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Trip Report Three Weeks in Northern Spain

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This August my husband and I traveled around northern Spain for three weeks to celebrate our twentieth anniversary.

Backstory: This was our third trip to Spain and our second to northern Spain. We are in our early-mid 40s and love to travel to Europe to enjoy things that we just don't get to experience as much in rural New Hampshire, namely food, wine, and a walkable life.

Trip Overview: We love Spain and this trip was a nice addition to our Spanish travels. We flew from JFK to Madrid and rented a car for nearly three weeks. We looped from Madrid to the Picos de Europa, beach time in Cantabrias and Basque Country, a couple of nights in Rioja, and finished off the trip back in Madrid.

Hotels:
Burgos/Landa Hotel (2 nights): We'd been there before and thought it would be nice to decompress a little. We enjoyed the pool, the restaurant, and took the taxi into Burgos.
Parador de Cervera de Pisuerga (1 night): Probably one of the least appealing stops, but it did keep the traveling time short and allowed us to get to Potes early in the morning.
Parador de Fuente De (1 night): Fantastic views and perfect for a trip up the cable car. Highly recommended.
Pechon/Tinas de Pechon (1 night): Due to the rainy weather we did not rush to get to the seaside town and ended up getting to the hotel late in the day after traveling around Cantabria. Nice modern rooms, terrific A/C. It was a nice changed from the paradors.
Santander/Grand Hotel Sardinero (1 night): We'd been looking forward to some beach time and, boy, Santander really has the beaches! The hotel was perfectly located for beach time.
Bakio/Ureta Landa Rural Apartments (2 nights): We wanted enough time in the this area to walk up San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
San Sebastian/Hotel de Londres (3 nights): We'd stayed there previously and it's really our dream vacation location. We loved everything: the hotel, its location, the beach, the food.
Hondarribia/Rio Biadosa Hotel (4 nights): After San Sebastian and the previous hotel, this hotel and its location were disappointing. The town was cute, but a combination of a rainy forecast and a small, sad room had us cancelling our reservation and taking a road trip up into France to Bordeaux.
Logrono/Calle Mayor (1 night): We loved the hotel and really liked Logrono. We ate nearly as well as in San Sebastian -- without the crowds.
LaGuardia/Hospederia De Los Parajes: Again, great hotel. We really enjoyed this small town. We should have done some wine tours, but after nearly three weeks we were really happy to find a restaurant for lunch and order a bottle of local wine.
Madrid/Westin Palace: We cashed in credit card points.

Trip Highlights:
* The Picos de Europa: We enjoyed the drive through the mountains, the ride up the cable car at Fuente De, and the views of Cantabria/Asturias. I am really glad we went.
* San Sebastian: For our 25th anniversary we are going to spend a week there and hope for great weather.
* San Juan de Gaztelugatxe was a definite bucket list item.
* Santander: We should have spent at least two nights here.
* Rioja: I enjoyed Rioja a lot. The views were spectacular and things were very non-commercial.
* I liked our quick trip into Santillana del Mar. A short morning trip was the perfect way to see the town. (Get the quesada at Casa Quevedo!)

Things I Didn't Love:
* Admittedly, we knew that we would be moving along a lot. But we kept the distances short and the luggage light. We should have made a few of the drives longer (skipping the first parador and probably Tinas de Pechon). I should note that generally speaking, we like driving vacations. We made sure that we picked hotels with onsite parking.
* The coastal road from Bakio was stunning and interesting at points, but not worth the hairpin turns. We abandoned the side road and moved to the highway.
* The traffic and lack of parking in the beach towns was (stupidly, oops!) unexpected. It was only really possible to find parking first thing in the morning. It reminded us of parking around the Amalfi Coast, cars parked in every nook and cranny possible along the road.

Travelers' Tip:
There is an Ikea about 15 minutes north of the airport in Madrid. We stopped in and picked up pillows (best decision ever!) and looked for beach chairs (sold out).

Would we do this trip again? Well, we are glad that we did the trip -- and are looking forward to future trips to San Sebastian and perhaps Rioja -- but with so many other places to explore in Spain and beyond, we will probably travel further afield to Galicia next time.

I hope this is helpful to other travelers planning their trips to northern Spain!

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