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Asturias – Your Ski Destination This Season

Two ski stations – Fuentes de Invierno and Valgrande-Pajares – promise exciting days of skiing, as well as good food in a cosy, family environment. They are ideal for families, and for those who want to get away from it all, eager to seek out tranquil, more relaxing destinations.

Fuentes de Invierno – The Last Glacier in the Cordillera

Located in the municipality of Aller, Fuentes de Invierno boasts the most up-to-date ski lifts of all stations in the Cordillera Cantábrica. It is the ideal resort for enjoying the white sport in tip-top conditions. The rugged mountain terrain, combined with small clusters of forest and cabins dotted across the lower reaches of the resort, make this diminutive skiable tract (8.7 km) one of the most picturesque spots in the Principality of Asturias.

The beginner slopes, halfway up the resort (1,650 m), and the areas of La Llomba and Entresierras for the more seasoned enthusiasts, will appeal to all skiers, whatever their level. At the end of the day, make sure you stop off at one of the villages near the resort, such as Felechosa or El Pino, where a large number of restaurants offer the finest Asturian cuisine (pote, fabada, picadillo, carnes roxas), as well as succulent dishes typical of Aller. You are certain to find game on the menu – plentiful in this part of the Montaña Central – in addition to such confectionery delicacies as cuayá or panchón.

Valgrande-Pajares, the Oldest of the Cantabrian Resorts

Inaugurated in 1954, the Lena resort of Valgrande-Pajares has had skiers on its pistes for over 60 years. It is considered one of the benchmark ski stations in the Cordillera Cantábrica. With a skiable tract of 21.5 km, it is strategically located at just over half an hour from several major cities (Oviedo, Gijón and León), and is equipped with snowmaking systems to guarantee hassle-free skiing throughout the season. The ski lifts that connect the whole resort start out from the base station (1,350 m), where all the main facilities are located.

At its highest point (1,870 m), towered over by the Cuitu Nigru,Cellón and Tres Marías peaks, you can see out across the landscape of the Cordillera Cantábrica range, and even catch a glimpse of the sea on clear days. Depending on your level of expertise, from this point you can access the beginner’s area, traverse the main axis of the resort – the Valle del Sol – or get to the crown jewel – El Tubo – the only officially sanctioned competition piste in Asturias.

Whether you’re reluctant to try out skiing, or have skied your heart out and need to regain your strength, make sure you head for the Cuitu Negro café and indulge in a veritable culinary tribute. Their tripe and the meat stew are some of the hallmarks of the house.

The ski resort’s ease of access and its accommodation capacity of 150 at the foot of the ski slopes make Pajares the perfect destination for those eager to do sport as well as spend time visiting the main cities and towns in the vicinity to enjoy other activities – cultural tours, shopping, cinema, concerts, theatre…

In short, both Valgrande-Pajares and Fuentes de Invierno are ski resorts with charm. Their friendly service and family atmosphere are paramount, and you can enjoy skiing starting at €24 – peerless prices for a winter getaway.

Here, then, is our advice, if you are undecided about where to head this winter. Check out our flights here.

 

Text and images by Turismo Asturias

 

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Experience Donosti Through Sport

Each November San Sebastián hosts what for me is the best footrace on the national circuit, the Behobia-San Sebastián classic. It covers the 20 kilometres separating the Irunese town of Behobia on the French border from the capital. It is a veritable sports festival which this year chalked up its 51st edition, with some 30,000 runners signed up.

I took part in the race, but not on foot, as I chose to do it on skates. Indeed, it has a skating section and also features a Behobia Txiki version for children up to the age of 13. The latter takes place the day before the main event. There is also a much shortened version for teenagers from 14 to 18 years known as the Behobia Gaztea which covers the final 4.4 km of the main race. Lastly, organisers provide a Behobia for runners with disabilities; so, all in all, it caters for everyone. For the main event your physical preparation should be thorough and you must book your number and accommodation well in advance. The race itself includes continual climbs, so it can turn out to be really tough if you start out running above your rhythm.

More Than Just the Behobia-San Sebastián Classic

In my last London post I encouraged you to discover cities by running them. For an urban race in Donosti I would recommend the route of “the three beaches”. Starting at El Peine de los Vientos, Chillida’s sculpture at Ondarreta, you traverse the Paseo de La Concha as far as La Zurriola beach, crossing the Bulevar and the Kursaal bridge. The same route is also suitable for roller or inline skating.

But, apart from running through the city, San Sebastián also lends itself to interacting with its environment through such activities as these:

Surfing at La Zurriola. Zurriola beach, in the district of Gros, attracts foreigners all year around. The international atmosphere stems from the quality of its waves. There you will come across the friends of Pukas who have spent years promoting surfing in the Basque Country. They now also have a school in Barcelona. If you’re going to surf there for the first time, please place yourself in the hands of an instructor, as it is not an easy beach.

Kayaking and SUP at La Concha. You can hire equipment for kayaking and stand up paddling at the same facilities in Club Fortuna on La Concha beach. From there you can paddle carefully to the island of Santa Clara in Donosti’s old harbour. La Concha is noticeably calmer than La Zurriola and affords some spectacular views over the whole bay.

Swimming at La Concha. If you fancy open waters and have a wetsuit, you can extend your swimming season. La Concha is a calm beach, as long as you stay within the bay. There are changerooms with lockers where you can shower and leave your clothes. The lockers operate with a magnet key which is easy to wear while you are swimming.

Mountain biking or hiking in the monte Ulía.Anyone who has run the Behobia will recall (for better or for worse) the final climb known as the Alto de Miracruz, which comes after the final descent down Ategorrieta avenue. There, on the right, after passing the Arzak restaurant, is the climb up to Ulía. You can drive to the upper picnic area or walk up. The mountain is full of footpaths and tracks, so you can have a delightful time mountain biking, running or simply walking. At the very least, you will enjoy the views and the promenade leading to Pasajes de San Pedro and the Trintxerpe fishermen’s quarter.

If by chance the weather lets you down and you have to resort to indoor sport, you can use the gym at the Club Atlético San Sebastián for doing your gym routine (cycling, running, lifting) or, if you are looking for something different, go up to the Pabellón del Club Fortuna Pío Baroja to practise your skills on their climbing wall, using either a rope and safety harness (sports climb) or just climbing shoes. The hall is provided with safety mattresses for low-height climbing.

As you see, it is well worth coming to San Sebastián to do sport, even if you aren’t competing. However, if you have the urge to compete, take note of the following dates and events (in chronological order, after Behobia) and start booking your ticket at Vueling to enjoy them.

San Sebastián Marathon – end of November.
Lilatón
– the first week in March, coinciding with International Women’s Day. The race is open only to women.
Onditz Memorial Triathlon
– and women’s Triathlon in June.
La Concha Swim Crossing
– in September.
Cross de las tres playas
– in October.

 

Text by Raúl Casañas

Images by Iaona Manolache, Pello Sosoro

 

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5 Essential Ideas for Madrid In Autumn

It never fails! In recent years, for one reason or another, I always seem to end up travelling to Madrid in autumn and the outcome has always been equally rewarding. The temperature is still pleasant for outdoor activities and, should the weather let you down, there is always a host of options to get you out of the rain and cold, with some incentives included. While this might sound overblown, the fact is that this city offers loads of ways of having a great time, leaving virtually no room for brooding. Here, then, are my basic recommendations for autumn in Madrid:

1. Go and see the leaves falling in one of the city’s numerous parks

Madrid has lots of parks where you can enjoy the good weather as it comes to a close, delighting in the scent of dry leaves and relishing the odd sunset. Among the great classics is El Retiro where, in addition to setting out in search of the popular statue known as the Ángel Caído (Fallen Angel), you can do sport, try to avoid getting wet in the Estanque Grande (Big Pond), see an exhibition at either the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) or the Velázquez Palace, or even buy a book on the Cuesta de Moyano before going into the park. And all this just a stone’s throw from the city centre.

The Casa de Campo, Madrid’s great lung, is another good option. Apart from expanses where you can get some brisk exercise while enjoying nature, it also has an amusement park and a zoo, and a cable-car I would recommend you take up to see the views over the city.

As the last of the classics there is the Real Jardín Botánico (Royal Botanical Gardens), where you come face to face with some 5,000 different species of trees and plants, capable of transporting you anywhere on the planet.

For the swingers out there who seek a special, melancholic touch in your lives, the Jardín El Capricho is the spot for you. This romantic garden, built between 1787 and 1839, features lakes, boat jetties, a maze, sculpture groups and even the remains of a Civil War anti-aircraft shelter. It is located in the Alameda de Osuna and access is straightforward on the metro (L5, El Capricho station).

2. Bounce back from the early cold with a “cocido”

Hankering after a cocido? Autumn brings back a classic of Madrilenian cuisine – the cocido (stew), the best way of combating and guarding against the arrival of the cold in the city. Among my favourite eateries are the all-time greats like Lhardy (Carrera de San Jerónimo 8), Malacatín (Ruda 5) and La Bola (Bola 5). The cocido at the grass-roots Taberna J. Blanco (Tabernillas, 23) is a hit with me and my family on account of the original setting and the kindness of the owners.

3. Sweet things never made anyone bitter

There comes an afternoon when ice-cream suddenly cedes pride of place to pastries. That’s the moment to head for the Puerta del Sol, go into La Mallorquina and indulge in their huge variety of pastries. The standouts are their napolitana de crema and napolitana de chocolate. You could also stop by at the Horno de San Onofre to have some huesos de santo (saints’ bones) and buñuelos (fritters), the traditional confectionary at All Saints.

Croissant-lovers should not fail to try the ones to be had at Pomme Sucre, where success is guaranteed, aside from the touch of serving your coffee and hot chocolate in English porcelain cups. For those seeking new sensations there is the Moulin Chocolat, where they even dare to lavish French pastries with a flourish, and Mama Framboise, dedicated to gourmet patisserie in a modern, inviting setting.

And, of course, I couldn’t wind up this section without mentioning the popular chocolate con churros establishment, San Ginés, a must which has lost none of its shine and calories over the years.

4. Cultivating your mind

So, you’ve woken up to a rainy day? Now is the time to nourish your mind and soul on the city’s cultural offerings by dropping in on some of the host of scheduled exhibitions. This autumn, you can enjoy the work of Edvard Munch at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, steep yourself in the oeuvre of “The Divine (Luis de) Morales” and succumb to Ingres’ curvaceous Odalisque at the Prado. At the Museo Reina Sofía you get the chance to discover the work of Nasreen Mohamedi, one of the first Indian artists to embrace abstract art, while the Juan March Foundation is offering the first retrospective of the Swiss artist, Max Bill.

5. El Rastro – a Sunday outing up there with the best

A day at El Rastro is often the finishing touch to any Madrid tour. With the excuse of going bargain-hunting in the street stalls and shops, weeding out antiques, clothes, books, records and anything you can imagine, you are likely to end up just strolling around and being caught up in the prevailing atmosphere. The route usually comes to an end in one of the multiple de rigueur local bars, beer in hand, accompanied by a matching tapa. Among the many options, you should try the sardines at the Bar Santurce, the snails at Casa Amadeo, the tostas at Capricho Extremeño and the tapas at the Museo de la Radio.

Ready to take on autumn in Madrid? Book your Vueling here.

Text by Isabel Lucia | ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Photos by Felipe Gabaldón, Juan Antonio F. Segal, mcxurxo, pegatina1, Fernando Bueno

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Five destinations to ski and do some sightseeing as well

Escape for a few days to the best ski resorts in Europe and discover some new places while you're there. There's time for everything!

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