.

Katie will be back next time to discuss all the delicious food from the Green Spain region. It's going to be mouthwatering and will let you know what you should be eating and drinking when you visit. So stay tuned and we’ll see you next time.

A couple of semi-realistic models outside the calm lighthouse!

It wasn't really beach weather when we visited, but I imagine Gij贸n can get pretty busy
during the summer months, as it has a lot to offer tourists.

This sculpture is made from old sidra (cider) bottles. Check out our next post to find out about the
interesting cider tradition in this area of Spain.

We wished we could have stayed in Puerto de Tazones for lunch!

The area surrounding the Tito Bustillo caves was unbelievably beautiful.

Llanes is another very quaint town along this coast.

Los Picos de Europa National Park

After a day of driving along the Bay of Biscay, we arrived to part of the Cantabrian mountain range known as Los Picos de Europa. Exploring this phenomenal national park made up the bulk of our third day and it was full of spectacular views and quaint mountain towns.

We spent the night in a quiet hotel, recharging with food and sleep, before heading out to explore the nearby town of Potes. It is a gorgeous place, and perfect to have a meal and a wander. It truly is a wonderful town and we can't sing its praises highly enough, as you can see in the 360 experience we made about Los Picos.

The main things to see are the Torre del Infantado and the lovely bridges that cross over the river. We just loved the calm and peaceful vibe of the town and enjoyed the few hours we got to spend there. We did visit after the main summer holiday season though, and I can imagine this place gets extremely busy during the peak months.

Our next stop was just half an hour up the road from Potes, in an area called Fuente De. We parked at the base of a mountain and queued, hoping to get onto the first cable car of the day. But it was surprisingly busy and we actually made the third or fourth trip up to the top. It was well worth the wait and early start though, as the cable car took us right up to the top of the mountain and we were treated to some spectacular views.

We think this was probably the best viewpoint of the trip and we thoroughly recommend watching it in virtual reality to truly appreciate the scale of it all. The snow-capped mountains and breath taking views of the valley make this a must see when you visit this area, especially as it’s so easy to access. There's a caf茅 at the top, where we stopped for a coffee and very chocolatey hot chocolate. They warmed us up nicely!

The rest of the day was spent doing one of two things: when we weren’t stopping at a viewpoint to soak up the vistas, we were taking a break in a gorgeous town to eat a little something and enjoy the quaintness.

The roads through the mountains were great and it made for a fun and easy drive in our little Fiat 500. We were really impressed by the views and the beauty of the towns, and this was probably our favourite day of the trip.

Next time we finish this trip with a drive to Gij贸n, another interesting visit to a cave, and we take another look at the coastline in this area of northern Spain.
For now, we leave you with lots of great photos to gaze out.

We could have spent a whole day strolling through the beautiful old streets of Potes,
and we really struggled to cut down the number of photos for the blog!

I'm sorry, but we couldn't narrow down the photos from the top of the cable car either!
But can you blame us?

There was a map in the cafe with loads of hiking trials you could do. 
But we decided driving was a better use of our time on this particular trip

This village we stumbled across had a market, showcasing lots of great local produce

Dave was pretty chuffed with all the free samples!

Biggest loaf I've ever seen!

This "Roman bridge" in Cangas de Onis isn't actually Roman, but it is beautiful 
so we'll let them off the misleading name